Sunday, August 31, 2008

So much for the 19th Amendment

Tonight's voting rights video:



Sigh.

Obama anti-gun positions

Writing in the National Review, author David Feddoso discusses Senator Obama's anti-gun positions.
Denver — In 2007, Senator Barack Obama stood up for a gun owner. He endorsed Chicago Alderman Dorothy Tillman in her Democratic primary. Not only was she a gun owner, but she had even pulled a gun on her colleagues during a contentious 1991 ward redistricting hearing, according to eyewitnesses. Tillman, best known for demanding to be served by black (not white) waiters, and for advocating reparations for slavery, narrowly lost her race despite Obama’s support.

It would be only a slight exaggeration to say that this was the strongest effort Obama has ever made to support gun rights.
...
According to a 1996 questionnaire he filled out while running for the Illinois Senate, Obama promised to support a ban on “the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns.” Even though Obama’s handwriting appeared on the questionnaire, Obama’s campaign would claim earlier this year that his staff filled it out and he was completely unaware of the answer he had given.

You don’t have to go back that far to find Obama taking an extreme stance against gun rights. In 2004, while running for the U.S. Senate, he promised to bar citizens nationwide from receiving concealed-carry permits. The Chicago Tribune reported then that Obama “backed federal legislation that would ban citizens from carrying weapons, except for law enforcement.” Obama explained his plan to pre-empt state concealed-carry laws with a federal bill: “National legislation,” Obama said at the time, “will prevent other states’ flawed concealed-weapons laws from threatening the safety of Illinois residents.” [emphasis added]

Senator Obama also supported the District of Columbia’s comprehensive gun ban — he said so in a February television interview with Washington’s WJLA, available on YouTube. The D.C. gun ban prevented district residents from owning handguns even in their own homes. It required that long guns, all of which had to be registered, be kept locked and disassembled. There wasn’t even a provision allowing them to be reassembled in the event of an emergency.

Article here. Senator Obama likes to cite his support for "states rights" when it's convenient for him, but now that he's a federal official ... well, not so much, I guess. Whatever happened to "what works in Cheyenne may not work in Chicago?" When it comes to guns, I guess his position is "one anti-gun size fits all."

Here's Senator Obama during the February 11, 2008 interview referred to in the National Review article answering a question about the D.C. gun ban. Notice how he conveniently avoids answering the question asked ("you said you don't have any intention of taking away people's guns, yet you support the D.C. ban and said it's constitutional, how can you reconcile those two positions?")

Hurricane Gustav prompts gun purchases

As Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf coast states, people are stocking up on the usual necessities: water, food, batteries, guns and ammo:
On what would normally be a slow summer weekday, the three employees at Gretna Gun Works Inc. frantically tended to a crush of customers admiring the racks of shotguns and rifles lined up behind the glass counter.

Among the patrons: a jewelry store owner from eastern New Orleans with plans to stand guard through Gustav; two uniformed Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office deputies inquiring about additional firearms; and an avid hunter who was in to pick up a 12-gauge he dropped off for cleaning.

"It's hurricane season, you definitely want it back now, right?" employee John DeRosier said with a grin as he handed the Beretta shotgun back to the owner.

In yet another sign of hardened sensibilities in post-Katrina New Orleans, managers of gun shops and sporting goods stores across the area report a spike in gun and ammunition sales this week.


And from the Outdoor Life blog:
We just got a call from Devline Rossell, a charter captain based out of Venice, Louisiana. He was shopping in New Orleans to get some supplies before the arrival of Gustav (currently listed as a tropical storm that has left at least 22 dead in the Caribbean) and reported that the item most in demand was not food, clothing or shelter.
“I just left a sporting goods store and you would think that the number-one selling item would be plywood or potable water or gasoline right now,” he said. “Apparently it is AR-15s and .223 ammo. I watched at least 20 people buy AR-15s and cases of .223.”
Can’t say I’m surprised. After the nightmare that was Katrina I think it would be unwise for anyone to assume the state, local or federal government could guarantee his or her personal safety during a natural disaster. Of course, I think it is foolish to assume that under any circumstance.

While I'm obviously all for being well armed and well stocked for emergencies, buying any gun, particularly an auto-loader (rifle or handgun) and depending on it without first firing and verifying that the gun functions reliably with the magazines and ammo you have selected is not wise. In addition, rifles need to be sighted in and zeroed for proper use.

No "safe" places

Article discusses the need to carry wherever you go, where legal to do so:
Recently, there were two Christian musicians who were leaving a recording studio and were murdered for two dollars and their car. Initially, I paid little attention to the news reports nor did I listen to the names of the two victims. Three days later, I received an e-mail from a woman friend who had received her CHL by taking my course along with her son and daughter. The e-mail read, “Hi Don, my son, Steve, was murdered Thursday. His funeral is at….”

I sat there stunned. Steve had been licensed through my instruction. I had been to a couple of activities that he and his mother attended – in both cases they were armed. I knew Steve’s mother believed as I do that you never go anywhere unarmed if it is legal to carry in those places. I did not know Steve as well as I did his mother, but I found him to be very likable and smart. In fact, I later discovered that he was probably a genius. Of course after getting that terrible news, I couldn’t help wonder if he was armed that night.

Article here. Outside of law enforcement and the military, the decision whether to carry a firearm, is, in fact, a personal one. A firearm is only a tool, not a magic talisman that will ward off all evil. Having one doesn't make you immune to attack, serious injury or death, any more than wearing your seatbelt immunizes you from dying in a car crash. It only helps increase the statistical odds of survival.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Olympics photos

For a final photographic farewell to the Beijing Olympics, here are some great, often quirky photos, from Stern Magazine:

"Hey, what's this thing here?"





"We'll always have Paris, er, Beijing"





"Who says I can't walk on water?"



See them all here (note: a couple are NSFW).

Do it for the Diddy

Pity the poor, mere multimillionaire celebrity. With the increase in gas prices, some have been forced to abandon their private jetsetting.
Sean "Diddy" Combs complained about the "... too high" price of gas and pleaded for free oil from his "Saudi Arabia brothers and sisters" in a YouTube video posted Wednesday. The hip-hop mogul said he is now flying on commercial airlines instead of in private jets, which Combs said had previously cost him $200,000 and up for a roundtrip between New York and Los Angeles.

"I'm actually flying commercial," Diddy said before walking onto an airplane, sitting in a first-class seat and flashing his boarding pass to the camera. "That's how high gas prices are. I'm at the gate right now. This is really happening, proof gas prices are too high. Tell whoever the next president is we need to bring gas prices down."

Oh, the humanity!

Who knew?

ABC News' Terry Moran discusses Barack Obama's parents:



Who knew? I guess he is special!

:)

Pelosi: Natural gas "clean, cheap alternative to fossil fuels"

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, seems unclear on the concept of "fossil fuels", as evidenced by this doozy from a Meet the Press interview with Tom Brokaw:
... I'm, I'm, I'm investing in something I believe in. I believe in natural gas as a clean, cheap alternative to fossil fuels. ...

Transcript here. Sigh.

Gun advocates: Georgia "public gatherings" law has racist roots

Article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution discussing Georgia's law prohibiting guns, even by law-abiding citizens with concealed carry permits, at "public gatherings".
Next month is the 140th anniversary of the Camilla Massacre, when a group largely made up of blacks heading to a Southwest Georgia Republican political rally were shot up by white locals after being warned not to bring guns to town.

Gun-rights advocates say the September 1868 massacre, in which at least nine freedmen were killed and up to 25-30 were wounded, led the General Assembly to ban citizens from carrying firearms at political rallies and other “public gatherings.” The aim, they say, was to keep guns away from blacks.

“It was entirely about race,” said Ed Stone, president of GeorgiaCarry.org.

