Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pre-flight announcement, rap edition

Tonight's rap, courtesy of Southwest Airlines:

Third-World America

From The Atlantic, comes an interesting article by Simon Johnson, MIT professor and former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, on the similarities between emerging market crises and our current economic crisis:
One thing you learn rather quickly when working at the International Monetary Fund is that no one is ever very happy to see you. Typically, your “clients” come in only after private capital has abandoned them, after regional trading-bloc partners have been unable to throw a strong enough lifeline, after last-ditch attempts to borrow from powerful friends like China or the European Union have fallen through. You’re never at the top of anyone’s dance card.

The reason, of course, is that the IMF specializes in telling its clients what they don’t want to hear. I should know; I pressed painful changes on many foreign officials during my time there as chief economist in 2007 and 2008. And I felt the effects of IMF pressure, at least indirectly, when I worked with governments in Eastern Europe as they struggled after 1989, and with the private sector in Asia and Latin America during the crises of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Over that time, from every vantage point, I saw firsthand the steady flow of officials—from Ukraine, Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, and elsewhere—trudging to the fund when circumstances were dire and all else had failed.

Every crisis is different, of course. Ukraine faced hyperinflation in 1994; Russia desperately needed help when its short-term-debt rollover scheme exploded in the summer of 1998; the Indonesian rupiah plunged in 1997, nearly leveling the corporate economy; that same year, South Korea’s 30-year economic miracle ground to a halt when foreign banks suddenly refused to extend new credit.

But I must tell you, to IMF officials, all of these crises looked depressingly similar. Each country, of course, needed a loan, but more than that, each needed to make big changes so that the loan could really work. Almost always, countries in crisis need to learn to live within their means after a period of excess—exports must be increased, and imports cut—and the goal is to do this without the most horrible of recessions. Naturally, the fund’s economists spend time figuring out the policies—budget, money supply, and the like—that make sense in this context. Yet the economic solution is seldom very hard to work out.

No, the real concern of the fund’s senior staff, and the biggest obstacle to recovery, is almost invariably the politics of countries in crisis.

Typically, these countries are in a desperate economic situation for one simple reason—the powerful elites within them overreached in good times and took too many risks. Emerging-market governments and their private-sector allies commonly form a tight-knit—and, most of the time, genteel—oligarchy, running the country rather like a profit-seeking company in which they are the controlling shareholders. When a country like Indonesia or South Korea or Russia grows, so do the ambitions of its captains of industry. As masters of their mini-universe, these people make some investments that clearly benefit the broader economy, but they also start making bigger and riskier bets. They reckon—correctly, in most cases—that their political connections will allow them to push onto the government any substantial problems that arise.

In Russia, for instance, the private sector is now in serious trouble because, over the past five years or so, it borrowed at least $490 billion from global banks and investors on the assumption that the country’s energy sector could support a permanent increase in consumption throughout the economy. As Russia’s oligarchs spent this capital, acquiring other companies and embarking on ambitious investment plans that generated jobs, their importance to the political elite increased. Growing political support meant better access to lucrative contracts, tax breaks, and subsidies. And foreign investors could not have been more pleased; all other things being equal, they prefer to lend money to people who have the implicit backing of their national governments, even if that backing gives off the faint whiff of corruption.

But inevitably, emerging-market oligarchs get carried away; they waste money and build massive business empires on a mountain of debt. Local banks, sometimes pressured by the government, become too willing to extend credit to the elite and to those who depend on them. Overborrowing always ends badly, whether for an individual, a company, or a country. Sooner or later, credit conditions become tighter and no one will lend you money on anything close to affordable terms.

The downward spiral that follows is remarkably steep. Enormous companies teeter on the brink of default, and the local banks that have lent to them collapse. Yesterday’s “public-private partnerships” are relabeled “crony capitalism.” With credit unavailable, economic paralysis ensues, and conditions just get worse and worse. The government is forced to draw down its foreign-currency reserves to pay for imports, service debt, and cover private losses. But these reserves will eventually run out. If the country cannot right itself before that happens, it will default on its sovereign debt and become an economic pariah. The government, in its race to stop the bleeding, will typically need to wipe out some of the national champions—now hemorrhaging cash—and usually restructure a banking system that’s gone badly out of balance. It will, in other words, need to squeeze at least some of its oligarchs.
Many IMF programs “go off track” (a euphemism) precisely because the government can’t stay tough on erstwhile cronies, and the consequences are massive inflation or other disasters. A program “goes back on track” once the government prevails or powerful oligarchs sort out among themselves who will govern—and thus win or lose—under the IMF-supported plan. The real fight in Thailand and Indonesia in 1997 was about which powerful families would lose their banks. In Thailand, it was handled relatively smoothly. In Indonesia, it led to the fall of President Suharto and economic chaos.

From long years of experience, the IMF staff knows its program will succeed—stabilizing the economy and enabling growth—only if at least some of the powerful oligarchs who did so much to create the underlying problems take a hit. This is the problem of all emerging markets.

Becoming a Banana Republic

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn’t roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.

But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

Top investment bankers and government officials like to lay the blame for the current crisis on the lowering of U.S. interest rates after the dotcom bust or, even better—in a “buck stops somewhere else” sort of way—on the flow of savings out of China. Some on the right like to complain about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or even about longer-standing efforts to promote broader homeownership. And, of course, it is axiomatic to everyone that the regulators responsible for “safety and soundness” were fast asleep at the wheel.

But these various policies—lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership—had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector’s profits—such as Brooksley Born’s now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998—were ignored or swept aside. ...

Article here. Worth a read.

Poll: Most Americans don't blame U.S. gun laws for Mexican violence

From FOX Business:
... Mexico is a country with a reputation for political corruption and a healthy disregard for the individual rights of its citizens. Still, Holder and the Obama administration think that limiting the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens is a cure for drug violence in Mexico.

However, according to a recent poll conducted by The O'Leary Report and Zogby International, a vast majority of the American voting public disagrees.

The poll, which was conducted March 20-23 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 1.5 percentage points, asked 4,523 likely voters:

"Mexican officials, gun control groups and officials at the Department of Homeland Security claim drug cartels are crossing the U.S. border in order to obtain guns illicitly. Others say that the Mexican drug cartels are equipped with military hardware including grenades, anti-tank missiles and mortars - all weapons that are not available to the American public. Which of the following do you think is the main source for Mexican drug cartel arms?"

Sixty-five percent of voters say that the international black market is the main source for Mexican drug cartel arms; while only 13.5 percent think these arms are coming from U.S. gun stores (3.5 percent think the arms are coming from somewhere else and 18 percent are not sure).

Among voters aged 18-29 years old, one of President Obama's strongest groups of supporters, 73 percent say international black market, and just six percent say U.S. gun stores (two percent say somewhere else and 19 percent are not sure). ...

