Thursday, July 31, 2008

Too much information ...

From the too-much-information file, in the aftermath of Tuesday's Los Angeles-area earthquake:

Twitter tweet here. From this CNET story, we learn that MissRFTC is one Verdell Wilson, who I guess can now lay claim to having worn the, uh, stirrups of Internet fame.


On a more serious note, during emergencies the SMS / text-messaging network may be the only way to get a message to others letting them know your status and whereabouts, as the voice network often gets overwhelmed with 9-1-1 calls and the like. Indeed, you may wish to stay off the voice network (unless you need emergency assistance, of course) so that others can get through to the emergency services.

Obama and concealed carry

This is a Chicago Sun Times article from April of this year interviewing Senator Obama on a variety of issues, including his position on aspects of gun-control:
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama sat down with Sun-Times Political Reporter Abdon M. Pallasch on Thursday to discuss the rash of gun violence in Chicago that included the killing of five people in one house on Wednesday:

Sun-Times: Have you been following the news of all the gun deaths?

Barack Obama: The news has just been heart-breaking. I've asked my staff to contact the Chicago Police Department. and I'm going to put in a call to the mayor just to find out just what is accounting for this huge uptick.

S-T: Is there anything the federal, state, or local government can do?

B.O.: There's a bunch of things we can do. I've already said as president I want to restore [federal] COPS funding, which will put police on the streets. Additional police improves public safety. New York has seen a huge drop in crime over the last decade, more than even other cities, and part of it is they've got more cops than anybody else per capita. We've got to help local communities put more police on the streets. We want to make sure we provide state and local government with the targeting information they need, the technology they need to make sure police are going to the places most at risk for gun violence. We've got to tighten up our gun laws. I've said before we should have a much tougher background check system, one that's much more effective and make sure there aren't loopholes out there like the gun show loophole. [Or] The Tiahart Amendment [requiring destruction of gun-purchase records.] Here's an example of something common-sense: The ATF [federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] should be able to share info with local communities about where guns are coming from, tracing guns that are used in criminal activity. It's been blocked consistently in Congress. As president, I'm gong to make sure we know if guns are being sold by unscrupulous gun dealers not abiding by existing laws. We should know about that. [emphasis added]
S-T: As a state legislator, you voted against a bill which would let people with orders of protection [against others] carry guns and another that would have barred municipalities from punishing people who kept guns in their homes. Why?

B.O.: I felt that [the first one] was a precedent for conceal-and-carry laws. There has not been any evidence that allowing people to carry a concealed weapon is going to make anybody safer. [The second one] is relevant to the D.C. handgun issue. I wanted to preserve the right of local communities to enforce local ordinances and this would have overturned municipalities being able to enforce their own ordinances. We can argue about whether the ordinances work or not. But I wanted to make sure that local communities were recognized as having a right to regulate firearms. [emphasis added]
Senator Obama is surrounded on a daily basis by Secret Service agents carrying concealed weapons. If he truly believes that there is no "evidence that allowing people to carry a concealed weapon is going to make anybody safer", then shouldn't he order his security detail to carry openly? Or perhaps, not carry at all? Of course, maybe by "people" he doesn't mean political royalty like himself.

Evanston hangs tough on gun ban

Evanston, Illinois, one of the unholy trio of Chicago suburbs that had gun bans in place prior to the Supreme Court's Heller ruling, has decided to continue to deny its residents their constitutional rights, this despite an earlier vote (see here) to repeal its ban.
Evanston will hold off amending its handgun ordinance until officials see what gun control groups come up in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling against total handgun bans.
Jeanne Bishop, president of a Million Mom March chapter in northern Chicago, said members of that group were just "stunned" to hear that council members were considering repealing the city's handgun ban or amending it.

Bishop's pregnant sister, Nancy, and brother-in-law were murdered in her Winnetka townhome in 1990 by a New Trier student who "got hold of a legal handgun from an unlocked drawer, and a few days later my family members were dead."

She expressed concern that someone could remove a handgun in similar fashion and then take the weapon "into Evanston Township High School and have a Columbine shooting."

"I hope you will wait," she told aldermen, "so you can make a fully informed decision that truly reflects the will and special circumstances of a city like Evanston."
The city, however, should enact legislation preventing gun shops in Evanston as either a permitted or special use, said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, who recommended the change. The Supreme Court may allow residents to own them, Rainey said, "but you can't buy them" under such legislation, she said. [emphasis added]

Article here. Note the city's backup plan -- to ban gun stores in the town. Fortunately, Illinois residents will probably be able to purchase handguns at other gun stores within the state (absent some quirk of state law). Of course, Evanston residents won't be able to lawfully possess them in their homes until the odious ban is repealed.

Massachusetts lawmakers kill fee increase

Even in the People's Republic of Ted Kennedy, is seems, 100% tax increases on gun-owners won't fly:
BOSTON - Leaders of the state House of Representatives today killed a disputed proposal by the governor to hike license fees for guns.

House budget writers stripped the proposed fee hikes from a more comprehensive bill submitted by Gov. Deval L. Patrick. The bill, set to be approved today in the House, also calls for raising money to finance the state's near-universal health care law.

House leaders defeated the gun fee hikes after 59 members of the chamber signed a letter opposing the increases. A dozen members from Western Massachusetts, including Democratic Reps. Peter V. Kocot of Northampton and John W. Scibak of South Hadley, signed the letter.

Article here. Like many states, Massachusetts politicians representing the more rural areas tend to be more pro-gun than their urban and suburban counterparts. Unfortunately, the urban and suburban areas, with their greater populations, tend to dominate Massachusetts politics, resulting in a hostile environment for law-abiding gun owners. Criminals, naturally, aren't much affected by the Commonwealth's gun-control laws.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Some great photos of our solar system's largest planet, Jupiter, and some of its moons (click to enlarge images):

(Jupiter's moon Io "floats" past the surface of the big planet)

(The first color movie of Jupiter from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows what it would look like to peel the entire globe of Jupiter, stretch it out on a wall into the form of a rectangular map, and watch its atmosphere evolve with time. The brief movie clip spans 24 Jupiter rotations between Oct. 31 and Nov. 9, 2000. The darker blips that appear are several moons and their shadows.)

(Jupiter moon Europa)

(This true color mosaic of Jupiter was constructed from images taken by the narrow angle camera onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft on December 29, 2000, as the spacecraft neared Jupiter during its flyby of the giant planet. It is the most detailed global color portrait of Jupiter ever produced. Although Cassini's camera can see more colors than humans can, Jupiter here looks the way that the human eye would see it.)

(A composite of several images taken in several colors by the New Horizons Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera, or MVIC, illustrating the diversity of structures in Jupiter's atmosphere, in colors similar to what someone "riding" on New Horizons would see. It was taken near the terminator, the boundary between day and night, and shows relatively small-scale, turbulent, whirlpool-like structures near the south pole of the planet. The dark "holes" in this region are actually places where there is very little cloud cover, so sunlight is not reflected back to the camera.)

(All images: NASA, JPL and others, from

See the rest here.

Mayor Daley and the "Police Power"

Op-ed by a former cop on Chicago's anti-gun ways:
... Shortly after the District of Columbia vs. Heller decision Mayor Daley held an entertaining press conference which revealed him at his illogical, incoherent, and rambling best. Amongst the other inanities, non sequiturs, and irrelevancies he spluttered, one phrase stood out. “But we have home rule.” And therein lies the tale. All of these jurisdictions have hung their hats upon the primacy of “police power” to undermine and infringe upon the second amendment rights of their citizens by banning operable handguns in their homes, as though the inalienable Right to Keep and Bear Arms was no different than prostitution, dog leash laws, anti-noise ordinances or stop sign placement. The Heller decision has provided the necessary corrective to end this injustice as the inevitable torrent of local lawsuits are filed. Here’s the money quote from the Illinois State Rifle Associations’ complaint: “By banning handguns, Defendants currently maintain and actively enforce a set of laws, customs, practices, and policies under color of state law which deprive individuals, including the Plaintiffs, of their right to keep and bear arms, in violation of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
Daley wasn’t too keen on the home rule concept for Bensenville and Elk Grove Village when he took acres of land away for the expansion of O’Hare airport. Home rule for them was unimportant and didn’t matter when greater governmental interests were weighed.