But many African-American lawmakers don’t see the “public gatherings” law as a civil rights issue. In fact, at the Capitol, black lawmakers have been some of the leading backers of gun-control legislation over the years.
...
Two years later, the General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting citizens from carrying guns into places of public worship, court, voting precincts or other “public gatherings.”

E.R. Lanier, a Georgia State University law professor who teaches Georgia legal history, said historical documents connecting the massacre with the gun law from that time are limited. But, he said, ” There is a connection, there is no doubt about it.”

Article here. The history of gun control laws in America is undeniably one driven by racist motives, whether in Reconstruction era laws designed to keep former slaves disarmed, or laws such as New York's infamous Sullivan Law (which is still in effect), designed to keep Italian immigrants disarmed. I've always been dismayed that African-American legislators so eagerly supported (and support) laws that were designed and intended to oppress their own race.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain's running mate

Senator McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has chosen Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his running mate. Real Clear Politics ran an article on her as a possible VP pick a couple of months ago:
At 44, Sarah Louise Heath Palin is both the youngest and the first female governor in Alaska's relatively brief history as a state. She's also the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating that has bounced around 90 percent.



This is due partly to her personal qualities. When she was leading her underdog Wasilla high school basketball team to the state championship in 1982, her teammates called her "Sarah Barracuda" because of her fierce competitiveness.

Two years later, when she won the "Miss Wasilla" beauty pageant, she was also voted "Miss Congeniality" by the other contestants.

Sarah Barracuda. Miss Congeniality. Fire and nice. A happily married mother of five who is still drop dead gorgeous. And smart to boot.

But it's mostly because she's been a crackerjack governor, a strong fiscal conservative and a ferocious fighter of corruption, especially in her own party.

Ms. Palin touches other conservative bases, some of which Sen. McCain has been accused of rounding. Track, her eldest son, enlisted in the Army last Sept. 11. She's a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association who hunts, fishes and runs marathons. A regular churchgoer, she's staunchly pro-life.

RCP article here.

But see this WSJ op-ed, arguing that the vice-presidential pick isn't that important.

More coverage:

LA Times - Sarah Palin pick a hit with social conservatives

Wall Street Journal - Alaska's Sarah Palin: Governor, Reformer, Mother

FOX News - Obama Camp Plays Good Cop/Bad Cop

CNN - Alaska governor known as political outsider, pioneer

USA Today - Experts: Palin chosen for women's votes


UPDATE: Here's a video by some fans that advocated for her selection as VP:



Gotta love any politician who is unabashedly pro-gun and doesn't mind shooting an Evil Black Rifle on camera!

Federal appeals court rules against Wyoming gun law

The Tenth Circuit has ruled that against Wyoming's law that permits certain people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence to petition the state for a restoration of their gun rights:

CHEYENNE - A federal appeals court in Denver has ruled against Wyoming in a lawsuit over a state law that seeks to allow people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence to regain their gun rights.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that the procedure spelled out in Wyoming law fails to expunge the criminal record of people convicted of domestic violence.
...
[Casper district attorney and president of the Wyoming Prosecutors Association] Blonigen said that the Wyoming Legislature may choose to change the law to address whether conviction records are truly expunged.

"I think it's one of these situations, where if you're going to call it an expungement, it has to have all the characteristics of an expungement, and frankly this law didn't get there," Blonigen said. "You can't say you're going to take it away for these purposes, but not for these three purposes over there."

Blonigen said most of the gun rights restoration cases his office sees involve relatively minor incidents.

"You just can't lump everybody together," Blonigen said. "You could have everything from a pushing, shoving - a minor thing that is isolated - to severe beatings. And you can't say that the first offender is related to the second offender, not in my mind. And I think that's what the statute is intended to do."

Article here. If I recall correctly, the law didn't truly expunge the convictions, and that was the problem. As the article notes, the Wyoming legislature may choose to modify the law so the convictions may be properly expunged.

Beam me up, Scotty

From the frightened Brits, caught in the grip of blade-phobia:


(Credit: UK Daily Mail)
This horrifying five-foot weapon has been recovered by police during a knife amnesty.

The three-handled sword with a blade at either end, designed to be swung like a paddle, shocked officers who took custody of it.

They are using it to publicise a five-week amnesty during which they hope around 30,000 weapons will be handed in, mainly from youngsters.

A spokesman for police in Gloucester, where it was surrendered, said: "It is a particularly nasty weapon that can, literally, take someone's head off. We are very glad it is off the streets and we want more weapons handed in."

The blade is believed to be a stainless-steel copy of a Klingon weapon used in the science fiction series Star Trek. "It's an extremely dangerous weapon," said a martial arts expert last night.

Other blades surrendered so far include lock-blade flick knives, exotic swords and a 'swordfish jaw' weapon with razor-sharp teeth.

Article here. I'm sure British subjects are breathing a sigh of relief with that thing off the streets. You wouldn't want some Klingon punk walking around with that in his pocket. :)

Campus carry advocacy: New Mexico edition

Another op-ed for allowing self-defense tools on college campuses, this one from a female staff member at UNM:
On the news this morning, I heard another woman was attacked on the UNM campus. This time the attacker was a homeless man, most likely drunk.

A shiver went down my spine, because I was approached by three large, seemingly homeless men on Thursday. One said in an aggressive manner, "Hey, how 'bout a little bed and breakfast?" as he lurched toward me. I swerved around them and hurried to my building. With the loud construction nearby, I don't think anyone noticed and certainly couldn't have heard.

This sort of situation is typical for a lot of women at UNM, local bars or anywhere on Central Avenue. I believe it's time to be allowed to even the playing field. I want a fighting chance when three drunk, 250-pound men approach me shouting lewd comments. Everywhere else in the city, I am allowed to conceal and carry my Kel-Tec .380, but when I come to work, I have to leave it in my night stand and hope I can run fast. I only weigh 125 pounds, and against any normal-sized man, I don't stand a chance.

Article here. As a general rule, when folks acquire concealed carry permit and begin to actually carry, they become much more aware of the silliness of legally mandated "gun free" zones. Such folks begin to realize and appreciate the impotence of such laws to prevent anyone, including those intent on committing criminal violence, from being armed in those "gun free" zones. Over the past few years, as CCW laws have proliferated and the ranks of permit holders have grown, my sense is that we've begun to see a slow shift towards the common sense realization that "gun free zones" are really "violent criminal empowerment zones".

Thursday, August 28, 2008

If Cosmo were edited by men ...

Tonight's late night laugh, from the editors of Cosmopolitan:



Read the table of contents here. At least they're able to poke fun at themselves.

:)

List of prohibited items for dems at Obama speech

According to the official Democratic Convention website, tonight's historic acceptance speech by Barack Obama of his party's presidential nomination will be a tightly controlled event:
Convention organizers also released a list of items that will be restricted on-site for Thursday’s program at INVESCO Field at Mile High. Those attending are advised that the list of items not allowed on-site includes but is not limited to:
  • Outside food and beverage of any kind, including alcoholic beverages, coolers and bottled water
  • Umbrellas (in case of inclement weather, the public is encouraged to bring raincoats or ponchos)
  • Large bags, suitcases or backpacks
  • Noisemakers, air horns, whistles, cowbells, horns, bull horns or other voice enhancement devices.
  • Signs, banners, flags or any other items that would either obstruct the view of a patron or serve as a security risk
  • Any and all unauthorized merchandise, including unapproved pamphlets, handouts, advertisements, etc.
  • Knives of any size, razor blades or sharp and/or pointed objects like scissors, knitting needles, etc.
  • Mace/pepper spray or aerosol containers
  • Fireworks
  • Weapons of any kind, including toy weapons, or any article that might be used as a weapon and/or compromise public safety as well as canes, chains, sticks of any length (non-medical use canes
  • Screwdrivers or Leatherman brand or similar tools
  • Dangerous or hazardous items or materials including chemical, biological, radiological, etc.
  • Animals (except service dogs & guide dogs)
  • Folding chairs
  • Laser devices
  • Tripods
  • Bikes, inline skates, skateboards, scooters, shoes with wheels
  • Illegal drugs and any other illegal substances
  • Frisbees or inflated balls of any kind

INVESCO Field at Mile High policy for this event prohibits strollers or baby seats from being taken into the stands or left in section entrances.