Article here. Despite the anti-gunners' full court press to deceive the public and lay the groundwork for another "assault weapons" ban, looks like the American public isn't buying it. Or at least not yet.

Gun Rights News Roundup

Articles, news stories, and op-eds of interest to gun owners:

NRA's Wayne LaPierre takes on the liars, er, politicians on the guns into Mexico issue:
Here's a summary for the time- or attention-challenged: Never surrender freedom for laws that can't affect criminals; they disobey laws for a living.

Nobody is surprised that Attorney General Eric Holder wants to make good on his promise to ban guns. We just didn't know whose tragedy he'd seize to advance his agenda.

Now we do. It's the drug-driven death and violence in Mexico at the hands of ruthless criminal cartels.

Barely a month on the job, Holder cited the Mexican cartel killings as the excuse to resurrect the Clinton gun ban.

Though a new face to some, Holder is a rabid Second Amendment foe from the Clinton administration who helped orchestrate the 1994 Clinton gun ban.

America has made this mistake already. So let's learn the lies that led to their gun ban.
Nobody can substantiate claims that U.S. guns cross the border "by the thousands" or "account for 95% of weapons used by Mexican drug gangs." Because it's not true.

Replying to Feinstein in subcommittee hearings last week, William Hoover, assistant director of field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said, "The investigations we have, that we see, for firearms flowing across the border don't show us individuals taking thousands of guns a day or at a time flowing into Mexico."

Yet reporter after politician after news anchor parrot the lie as readily as high schoolers gossip, and with equal disregard for truth.

That's how gun abolitionists claim Mexican gun laws are so strict that our "weak laws" (read: freedoms) are to blame for "fueling the violence" in Mexico.

Well, to believe that:

• You have to believe these butchers and beheaders break every Mexican law they want except Mexican gun laws, which they honor -- while they break America gun laws.

• You have to believe that Mexico's drug cartels, which possess the wealth and armies of nations, prefer American semiauto target and hunting rifles over fully automatic machine guns and any other military arms they want to crush opposition.

• You have to believe Mexican drug lords -- who make Forbes magazine's list of billionaires -- don't get large lots of weaponry on the transnational black market but instead choose to trifle with paperwork at U.S. gun stores.

• You have to believe that narco-terrorists who buy fragmentation grenades, grenade launchers, explosives, body armor, biometric security equipment, infrared surveillance technology and intelligence-grade reconnaissance gear will salute and obey a new American gun law -- if only we'd pass one.

Michael Gaddy, writing at LewRockwell.com, gives us his take on the Mexican violence:
The state, Mexican authorities and their US propaganda arm, known in most circles as the Mainstream Media, have recently embarked on a huge disinformation campaign to demonize the American gun owner as the supplier of weapons to the Mexican drug cartels. Everyone in the media, with the possible exception of Lou Dobbs, has joined in the campaign of lies.

Shown here, on a CBS special, is video proof of the lies and disinformation by CBS, US and Mexican authorities. Anderson Cooper and Janet Napolitano are either ignorant or complicit in the myth that M-203s, RPGs and hand grenades are readily available to the American gun consumer. Most intelligent folks, and those without a state sponsored agenda, realize these weapons are usually only available to the military.

This week, Secretary of Homeland Defense, Janet Napolitano, announced a new plan to curb the alleged flow of weapons from the US into Mexico. This program, which will cost the overwhelmed US Taxpayer another 700 million dollars plus, includes machines that employ what is referred to as "virtual strip search." This plan will supposedly slow down the number of guns traveling south from the US to the drug cartels in Mexico. If this program has the same success rate as the government’s efforts at stopping the flow of contraband north into the US, the Mexican drug cartels will have nuclear weapons by the end of April! ...

Newsweek repeats the familiar 90% lie, laments lack of new AWB push (for now, anyway):
After fierce resistance from the gun lobby and its allies in Congress, Attorney General Eric Holder has dialed back talk about reimposing a federal assault weapons ban to help curb the spiraling violence in Mexico.

As much as 90 percent of the assault weapons and other guns used by Mexican drug cartels are coming from the United States, fueling drug-related violence that is believed to have killed more than 7,000 people since January 2008, according to estimates by Mexican and U.S. law enforcement officials. But the political obstacles to addressing the U.S.-to-Mexico weapons flow are dramatically underscored by Holder's experience in just the last few weeks.
When Holder was asked about the assault weapons issue again at another press conference on March 25, he steered away from even mentioning a new weapons ban. "Well, I mean, I think what we're going to do is try to, obviously, enforce the laws that we have on the books," Holder said, adding that he planned to discuss the flow of illegal arms with "our Mexican counterparts" during an upcoming trip to Mexico.

Holder's about-face was no accident. White House officials instructed the attorney general to tone down any further talk about assault weapons in order not to complicate the president's legislative agenda on Capitol Hill, according to administration and congressional sources who, like others quoted in this story, asked not to be named talking about internal deliberations. (An assault weapons ban was also conspicuously off the table when the Obama administraton unveiled new proposals to combat Mexican cartel violence.) "We've been told to lay low," a Democratic congressional aide said he was told when he raised the issue of a new assault weapons ban with a Justice Department official. [emphasis in original] ...

[Illinois] House votes down effort to close private sale "loophole":
SPRINGFIELD — For the second time in a year, an attempt to toughen state gun laws fell short of passage in the Illinois House.

The proposal, which failed on a 55-60 vote Wednesday, aims to close the so-called private-sale loophole.

Under state law, people buying firearms from private sellers at gun shows must undergo a background check.

But, other private handgun sales are not subject to background checks. Supporters say current law allows guns to get into the hands of criminals who would otherwise not be able to buy firearms.

[Arkansas] ARCCA says Gov. Beebe against privacy for permit holders:
HB1623 The Concealed Carry Privacy bill had a partial hearing today. If you followed us on Twitter you know that the hearing abruptly ended because the full Senate was about to convene. The bill will be reconsidered Tuesday the 31st.

We feel good about the bill in the committee but David Bailey, Managing Editor of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and member of the Arkansas Press Association (APA) wasted no time in hyping the supposed "dangers" of the bill. I guess he doesn't consider violating the privacy of an undercover police officer "dangerous."He mostly brought up issues centered around people who applied for CHL's in our state and been denied a permit. Which actually makes our case for us that, the system works.

They claim that they should have access to the information as a matter of a check against the government. But then we distributed the original blog post that Max wrote which contained the permit list and it pretty much dashed the idea that it was done in an ethical, journalistic manner. When committee members saw the blog posting, their reaction seemed to be one of amazement.

The latest development is that Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe finally picked a side, I am sad to say that it was not the side of law abiding gun owners.