Daley said: “Does this lead to everyone having a gun in our society?” He left out the fact that the decision specifically states felons and the mentally ill can still be prohibited from owning firearms. The Supreme Court decision did allow for registration and licensing schemes. Daley did not mention the fact that ever since the 1968 Supreme Court decision (Haynes vs. United States) felons are specifically not required to register any firearm in their possession since that would amount to self-incrimination. Therefore registration laws can only be aimed at the law-abiding.
Daley said “The Supreme Court and Congress have no obligation to keep our country safe. It falls on the backs of mayors and local officials.”

As a retired police officer, I am well aware that police officers often fulfill the role of armed historians. This means that they often arrive at the scene of a serious crime well after the offense has occurred and prepare a report. This is not because they are not brave and dedicated to protecting the populace that they are sworn to protect, it is simply a reflection of the fact that there are too many criminals and too many opportunities for them to commit crimes against persons and property for police to be positioned to prevent crime. Most mature adults understand this, and do not reasonably expect the police to be everywhere to protect all people at all times. But it is particularly egregious when the various entities of government prohibit to the law-abiding in their very own homes the most effective means of self defense against a deadly attack in progress. To further compound the insults to our reason and intelligence Mayor Daley did not mention that ever since the 1981 Supreme Court decision of Warren vs. DC Metropolitan Police Department the courts have concluded without exception that when a municipality or other government entity undertakes to provide police services, it assumes a duty only to the public at large and NOT to individual members of the community. Illinois statute law specifically indemnifies local entities of government against lawsuits for the failure to prevent crime and apprehend criminals. Were the State of Illinois to repeal this statute and allow such lawsuits, I would be far more sanguine about the prospects of law enforcement’s ability to protect the individual members of the public.

Read the op-ed here. Actually, the premise that the police have no general legal duty to protect any private individual has been recognized, implicitly or explicitly, long before the Supreme Court's 1981 Warren decision cited in the article. Perhaps if more Americans understood that the police have no general legal duty to protect them from violent criminals, they would be far more enthusiastic about acquiring the tools and the training needed to protect themselves and their loved ones. Sadly, unscrupulous politicians (forgive the redundancy) are happy to spread the lie that the police will be there to protect citizens from violent crime, and fearful and uninformed citizens are all too willing to believe those politicians' lies.

Profile of Dick Heller

The Washington Times ran a article profiling Dick Heller, the D.C. resident who successfully challenged that city's gun ban:
Richard Anthony Heller was the right man at the right time to challenge the District's 32-year-old ban on handguns in the Supreme Court, his attorneys say.

The face behind the landmark case, they said, could not be a tobacco-spitting or camouflage-wearing caricature of a gun-rights advocate ripe to be picked apart by the press.

In the 66-year-old Heller, they found an everyman with a spotless background and genuine interest in protecting his constitutional right to bear arms.

Mr. Heller's lawyers said he had the perfect combination of character traits to be the "regular citizen" in such a monumental case.

Read the rest here.

Morton Grove gun ban repealed

It's official -- Morton Grove has repealed its 27-year old gun ban, in the wake of the Supreme Court's Heller ruling:
Morton Grove's landmark handgun ban, imposed 27 years ago, died quietly Monday night, as the suburb's Village Board bowed to a new legal reality and repealed the ordinance.

The board's 5-1 vote came in response to last month's ruling by a divided U.S. Supreme Court that struck down a similar ban. The high court ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects a person's right to own a firearm for self-defense.

Fighting in court to try to keep the law would cost money the village does not have, officials said.

"I appreciate the courage the board [showed] in 1981 in a noble experiment," Trustee Dan Staackmann said. "[But] we don't have the resources to fight this all the way."

Trustee Georgianne Brunner cast the lone vote against the repeal. "We may be acting a little bit in haste," she said. "I'm just grateful for what they did in 1981, and I wish we could just take a step back and wait it out."

Article here. To trustee Staackman, depriving law-abiding citizens of their fundamental constitutional and human right to self-defense is a "noble experiment"? I would hate to think what he would consider an ignoble one.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wedding bells, boobs, and botox

From the you're-so-vain files, as reported by the New York Times:
AFTER the band was chosen and the napkins color-coordinated to match her shoes, Kacey Knauer, a bride-to-be, had another critical matter to address: her skin, and the skin of the nine women in her bridal party.

(Karen Hohenstein, left, jokes with her attendants-to-be at a Botox party at the Tiffani Kim Institute Medical Wellness Spa in Chicago. Photo: New York Times)

For Karen Hohenstein, who held her party at the Tiffani Kim Institute Medical Wellness Spa in Chicago, convincing her friends was as smooth as a Botoxed forehead. “It wasn’t me saying, ‘Hey, we all could use a little something,’ ” she said. “It was, ‘I want to do this,’ and a couple of people said, ‘I do, too.’ ”

But for every accommodating pal, there’s another who feels going under the knife is beyond the duty of bridesmaid. Becky Lee, 39, a Manhattan photographer, declined when a friend asked her — and five other attendants — to have their breasts enhanced. “We’re all Asian and didn’t have a whole lot of cleavage, and she found a doctor in L.A. who was willing to do four for the price of two,” said Ms. Lee, who wore a push-up bra instead.
Fraxel laser could also set you back $1,200 a session, which even without the economic downturn, amounts to quite a bit. These days, Robyn Bomar, an event planner in Destin, Fla., overhears brides doing cost-benefit analyses. “They will never choose Botox over a great dress, but they will say ‘Maybe I’ll have a buffet over a sit-down at the rehearsal dinner,’ ” she said. Or: “I’ll spend the money on Botox rather than lunch.’ ”

In June, Jennifer Peterson, 31, a production director in Los Angeles, and eight friends indulged in Botox, Restylane, massages, facials and microdermabrasion at Infinity MedSpa in Valencia, Calif. Her friends chipped in for her treatments, but she is considering giving them each a $100 certificate to the spa — a gift she is sure they will appreciate. “Everybody does Botox out here,” she said.
Two weeks ago, Health Travel Guides, a medical tourism company, exhibited at the Dallas Bridal Show for the first time. “We received 30 requests for quotes among the bridal show attendees — mostly for plastic surgery such as liposuction and breast augmentation,” said Sandra Miller, the company’s chief marketing officer. “But also many for cosmetic dentistry and inquiries for providing quotes for bachelorette getaways that will feature beauty treatments.”

A bride’s request that you whiten your grayish teeth can strain a relationship. Samantha Goldberg, a wedding planner in Chester, N.J., recalled a bride who asked her attendants to get professionally spray-tanned for a Hawaiian-theme reception.

Alas, two women were claustrophobic and couldn’t bear standing in a tanning capsule. “They asked the bride if they could use regular tanning cream from a salon,” Ms. Goldberg said. The bride refused; she wanted everyone to be the same shade. The women ultimately declined to be bridesmaids. “Friendships of 20-plus years gone over a spray tan?” Ms. Goldberg said. “Sad!”

I've written about the obsession with physical beauty before, and the lengths some will go to achieve and maintain it. This is another example of this trend, one that I think will become even more pronounced as the middle-aged struggle, ultimately unsuccessfully, to regain their lost youth. Perhaps this is simply an outward manifestation of not wanting to grow up. As I wrote previously,
This is not to knock all cosmetic surgery -- far from it -- things like reconstructive surgery after accidents or to correct deformities are important medical treatments. And obviously we can all understand the human urge to improve one's appearance, to be seen as desirable to our mates (or potential mates), maybe even to enhance our career prospects, but at some point an obsession with physical appearance can't be good for long-term psychological health. When your self-esteem is so intimately tied to your physical appearance, what happens when the inevitable onslaught of time destroys that picture-perfect image? Indeed, we all get old, and our physical appearances ultimately age -- wrinkles form, abdomens expand, breasts sag, muscles lose definition -- an obsession with physical appearance and the idea of eternal youth seems like it would ultimately become self-destructive and harmful to one's mental well-being.
It seems to me that living a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise, can often go a long way towards achieving at least some of the physical and psychological benefits that many who pursue elective cosmetic surgery seek. Of course, this is generally a more time-consuming and difficult path, and requires more discipline, than say, liposuction. So elective cosmetic surgery will probably continue to be a booming medical specialty.