The camera policy is as follows: Cameras with lenses less than 75mm and small hand-held video cameras are permitted, provided they do not obstruct the view of other attendees. Professional cameras or any other audio/video recording equipment are not allowed to be brought in to the stadium unless the user has the appropriate Convention press credential.

While some of these might make sense, no outside food or water, for a seven hour wait? I guess it's only government-approved food and water for the Obamaites. Sounds a lot like an internment camp, if you ask me.

So basically, participants will be herded allowed to enter the open-air stadium at 1 PM, with no food or water, to hear His Majesty Senator Obama's speech, which begins at 8 PM (all times Mountain Time). Perhaps the organizers hope this will be an opportunity for Obama to work his miracle of the bread and fishes to feed the hungry masses on live national TV. Just leave your cowbell at home.

Texas teachers armed for start of school year

New school year starts for small Texas school district that authorized armed teachers:
HARROLD, Texas -- Along with normal first-day jitters and excitement, students in this tiny district started school this week wondering which teachers might be toting firearms.

"It was kind of awkward knowing that some teachers were carrying guns," said Adam Lira, 17, a senior. "I don't feel like they should be, 'cause we already have locked doors and cameras. But I didn't feel threatened by it."

Article here. I hope the armed teachers know that they are pioneers in Texas, and that many, particularly the anti-gunners and those in the anti-gun media, are looking for them to fail. As such, I hope those armed teachers uphold the high standards of responsible behavior that law-abiding CCW permit holders have universally demonstrated in Texas and many other states. Success in Texas will bolster the argument for legalizing school and college carry in other states. Good luck!

When you just can't get enough swimming practice

There's always New Orleans:
NEW ORLEANS - Signs are emerging that history is repeating itself in the Big Easy, still healing from Katrina: People have forgotten a lesson from four decades ago and believe once again that the federal government is constructing a levee system they can prosper behind.
...
... A recent University of New Orleans survey of residents found concern about levee safety was dropping off the list of top worries, replaced by crime, incompetent leadership and corruption.

This sense of security, though, may be dangerously naive.

For the foreseeable future, New Orleans will be protected by levees unable to protect against another storm like Katrina.

When and if the Army Corps of Engineers finishes $14.8 billion in post-Katrina work, the city will have limited protection — what are defined as 100-year levees.

This does not mean they'd stand up to storms for a century. Under the 100-year standard, in fact, experts say that every house being rebuilt in New Orleans has a 26 percent chance of being flooded again over a 30-year mortgage; and every child born in New Orleans would have nearly a 60 percent chance of seeing a major flood in his or her life.

"It's not exactly great protection," said John Barry, the author of "Rising Tide," a book New Orleans college students read to learn about the corps' efforts to tame the Mississippi.

Article here. When the next monster hurricane hits, you know these brainiacs who choose to live below sea level will blame the government, egged on by politicians like Mayor Ray "Chocolate City" Nagin.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What time is it?

Antique pocket watch with built-in bullet launcher.




(Pocket watch gun. Credit: Littlegun.be)

From here.

Obama's Hipster Brigades

Hilarious satire from Iowa Hawk:
Denver - With new polls showing Barack Obama's once-commanding lead over John McCain all but evaporated, the Obama campaign announced today it has begun deploying its vast volunteer army of downtown hipster douchebags to help reconnect the presumptive Democratic candidate with middle-American voters.
...
At first, the Obama team looked into major media buys in key battleground states. But with a campaign budget already strained by price increases in arugula and Hawaiian airfare, the impact was deemed to be minimal. Instead, they turned to a key campaign asset -- a dedicated cadre of young urban hipster douchebags willing to take Obama's message of change to America's small town streets and rural blacktops. An intensive eVite recruitment campaign on websites like the Daily Kos and Huffington Post yielded over 1,500 volunteers for the potentially dangerous mission.

"I couldn't be prouder of all of you wonderful young indy rock a--holes," said Axlerod at a swearing-in ceremony at the campaign's official training center in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "You represent our party's finest, the best of best -- you are our Douchebag Delta Force."

Highly motivated, and with skills ranging from post-modern gender theory to espresso cafe blackboard chalk art, the volunteers were eager to get to work on the campaign trail. But before deployment Obama officials insisted that all recruits undergo an intensive training regimen to prepare them for the rigors of life in Red Country.

"A lot of the plebe douchebags come in here full of swagger, thinking all it takes is a few hours of FM country music endurance training, and I have to tell them they have no idea what they're up against," says Ethan Dodge, a Seattle conceptual theater set designer and veteran douchebag of Obama's Iowa caucus campaign. "Believe me, I've been to Dubuque. I know."

To toughen up the recruits for the task ahead, Dodge and other drill instructors take a direct approach.

"We tell them straight up: we aren't your mommy or daddy or your au pair. There aren't any independent lesbian film festivals in Youngstown, and just because Iowa has a lot of farmers it doesn't mean they are going to see a lot of Sunday chill-out farmers' markets," says Voorhees. "After that shock wears off, we tell them about how the natives drink Pabst unironically."

"Sure, it scares some recruits off," admits Dodge. "But the ones who stay are much less likely to crack under the pressure of a two week isolation from American Apparel or Urban Outfitters."

Read it all here (note: some profanity). :)

Georgia legislators examine "gun-free" zones list

State legislators may re-examine the wisdom (or lack thereof) of college and university "gun-free" zones:
ATLANTA - Legislators looking to expand where Georgians can carry guns may take aim at university campuses.

Carry a gun on or within 1,000 feet of any campus now and you could be charged with a felony, spend up to 10 years in prison and pay as much as $10,000 in fines.

But a panel of lawmakers conducting a wholesale review of Georgia's gun laws soon will solicit opinions on removing or altering the ban.

State Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, who chairs the Senate Firearms Committee, sees nothing wrong with allowing a licensed gun owner to visit a college campus while carrying a concealed weapon. Students should be allowed to stow hunting rifles in their cars parked on campus, Seabaugh said.

Several senators on the committee, Democrats as well as Republicans, share that view.

Article here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Would you like fries with that?

Tonight's employment application humor:
McDONALD'S APPLICATION

This is an actual job application a 17-year-old boy submitted at a McDonald’s fast-food establishment in Florida – and they hired him because he was so honest and funny!

NAME: Greg Bulmash

SEX: Not yet. Still waiting for the right person.

DESIRED POSITION: Company’s President or Vice President. But seriously, whatever’s available. If I were in a position to be picky, I wouldn’t be applying here in the first place.

DESIRED SALARY: $185,000 a year plus stock options and a Michael Ovitz style severance package. If that’s not possible, make an offer and we can haggle.

EDUCATION: Yes.

LAST POSITION HELD: Target for middle management hostility.

SALARY: Less than I’m worth.

MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENT: My incredible collection of stolen pens and post-it notes.

REASON FOR LEAVING: It sucked.

HOURS AVAILABLE TO WORK: Any.

PREFERRED HOURS: 1:30-3:30 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL SKILLS?

Yes, but they’re better suited to a more intimate environment.

MAY WE CONTACT YOUR CURRENT EMPLOYER? If I had one, would I be here?

DO YOU HAVE ANY PHYSICAL CONDITIONS THAT WOULD PROHIBIT YOU FROM LIFTING UP TO 50 LBS? Of what?

DO YOU HAVE A CAR?

I think the more appropriate question here would be “Do you have a car that runs?”

HAVE YOU RECEIVED ANY SPECIAL AWARDS OR RECOGNITION?

I may already be a winner of the Publishers Clearing house Sweepstakes.