This from Today's THV, "Gov. Mike Beebe says he prefers to keep the list of Arkansans licensed to carry concealed handguns public, but he stopped short of saying he'd veto a bill to make that information secret.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Beebe said that he prefers to keep the list open under the state's Freedom of Information Act. Beebe would not say he would reject a bill by Rep. Randy Stewart, a Democrat from Kirby, to seal that information from public scrutiny.

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee heard some testimony Thursday on Stewart's proposal, but did not take any action. The committee plans to continue a hearing on the bill next week. The bill has already passed the House."

If you remember this bill overwhelmingly passed the House by a vote of 98 to 1. The bill clearly has a mandate from the citizens of this state. ...

[South Dakota] Governor signs bill eliminating handgun purchase waiting period:
Gov. Mike Rounds has signed a bill that eliminates South Dakota's post-purchase 48-hour waiting period to buy a handgun.

The House passed the bill 67-1 on Tuesday. The Senate had passed it unanimously in January.
Currently, only those with a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon in South Dakota are exempt from the waiting period. The new law will mean that anyone who wants to buy a handgun and passes the federal check can walk out of a licensed dealer's shop with the weapon. ...

David Codrea interviews pro-gun Pastor Kenn Blanchard:
"Law enforcement trainer, author, and grassroots activist of color" (and not to forget, a pastor), Kenn Blanchard has been a voice of reason in the Second Amendment movement since the early Nineties.

His book, "Black Man with a Gun," was written "to provide people in the African American Diaspora a resource to learn about gun safety and personal responsibility from one of their own."

A founder of the Tenth Cavalry Gun Club, "derived from the famous 9th and 10th Army Horse Cavalry's, better known for their Native American given name 'Buffalo Soldiers,'" Blanchard has also started The Urban Shooter Association to promote and support his weekly podcast.
DC: Why are so many African American political and religious leaders dead set against keeping and bearing arms? How does that tie in with other parts of their message?

KB: It is easy. There are few topics that are as “evergreen” as gun control. Leaders and clergy that adopt the anti-gun stance have an easier role. The path of least resistance is favored over a deeper dive into the truth. Do you tell the children that there is no Santa Claus coming down the chimney or do you keep up the illusion till they figure it out?

Secondly, if they ride the anti-gun fence long enough they will up their status and be afforded personal protection, bodyguards and a lifestyle where they won’t need to protect themselves. They become pastors with entourages. Politicians get police protection. Celebrities with bodyguards don’t need to carry a firearm for their home. They have gated communities and things we can’t afford.

And lastly, some are in the habit of influencing people so much that they believe we are incapable of controlling our impulses -- that we are not thinking humans but lesser animals that need to be controlled. It’s a superiority piece; that is just plain wrong. ...

[Virginia] Gov. Kane vetoes pro-gun rights bills:
... The governor also rejected bills that would have loosened the state's gun regulations. Among them:

Senate Bill 1035 would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons into restaurants or clubs that serve alcoholic beverages. Guns are allowed into restaurants as long as they are displayed openly, under current state law.

"Allowing concealed weapons into restaurants and bars that serve alcohol puts the public, the employees and our public safety officers at risk," Mr. Kaine said. "I take seriously the objections of law enforcement to this measure."

House Bill 2528 would have prohibited local law enforcement agencies from choosing to conduct voluntary gun buyback programs and then destroying the weapons.

Senate Bill 1528 would have allowed the firearms training required to receive a concealed weapons permit to be completed online.

"Allowing the testing to be done online would weaken the ability of the commonwealth to determine who is actually taking the test and open up opportunities for individuals to receive a permit under fraudulent circumstances with no guarantee that they can use a weapon safely," Mr. Kaine said.

House Bill 1851 would have created a new exemption to Virginias one-handgun-a-month law that would include active-duty service members whether Virginia residents or not. ...

Dave Workman asks whether anti-gunners coordinating with Obama administration:
Just as anti-gunners accused the Bush administration of working with the gun rights organizations, is the Obama administration coordinating with the gun prohibition lobby in an effort to boost public pressure to revive the ban on so-called “assault weapons?”

There is growing suspicion in the firearms community that it is no coincidence the administration is ramping up the rhetoric about this country’s “shared responsibility” for the bloody drug war raging in northern Mexico, while “Obama-friendly” news organizations lend emphasis to renewing the semi-auto ban. At the same time, the anti-gun Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has just released a report called Exporting Violence: How Our Weak Gun Laws Arm Criminals in Mexico and America.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was busy in Mexico acknowledging that demand for drugs in this country was part of the problem, and she is right. Too many Americans use illegal drugs. However, she also quickly complained about our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals

But when she was quizzed by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on the drug war, Mitchell seemed rather preoccupied with renewal of the gun ban in this country, a ban which has had questionable results, as I reported here. Other news agencies have editorialized for renewal of the ban.

If Mitchell wants to lobby for a gun law, she needs to drop the pretense of being a reporter, and sign up as a lobbyist. ...

Mainstream media blaming U.S. for Mexican drug violence, U.S. gun owners not buying it:
All you have to do is take one look at the recent headlines and you'd think the U.S. has been tried, convicted, and sentenced for causing drug war violence in Mexico.

All this is intended to raise public support for bringing back the expired "assault weapons ban." The thing is, the public isn't buying what they're selling.

A recent Zogby poll and O'Leary Report show that only 13.5% of those surveyed think the United States is to blame. It is pretty easy to come to that conclusion since the war south of the border is being fought with machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, and other similar weapons that just aren't available at gun shows. Why would a drug cartel buy a semi-automatic rifle (the kind the legislation Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wants would ban) when they can just as easily get fully automatic weapons illegally on the black market? It just doesn't add up, and the American public isn't as stupid as they're being taken for.

"Blame America" seems to be the motto of the current administration. Keep it up and they just might chant themselves out of office just like the majority of people who signed the original AWB did back in 1994. But it must be our fault, right? Why else would Clinton pledge $80 million to buy Black Hawk helicopters to give to the Mexican government? Better to spend the money there than to fix a bridge, right? We have to atone for our mistakes, don't we? Right. ...

Oliver North says Obama team eyeing new AWB:
... In addition to committing additional law-enforcement assets to the border, the U.S. is also providing Mexican authorities with intelligence, high-tech detection gear, sophisticated sensors and night-vision equipment for combating cartel “foot soldiers” armed with automatic weapons, hand grenades, heavy machine guns and soviet-era rocket propelled grenade launchers. This help is certainly warranted. It is in our national interest that the Calderon campaign against the cartels succeeds.

Unfortunately, the O-Team and their “progressive” allies in Congress aren’t satisfied with the progress that is being made thus far. They apparently intend to use the “Cartel Crisis,” as Mr. Emanuel has advocated, “to do things you couldn’t do before.”