Man jailed for gun in university-owned hotel

A man attending a conference and staying at a University of Georgia-owned hotel was arrested on a felony charge of gun possession in a "school safety zone".
Eric Dewayne Baylis, 45, said he didn't know that the hotel was owned by the University of Georgia, which put him in violation of a state law forbidding weapons within school safety zones.

Baylis, a maintenance worker with the Albany Housing Authority, was attending a four-day conference for the Georgia Housing Authority and Redevelopment Authority, held at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center & Hotel on South Lumpkin Street.

His employers made the lodging arrangements and he had no idea the hotel is owned by UGA.

"I actually didn't know (it) was campus property," Baylis said Thursday, soon after posting a $2,000 bond to get out of jail.

"I carry my gun with me when I'm on the road traveling, and I took it out of my suitcase and just left it on the bed," Baylis said. "When the maid went through the room cleaning it and saw it, she told the manager, who called campus security." [emphasis added]

Article here. This is a good reminder for travelers to not leave your gun out in the open, even in your hotel room. And especially unattended. Apart from the potential for problems of the sort noted in the article, leaving a gun unsecured and unattended invites theft, and more importantly, increases the potential for a tragic accident by someone such as a maid who may come across the gun.

More open carry stories

Two open carry stories:

One from Michigan here.
To make that point, about 40 gun advocates walked out of Richie's Koffee Shop Inc. late Thursday afternoon with handguns holstered at their sides, part of a small but growing national movement to stand up for the constitutional right to bear arms. They strolled down this tidy west Michigan town's main street, barely causing a stir among passing motorists and pedestrians.

When they finished, the group -- mostly white men -- gathered around a fountain at the Barry County Courthouse and heard a red-meat, pro-Second Amendment speech by organizer Skip Coryell, 50, who wore his .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun openly for the first time and extolled the virtues of carrying a weapon.

"Look at all the people around you carrying guns and not a criminal in sight," said Coryell, a gun instructor and self-styled publisher who lives near Holland. "Quite frankly, I don't feel criminals would feel comfortable among us right now." He said educating people about their right to carry guns openly is the "next wave of the Second Amendment."

The event, tinged with local gun politics, was the latest statement from gun advocates around the country to promote and defend the open toting of handguns.

The other on the Texas open carry petition here.
Imagine walking down the street and next to someone with a gun strapped to their hip. It's an image a group of Texans are hoping to turn into reality and they're gaining support by the thousands every day.

“This is a basic right,” said former state Legislator, Suzanna Hupp.

In Texas you can fire a gun, you can buy a gun, and you can walk around with a gun, but only if you have a concealed carry permit and the gun is out of sight.

Gun rights and felons

Don Kates writes about the effect of the Supreme Court's Heller ruling on felons:
... The high-court opinion vindicated the constitutional right of ordinary, responsible law-abiding adults to have a handgun to protect their families, homes and themselves. It also flatly stated that this right does not apply to criminals.

Federal and state laws against convicted felons having guns are still valid: The Second Amendment protects a right of self-defense for "good" people only.

The fact is, virtually all violent criminals have long criminal records - which disqualify them from owning guns under our laws against felons having guns.

For instance, 90 percent of US adult murderers have adult records (exclusive of their often extensive juvenile records), with an average adult crime career of six or more years, including four major felonies.
In sum, the constitutional right to arms simply does not extend to people convicted of serious criminal offenses. By "serious," I refer to the early common law - under which felonies were real wrongs like rape, robbery and murder.

Unfortunately, modern legislatures have added a host of trivial felonies. For instance, in California an 18-year-old girl who has oral sex with her 17-year-old boyfriend has committed a felony. The courts should rule that conviction of such a trivial felony can't deprive such a "felon" of her right to arms.

Article here. As Kates notes, the proliferation of felony-level crimes for a host of non-violent offenses has resulted in a situation that vastly expands the felon-in-possession net. Perhaps one day the Supreme Court will rule that such blanket prohibitions for non-violent conduct exceed the historical scope of such restrictions, and run afoul of the Second Amendment.

D.C. Gun Ban Lawsuit, Round Two

Dick Heller and two other Washington, D.C. residents have filed a lawsuit against the city, seeking to overturn (1) the city's continuing ban on the registration of semi-automatic handguns, (2) the requirement that handguns must be submitted to a ballistics test requiring an undefined fee determined by the chief of police, and (3) the prohibition on keeping a gun ready for immediate self-defense against a deadly threat.

In addition to Mr. Heller, the plaintiff in the recent successful Supreme Court challenge to the original D.C. gun ban, the other plaintiffs are Absalom Jordan, Jr., and Amy McVey. Readers may recall Ms. McVey from this post, as being the first person to begin the new handgun registration process (which she did with a revolver).

The plaintiffs' attorneys are noted Second Amendment lawyer Stephen Halbrook, and Richard Gardiner.

A copy of the complaint, which has not yet been assigned a docket number, can be downloaded here.

Update 7/29/08: SCOTUSblog reports that the case has been assigned docket number 08-1289, before Judge Ricardo Urbina.

Monday, July 28, 2008

When the gym hits back

Tonight's dubious workout techniques video:


Robert Levy on Heller, Part II

Robert Levy, the attorney who helped finance the Heller litigation, gives a follow up response to the Brady Center's Dennis Henigan and his take on Heller:
On other matters, Henigan will get little mileage from his accusation that Justice Scalia engaged in “results-oriented jurisprudence, based on subjective value judgments.” For proof of that proposition, Henigan offers a critique of Heller by conservative law professor Doug Kmiec, who writes that Scalia ignored “constitutional text, history, and precedent.” Yet for every apostate on the right — is there any other, besides Kmiec? — there are multiple apostates on the left. Laurence Tribe, Akhil Amar, Alan Dershowitz, and Sanford Levinson, among others, all conclude that militia service was a sufficient but not necessary condition to the exercise of Second Amendment rights. The weight of scholarly opinion — across the ideological spectrum — is decidedly with Scalia.
Henigan also asserts, “there are not five votes on the Supreme Court for applying a ’strict scrutiny’ standard” of judicial review. He characterizes that as “an important setback for Heller.” Actually, neither Henigan nor I have inside knowledge that one or more of the five justices in the majority resisted strict scrutiny. Instead, we know only that the issue did not have to be resolved because D.C.’s ban was unconstitutional “under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights.” At some point, the Court may settle on a specific standard. If so, the standard will not be “rational basis,” as favored by the D.C. government, Professor Chemerinsky, and Henigan’s associates at the Brady Center. Nor will the standard be Justice Breyer’s “interest-balancing” test, which is presumably what the legislature applied when passing the law. Far from being a “setback” for Heller, the Court’s categorical rejection of those deferential standards is a significant victory.

In fact, Scalia’s citation in footnote 27 to United States v. Carolene Products is illuminating. Carolene was the 1938 case that effectively bifurcated our rights: The Court now rigorously protects some rights, such as those codified in the Bill of Rights, while rubber-stamping the regulation of second-tier rights, such as those related to contract, property, and commerce. By positioning the right to keep and bear arms squarely within the camp of specific, enumerated rights, and linking the Second Amendment to “the freedom of speech, the guarantee against double jeopardy, [and] the right to counsel,” Scalia sent an unmistakable signal that gun control regulations will be rigorously reviewed — perhaps even strictly scrutinized. That skeleton will have to be fleshed out in later litigation, but it’s fair to say that the gun controller’s standard-of-review glass is mostly empty, no matter how Henigan wants to spin it.
A few observations: First, the so-called Heller paradox depends on demonizing the gun lobby. That bogeyman may be rhetorically useful for Henigan, but it wasn’t the gun lobby that filed the lawsuit, picked the right time, provided the lawyers, identified the issues, selected the plaintiffs, chose the venue, decided on the legal strategy, wrote the briefs, argued in court, and won the case. The NRA can speak for itself, but our goals were not grounded on wedge issues or a cultural base. First and foremost, our interest was to ensure that the D.C. government complied with the text, purpose, structure, and history of the Second Amendment. For us, Heller was about the Constitution; guns merely provided context.