DO YOU SMOKE?

On the job no, on my breaks yes.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IN FIVE YEARS?

Living in the Bahamas with a fabulously wealthy dumb sexy blonde super model who thinks I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. Actually, I’d like to be doing that now.

DO YOU CERTIFY THAT THE ABOVE IS TRUE AND COMPLETE TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE?

Yes – Absolutely.

SIGN HERE: Aries.

:)

Joe Biden: "I'm the guy that originally wrote the assault weapons ban"

Senator Joe Biden, the presumptive democratic vice-presidential nominee, from the CNN / YouTube debate (Biden's response starts at about the minute mark):



From Congressional Quarterly, on Senator Obama's VP pick:
One of the more surprising twists in the debut of Joe Biden as Barack Obama’s running mate has been the Democrats’ decision to highlight Biden’s work on the 1994 crime bill.
...
In addition to the funding for President Bill Clinton’s 100,000 cops initiative, the bill also included a ban on certain kinds of assault weapons. That provision almost sank the whole package in the House, when anti-gun control Democrats teamed up with Republicans to block the final bill from coming to the House floor. As ever-colorful Democratic Rep. Charlie Wilson of Texas put it, asking a lawmaker from an area like his East Texas district to vote for a gun ban was “like asking someone from Brooklyn to vote against Israel.”

But Biden didn’t want to compromise at all. The solution wasn’t to change the crime bill, he said at the time, but to “change eight votes in the House.” Clinton administration officials disagreed, and the negotiators made minor changes that picked off just enough moderate Republicans to allow the bill to pass, mostly by cutting spending on crime prevention programs. The assault weapons ban, however, stayed in the bill with only minor changes.

Article here. Senator Obama and Biden look like they're two peas in the gun control pod.

Heller attorneys seek $3.5 million in fees from D.C.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs who successfully challenged Washington, D.C.'s draconian ban on operable firearms in the home have asked a federal judge to award them reasonable attorney's fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1988 in the amount of $3.5 million for prevailing in their landmark civil rights case (D.C. v. Heller). The amount sought includes a 2x "performance enhancement" multiplier for the "exceptional" nature of the case.

Read the plaintiff attorneys memorandum here (PDF).

Note the level of funding necessary to bring a case like this all the way to the Supreme Court: $1.75 million in fees (assuming no multiplier, as such multipliers are rarely awarded), plus over $13 thousand in costs (court filing fees, travel expenses, outside research costs, printing and photocopying expenses, postage, mailing, and FedEx/UPS/courier expenses, etc.), all incurred over six years of litigation. And this was a relatively small team of lawyers. In addition, of course, if they lost they wouldn't get to recover any of their attorney's fees or costs.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Watch out for sailboats

Tonight's aviation video - a KLM 747 landing in St. Maarten:



Any lower and it'd be a beach landing. :)

Ohio AG educates law enforcement on open carry legality

From Ohioans for Concealed Carry:
Ohio Attorney General Nancy Rogers' office, partially in response to OFCC's request for assistance, has taken several steps to educate law enforcement officials in Ohio about not only the upcoming changes in Ohio's concealed carry laws (scheduled to go into effect September 9), but also reminding of the fact that open carry is legal in Ohio.

The new Concealed Carry Publication required to be published by the Attorney General is due to be in sheriff's hands by September 8 and will not only cover the changes in the law, but will also contain information about the legality of open carry.

Article here. Hopefully this will reduce the harassment of those citizens who choose to exercise their right to open carry in the Buckeye State.

House vote to repeal new D.C. gun law possible

Washington, D.C. politicos are wringing their hands at the prospect of a House vote to overturn the city's new gun laws, passed in the wake of the Supreme Court's historic Heller decision overturning the city's decades old ban.
A decision by House Democrats to allow a vote next month on a proposal to gut the city’s handgun law has stunned local home rule advocates and could foretell a congressional overturn of a future same-sex marriage bill, according to city hall insiders.

Developments surrounding proposed House action to weaken the city’s controversial handgun law come at a time when some gay activists are urging Mayor Adrian Fenty and the D.C. Council to approve legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in the District. Members of the Council are said to be considering introducing a same-sex marriage bill next year.

“The issue at hand is not so much gun-related as it is ensuring that District of Columbia elected officials be able to discharge the duties for which their constituents elected them,” said Fenty and City Council Chair Vincent Gray (D-At-Large) in a letter to House Democrats opposing congressional action on the gun law.
...
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other House Democratic leaders said they oppose congressional interference on any local D.C. laws or legislation, including gun control measures. But Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues were forced to back down from a hold they had placed on the House D.C. gun bill after at least 48 House Democrats signed a discharge petition initiated by Republicans and conservative Democrats seeking to force Pelosi to allow a vote on the bill.

Under longstanding House rules, a discharge petition signed by at least 218 House members triggers an automatic vote on the specified bill, bypassing the normal committee process and stripping the authority of the majority party to block such a bill.
...
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has called the House gun bill an “unprecedented attack” on the city’s home rule government and a “radical” move that diminishes local authority.
...
Eugene Kinlow Jr., outreach director for the D.C. voting rights advocacy group D.C. Vote, said he believes the efforts to overturn the city’s handgun law are being driven by election year politics and the influential national gun lobby.
...
“What Congress is trying to do now is appease the [National Rifle Association] and the gun lobby at the expense of D.C.,” Kinlow said.

“We think it’s terrible,” he said. “You don’t see Congress making rules or laws for any other state.” [emphasis added]

Article here. Someone should inform Mr. Kinlow that D.C. isn't a state, and that the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 8) gives Congress plenary power over the District. Oh, and that Congress passes laws that preempt state laws all the time.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

U.S. Geography

Tonight's audience participation - US geography (drag and drop the presented state outline on to its correct place on the map):



Play the large screen version (less squinting for older eyes) here.

California bans lead wheel weights

More automotive fun, from the Golden State:
Lead wheel weights, widely used to balance vehicle tires but considered a threat to drinking water, will be phased out in California by the end of next year under a court settlement approved Wednesday.

The settlement ends a lawsuit filed in May by the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health against Chrysler and the three largest makers of lead wheel weights for the U.S. market. Some observers see the settlement as a first step toward a broader ban on the products.

In its suit, the group contended that wheel weights falling off vehicles release 500,000 pounds of lead each year into the environment in California. Lost wheel weights are ground down by passing vehicles and the lead can find its way into drinking water supplies, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. They also end up in landfills, where the lead can leach into groundwater.

"Wheel weights have been identified as the largest new route of lead releases into the environment," said Michael Green, executive director of the Center for Environmental Health. "By moving the industry away from leaded wheel weights, we are helping to keep the lead out of our kids' drinking water."
...
The Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental group based in Ann Arbor, Mich., said the California settlement should provide a big boost to the anti-lead forces.

"We fully expect dozens of states to follow California's leadership and ban the use of lead wheel weights," said Jeff Gearheart, the center's research director. [emphasis added]

Article here. Who needs balanced tires, anyway? Sigh.

Another Heller article

Article from the New American discussing and criticizing the Supreme Court's Heller decision:
... To compound the problem, various extraneous, ill-considered, and dangerous statements in Justice Scalia’s opinion actually undercut the protections the Second Amendment guarantees, providing proponents of “gun control” with rhetorical ammunition, not simply to resist enforcement of the amendment against statutes already on the books (as the District of Columbia is doing), but even to promote further restrictions on “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.”