On February 25, Attorney General Eric Holder urged the U.S. “to reinstitute the ban on assault weapons. I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum.” The following day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said, “I am prepared to wage the assault weapons battle again and intend to do so.” And on March 17, during a Senate subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) claimed that an “iron river of guns from the United States arms Mexican drug cartels to the teeth.”

Reality check: resurrecting the so-called “Assault Weapons Ban” that expired in 2004 isn’t going to do anything to help the Mexican government deal with drug cartels or any other criminal organizations. Nor was the O-Team’s decision to stop the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) from allowing surplus military brass cartridges to be re-loaded going to stop a single bullet from reaching criminals. Thankfully, that inane rule has been reversed, saving law-abiding gun owners -- and our heavily indebted government -- money.

The Mexican drug cartels aren’t being armed by law-abiding Americans. Rather than trying to re-enact meaningless legislation based on the appearance of a firearm or the shape of a magazine, the O-Team and their congressional allies need to focus on securing our borders and providing the resources to enforce the laws we already have on the books. Infringing on the 2nd Amendment rights of U.S. citizens won’t make Mexicans, or any of us, any safer or more secure -- no matter how severe the crisis.

[California] ABC News says new "assault weapons" ban being pushed by California officials in wake of Oakland cop killings:
One week after four Oakland police officers were gunned down by a semi-automatic weapon, there's a new plan asking the federal government to ban assault weapons. State and local officials are pushing for a crackdown on these weapons.

An AK-47 assault rifle was used to kill the four Oakland police officers last Saturday. California has the toughest ban on assault weapons in the nation. But it doesn't stop people from buying in other states.

"We're calling on the Congress to remake gun control a top priority now, and to reauthorize the assault weapons ban right away," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

During his presidential campaign, President Barack Obama supported reinstating the federal ban that expired in 2004. In Mexico, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported a renewal of the ban. ...

[California] San Francisco Chronicle says cop killings unlikely to "ease way" for new "assault weapons" ban:
In 1994, Sen. Dianne Feinstein used the tragedy of San Francisco's 101 California massacre to push a decadelong ban on assault weapons through Congress. But even the horror of Saturday's slayings of four Oakland police officers is unlikely to break through the bipartisan opposition that blocked the renewal of that ban in 2004.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and dozens of House Democrats have said they oppose efforts to bring back the national ban, either because the timing is wrong or because they oppose gun control.

Pelosi said she hasn't even discussed the possibility of a renewal with President Obama and his staff, who face urgent issues from fixes to the nation's economy to health care reform.
"I am prepared to wage the assault weapons battle again and I intend to do so," Feinstein said in a speech to the Senate last month. "I have been quiet about this because there are many other pressing needs of this nation. But with the help of the president, the administration and the people of this great country, we do need to fight back."
Feinstein has support in high places. During last fall's campaign, Obama said he wanted to reinstate the ban, and last month Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that it remains part of the administration's agenda.

"I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum," Holder said in a Feb. 25 news conference in Phoenix. ...

[Montana] Lawmakers working on compromise to get gun bills through:
HELENA – A compromise on a bill aimed at expanding gun rights and getting rid of the need for concealed weapons permits is advancing in the state Senate.

House Bill 228 has been the subject of a tough fight between police groups and gun groups such as the National Rifle Association. But the interest groups sat down again with lawmakers Friday morning to hammer out some details the legislation.

The compromise still allows people to use a gun in self-defense without first fleeing. Sen. Dan McGee, the Billings Republican leading a legislative subcommittee making the changes, said that is means people can more easily use deadly force on home intruders.
The Senate compromise version would still exempt people from the requirement of a permit for carrying a concealed weapon in town — although it now clarifies that felons could not do so. It would also keep the current permitting system in place for those who voluntarily want one in order to carry a gun in other states that recognize Montana's permits.

A provision that would allow people to brandish a gun if they feel threatened is being modified at the request of police, who say it would be dangerous to have citizens try to defuse conflicts by pointing guns at each other. ...

[Colorado] Bill seeks to waive gun show checks for CCW permit holders:
After Columbine, Colorado voters approved a measure requiring background checks on all gun-show sales.

But as the 10th anniversary of the high school massacre approaches, lawmakers are considering a bill that would waive the checks for anyone holding a concealed-carry permit.

Police chiefs and sheriffs are among those who testified against the measure, which is scheduled to be heard by the full Senate next week.

Among law enforcement concerns: Colorado does not have a standard concealed-carry permit or a centralized database with information on whether a permit is still valid. ...

[Ohio] Buckeye Firearms Association reports that Cleveland's anti-gun sheriff has resigned:
The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that Cuyahoga County Sheriff Gerald McFaul, a long-time opponent to gun rights in Ohio, has tendered his resignation after months of allegations about his misconduct in office.

McFaul has been under fire since the beginning of the year over questions of improper fund-raising activities, including having deputies sell tickets for his fund-raisers while on county time, for doing special favors for friends and relatives, and most recently for not reporting gifts he is reported to have accepted from employees.

The anti-gun Sheriff has long-been an anathema to Ohio gun owners. In 2004, McFaul had to be sued by Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine before he would do his job and begin issuing Ohio concealed handgun licenses. He eventually settled the suit, and paid all court costs and attorney's fees (with taxpayer funds, of course). ...

A Republic, if you can keep it ...

Today's civics lesson (or refresher, for most of the readers of this blog):

When America ruled the world

Thoughtful article by James Quinn:
... America has squandered the human sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears of two generations in less than seventy years. We have been an independent country for 226 years. From 1783 until 1946 was an unrelenting upward trajectory for the beacon of the free world. With the end of World War II, America was the last country standing. Germany and Japan were in shambles. Russia had lost millions of citizens, with Stalin about to murder millions more. Great Britain was a shell of its former self. The American Empire had been born. We were the manufacturer to the world. We rebuilt Europe and Japan. Our military was dominant. We made the best automobiles. We built 41,000 miles of national highway over two decades. In 1946, one in three U.S. workers was employed in the manufacturing industry. Today, less than one in ten workers makes something.

In the years following World War II, the United States ran trade surpluses of 2% to 4% of GDP. We regularly ran surpluses until the late 1970’s. Since the late 1970’s, the United States has run increasingly large trade deficits, reaching 6% of GDP in 2007. For the last three decades, Americans have tried to spend their way to prosperity. The government politicians and their moneyed backers have sold the idea that Americans could be the thinkers for the world, while other countries could do the menial work of producing stuff. After thirty years we are left with a hollowed out economy of paper pushers. It may be a reach to transition the Wall Street geniuses who created MBSs, CDSs, and CDO’s into jobs building bridges. The manufacturing jobs are gone. Our workers are left to sweep the streets they used to own.