Read the article here.

Connecticut town sees increase in gun permits

The sad story of the murder of Dr. William Petit's family by two home invaders last year is well documented. The case made national news for the brutal nature of the attack that left his wife and two daughters dead. The two alleged suspects are awaiting trial on capital felony and multiple murder, sexual assault, and arson charges.

This article looks at how the sole surviving victim, Dr. William Petit is trying to cope with his terrible loss, and notes that more people are getting guns for self-protection:
Residents here are more guarded than a year ago - many bought deadbolts and alarms for their homes, and some signed up for gun-safety classes so they could buy firearms.

Gun permit applications in Cheshire, located 14 miles north of New Haven, jumped substantially after the Petits were attacked. There were 81 completed applications last year, more than double the 33 in 2006. Fifty-nine of the applications from last year were filled out after the crimes, police said.

"It was an eye-opener for everybody," said Frank Solla, a 38-year-old landscaper doing work near the Petit property.

Most rational people instinctively grasp the protective power of weaponry, but sometimes it takes a tragedy like this one, or a natural disaster, or civil unrest, to break through the anti-gun "police will protect you" propaganda to see the essential value of firearms.

Chicago mayor mulls more gun-control madness

We've already learned that Chicago plans to fight to keep its gun ban. Now we get a glimpse of what looks like Chicago Mayor Daley's backup plan:
Chicago is fighting tooth and nail to keep its 1982 handgun freeze, in part to protect first-responders, even as suburbs such as Wilmette and Morton Grove are throwing in the towel, Mayor Daley said today.

If the nation's highest court says it's OK to keep guns in your home for self-defense, what's to prevent those guns from being used against police officers and firefighters who respond to a domestic quarrel or other emergency, the mayor said.

"What does a policeman do when there's a domestic battery [call] and they're both armed? Do they enter the home or apartment or do they wait outside? ... How 'bout the neighbors? How 'bout the postman -- all the other issues that go with people coming into your home or close to your home? ... Whose responsibility is it when your son takes the gun outside and police come by?" Daley told reporters at a senior citizen development in Roseland.

"You have to look at a new ordinance in order to protect firemen and policemen going to the scenes of people who have armed themselves in their home. ... We serve and protect. We're not supposed to lose our lives ... Morton Grove can do anything they want. What I'm saying is you have to look at the first- responders and how it's gonna jeopardize their lives." [emphasis added]

Daley's pants-wetting hysteria doesn't stop there, however:
"It's just not allowing people to arm themselves. How many guns do you have -- 50, 60? Can they have a .357 Magnum? Can they have ammunition that will go through a wall? What is the liability of the owners? ... Do you have to have insurance if you have a gun? How much ammunition can you have if there's a fire? If a fireman is going to your home and you have 40 weapons and 1,000 rounds, do we have a responsibility to notify all the neighbors?" Daley said. [emphasis added]

Article here. I guess this kind of fear-mongering must play well with the leftie elites -- the ones who can afford bodyguards, or sit on the City Council and write themselves exceptions to the law, or who have taxpayer-funded police security details.

At least we get a glimpse of what's in store for Chicago even if the Supreme Court does rule that the Second Amendment applies to the states (and thus, hellholes like Daleyland Chicago). If the Courts overturn the ban, look for
  • limits on the number of guns you can own (can you count all the way to "one"?),

  • limits on the number of rounds of ammo you can buy/keep (can you count to "six"?),

  • restrictions on caliber (I predict a resurgence of the .25 Auto in Chicagoistan, anything else would be "too powerful"),

  • special liability insurance for gun-owners (you thought car insurance in the city was expensive? Try paying those gun liability premiums, if you can even get a policy),

  • registration and notification requirements (bought a box of ammo? gotta let the cops, the fire department, EMS, the post office, and all your neighbors know about it)

  • draconian storage requirements (locked up behind four miles of concertina wire, unloaded, and/or disassembled -- with a "self-defense exception" for "immediate deadly threats" -- taking a page from their fellow tyrants in Washington, D.C.)

  • not to mention annual vision and written tests, fingerprints, high "processing" fees, etc., etc.

You get the idea -- these little Despot politicians will make sure law-abiding residents of their little piece of hell continue to know who's boss, and will make them fight the city (with its deep pockets) tooth and nail in the courts to restore their constitutional and human right to self-defense.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jedi duel

Tonight's Jedi Knight safety video:


Japan wants dagger ban

In the wake of the attack that left 7 dead and 10 injured, Japanese police will seek to ban double-edged knives, Bloomberg reports:
July 18 (Bloomberg) -- Japan's National Police Agency is seeking a ban on double-edged knives, including daggers, after a stabbing spree left seven dead and 10 injured in a major Tokyo shopping district last month, Kyodo English News reported.

The agency will propose changes in the 1958 Firearm and Sword Control Law in the next session of parliament, Kyodo said, citing unidentified police officials. The bill will also strengthen measures against suspected stalkers, the report said.

Governments are so predictable, aren't they? Some law-breaker commits a horrific crime with _____ [fill in the blank], and the predictable response is "let's ban _____ [fill in the blank]." And sometimes those two blanks aren't even the same item! So I guess after this update only mass murders committed with single-edged weapons will be acceptable. The Japanese people must feel safer already.

And on the seventh day, He rested

At least the Brits have a sense of humor, but then again, they've been dealing with the Divine Right of Kings for centuries:
And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.
As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.
But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”

Read it all here. A few of the True Believers in the comments don't seem to think this is satire. Maybe they're American reporters? :)

YA-HA: Heller fallout

YA-HA: Yet Another Heller Article.

From a National Journal interview with UCLA law professor Adam Winkler on his take on Heller:
Q: Justice Stevens lamented in his dissent that the court's decision overturns a longstanding precedent. Do you think the Heller decision represents a huge departure from previous decisions?
Winkler: Yes and no. It is a huge departure from the over 40 cases of federal court decisions interpreting Miller to protect the state militia and only the state militia and not to have any impact on an individual right to bear arms for private purposes.... On the other hand, the Supreme Court case law was pretty weak. There had only been that Miller case.... One side in the case -- [Jack] Miller, the defendant -- didn't even appear in the Supreme Court, refused to file a brief. All they had was one perspective -- the government's perspective -- on that case.... Prior to Miller there had been several decisions that had not been Second Amendment cases, but the court had referred to the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right to bear arms. So, I think that the Supreme Court precedent was not all that strong. But nonetheless, the legal rule was strongly recognized in the federal courts in general.
Q: The New York Times wrote that with this decision the court "began writing a new chapter of constitutional law." Do you agree?
Winkler: I do, but I don't.... The idea that the right to bear arms is somehow some new right seems to me totally far-fetched. The New York Times is right, there is a new chapter of constitutional law being written -- a Second Amendment chapter. But, that said, the "right to bear arms" chapter has been written over the last 200 years. Almost every state in the union recognizes an individual right to bear arms for private purposes under their state constitutions.... Many states put these provisions in their original founding constitutions; other states have more recently added them. But it's a very well established constitutional right that individuals have under American constitutional law, broadly defined to include the American constitutional tradition at the state level.

There have been hundreds of cases challenging gun control laws at the state level, and it's always been true, despite what all of the extremists say in the gun debate, that we've had an individual right to bear arms and we've had reasonable gun control regulations. And they've coexisted peacefully with occasional controversies over particular kinds of bans. But the truth is that courts are not going to allow guys with bazookas to wander down Pennsylvania Avenue, and they're also not going to allow government to completely disarm the people. Because that right to bear arms is part of the American tradition. So is it a new chapter? Yeah, there's going to be a lot more cases. There's a Second Amendment chapter. But... you might think of this as just one more story in a larger chapter about the right to bear arms in American constitutional law.
Q: What are the political implications of the Heller decision, particularly in regards to the presidential election?
Winkler: I think the implications are less than they would have been had the Supreme Court ruled against the individual right to bear arms. I think had the court ruled in a different way than it did, it might well have stirred up a lot of anger in the gun rights community. Those are a very intense set of voters. There are a lot of single-issue voters in the gun community.... And that could have had an effect on the election by bringing out gun rights supporters, had the Second Amendment been interpreted otherwise. I think the effect is less now.... There are some questions about the position of Sen. [Barack] Obama on gun control issues, and this makes that issue all the more salient by reminding people that gun rights are a big issue in every election. But it's certainly diminished from what it would have been.