One of the most egregious of such statements in Justice Scalia’s opinion is that the Second Amendment protects “the people’s” private possession of only those “Arms” “of the kind in common use at the time,” and which are not “dangerous and unusual weapons” that have been “prohibit[ed]” by law. Thus, the amendment would supposedly not guarantee common Americans’ acquisition of fully automatic firearms. But why should this be so?
...
Or for destroying those rights entirely. For on the theory that firearms that are “highly unusual” and not “in common use at th[is] time” can be banned, rogue public officials could make any type of firearm “highly unusual” simply by banning private possession of it, and then using the effect of the ban as a reason for saying the Second Amendment does not apply! Just as they have removed fully automatic firearms from the possibility of “common use” by the National Firearms Act and other statutes. So, on the basis of the loose language in Heller, Americans can expect, not only that fully automatic firearms such as M-16s will continue to be banned from “common use,” but also that political hucksters will attempt to revive the Clinton-era prohibitions of semiautomatic “assault weapons” that merely resemble M-16s, and of high-capacity magazines; then to enact new restrictions on highly accurate, long-range “sniper rifles” in .338 Lapua, .50 BMG, and other supposedly “unusual” calibers; and even to impose draconian regulations on possession of many types of ammunition, so that the firearms chambered for such rounds will be rendered effectively useless.
...
Yet another counterproductive statement in Justice Scalia’s majority opinion is that “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” Scalia states: “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” Also: “We identify these presumptively lawful regulatory measures only as examples; our list does not purport to be exhaustive.”

But why are these “regulatory measures” “presumptively lawful”? Statutes that arguably infringe on what the court calls “fundamental rights,” such as the rights included in the First Amendment, are presumptively unconstitutional. Are Second Amendment rights not of constitutional stature equal to those in the First Amendment, even though the Constitution recognizes only “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” as “necessary to the security of a free State”?
...
So what good is Heller in the grand scheme of things? It protects only a narrow right for an individual to possess a handgun at home for purposes of self-defense. And it leaves open a wide hole for old and new regulations, which will aim at inhibition, constriction, and ultimately effective prohibition of even the right Heller recognizes.

Article here.

The author's byline lists him as an attorney who has argued before the Supreme Court. While many pro-gun folks might share his frustration that the majority opinion didn't address the constitutionality of issues and laws not before the Court, such as the incorporation issue, the specific level of constitutional scrutiny required, the ban on post-1986 machine guns, carry bans, etc., the author should know that the Court rarely addresses issues that are not before it. Indeed, the Court would be unwise to do so, as those issues weren't considered in the lower courts, and hence any necessary evidentiary record would be missing or incomplete, and the parties and their amici would not have briefed those issues to allow a full and proper consideration of those other issues.

I suspect that some of the language in the majority opinion the author complains of was added by Justice Scalia in order to get the votes of Justice Kennedy. We may never know.

Finally, as Justice Scalia points out in the majority opinion, this is the first case in seventy plus years to directly address the Second Amendment. We should not expect a single opinion to answer every question and resolve every issue about the contours of that Amendment. Frankly, that's reality, and pro-gun folks should accept and embrace it. It took decades for politicians to chip away at our Second Amendment freedoms, and it will take decades for us to win them back.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ice, Ice Baby

Tonight's sandbox video:



:)

Federal crimes

Article on the growth in the number of federal crimes:
Researchers have discovered a major trend toward federalization of crimes since the nation was founded in 1776, Accuracy in Media reports. A study has recorded a major boost in the quantity of federal crimes within U.S. law.

"When the country started, there were basically three crimes: piracy, counterfeiting and treason," former Attorney General Edwin Meese told the publication. "At the time of our [1998] report, there were some 4,000 crimes."

Meese is currently chairman of the Heritage Foundation's Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. He said most federal crimes became such in the last 30 years.

A Heritage Foundation panel on June 17 discussed substantial expansion of federal crime laws and power shifts from state to federal governments, according to the report. Meese, John Baker and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert attended.

Baker and Gohmert told Accuracy in Media the federal government has created too many laws that focus on state issues, and it has been consistently removing powers from states.

Article here. Sadly, I expect this trend to continue.

Boston's new anti-gun billboard ad

More anti-gun nonsense and hysteria from the People's Commonwealth of Ted Kennedy:
The gun-control activist whose provocative billboards have been turning heads along the Massachusetts Turnpike for 13 years today will unveil one of his most eye-popping messages yet - a fake neon advertisement for American gun shows where people can buy weapons, no questions asked.

"We Sell Guns! No ID required. No background checks. Criminals and terrorists welcome!" the billboard peals.

"Gun shows are the equivalent of Al Qaeda terrorists walking directly onto the airplane while you and I wait in the TSA line," John Rosenthal, founder and chairman of Stop Handgun Violence, said in a recent interview. "They don't want us to go on airplanes but they let Al Qaeda buy guns unprotected."
...
"Gun shows are not a problem in Massachusetts. But they're an enormous problem for Massachusetts," Rosenthal said. "Gun shows are a known source of crime guns for terrorists and criminals because they can buy guns in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and 32 states in total without an ID or a background check from private sellers."

The new ad is to be unveiled this morning with Mayor Thomas M. Menino, state Secretary of Public Safety and Security Kevin M. Burke, Massachusetts State Police Commander Colonel Mark F. Delaney, and Boston Police Superintendent Bruce Holloway.

Article here. If gun shows are the problem, how come the states mentioned -- Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont -- with all their gun shows, have a lower violent crime rate than Massachusetts?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Meet Emily

Tonight's animation video:



From an article on the animation:
Emily - the woman in the above animation - was produced using a new modelling technology that enables the most minute details of a facial expression to be captured and recreated.

She is considered to be one of the first animations to have overleapt a long-standing barrier known as 'uncanny valley' - which refers to the perception that animation looks less realistic as it approaches human likeness.

Researchers at a Californian company which makes computer-generated imagery for Hollywood films started with a video of an employee talking. They then broke down down the facial movements down into dozens of smaller movements, each of which was given a 'control system'.

The team at Image Metrics - which produced the animation for the Grand Theft Auto computer game - then recreated the gestures, movement by movement, in a model. The aim was to overcome the traditional difficulties of animating a human face, for instance that the skin looks too shiny, or that the movements are too symmetrical.

"Ninety per cent of the work is convincing people that the eyes are real," Mike Starkenburg, chief operating officer of Image Metrics, said.

"The subtlety of the timing of eye movements is a big one. People also have a natural asymmetry - for instance, in the muscles in the side of their face. Those types of imperfections aren't that significant but they are what makes people look real."

Article here.

Wounded Warriors take part in Wyoming shootout

From Cody, Wyo.:
The Buffalo Bill Invitational Shootout routinely attracts a large field to the Cody Shooting Complex.
...
Part of the 92-shooter field included four men from Fort Bragg, N.C.

The men are part of the Army Special Operations command and belong to the Wounded Warriors.
...
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center waived the entry fee for the team to participate.
...
“I've never been to an organized shoot like this and it was a little different,” he added. “But we've had a great time here and Cody has been so warm and receptive.”

Stube said the local Special Ops community was a great help.

“Special Ops has a huge commitment from the retired soldiers in Cody,” he said. “Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker has been here and is part of the local chapter.”

Stube said the team was glad to be a part of the shoot and support the Second Amendment.

“Our duty now is to have greater community involvement,” he said. “We all support the Second Amendment.

“But it's also about preserving the culture and values that go along with gun ownership,” he added. “This is great, clean family fun.”

He said the Second Amendment is not just about owning a gun.

“They key is for everyone to become skillful at handling a weapon,” Stube said. “That way if the nation ever needs to be defended, people may be good at it.”

Article here.

Texas governor supports armed teachers

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been a staunch supporter of the right to keep and bear arms. On Monday he voiced support for the small East Texas school district that will allow armed teachers to protect their students:
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry indicated Monday that he supports a school district's decision to allow teachers and staff to pack guns for protection when classes start this month.

Trustees of the Harrold Independent School District approved a policy change last year to allow employees to carry concealed firearms to deter and protect against school shootings.

"There's a lot of incidents where that would have saved a number of lives," Perry said after a news conference in Austin.

Article here.

Another article:
After the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech University, Perry expressed support for allowing licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns anywhere, including churches, courthouses and college campuses.