After three decades of burning our furniture to keep warm, we are left owing the rest of the world $2.7 trillion. Many of these countries don’t like us. Ben Bernanke is actively trying to drive the value of the U.S. dollar down, while decreasing interest rates paid on this government debt. As Ben prints trillions of new dollars, the value of China’s, Japan’s and the oil exporting countries’ holdings goes down. The U.S. will run a $2 trillion deficit in the next year. We need these foreign countries to buy at least $1 trillion of our new debt. We are sure they will do so. Our reasoning is, what else can they do. From a purely financial standpoint, it is insanity for a country to make an investment in an asset paying 2.5% interest, when in one day last week the Federal Reserve purposely knocked the value of the dollar down 5% in one day, wiping out two years of interest income.
The Chinese have a long-term plan to rule the world. They are buying up natural resources throughout the world. The walls are closing in on the U.S. The U.S. solution is to print more dollars, borrow from future generations, and tax their citizens more. Ben Bernanke has rolled the dice, but the fear is in his eyes, not our enemies’. We will shortly realize that our castles were built upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand.
It is now time for all Americans to force fiscal sanity upon our government through the use of civil disobedience. Our current fiscal path is unsustainable. The government’s solutions will extend the pain for decades in the best case or result in an abrupt collapse in the worst case. If Americans force a fiscal restructuring upon the world it will be extremely painful, but would result in a more balanced sustainable society going forward. In both cases, Americans will need to accept a reduction in their standard of living. This is the price that must be paid for thirty years of living above our means. Some passive resistance ideas regarding the fiscal sanity movement could be: ...

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sex ed

Tonight's Birds and Bees Explained, the Unrated edition [not safe for work]:

The coming urban wastelands

From Michigan, comes this story:
FLINT, Michigan -- Look in any direction from Bianca Bates' north Flint home, and you'll see graffiti-covered siding, boarded-up windows and overgrown lots.

About half of the homes on her block are burned out or vacant magnets for drug dealers and squatters. It isn't where she thought she'd end up, but it's all she can afford to rent.

"It's a dangerous place to live," said Bates, 21, who lives on East Russell Avenue. "Everywhere you look, these houses are empty around here."

Property abandonment is getting so bad in Flint that some in government are talking about an extreme measure that was once unthinkable -- shutting down portions of the city, officially abandoning them and cutting off police and fire service. [emphasis added]

Temporary Mayor Michael Brown made the off-the-cuff suggestion Friday in response to a question at a Rotary Club of Flint luncheon about the thousands of empty houses in Flint.

Brown said that as more people abandon homes, eating away at the city's tax base and creating more blight, the city might need to examine "shutting down quadrants of the city where we (wouldn't) provide services."

He did not define what that could mean -- bulldozing abandoned areas, simply leaving the vacant homes to rot or some other idea entirely.

On Monday, a city spokesman downplayed Brown's comments.

Bob Campbell, Brown's spokesman, said the acting mayor was speaking hypothetically about a worst-case scenario, "not something that would be laid out in the next six months" while he's in office.

But City Council President Jim Ananich said the idea has been on his radar for years.

The city is getting smaller and should downsize its services accordingly by asking people to leave sparsely populated areas, he said.

"It's going to happen whether we like it or not," he said. "We'd have to be creative about it, but it's something worth looking into. We're not there yet, but it could definitely happen." [emphasis added]...

Article here. We may see more of this as the economy worsens. Call it the Escape From New York scenario.

United States: Third-World nation?

From Sunday's Washington Post, an article by Desmond Lachman, former chief emerging markets strategist at Salomon Smith Barney, who also served as an official at the International Monetary Fund:
Back in the spring of 1998, when Boris Yeltsin was still at Russia's helm, I led a group of global investors to Moscow to find out firsthand where the Russian economy was headed. My long career with the International Monetary Fund and on Wall Street had taken me to "emerging markets" throughout Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, and I thought I'd seen it all. Yet I still recall the shock I felt at a meeting in Russia's dingy Ministry of Finance, where I finally realized how a handful of young oligarchs were bringing Russia's economy to ruin in the pursuit of their own selfish interests, despite the supposed brilliance of Anatoly Chubais, Russia's economic czar at the time.

At the time, I could not imagine that anything remotely similar could happen in the United States. Indeed, I shared the American conceit that most emerging-market nations had poorly developed institutions and would do well to emulate Washington and Wall Street. These days, though, I'm hardly so confident. Many economists and analysts are worrying that the United States might go the way of Japan, which suffered a "lost decade" after its own real estate market fell apart in the early 1990s. But I'm more concerned that the United States is coming to resemble Argentina, Russia and other so-called emerging markets, both in what led us to the crisis, and in how we're trying to fix it.

Over the past year, I've been getting Russia flashbacks as I witness the AIG debacle as well as the collapse of Bear Sterns and a host of other financial institutions. Much like the oligarchs did in Russia, a small group of traders and executives at onetime venerable institutions have brought the U.S. and global financial systems to their knees with their reckless risk-taking -- with other people's money -- for their personal gain.

Negotiating with Argentina's top officials during their multiple financial crises in the 1990s was always an ordeal, and sparring with Domingo Cavallo, the country's Harvard-trained finance minister at the time, was particularly trying. One always had the sense that, despite their supreme arrogance, the country's leaders never had a coherent economic strategy and that major decisions were always made on the run. I never thought that was how policy was made in the United States -- until, that is, I saw how totally at sea Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson and Timothy F. Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke have appeared so many times during our country's ongoing economic and financial storm.
On Wall Street there is an old joke that the longest river in the emerging-market economies is "de Nile." Yet how often do U.S. leaders respond to growing signs of economic dysfunctionality by spouting nationalistic rhetoric that echoes the speeches of Latin American demagogues like Peru's Alan Garcia in the 1980s and Argentina's Carlos Menem in the 1990s? (Even Garcia, currently in his second go-around as Peru's president, seems to have grown up somewhat.) But instead of facing our problems we extol the resilience of the U.S. economy, praise the most productive workers in the world, and go on and on about America's inherent ability to extricate itself from any crisis. And we ignore our proclivity as a nation to spend, year in year out, more than we produce, to put off dealing with long-term problems, and to engage in grandiose long-term programs that as a nation we can ill afford.

A singular characteristic of an emerging market heading for deep trouble is a seemingly suicidal tendency to become overly indebted to foreign creditors. That tendency underlay the spectacular collapse of the Thai, Indonesian and Korean currencies in 1997. It also led Russia to default on its debt in 1998 and plunged Argentina into its economic depression in 2001. Yet we too seem to have little difficulty becoming increasingly indebted to the tune of a few hundred billion dollars a year. To make matters worse, we do so to countries like China, Russia and an assortment of Middle Eastern oil producers -- none of which is particularly well disposed to us.