Q: Some have argued that the NRA won the battle but lost the larger war in terms of political implications. Do you agree? If the Supreme Court has guaranteed an individual's right to own a gun, can the NRA still legitimately claim that Democrats are coming to take everyone's guns away?
Winkler: Well it's a nice effort to make lemonade out of lemons. And it's true in part. It's certainly true to the extent that one of the powerful arguments the gun rights community has used against gun control is that every gun control law is just a step toward total disarmament of the people. The court has made clear now that total disarmament of the people is not going to be allowed, is not constitutionally permissible, is not an option for legislatures.

But I still think that much of the opposition to gun control comes from sort of a larger sense of gun culture, of opposition to government, of a sense that this is a natural right that is being interfered with by regulation. And I would not expect, all of a sudden, [for] a very strong, powerful anti-gun-control movement to simply fade away because one of their arguments has been taken away from them. They still have other powerful arguments. And they're dealing with a moral question of right.

Think of it in the abortion context. The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that women have the right to choose abortion and, while the court has allowed more and more regulation of the right, the court has continued to insist that the basic right is protected. Do people in the pro-choice community feel that that's a great security to them? No, they feel themselves under attack and feel that that kind of constitutional rule is not necessarily one that can be counted on to last forever. So, I don't think this [the Heller decision] strengthens the gun community a lot.

Q: How do you expect the election to shape the court?
Winkler: There are always six or seven more justices rumored to retire than will retire in the next term, as evidenced by the fact that the turnover has been so minimal in the last 15 years. So, it is true that Justice [John Paul] Stevens is 88 years old and is likely to retire under the next administration simply because of age. My understanding is that Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg has battled cancer and may retire in the next term. And then I think there are a bunch of rumors about some others, which I just don't give much credence to -- that [Justice David] Souter has had enough of Washington and that Justice Scalia is bored on the Supreme Court. I don't buy that those two people are leaving or going anywhere.

So, there's probably going to be some appointments. They wouldn't necessarily affect Second Amendment questions in light of the fact that the two people likely to be replaced were dissenters in the Heller case. No matter who gets to pick their replacements, it doesn't alter the five-person majority. It might add to it. But it's not going to subtract from it. So, in that sense it won't have a huge impact on the Second Amendment.

But that said, there are a lot of Second Amendment controversies that are going to come up now. What laws are allowed, what laws are not? What standard of review applies, whether it's incorporated -- these are questions that ultimately are going to have to be answered by the Supreme Court and they'll be answered over the next 10 or 15 years, presumably. I think the appointments to the court, by whoever gets to be president in this next term, has a lasting effect because those people are going to be on the court for many years to come and will probably rule on a number of Second Amendment issues.... And there are always long-term effects, too.... With a 5-4 majority this is clearly still an issue and there are questions that need to be resolved. This is still an issue for which appointments to the Supreme Court clearly matter in the long term.

Read the full interview here.

CS Monitor says public sympathetic to Obama's anti-gun views

According to the Christian Science Monitor, a majority of the public in nine of eleven "community types" favor more government restrictions on the gun availability:
So what are Americans’ attitudes toward gun control when looking through the lens of Patchwork Nation’s 11 community types? It turns out that more people seem to show sympathy for Obama’s views – especially in battleground communities that may be key in November.

In the latest county-by-county data available on the topic, a 2004 Annenberg survey question asked people whether the government should do more, less, or “about the same” when it came to restricting the “kinds of guns people can buy.” The response: A majority of people in nine of the 11 community types wanted more to be done.
Still, the fact that most communities – particularly 2008 battlegrounds – favor more restrictions on guns indicates that the candidates may not need to show their gun-culture bona fides.The big question for voters in key places may not be where the candidates stand on the Second Amendment, but how and to what extent each wants the government to involve itself in America’s gun laws.

Read the article here. The article cites a 2004 Annenberg county-by-county survey, which classified each county by community type, such as urban city, wealthy suburb, etc. Not surprisingly, the article states that those in "industrial metropolis" communities were most inclined to support more government gun restrictions, while those in "tractor country" were least supportive of gun restrictions. Unfortunately, this isn't exactly a revelation. Tell us something we don't know.

The article states that
The big question for voters in key places may not be where the candidates stand on the Second Amendment, but how and to what extent each wants the government to involve itself in America’s gun laws.
To me, this seems to be precisely related to where the candidates stand on the Second Amendment, i.e., whether or not the candidates believe that amendment in the Bill of Rights was intended to restrict the government from infringing citizens' right to own and carry guns.

Most voters support some "reasonable" restrictions (such as bans on convicted rapists, robbers, and murderers possessing guns), just as they support such restrictions on freedom of speech (the oft-used falsely-yelling-fire-in-a-crowded-theatre example), or religion (e.g., no mandated religion classes in public schools). The question, therefore, becomes what restrictions do the candidates think are reasonable, which is generally congruent with the candidates' view of the role of the Second Amendment in restricting government action.

Senator Obama has consistently supported a panoply of restrictions on law-abiding gun owners (you know, the only ones who obey the law). According to the cited link, restrictions Senator Obama supports or supported include a ban on almost all rifle ammunition (including that used for hunting), and a ban on gun stores within five miles of a school or park (which would eliminate virtually all gun stores). Senator Obama is on the record as being against law-abiding citizens carrying concealed weapons for self-defense, despite the fact that 48 states recognize that right in one form or another (notably, Senator Obama's home state of Illinois is one of only two states that do not allow concealed carry in any form by ordinary law-abiding citizens).

Senator Obama, has said recently that the Second Amendment is an "individual right", while supporting Washington, D.C.'s complete and total ban on operable firearms, including in the sanctity of one's home. Senator Obama has indicated he thought D.C.'s gun ban was constitutional. So Senator Obama would have Americans believe that the right to own a gun is an individual right, but that the government can completely ban exercise of that right. That's like saying that you have a individual right to free speech, but that the government can ban all books, keyboards, and writing instruments.

When the Supreme Court was considering the challenge to the D.C. gun ban, Senator Obama refused to sign on to a friend-of-the-court brief, signed by a majority of both houses of Congress, urging the Court to rule that the Second Amendment protects an individual right and to strike down D.C.'s complete ban. And when the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment was an individual right and struck down the D.C. gun ban, Senator Obama did not exactly praise the Court's ruling as a victory for freedom and individual rights. Instead, he rather grudgingly acknowledged that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, and focused almost entirely on the Court's discussion (in non-binding dicta) of restrictions that might survive constitutional scrutiny, and on additional gun-control restrictions that he would seek to impose on the American people. All in the name of "common-sense", "reasonable" restrictions, of course.

In constrast, Senator McCain signed the Supreme Court friend-of-the-court brief. And when the Supreme Court handed down its Heller decision, holding that the Second Amendment is an individual right and striking down the D.C. gun ban, Senator McCain was effusive in his praise, referring to the Second Amendment as a "fundamental right", and "sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stealing cats

Catalytic converters, that is. According to this report, thefts of catalytic converters for their precious metals content are on the rise:
As prices of precious metals skyrocket, thieves are targeting an obscure component of automotive exhaust systems in lightning thefts that can be accomplished in less than a minute, police and automotive experts say.

(Catalytic converter. Photo: MSNBC)

The component is the catalytic converter, which has been a mandatory part of exhaust systems since 1975. Police across the country say they have seen a dramatic rise in thefts of the components in recent months.
Catalytic converters have only small traces of the metals — platinum, palladium and rhodium — but there’s enough in them for a thief to resell stolen units for up to $200 apiece. Rhodium is among the most expensive metals on Earth, commanding as much as $6,000 an ounce on the open market.

Scrap dealers “are paying top dollar — platinum, palladium, rhodium inside of them — and they’re getting top dollar” on resale, said Jack Bell of North Shore Towing, which tows vehicles for the Evanston, Ill., police.
The converters are inviting targets because they’re easy to grab. Mounted on the exterior undercarriage of vehicles, they can be removed in about a minute with any standard metal cutting tool. An enterprising thief in a crowded parking lot or garage can make off with enough converters to clear $2,000 or $3,000 in half an hour.