Those premises are now off limits by state law to concealed handgun license holders.

The chairman of the House Law Enforcement Committee said he plans to introduce legislation next year to allow concealed weapons at universities.

Article here. I wouldn't be surprised to see more and more states begin to legalize school and college carry by permit holders in the coming years. Every school massacre will continue to build the case for empowering law-abiding teachers and adult students to have the tools necessary to defend themselves from would-be mass murderers. Sadly, many more kids will likely die, their deaths facilitated by the anti-self defense gun control policies now in place, before common sense prevails and the law-abiding victims gain the legal right to carry effective tools to defend themselves.

Meanwhile, in Arizona:
An Arizona state senator is watching closely what happens in a small school district outside Fort Worth, Texas, which is the first in the nation to allow teachers to carry guns on campus.

Sen. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, fought for a similar bill during the last Arizona legislative session, but it never reached the Senate floor.

Johnson still believes guns on campus are necessary.
...
Although her proposal failed to pass in Arizona, Johnson said it had a lot of support from educators.

``They felt it was just really important to have this ability to defend themselves and their students if in fact something terrible happens, like happened back in Virginia Tech, happened there in Illinois."

Article here.

Heller gets his gun permit

Dick Heller, the man who successfully challenged the Washington, D.C., gun ban on Second Amendment grounds, finally got his gun permit on Monday:
Dick Heller walked out of D.C. police headquarters Monday, clutching a yellow firearms registration certificate stamped "approved." He gave the thumbs-up sign, grinned and said, "Victory!"

Heller was among the first people to seek a gun permit under new rules adopted after the Supreme Court struck down the city's 32-year-old handgun ban in June. Heller was the plaintiff in that case.

Article here. Baby steps, baby steps.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympic medals through history

As the Beijing Olympics winds down, here's a look at the medal designs from Beijing and all previous modern Olympics.

The Beijing medal design:


(Beijing 2008 Summer Games medal design. Photo: MedalCount.com)


Designs from past games:


(Summer Games medal designs. Photo: MedalCount.com)

See the individual medal pictures here.

Travelers on 'no fly' list can sue in court

San Francisco Chronicle article on a recent Ninth Circuit ruling that allows a traveler on the TSA's "No Fly" list to challenge their inclusion on that list in federal court:
Critics of the government's secret no-fly list scored a potentially important victory Monday when a federal appeals court ruled that would-be passengers can ask a judge and jury to decide whether their inclusion on the list violates their rights.

In a 2-1 ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reinstated a suit by a former Stanford University student who was detained and handcuffed in 2005 as she was about to board a plane to her native Malaysia.

The ruling is apparently the first to allow a challenge to the no-fly list to proceed in a federal trial court, said the plaintiff's lawyer, Marwa Elzankaly.

Article here. Given that the whole process of who gets red-flagged on to the no-fly list is secret, this seems a step in the right direction towards achieving redress for improper inclusion on the list.

Good samaritans and defense of others

Op-ed by a citizen who used deadly force to defend others:
June 28, 2008, was a defining moment in my life. It was the day I shot and killed a man in the defense of my life and the lives of others. We all have defining moments. They might not be as tragic as taking another man's life, but they are events that change the way we look at things -- or even, perhaps, how we live our lives.
...
On June 28, only two days after the Supreme Court announced its 5-4 ruling that Washington, D.C., citizens have the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the Constitution, I found myself standing in a pool of blood in York, from a man I had just shot. It was not my intent that evening to test the Second Amendment or kill somebody, but events unfolded to make it necessary for me to draw my weapon to defend myself and others.

My fiancée Maria and I had spent the day showing real estate investors our investment properties in York. We were driving to nearby Hanover to visit my mother when we came across what looked like a rear-end traffic accident.

Instead, a man, Douglas Need, had been driving recklessly when he swerved in front of a car and was hit in the rear. In a fit of road rage, he stormed out of his car, went back to two young women and a baby in the car that hit his, reached through the driver's window and started beating the driver very violently. She was able to break free and drive her car to the only place she could go -- the parking lot next to the street. Need ran back to his car, squealed his tires into the parking lot and looked as though he was going to broadside the women's car with them still inside.
...

Read the op-ed here. The author discusses some of the aftermath of a deadly force event, including some of the negative public comments by others who weren't there.

More Heller-whining

Article by Richard Posner, a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (based in Chicago), on the Supreme Court's Heller decision. Here's a sample:
The text of the amendment, whether viewed alone or in light of the concerns that actuated its adoption, creates no right to the private possession of guns for hunting or other sport, or for the defense of person or property. It is doubtful that the amendment could even be thought to require that members of state militias be allowed to keep weapons in their homes, since that would reduce the militias' effectiveness. Suppose part of a state's militia was engaged in combat and needed additional weaponry. Would the militia's commander have to collect the weapons from the homes of militiamen who had not been mobilized, as opposed to obtaining them from a storage facility? Since the purpose of the Second Amendment, judging from its language and background, was to assure the effectiveness of state militias, an interpretation that undermined their effectiveness by preventing states from making efficient arrangements for the storage and distribution of military weapons would not make sense.

And
The statements that the majority opinion cited had little traction before Heller. For more than two centuries, the "right" to private possession of guns, supposedly created by the Second Amendment, had lain dormant. Constitutional rights often lie dormant, spectral subjects of theoretical speculation, until some change in the social environment creates a demand for their vivification and enforcement. But nothing has changed in the social environment to justify giving the Second Amendment a new life discontinuous with its old one: a new wine in a decidedly old wineskin. There is no greater urgency about allowing people to possess guns for self-defense or defense of property today than there was thirty years ago, when the prevalence of violent crime was greater, or for that matter one hundred years ago. Only the membership of the Supreme Court has changed.

Read the article here. Judge Posner is a well-respected jurist, but I think he gets it totally wrong in this case. Indeed, some of the 20+ commenters do a good job of ripping the Judge's arguments to shreds.

Judge Posner's tired and unoriginal arguments reflect the anti-gunners' disingenuous (and losing) arguments against an individual Second Amendment right: the Second Amendment doesn't apply to "the people" but only to the National Guard, the prefatory clause limits the operative clause, the right (even if individual) is different in different parts of the country, blah, blah, blah. So disappointing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Workplace etiquette

Tonight's public service announcement and workplace etiquette video:



So be good, boys and girls, and work nice. :)

Survival skills

Interesting article in National Geographic on survival skills:
Long ago I believed that survival meant having a pack full of equipment that would allow me to make fire and build shelter and trap varmints to eat in the wilderness. But then I kept coming across cases in which someone had survived without any equipment or had perished while in possession of all the right tools. Obviously something else was at work here. After more than three decades of analyzing who lives, who dies, and why, I realized that character, emotion, personality, styles of thinking, and ways of viewing the world had more to do with how well people cope with adversity than any type of equipment or training. Although I still believe that equipment and training are good to have, most survival writing leaves out the essential human element in the equation. That’s why I’ve concentrated my efforts on learning about the hearts and minds of survivors. You can start developing these tools of survival now. It takes time and deliberate practice to change. But new research shows that if we adjust our everyday routines even slightly, we do indeed change. The chemical makeup of the brain even shifts. To make these lessons useful, you have to engage in learning long before you need it—it’s too late when you’re in the middle of a crisis. Presented here are 14 concepts that have proved helpful to survivors in extreme situations, as well as to people trying to meet the challenges of daily life.
...

Read the article here. The article highlights the importance of having the right "software" skills to solve the survival equation. Certainly, having the right hardware (tools) helps, but hardware, by itself, is insufficient.

Obama: "I profoundly disagree" with Justice Thomas' view of Constitution

WSJ op-ed on Senator Obama's view of judicial nominations and who he would not have nominated to the Supreme Court:
Pastor Rick Warren asked each Presidential candidate which Justices he would not have nominated. Mr. McCain said, "with all due respect" the four most liberal sitting Justices because of his different judicial philosophy.