Like Argentina in its worst moments, we never seem to question whether it is reasonable to expect foreigners to keep financing our extravagance, and we forget the bad things that happen to the Argentinas or Hungarys of the world when foreigners stop financing their excesses. So instead of laying out a realistic plan for increasing our national savings, we choose not to face up to the Social Security and Medicare crises that lie ahead, embarking instead on massive spending programs that -- whatever their long-run merits might be -- we simply cannot afford. [emphasis added] ...

Article here. Yup, that's the path we're on.

NRA files amended complaint in lawsuit against D.C.

NRA filed a second amended complaint in Dick Anthony Heller et al v. District of Columbia in U.S. District Court. NRA and other plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a preliminary and permanent injunction to prevent the D.C. Council from implementing laws that violate the Second Amendment and from enforcing its prohibitions on the possession of commonly owned firearms.

NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox said, “It’s time to fully restore the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding residents in the District of Columbia. The D.C. Council’s latest gun registration scheme is proof of its continued contempt for the Supreme Court.”

NRA filed the original suit last summer after D.C. enacted a restrictive gun registration law in response to the landmark Supreme Court decision in the first District of Columbia v. Heller. The historic Heller decision struck down D.C.’s long-standing ban on handguns and self-defense in the home. The second amended complaint challenges D.C.’s current laws, which will become permanent in early April if not vetoed by Congress. ...

Read the rest here.

Coming soon, to a doctor near you

From the Wall Street Journal, on the state of Massachusetts' universal health care system, which took effect in 2006:
Praise Mitt Romney. Three years ago, the former Massachusetts Governor had the inadvertent good sense to create the "universal" health-care program that the White House and Congress now want to inflict on the entire country. It is proving to be instructive, as Mr. Romney's foresight previews what President Obama, Max Baucus, Ted Kennedy and Pete Stark are cooking up for everyone else.

In Massachusetts's latest crisis, Governor Deval Patrick and his Democratic colleagues are starting to move down the path that government health plans always follow when spending collides with reality -- i.e., price controls. As costs continue to rise, the inevitable results are coverage restrictions and waiting periods. It was only a matter of time. [emphasis added]

They're trying to manage the huge costs of the subsidized middle-class insurance program that is gradually swallowing the state budget. The program provides low- or no-cost coverage to about 165,000 residents, or three-fifths of the newly insured, and is budgeted at $880 million for 2010, a 7.3% single-year increase that is likely to be optimistic. The state's overall costs on health programs have increased by 42% (!) since 2006. [emphasis added]

Like gamblers doubling down on their losses, Democrats have already hiked the fines for people who don't obtain insurance under the "individual mandate," already increased business penalties, taxed insurers and hospitals, raised premiums, and pumped up the state tobacco levy. That's still not enough money. ...

Read the rest of the article here. Better not get sick, when Hope and Chains comes to town.

Why you need to carry

From Virginia, comes this tragic story:
A Loudoun County couple out for their routine early-morning walk over the weekend might have been randomly attacked by as many as three assailants in the Lansdowne area, the county sheriff said yesterday.

William Bennett, 57, was found dead before 6 a.m. Sunday along Riverside Parkway near Rocky Creek Drive by a sheriff's deputy investigating a report of a suspicious vehicle in the area. His wife, Cynthia, 55, was found critically injured about 30 minutes later across the road, beyond a bloodied white fence in a muddy ditch, Simpson said.

"It has the look and feel of a random act," Simpson said. "I'm not sure how much you do to prepare for that. . . . Everybody has the same thought on their mind: 'See, that could have been me.' "

The Bennetts live in the Potomac Station subdivision in the Leesburg area, less than a mile from where they were found, Simpson said. They suffered severe blunt force trauma, but the medical examiner has not yet provided an official cause of death for the husband, Simpson said.

At 5:38 a.m. Sunday, a resident reported hearing a commotion and seeing several people get inside a white panel van that kept coming and going, authorities said. A deputy responded within five minutes and discovered the man's body on a grassy patch along Riverside Parkway, near a walking path that leads to Goose Creek, Simpson said.

Authorities combed the area, and, as the sun came up, investigators noticed blood across the street on a white fence that lines the road, Simpson said.

It was then that Cynthia Bennett was discovered about 50 yards away in a ditch. She was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital and was in critical condition yesterday. Investigators have not been able to talk to her, Simpson said. The couple were wearing jogging outfits when they were found.
Authorities were able to identify William Bennett, who carried no identification, by his fingerprint, which was on file because he has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, Simpson said. The couple have two adult children, he said. [emphasis added] ...

Article here. We don't know if Mr. Bennett was carrying a firearm when he and his wife were attacked, but if he wasn't, I'll bet he died wishing he had. Obviously, just because you have a gun doesn't mean the encounter will turn out well for you, but the odds that it will are certainly better with a gun, than without.

From another article we learn that both Bennetts were ex-military, with Mr. Bennett having served as a Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel:
... Simpson said investigators are also trying to determine whether the retired lieutenant colonel with the Army Special Forces has held any jobs since leaving the CIA.

Bennett and his wife, residents of nearby Potomac Station, were on their routine early morning walk in the Lansdowne area when they were attacked by as many as three assailants, authorities said.

A sheriff's deputy responding to a report of a commotion and a suspicious white panel van about 5:30 a.m. in the Lansdowne area discovered William Bennett's body on the side of Riverside Parkway, near a gravel path not far from Rocky Creek Drive. His wife was found about 30 minutes later in a ditch, beyond a bloodied white fence across the street. Both had suffered blunt force trauma, but no weapon was recovered, and they might have been beaten.

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the Bennetts were assaulted somewhere else and dumped there. ...

Multiple attackers, versus a 57 year old man and his 55 year old wife. From the news reports the area the couple were found is a relatively "safe" area, with a relatively low violent crime rate:
Bennett's slaying is the first homicide this year in Loudoun, where killings usually register in the low single digits annually. The sheriff's office investigated three homicides last year, up from one in 2007. Authorities described the Lansdowne area as fairly quiet and said crime there is generally limited to "quality of life" issues such as property destruction and car theft.

Perhaps the Bennetts were lulled into a false sense of security by that fact. Lesson: If you carry, you should consider carrying even in "safe" areas, because it will likely be even safer for you if you do.

Tent cities in the Socialist Utopia?

From Bloomberg:
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said a make-shift tent city for the homeless that sprang up in the capital city of Sacramento will be shut down and its residents allowed to stay at the state fairgrounds.

Schwarzenegger said he ordered the state facility known as Cal-Expo to be used for three months to serve the 125 tent city residents, some of them displaced by the economic recession. The encampment may be shut down within a month, said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The move comes after the Sacramento City Council last night agreed to spend $880,000 to expand homeless programs.

“Together with the local government and volunteers, we are taking a first step to ensure the people living in tent city have a safe place to stay, with fresh water, healthy conditions and access to the services they need,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “And I am committed to working with Mayor Johnson to find a permanent solution for those living in tent city.”