“These thieves are targeting shopping malls, school parking lots, busy business districts, and they are hitting these places in the daylight,” said Jennifer Krings, a spokeswoman for AAA. “A lot of the large passenger cars — SUVs, trucks and vans — have two, so those are a target.”

To keep your car's kitties safe, this enterprising Ohio business is selling the "CatClamp":
In less than half a minute, a thief can crawl under a car or truck, switch on a cordless saw and make off with a catalytic converter and the valuable platinum inside.
That scene is occurring with a frightening rapidity across the country, but an Ohio firm says it has the solution — the CatClamp, a cage-like device dreamed up by veteran welder Jim Dusa II.

(The CatClamp device. Photo:

Dusa is president of American Welding Inc. in Toledo, and has been selling his invention for about a year now.

So far, no customers have complained.

Dusa was led to invent the device when a national truck-rental agency approached him about producing something that would protect the converters, ordered by Congress nearly three decades ago as a means of enabling automobiles to meet emission standards of the Clean Air Act.

In recent months, thieves have been ripping off the devices by simply sliding underneath cars and trucks and applying a cordless apparatus to pry them loose. A typical theft takes about 30 seconds.

For about a year, Dusa’s company installed his CatClamp on rental trucks in the Toledo and Detroit areas to see if they could deter bandits.

“We had 100 percent success,” he says. “We haven’t even had a report of an attempt.

“It just makes more work than it’s worth to the thief. There’s too much low-hanging fruit out there for them to take something with this on. They go under there and may try to cut it, but it’s going to be a heckuva job with a saw.” [emphasis added]

Makes sense. If you're a thief, why waste time trying to overcome a protected vehicle, when the vehicle next to it is unprotected. If catalytic converter theft becomes widespread, I would expect insurance companies to start offering discounts for devices such as the CatClamp that make it harder for thieves to steal the converter. Automakers might also begin stamping the VIN numbers on the catalytic converters to facilitate traceability of stolen units.

Follow up article on Ohio open carry incident

As related in this post, an open carrier from Ohio was reportedly hassled by police officers from the Northwood, Ohio PD. The town's law director had promised to follow up with Ohioans for Concealed Carry (maybe they should change their name :)) upon his return. Here is OFCC's description of the follow up:
Brian Ballenger, law director for Northwood, followed through on his promise to contact us this week to continue working to resolve the Northwood Incident.

In a phone call with me yesterday, he again confirmed that his office is aware that open carry is legal, and that he has communicated that information to the Northwood Police Chief. Ballenger also reiterated that no charges were going to be filed against OFCC member Edwin Farbrother, an obvious fact since he broke no law.

However, he repeatedly stated that he advises against open carry to avoid panicking citizens who may not be aware that such an action is legal (although I pointed out that the last two people "panicking" were off-duty police officers).

Ballenger stated that a training session with the entire department would be undertaken within the next few weeks after two new hires began working. He offered to provide us with any written materials presented as part of that training. He was unable to tell me what steps would be taken in the meantime to ensure this doesn't happen again, and suggested the Chief would be the one to answer that question.

Article here. Looks like the PD should now (or soon) know that open carry is legal in Ohio. OFCC says it will follow up with the police chief, who was "very adamant that open carry is illegal in Ohio, despite not being able to quote the section of the Ohio Revised Code that supported his position", according to the earlier OFCC report.

Stuff like this shows the importance of asserting and standing up for your rights, and the need for grassroots pro-gun groups who can fight these small, but nevertheless important battles at the local level.

Chicago "confident gun ban will stand"

Chicago, as expected, looks like it will fight to keep its gun ban in place. The city's lawyer says she is confident the city's ban will withstand the upcoming legal challenges:
[Chicago City Corporation Counsel] Georges tells Aldermen the Supreme Court’s decision on Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban shouldn’t apply to Chicago, because previous Supreme Court rulings have said Second Amendment "right to bear arms" doesn’t apply to local governments, like Cities. She says D.C. is a federal jurisdiction.

And Georges is confident that, and other arguments, will prevail, at least in the lower courts. But, she admits, it’s hard to predict what the current Supreme Court will do. Still, it could be years before we find out.

This is actually good news. One of the key strategic reasons to challenge the Chicago ban, which is essentially similar to D.C.'s ban, is to raise and have the Supreme Court resolve the incorporation issue, that is, whether the Second Amendment applies to the states, and not just the federal government. The Supreme Court didn't need to decide the incorporation issue in its Heller ruling because Washington, D.C. is a federal enclave, and not a state.

So it looks like we can count on the anti-gun Chicago politicians to help us apply the Second Amendment to the states, as it was intended to apply after passage of the 14th Amendment.

Thanks, Chicago, we knew we could count on you! :)

Clayton Cramer opposes open carry

Clayton Cramer, a Second Amendment scholar and someone who is generally pro-gun, appears to oppose the idea of peaceful citizens exercising their rights by openly carrying guns:
Do you know how to upset people, really fast? Force them to confront the reality that many people own and carry guns. It isn't even like open carry has some great advantage over concealed carry when it comes to self-defense. It's a bit quicker to draw, sure, but if a random spree killer is deciding who to attack first, guess who's first? The person who is obviously armed.

Open carry may make you as an individual somewhat safer from criminal attack, because it encourages those criminals who don't have a death wish to go look for an easier target. Concealed carry, however, makes everyone safer--because the criminal doesn't know if his intended victim is going to draw a gun--or perhaps a bystander is going to do so.

Open carry is constitutionally protected, as the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled in the decision In re Brickey (Ida. 1902). But that doesn't mean that this is the most appropriate or most polite way to carry a gun.

Don't be rude. Don't be stupid.

UPDATE: It strikes me that there is an analogy to gay men who feel the need to have sex in public view (something that I have blogged about before). Just about every adult knows that there is homosexual sex happening out there. Most Americans aren't approving of it, but at least it isn't something that they have to see. It's an abstraction. When you walk down a public beach in Rhode Island, or along the Russian River in California, and there are guys having sex, it is no longer an abstraction. It's a reminder that someone wants you to see what they are doing, or at least doesn't care that it might not be what others want to see.Now, some of the goal of both groups--public sex and open carry--is desensitization. They are hoping that if people see this happening on a regular basis, that it will no longer be shocking, and eventually, everyone will get used to it. There are people for whom this is probably true, and it is part of why television shows make a point of including gay characters--to get everyone used to it, so that it is no longer shocking. But for most people, public sex and open carry--and especially in a setting where there are children present--it has the opposite effect: it infuriates, enrages, or (at best) annoys.

UPDATE 2: I keep getting emails, so let me clarify. You have a right to open carry in Idaho and many other states. I would not for a minute propose that this should be illegal. But if your actions drive people that are neutral about guns into the enemy camp, should you do it?

Read his full blog post here. The comparison between gay public sex and open carry seems particularly inapt -- there is no enumerated constitutional right to public sex (gay or otherwise), while there is an explicit right to keep and bear arms. Open carry has historically been the quintessential manner of exercising such rights. Indeed, for most of the population, the right to lawfully carry concealed is a relatively recent development. Americans did not exchange our open carry rights for concealed carry rights; concealed carry is simply an additional mode of exercising our rights.

Mr Cramer says that open carry "infuriates, enrages, or (at best) annoys", especially when "there are children present". Would Mr. Cramer also oppose, say, a protester exercising his First Amendment rights who displays a sign that "infuriates, enrages, or (at best) annoys"? Would he say that such exercise of free speech rights only hurts the free speech movement? That protesters shouldn't be "rude" or "stupid" and should avoid exercising their rights "especially in a setting where there are children present"?

As Mr. Cramer notes, Idaho citizens have the right to openly carry. A right not used will soon become a lost right. The idea of citizens peacefully and openly exercising their right to arms shouldn't be controversial for anyone who supports the right to keep and bear arms.

UK's violent crime continues unabated

More news of the violent crime situation in the United Kingdom:
The true scale of violent knife crime in Britain is revealed today - with one in five youngsters claiming they or their pals have been threatened in the past year.

An explosion of gangs is fuelling the blades epidemic, says a shock report.