Mr. Obama took a lower road, replying first that "that's a good one," and then adding that "I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don't think that he, I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution." The Democrat added that he also wouldn't have appointed Antonin Scalia, and perhaps not John Roberts, though he assured the audience that at least they were smart enough for the job.

Op-ed here. Justices Thomas, Alito, and Chief Justice Roberts, of course, all joined Justice Scalia's majority opinion in D.C. v. Heller, ruling that the Second Amendment is an individual right, and striking down Washington, D.C.'s total ban on operable firearms. Senator Obama, as you may recall, supported the D.C. gun ban. And while Senator McCain indicates he would not nominate liberal activist judges like Justice Souter, Ginsburg, Stevens, and Breyer, well ... talk is cheap, especially for a politician. In addition, the next president will likely face a Democrat-controlled Senate.

For those interested, CNN has video of the Obama / McCain responses at the Saddleback Forum here.

Winning the D.C. gun ban case

Here's a video of a panel discussion with Walter Dellinger and Alan Gura, the attorneys who argued for D.C., and Dick Heller, respectively, at the Supreme Court for and against the D.C. gun ban. The video is about an hour long, and is indexed by topical chapter, so you can skip to the topics you're interested in.

See the video here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night ...

The 2008 winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for the best bad opening lines to imaginary novels have been announced. Garrison Spik of Washington, D.C., submitted the winning entry:
Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."

:)

See the rest here.

Olympic shooter loses medal due to unintentional shot ... again

Four years ago at the Athens Olympics, Matt Emmons had what looked like an insurmountable lead going into the final round of the event. On that final shot, he shot the wrong target, and failed to medal.

On Sunday, Matt Emmons again had what looked like an insurmountable lead going into his final shot. This time, with a shaking trigger finger, he pulled the trigger before he intended to, scoring the lowest score of the event by a huge margin, and, again, failing to medal.

Yesterday, in the exact same position, with a seemingly insurmountable lead going into the final shot of the same event, the 50-meter three-positions Olympic rifle final - with complete redemption one squeeze of a trigger away - Emmons didn’t hit the wrong target.

This was worse.

“I didn’t feel my finger shaking, but I guess it was,” said the native of Burlington County, N.J.

He didn’t intend to pull the trigger but did “very softly.” The shot missed the bull’s eye. His score was 4.4, the lowest by anybody in the competition, not really a score at all. A 6.7 was all he needed to win gold. Nobody in the 10-shot finals scored worse than 7.7 (on an 11-point scale) for any shot.

He ended up fourth.


Article here. Rule Three: keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until your sights are on target, and you've made the conscious decision to fire. I don't know much about the rifles used for Olympic 50-meter competition, but I suspect that the trigger pulls on such rifles are measured in mere ounces, rather than the multi-pound trigger pulls of most hunting and military rifles.

A useful reminder of the perils of violating basic firearms safety under stressful conditions. Fortunately, in this case the errant shot only killed Olympic dreams. Nevertheless, another heartbreaking loss for Matt Emmons.

Bear attack, Alaska edition

Article on bears and some recent bear attacks in Anchorage, Alaska:
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Even in a city whose logo is "Big Wild Life," the summer of 2008 is testing residents' tolerance for large carnivores.

The problem is bears, black bears and bigger grizzlies. So far this summer, three people have been mauled in the city.
...
Residents share the municipality — covering more than 1 million acres and with more than 360,000 people — with more than 300 black bears and 50 to 60 grizzlies. Aggravating the problem is that Alaska's largest city is snug up against the half-million-acre Chugach State Park, the third largest state park in the United States.

Article here.

CCW in Schools

In light of a small Texas school district allowing teachers to be armed on campus, I'm sure the anti-gunners will begin their usual hysterical rants about how this will make students less safe.

The debate about allowing CCW holders students, teachers, school administrators) to carry in schools continues in fits and starts. This past year a number of state legislatures, including Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, and a few others have started to seriously consider amending their laws to remove schools from the silly "gun-free zones" that are magnets for those wishing to commit mass murder of unarmed victims. None of the bills passed this year, but the fact that legislators are beginning to seriously consider such changes is promising. This, my friends, is truly Change We Can Believe In.

The next big school massacre will undoubtedly re-ignite the debate, as the dead bodies of the victims prove once again the utter folly of "gun-free zone" laws that are only gun-free for the law-abiding victims. As the general public slowly realizes that these laws not only don't make us safer, but that they actually encourage mass murderers and increase the likelihood of a high body count, I think the tide will turn in the coming years.

Satire of the Gun Free Zones concept, from Fox News' Half-Hour News Hour:



:)

Monday, August 18, 2008

LOL cats, er, Bush

President Bush's visit to the Beijing Olympics gets the LOLCats treatment.




:)

See the rest here.

Legal aliens and the Second Amendment

The previous post discussed the issue of Second Amendment rights and illegal aliens. but what about non-citizens who are legally in the country? Here's a post on Volokh discussing this issue:
The Second Amendment / illegal alien decision discussed in the post below reminds me of a broader question — do noncitizens who are legally present in the U.S. have Second Amendment rights?

1. Federal law generally bars gun possession by noncitizens who are here under a nonimmigrant visa. Some state laws go further and ban all possession by noncitizens, including by permanent residents. The law of Guam likewise bans all possession by noncitizens, and because federal statutes extend the Bill of Rights to Guam, the Guam law could be challenged even without reaching the question whether the Second Amendment is incorporated against the states.

Generally speaking most constitutional rights have been extended (at least where criminal punishment, as opposed to the threat of deportation, is involved) to legal aliens. Should this apply to the Second Amendment? The reasoning in the illegal alien opinion seems to potentially apply to legal aliens as well, though that's not clear.
...

Read the rest here.

Court says Second Amendment doesn't apply to illegal aliens

A federal magistrate judge in Florida has ruled that the Second Amendment doesn't apply to illegal aliens:
That common law right [to keep and bear arms, secured by the Second Amendment,] was held only by citizens and those who swore allegiance to the Government; it did not include everyone present on American soil.... For instance, Samuel Adams and other delegates urged the Massachusetts ratifying convention to recommend barring Congress from “prevent[ing] the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.” The New Hampshire convention proposed that “Congress shall never disarm any Citizen unless such as are or have been in Actual Rebellion.” In these proposals, the pre-existing right clearly inured only to “peaceable” or lawful “Citizens.” See also David Yassky, The Second Amendment: Structure, History, and Constitutional Change, 99 Mich. L. Rev. 588, 626–27 (2000) (“The average citizen whom the Founders wish to see armed was a man of republican virtue -– a man shaped by his myriad ties to his community, the most important for this purpose being the militia.”).
...
The alien, to whom the United States has been traditionally hospitable, has been accorded a generous and ascending scale of rights as he increases his identity with our society. Mere lawful presence in the country creates an implied assurance of safe conduct and gives him certain rights; they become more extensive and secure when he makes preliminary declaration of intention to become a citizen, and they expand to those of full citizenship upon naturalization.

Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763, 770-71 (1950) (emphasis added). As a result, lawful resident aliens who are present within the constitution’s jurisdiction and have “developed substantial connections with this country” are entitled to minimal constitutional protections. The recognition of certain rights to resident aliens, however, does not mean that “all aliens are entitled to enjoy all the advantages of citizenship or, indeed, to the conclusion that all aliens must be placed in a single homogenous legal classification. For a host of constitutional and statutory provisions rest on the premise that a legitimate distinction between citizens and aliens may justify attributes and benefits for one class not accorded to the other; ....”

Neither foreign nationals who have not yet reached our shores, nor illegal aliens who have done so unlawfully and without the Attorney General’s permission, are entitled to the full panoply of rights available to citizens or even resident aliens. To the contrary, that status by definition places such individuals outside the traditional protections of the Constitution ....