California, home to one of every eight Americans, has been particularly hard hit by the housing market collapse after many residents turned to exotic mortgages to afford homes. The tent city, which has long existed along the banks of the America River, gained national attention last month when some of its recently homeless residents were featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The state has one of the highest rates of foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac Inc., an Irvine, California-based seller of real estate data. California home prices dropped 41 percent last month from a year earlier, more than double the U.S. decline, as surging foreclosures drove down values, the state Association of Realtors said today. ...

Article here. Tent cities in the Socialist Utopia? Say it ain't so! Of course, the Hope and Chains Brigade will solve the problem by renaming them "Urban Long-Term Recreational Camping Facilities". :)

California shall-issue CCW bill proposed

From the Golden State:
Right now, Sheriff's and Police Chiefs have the final say about who can carry a gun...but a bill now in the State Assembly, would change that. Some people believe changing the law would promote the right to bear arms but others feel it just opens Pandora's box.

Currently it takes a special permit and the approval of your local Sheriff's Department for someone to be allowed to carry a concealed weapon. Certified firearms instructor, Ron Etchells, teaches the concealed carried training class and says the classes start with "The basics, with just fire arm manipulation. Knowing all the parts and different ammunition's cross referencing ammunition's as well and approximately right down to four hours of live fire."

The new bill is ironically named AB #357, like a 357 Magnum gun. If it passes all someone would need is the special permit to be able to carry a weapon. The bill changes the current writing of the law to state that the sheriff of a county, shall instead of may issue to that person a license to carry a firearm. [emphasis in original]

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department doesn't support the bill saying "It takes away the discretion of local law enforcement" to issue the permit. It's that fact that also concerns advocates against domestic violence. Beth Hassett, Executive Director of Women Escaping A Violent Environment, says of the bill, "If they have a concealed weapon, somebody who is being stalked, a person who has been out of a relationship for a long time may have no idea that their former partner may come after them and kill them. But not everyone agrees with the idea that more accessible permits means more danger. John Barritt, oowner of Badger John's Huntin Stuff believes the bill is aimed at responsible gun owners and may keep the streets safer saying "There's been studies done and you can look at statistic all the way across the country, people that have CCW permits are the lowest crime group out of any segment or society."

Article here. Unfortunately, given that this is anti-gun, Brady bunch "A" rated California, don't expect this to go very far.

It's amazing how clueless the domestic violence "victim's rights" advocates seem to be. You would think they would support a shall-issue law to allow victims of domestic violence to be able to lawfully carry guns to protect themselves from their abusers.

Remember, you don't need a permit to carry a loaded gun concealed on your person anywhere in America. How do we know that this is irrefutably true? Because violent criminals carry guns every day, everywhere in America, and they don't have permits. Why? Because you don't need one. Only folks who are predisposed to obeying the law get permits. I know, preaching to the choir.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Urban ninja

Tonight's urban ninja:

I got tired just watching this guy. Oh, to be young again!

Those who forget history ...

Apparently, a bunch of Jewish groups have sent a letter to Congress urging them to allow Washington, D.C. to continue violating the Second Amendment:
Seventeen Jewish organizations are among 32 faith-based groups which have signed a letter to Congress opposing "in the strongest terms" any amendment to the Washington, D.C. voting rights bill that would "undermine the District's ability to regulate firearms." The letter, organized by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, states that "we believe duly-elected District officials should have a fair and reasonable opportunity to develop and implement new locally specific regulations. It would be unconscionable of the House of Representatives to approve such an amendment and impose its will on the residents of the District of Columbia." Many of the same groups -- which include the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Commitee and Hadassah, among others -- signed an almost identical letter to the Senate last month, which attached an amendement to the final legislation repealing most of D.C.'s gun control laws. A House vote on the bill, which would give one vote in the House of Representatives to the nation's capital along with another one to Utah, could come as soon as next week. [emphasis added]...

Read the rest, including the text of the letter, here.

Haven't these jokers ever heard of the Holocaust? You know, that little government lovin' the Nazis gave to a couple of million Jews, after they disarmed them.

It also seems apparent that no one in any of these groups has read the Constitution, which gives Congress plenary authority over the District of Columbia. That means that Congress has general legislative power over D.C. similar to that of state legislatures over their respective states. Thirty-two Jewish groups and apparently not a lawyer amongst them. Go Figure. :)

Gun Rights News Roundup

Articles, news stories, and op-eds of interest to gun owners:

[Texas] Guns-in-parking-lots bill passes Senate unanimously:
AUSTIN — Texans would be allowed to stow their guns and ammo inside their locked cars or trucks while at work and parked on employer property under a controversial bill passed Wednesday by the state Senate.

The Senate voted 31-0 to prohibit employers from enforcing restrictions against employees possessing a legally owned handgun or ammunition inside a locked vehicle while in a company parking lot. Firearms and ammo must be stored out of sight.

“Here in Texas people like their firearms and … if they want to bring them to the workplace they are going to do it whether there’s an employee policy against it or not,” said state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, the measure’s author. “This is designed to stop employers from punishing employees who legally bring weapons to work .”

Supporters say employer rules banning guns in a company parking lot infringe on their Second Amendment right and their ability to protect themselves as they travel to and from work.

Opponents, among them a number of influential business groups, argue the bill is an affront to an employer’s property rights and are wary of potential gun violence as a growing number of Texans lose their jobs. ...

[Idaho] Anti-confiscation gun rights bill passes House:
Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, today persuaded the Idaho House to vote 61-9 in favor of his legislation that would prevent the government from seizing guns in cases of “extreme emergency.”

HB 229 declares that during a such states including martial law, invasion or insurrection, “No government authority will have the right to come and pick up our arms and ammunition.” ...

[Arkansas] Guns in church bill dies in committee, again:
Thanks to Sen Wilkins of Pine Bluff, HB 1237 The bill that would remove churches from the list of prohibited places in the concealed carry statute, died in the Senate Committee on Judiciary on a 4-2 vote.

After the bill failed in committee last time, the bill was amended. Instead of the version we believe was most appropriate, which would remove churches from the list altogether, it would have now included churches on the list of prohibited places but allow churches to allow CHL holders to carry on their property if they chose to.

This was done over a concern that churches would have been required to place a sign at every entrance proclaiming, "the carrying of hanguns is prohibited."

Then there was the Church shooting in Illinois.

After this Senator Wilkins made the remark that he honestly didn't know how he felt about it and that he could change his mind.

He also said he wanted to hear more testimony on behalf of the bill, so we brought him ten people to speak on behalf of the bill, eight of them were pastors. Some came from as far away as Springdale. They all came to speak on behalf of the bill mostly because Sen, Wilkins told us that he "wasn't sure." He honestly wasn't sure and wanted to know how other pastors felt. He wanted to hear from these people.