And police figures to be released this morning are expected to show 25,000 stabbings were committed in England and Wales in the last 12 months.

It is the first time the Government has given the go-ahead for such statistics - which will add to the public's fears.

The year's crime figures are also expected to show a total of around one million violent offences including murder, rape and robbery.

Maybe they should just ban violent crime?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Quartet

Tonight's musical interlude, featuring two female quartets, both of which are easy on the eyes and ears:

First, the eScala quartet (

Next, the Bond girls:


It must be true love ...

Senator McCain's campaign released an ad compiling some of the adoration lavished by the mainstream press on his rival, Senator Obama:

Meanwhile, Rasmussen reports that the public's perception that the media are basically serving as press secretaries for Obama has increased in the past month:
The idea that reporters are trying to help Obama win in November has grown by five percentage points over the past month. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey, taken just before the new controversy involving the New York Times erupted, found that 49% of voters believe most reporters will try to help the Democrat with their coverage, up from 44% a month ago.
In the latest survey, a plurality of Democrats—37%-- say most reporters try to offer unbiased coverage of the campaign. Twenty-seven percent (27%) believe most reporters are trying to help Obama and 21% in Obama’s party think reporters are trying to help the Republican candidate.

Among Republicans, 78% believe reporters are trying to help Obama and 10% see most offering unbiased coverage.

As for unaffiliated voters, 50% see a pro-Obama bias and 21% see unbiased coverage. Just 12% of those not affiliated with either major party believe the reporters are trying to help McCain.

In a more general sense, 45% say that most reporters would hide information if it hurt the candidate they wanted to win. Just 30% disagree and 25% are not sure. Democrats are evenly divided as to whether a reporter would release such information while Republicans and unaffiliated voters have less confidence in the reporters.

Republicans and unaffiliated voters are more likely to trust campaign information from family and friends than from reporters. Democrats are evenly divided as to who they would trust more.

Somehow, I think the percentage of the public who think the media is biased will only grow, as we get closer to November.

House Dems under pressure on D.C. gun bill

The Hill reports that the NRA is putting pressure on House Democrats to sign a discharge petition to bring a pending bill for a floor vote. The bill would fix some of the problems with the D.C. Council's newly enacted gun legislation in response to the Supreme Court's Heller decision.
Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) believes that the District government has been flouting the Supreme Court ruling. Souder spokesman Martin Green said the city has simply created a new exemption in its registration rules to allow for handguns in the home rather than repealing the ban. Among other problems, D.C. law, he said, still bans many pistols by deeming them to be machine guns.

“What the mayor and council is doing is not adhering to the majority opinion,” Green said. “They’re still trying to ban an entire class of firearms.”

So Souder earlier this month started taking the steps necessary to file a discharge petition, which allows a bill to go to the floor if 218 members sign on.

The bill, introduced last year by Ross and Souder, would eliminate gun registration, allow some handguns that are still banned and end criminal penalties for possessing an unregistered firearm. But it’s never gotten out of committee.

Article here. The article notes that none of the 13 discharge petitions have succeeded since the Democrats took control in January 2007.

Liberals: We want an "anti-Scalia"

According to this article, liberals are hoping for an "anti-Scalia" nomination to the Supreme Court if Senator Obama is elected President:
... They want their own Antonin Scalia. Or rather, an anti-Scalia, an individual who can easily articulate a liberal interpretation of the Constitution, offer a quick sound bite and be prepared to mix it up with conservative activists beyond the marble and red velvet of the Supreme Court.
"Someone with vision," said Doug Kendall, who recently helped found a new liberal think tank called the Constitutional Accountability Center. "Someone who looks hard at the text and history of the Constitution, as Justice Scalia does, and articulates a very clear idea of how that text points to liberal and progressive outcomes."
If Obama had the opportunity to make an appointment, it would be only the fourth nomination from a Democratic president in more than 40 years. And for activists on the left, it could signal the opportunity to create a new dynamic for the court.

"It is a court with no true liberal on it, the most conservative court in 75 years," said Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught constitutional law. "What we call liberals on this court are moderates, or moderate liberals, if you want to get refined about it." [emphasis added]

Stone notes, as he said Stevens has, that every justice on the current court with the exception of Ginsburg is more conservative than the justice he replaced -- a natural evolution given that seven of the nine were appointed by Republican presidents.
Obama himself has been opaque and even contradictory about his criteria for a justice. He voted against both Roberts and Alito, and has said he sees Ginsburg and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and David H. Souter as the kinds of "sensible" justices he would favor.

Yet, as the court's term ended last month, he praised the court's decision in support of an individual right to gun ownership that struck down the District of Columbia's handgun ban, a decision in which Roberts and Alito were in the majority and liberals dissented.

Likewise, he disagreed with the court's decision that the death penalty may not be applied to child rapists, where Ginsburg, Breyer and Souter were in the majority and the conservative justices were in dissent.

Obama has said that justices will be in agreement 95 percent of the time, and in the other cases he looks for a judge "to bring in his or her own perspectives, his ethics, his or her moral bearings." [emphasis added]

Wow - there are "no true liberal[s]" on the Supreme Court today? Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter are "moderates"? I guess that's how the far Left perceives the Court. I shudder to think the type of justice that would get nominated and confirmed if a Democrat president and a super-majority Democrat-controlled Senate get together.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brother, can you spare $100,000,000,000?

So, you thought inflation was high in the states? Be glad you don't live here:
Zimbabwe is to introduce a bank-note worth Z$100bn in response to rampant inflation - but the note will barely cover the cost of a loaf of bread.

(Zimbabwe's $10 million note, introduced in January. Photo: BBC)

Some Zimbabweans are already calling for higher denominations in a country where the official annual inflation rate has exceeded 2,200,000%.

Independent economists believe the real rate is many times higher.

Zimbabwe's meltdown has left at least 80% of the population in poverty, facing mass shortages of basic goods.

The country's central bank has introduced several new notes already this year in response to the hyperinflation.

In January, a Z$10 million note was issued, followed by a Z$50 million. By June the denominations had reached tens of billions.
"This new $100 billion special agro-cheque will go into circulation on Monday," the notice said.

But Zimbabwe residents say the latest note is already worthless, and does not even cover their daily lunch.

"Nowadays, for my expenses a day, I need about Z$500 billion," one resident said.

"So Z$100 billion can't do anything because for me to go home I need Z$250 billion, so this [note] is worthless."

Zimbabwe was once one of the richest countries in Africa.

Hard to imagine an official inflation rate of 2.2 million percent, with the real rate likely much higher. Your whole perception of money changes. You would almost long for the days when dinner for one at the swanky Victoria Falls Hotel cost a mere $1.5 billion or so. You know, like back in March.

Here's what the Z$50,000,000 note looks like:

(Zim $50 million note. Click to enlarge. Credit: Effective Demand blog.)

Note the expiration date!

Maybe inflation will be what finally breaks Mugabe's hold on power. It certainly won't be the "international community", or the corrupt United Nations.

[via The Big Picture]

Math is overrated, anyway

An Amazon tribe called the Piraha apparently has no need for numbers in their language:
The idea that people have an innate mathematical ability has been questioned by a study of an Amazonian tribe that has no sense of number.

The ability of tribal adults of the Pirahã to conceptualise numbers is no better than that of infants or even some animals and their language, with only 300 speakers, has no word even to express the concept of "one" or any other specific number.

The team, led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of brain and cognitive sciences Edward Gibson, found that members of the Pirahã tribe in remote northwestern Brazil use language to express relative quantities such as "some" and "more," but not precise numbers.

It is often assumed that counting is an innate part of human cognition, said Prof Gibson, "but here is a group that does not count. They could learn, but it's not useful in their culture, so they've never picked it up."

The study, which appeared in the journal Cognition, offers evidence that number words are a concept invented by human cultures as they are needed, and not an inherent part of language, said Prof Gibson, who did the study with Michael Frank, Dr Evelina Fedorenko, and Prof Daniel Everett, of Illinois State University.

Another gun ban sees the dustbin

Looks like Wilmette, Illinois has repealed its gun ban:
Wilmette village trustees voted Tuesday night to strike the village’s 1989 handgun ban from the books in the wake of last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn a Washington, D.C., ban.