Read the opinion here.

Via Volokh. I think this is the right result.

Texas school to allow armed teachers

A small Texas school district shows some common sense in the school security debate:
HARROLD, Texas — A tiny Texas school district may be the first in the nation to allow teachers and staff to pack guns for protection when classes begin later this month, a newspaper reported.

Trustees at the Harrold Independent School District approved a district policy change last October so employees can carry concealed firearms to deter and protect against school shootings, provided the gun-toting teachers follow certain requirements.

In order for teachers and staff to carry a pistol, they must have a Texas license to carry a concealed handgun; must be authorized to carry by the district; must receive training in crisis management and hostile situations and have to use ammunition that is designed to minimize the risk of ricochet in school halls.

Superintendent David Thweatt said the small community is a 30-minute drive from the sheriff's office, leaving students and teachers without protection. He said the district's lone campus sits 500 feet from heavily trafficked U.S. 287, which could make it a target.

"When the federal government started making schools gun-free zones, that's when all of these shootings started. Why would you put it out there that a group of people can't defend themselves? That's like saying 'sic 'em' to a dog," Thweatt said in Friday's online edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Article here. Hopefully, we'll start to see more school districts adopt sensible policies like this. I suspect small, rural districts are the best initial candidates for this, although in some states the laws will need to be changed before the school districts can make the choice to allow armed teachers. Of course, there is no good reason to prohibit law-abiding citizens from carrying on school campuses either. Baby steps, baby steps.

According to this article, the teachers will be required to carry frangible ammo:
Only frangible ammunition, i.e., ammunition designed to have reduced ricochet hazard, will be permitted in firearms authorized to be on school property.

To the uninformed, the use of frangible ammo might seem like a sensible idea. Note, however, that such ammo is typically designed for use in training environments where shooters are shooting at steel targets at relatively close ranges. In such environments, frangible ammo does reduce the risk of ricochet injuries.

For defensive use, however, frangible ammo may not be the best choice. While reducing ricochets, frangible ammo may increase the risk of overpenetration, as the frangible bullets have no problem punching through soft targets, like people, and thus posing a potentially lethal risk to those behind the intended target. In contrast, expanding ammo such as hollowpoints are designed to expand and expend their energy in the human target, reducing the risk of overpenetration.

In addition, frangible ammo often uses "green" primers that are less reliable than traditional primers, and the frangible bullets are typically lighter in weight than similar non-frangible rounds. These lighter weight frangible bullets may not cycle autoloading pistols as reliably as the heavier traditional rounds for which those pistols were designed.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rolling through the bay ...

Toothpick sculpture of San Francisco landmarks:



Neat.

Bear Attack, Connecticut Edition

Another bear attack, this one in Connecticut.
NEW MILFORD — An Indian Trail Road homeowner was justified in killing a black bear Wednesday after it chased his dog and then acted threateningly toward him, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

James Galvin killed the female bear with three blasts from a 12-gauge shotgun while standing outside his front door about 7 a.m. Galvin said he fired after the bear stood on its hind legs, lowered itself and started toward him.

"I thought it was going to attack," Galvin said. "It was about 15 feet away from me."

Article here.

Can I see some ID, Mr. Vice President?

What would you say to the guy who walks in with his Secret Service detail, and wants to cast a ballot? How about "can I see some ID, please?"
Vice President Dick Cheney voted in the primary election Thursday when he and his wife, Lynne, cast absentee ballots at the Teton County Clerk’s Office just before noon.

Bystanders and election staff did not know Cheney would visit, as Cheney gave no notice he was coming in until his Secret Service contingent walked through the door.

“It was a surprise visit,” said election volunteer Mike Faraday.

Cheney traditionally votes at the firehouse on Moose-Wilson Road near his Teton Pines home. While waiting for clerks to access his confidential registration, he told Bob Grady, who was also there to vote, that he realized he may not be in the valley for election day on Tuesday and should cast an absentee ballot early.

Faraday asked the vice president for his driver’s license.

“The reason is we are supposed to confirm identity with a photo ID and it also helps confirm residency and that was the easiest way to do it,” he said. “I know he is the vice president and I know he can vote, but I wanted to make sure he can vote here and now.”

Article here. Looks like the election laws apply to everyone in Teton County, Wyo. And that's a good thing.

D.C. FFL will process handgun transactions

Washington, D.C. federal firearms licensee Charles Sykes is the only FFL currently willing to perform handgun transfers in that wretched city:
While handguns have been legal in the District for a month, residents are still unable to purchase guns because there are no gun stores in the city. Charles Sykes is the only licensed gun dealer in the city who is willing to facilitate the transfer of handguns from out-of-state dealers into the District. Sykes, who has been transferring handguns for security firms since 1994, is waiting for the ATF to approve his change of address before he can start doing business again.

Sykes tells WTOP he met with ATF inspectors on Tuesday.

"They inspected my office. They say it should be only a few weeks now, then I'll get my license from the District police and I'll be back in business."

Sykes says he will be charging a $125 fee to transfer each handgun. Since Sykes is the only dealer in town, he can charge whatever he wants. $125 might seem like a lot. In my case it's 50 percent of the purchase price for my $250 Smith & Wesson. Sykes says he gets between 1 to 2 calls a day about transferring guns.

Article here. What a ripoff -- $125 to process a transfer. That's what happens when you're the only game in town. Hopefully more FFLs will set up shop in D.C. Competition is a good thing for consumers.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Spherical computer display

From Microsoft Research, a prototype spherical computer multi-touch interface:



I think this is from the same guys who developed the Microsoft Surface interface:



Here's a demo from CES 2008:



These interfaces are mostly novelties at this point, but I can see their utility as more third-party applications are written to make use of their capabilities.

McCain and Obama battle for Western states

Article discussing the fight between senators McCain and Obama for the battleground Western states, and the gun issue:
... The gun issue, he adds, will hurt Obama. Obama, who has been endorsed by the moderate American Hunters and Shooters Association, received an F rating from the National Rifle Association for supporting gun control measures. McCain has an NRA rating of C.

Here, the right to bear arms is sacrosanct; you don't run for office in Montana if you don't believe that, says [Montana governor, Democrat] Schweitzer, who has an A rating from the NRA. Marty Rau, 58, a lifelong Montanan and railroad worker who lives outside Missoula, agrees. "Any type of restriction on ownership just simply opens the door to more," Rau says. "A pickup truck with a gun rack—that's how it's always been."

Article here. I wouldn't classify the American Hunters and Shooters Association as "moderate", but then again, I don't write for the anti-gun mainstream media.

California Sheriff makes self-defense more difficult

Orange County, California Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has issued new permit-issuance guidelines, making it more difficult to obtain a carry permit:
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens on Monday released a policy that could lead to the revocation of dozens, if not hundreds, of concealed-weapons permits issued by former Sheriff Michael S. Carona.

Hutchens' new policy requires that to get a concealed-firearm permit, applicants must prove there is a legitimate threat to their safety and agree to undergo possible psychological, polygraph or medical testing.
...
"The good-cause threshold you have to meet has gone up," Nighswonger said. "The prior sheriff had more of a right-to-carry philosophy. Some of the things that were considered good cause won't be now."

The first order of business for Nighswonger's staff will be to review pending applications and renewals to see if the applicants are eligible for permits. Once those decisions are made, investigators will look at the 1,100 active permits, probably starting in alphabetical order, he said.

"We don't see the numbers dropping to a few hundred, but there will be some who don't apply and some who have their permits denied or revoked," Nighswonger said.

In a letter to the public posted on the department's blog, Hutchens explained that she will issue the permits "to persons of good and upstanding character who possess credible, significant and substantiated cause to fear for their safety."
...

Article here. This is why having the Supreme Court rule that the Second Amendment applies to the states, and requires a high standard of constitutional review, is so important.