Village officials suspended enforcement of the ordinance shortly after the June 26 ruling and said it would probably not withstand legal challenges based on the court’s reasoning in the ruling, which said outright gun bans are unconstitutional.

The proposed ordinance to repeal the local ban was passed unanimously late Tuesday night.

So that's Wilmette, Evanston, and Morton Grove that have crumbled in the wake of Heller. The big cities, with their deep pockets and lack of respect for the Constitution ingrained in their politicians, will fight for their bans. But the smaller tyrants have been cowed, at least temporarily.

Woman registers first handgun in D.C.

Article on Amy McVey, who has the distinction of being the first person (male or female) to begin the handgun registration process a week ago when registration opened last Thursday in our nation's hellhole capital. Ms. McVey beat out Dick Heller, who didn't bring his handgun with him on the first day registration opened.
Washington, D.C. - Amy McVey didn’t seem like the typical D.C. gun owner, at least not to the reporters who stood outside the Metropolitan Police Department on Thursday, the first day handguns could be registered in the District after the city’s 32-year ban.

“They looked at me and thought, ‘She doesn’t fit the profile of someone coming in with a gun,’ so they left me alone and I walked right past them,” said McVey, who was the first and only person to register a handgun Thursday when she entered the station with her Ruger .357 Magnum in a blue plastic bag around 1 p.m.

McVey’s experience was mostly uneventful, she said. The security guard who screened her belongings was surprised when she told him there was a gun in the bag.

Once he handed her off to policemen, the process was smooth.

“The cops were professional, polite and courteous,” McVey said. “A couple of them remarked what a nice gun it was.”

McVey found the cops very encouraging of her gun ownership. “I asked them, ‘Do you mind good people owning guns?’ ” she said. “One said, ‘It will help make our job easier.’ ” [emphasis added]

McVey took a written test, had her fingerprints taken, and submitted her gun for a ballistics examination. She said the written test was fairly easy and required basic knowledge of gun ownership laws and some common sense.

“I got a 19 out of 20,” she said.

The process will likely be completed in a few weeks once police finish the requisite background check.
Article here. Note the difference in the ordinary cops' supportive attitude towards law-abiding citizens owning guns for self-protection, versus those in power such as D.C. Mayor Fenty and his police lackey, Chief Cathy Lanier.

Heller's future in the lower courts

Article by law professors Glenn Reynolds (of Instapundit fame) and Brannon Denning discussing the application of the Supreme Court's Heller ruling in the lower courts.
The Supreme Court has released its long-awaited opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller,[1] and the buzz has been considerable. Though much has been made of the majority’s historic ruling and of the narrowness of that majority, many commentators have missed an important point. What Heller is most notable for is its complete and unanimous rejection of the “collective rights” interpretation that for nearly seventy years held sway with pundits, academics, and—most significantly—lower courts.

The repudiation of this extensive body of case law[2] suggests that the real test of Heller will occur once the lower courts, traditionally hostile to an individual rights interpretation of the Second Amendment, face the inevitable follow-up cases challenging other restrictive gun laws. Experience with other seemingly groundbreaking Supreme Court decisions in recent years, such as United States v. Lopez, suggests that lower-court foot-dragging may limit Heller’s reach, though this time around there will likely be considerably more scrutiny and more vigorous litigation efforts.

If the lower courts present a challenge to the implementation of Heller, they also provide litigants with an opportunity. Given the fact that the Heller majority declined to give a detailed accounting of the proper standard of review to be used in subsequent Second Amendment cases, litigants have a rare opportunity to write on a tabula much more rasa than is ordinarily the case in constitutional litigation, making use of recent scholarship on the crafting of constitutional decision rules that implement constitutional provisions.

In the pages that follow, we take a look at these aspects of Heller. The triumph of the Standard Model of the Second Amendment is examined in Part I. Part II asks whether Heller is merely the opening volley in the coming judicialization of the gun control debate, or whether like the Court’s attempt to rein in congressional power under the Commerce Clause, Heller will ultimately be seen as largely symbolic. Finally, in Part III, we discuss the possibility that recent scholarship on constitutional doctrine might play a role in separating permissible from impermissible gun controls post-Heller.
In Lopez, the Supreme Court struck down the Gun Free School Zones Act as being in excess of Congress’s enumerated power to regulate commerce among the several states. In the years following Lopez, hundreds of cases flooded the lower courts, most brought by defendants convicted of violating various federal criminal statutes, claiming that those laws also exceeded Congress’s commerce power.[16] In the five years after Lopez, however, only one law—the civil suit provision eventually invalidated in Morrison—was struck down by a federal appellate court.[17] Even after Morrison, when the Court not only reaffirmed Lopez but seemed to add, “and we mean it,” courts were still reluctant to rigorously analyze federal statutes using the Lopez-Morrison framework. Though before Raich signaled a retreat, lower courts were beginning to uphold as-applied challenges to particular federal statutes.[18]

Will Heller suffer Lopez’s fate, serving more as casebook fodder than as actual authority? On the surface, there are some analogies between the Commerce Clause and the Second Amendment that suggest that, like Lopez, Heller itself may end up as so much sound and fury, signifying nothing—or at least nothing much.
On the other hand, there are several important differences that ought not be overlooked between the situation following Lopez and that likely to follow Heller. Perhaps most important is the fact that there was virtually no coordinated follow-up litigation to Lopez on the part of the public interest bar. Most of the litigation was opportunistic: Lopez was cited in just about every appeal on behalf of those convicted of federal criminal offenses, who, as a group, rarely present the most sympathetic face. By contrast, several lawsuits were filed challenging gun control laws in other communities within hours of the Heller opinion’s publication.[27] Given the stakes, interest groups challenging local laws have greater incentive than individual criminal defense attorneys to ensure that only the best cases with the cleanest facts are brought.

Moreover, there was relatively little public interest in Lopez or the Commerce Clause. The Second Amendment, on the other hand, is among the most significant provisions of the Bill of Rights from the standpoint of public engagement.[28] The public interest groups sponsoring follow-up litigation will have every incentive to publicize lower court attempts to evade or blunt the effect of Heller and can try to choose cert-worthy cases from among those to be litigated. Given popular interest, the media and elected officials will have an incentive to monitor lower court implementation of Heller.

It is also possible that the lower courts’ hostility to an individual right to arms was largely a product of the zeitgeist of an earlier era, carried forward as much by habit and stare decisis as by any institutional interest. With the individual right theory of the Second Amendment now not only endorsed by the Supreme Court, but also, thanks to extensive scholarship, academically respectable (and, of course, popular with a very large majority of citizens) it may be that today’s federal judiciary will be less hostile to the right than past courts.

Read the article here. I think the authors are correct that Heller will generate far more intense interest than Lopez did. Even though Lopez overturned a gun-control law, the Gun Free School Zones Act (subsequently re-enacted by Congress with changes), it did so on Commerce Clause, rather than Second Amendment, grounds. The public interest in Commerce Clause jurisprudence is far less than the public's interest in Second Amendment issues.

Judges who continue to uphold gun-control laws in the wake of Heller will face considerably more vocal public scrutiny and criticism (from both sides of the issue) than they did in the wake of Lopez, so they are much more likely to carefully ground their decisions in the individual rights framework mandated by Heller. I expect we'll see the circuits split over the standard of review in the next couple of years worth of litigation, with circuits such as the Ninth (based in San Francisco), First (out of Boston), and Second (New York City) favoring as low a standard as they think they can get away with, while circuits such as the Fifth (based in New Orleans) ruling in favor of more stringent standards of review. This isn't necessarily a bad thing in terms of the bigger picture, because the Supreme Court is more likely to grant cert in cases where such a circuit split exists.

The key, as in Heller, will be getting good cases, with sympathetic plaintiffs, to the Supreme Court. Groups like the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation can help serve an important role along with pro-Second Amendment attorneys in recruiting such plaintiffs and taking a strategic view of the litigation to achieve particular goals. In the short term, incorporation is a key goal. Establishing the standard of review will be another critical goal, with the obvious objective of having the highest level of scrutiny apply. This will be trickier, particularly in light of the Court's own dicta in Heller. That's why the getting the right case before the Court will be really important.