So in a good faith effort we tried to meet him half way, even sacrificing some language in the bill we believed wasn't the best option. We knew we had 4 votes we just needed to convince him that this really mattered to people and that we didn't want to let an Illinois church shooting happen here.

So just before HB1237 was heard, Sen Wilkins's bill regarding stalking was being discussed and the hearing became contentious. His bill failed in committee. When he was done with his bill he got up and walked out.

He just walked out. And he didn't come back untill after the vote was taken on HB 1237.

My friends, that's what we call cowardice. ...

[California] Long Beach ammo ordinance vote delayed:
LONG BEACH - A City Council vote on a proposed gun ammunition registration law is being postponed, police officials said Monday.

The issue had been placed on the agenda for today's meeting, but is being pulled because unanswered questions remain, said Deputy Chief Bill Blair.

He said community members had asked a slew of questions about the law during the Public Safety Committee hearing last month, but that he was still waiting on some answers from the City Attorney's Office.

Still, Blair said he doesn't expect changes to be made to the law, which is designed to deter felons from buying ammunition.

Under the ordinance, anyone who buys ammunition would have to register their name, address and date of birth; the date of the transaction; driver's license or other identification number; brand and type of ammunition purchased; the purchaser's signature; name of the sales person in the transaction; and the thumbprint of the purchaser.

Vendors would have to keep and maintain records on store premises for two years. The records would be open for police inspection. ...

Victor Davis Hanson: Thoughts about depressed Americans

From Victor Davis Hanson's column at Pajamas Media:
Why are so many Americans so depressed about things these days? It is perhaps not just the economy.

I think the answer is clear: all the accustomed referents, the sources of security, of knowledge and reassurance appear to be vanishing. Materially, we still enjoy a sumptuous lifestyle in comparison with past generations—and the world outside our borders. America remains the most sane and successful society on the planet.

But there is a strange foreboding, a deer-in-the-headlights look to us that we may be clueless Greeks in the age of Demosthenes, played-out Romans around AD 450, or give-up French in late 1939—with a sense it cannot go on. Why? Let us count the ways.

1) About Broke. The collective debt is simply staggering, $1.7 trillion in borrowing this year alone. $3.5 trillion is our annual budget, and by 2012 what we all owe will be well over $15-17 trillion. (No fears: the President promises to triple the Bush deficit, but by the end of his “first” term “halve” the deficit, as if tripling and then halving it is not increasing it.)

Today while President Obama railed against AIG bonuses (imagine damning the bonuses you signed into law to the execs from whom you took over $100,000 in campaign donations!)—the congressional budget office “found” another trillion or so dollars in anticipated deficits that Team Obama lost.

So after Obama, the next President will campaign on “I promise a $1 trillion annual surplus for eight years to pay off the last eight, so we can then start over paying off the old $11 trillion shortfall.”

The rub is not just that we are inflating—no, ruining—our currency. And the problem is still more than the fact that we are destroying the lives of the next generation, whose collective budgets will be consumed largely with health care for us baby-boomers, and interest payments on our debts. (If I get to be 87, can we keep asking 500 or so Chinese to put off false teeth to lend me their money for a hip replacement?)

I think instead the worst element is a sort of ill-feeling about ourselves, an unhappiness as we look in the mirror and see what we are doing to our dignity in this, the hour of our crisis.

We are starting to fathom that when times got iffy, we lacked the resilience of the proverbial Joads and the grit of that tough Depression-era generation, and certainly we seem different sorts from those who built and flew B-17s amid the Luftwaffe.

Instead, this generation has gone quite stark raving mad the last seven months, hysterical, and decided we would simply borrow, charge it, print money, blame, accuse—almost anything other than roll up our sleeves, take a cut in our standard of living, pay off what we owe, admit that we lived too high on the hog, and find a certain nobility in shared sacrifice.

So again, here we are reduced to begging the Chinese to subsidize our life-styles, while 500 million of their own poor make their American counterparts of the lower classes here seem like well-heeled grandees. ...

Read the whole thing here. Perhaps the current and deepening economic adversity we face will revive some of that "can-do" spirit, and that in adversity, we will find strength.

Unfortunately, decades of cultural conditioning and the vilification of success -- in our schools, colleges, and universities ("America is bad, capitalism is evil"), by the mainstream media (headliine: "America bad, capitalism evil"), by Hollywood ("America is bad ... the movie"; now playing: "Capitalism is Evil (except for Hollywood), Part MMXXVIII"), by leftist politicians ("America is bad, but don't worry, big government is here to 'help'") -- have left a greater number of us, as a nation, less capable, more dependent, less self-reliant. So we'll see. What's the old adage: If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. We may be testing that theory as we speak.

As a nation we've been living beyond our means, and now the bill is due. The time of reckoning for our profligacy has come, and the longer we try to postpone that reckoning (essentially by looting our grandkids' future prosperity), the more painful it will be. The only options available to us all involve pain. The question is not if we'll experience pain, but when and how much. And in general, the sooner you deal with a problem, the less painful the solution.

Unfortunately, our elected and unelected elites seem blind to this reality, instead heaping on more debt on our backs, and the backs of future generations of Americans. Perhaps the Baby Boomers will go down as the most selfish, self-centered generation in American history.

Despite all that, I remain cautiously optimistic, however. I think it was Winston Churchill who once quipped: "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing ... after they've tried everything else." So hopefully we won't continue on the "everything else" path much longer.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A dog's nightmare

Tonight's dreaming doggy:

Search engine for ammo, ammo prices

For those looking to make some ammo purchases, you might want to take a look at AmmoEngine.com, where you can search by type (handgun, rifle) and caliber, and sort by price per round or price per box, and group by manufacturer.

Here's a screenshot for the 9mm Luger search (click to embiggen):

Gun Rights News Roundup

Articles, news stories, and op-eds of interest to gun owners:

[Kansas] Senate approves state constitution change to reflect individual RKBA right:
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Voters may get to decide next November whether Kansas should amend its constitution to clarify that the right to bear arms is an individual right, not a collective right.

A measure placing the issue on the 2010 general election ballot cleared the Senate by a 40-0 vote Tuesday. A similar resolution is awaiting action in the House.

It's a response to a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision that says the federal Constitution's Second Amendment grants individuals the right to bear arms. ...

[Ohio] Man sues city over open carry incident:
ENGLEWOOD — A city resident claims Englewood deprived him of his constitutional rights to carry a firearm and that police officers falsely arrested him during the 2007 Fine Arts Festival.

According to his lawsuit filed March 19 in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, Kent Maynard claims he was stopped and questioned by police for openly carrying a 9mm pistol during the festival at the city's Centennial Park.

At the time, the city had an ordinance prohibiting weapons in any city park. Maynard contends that recent state law superseded the city's ordinance. ...

[D.C.] Gun bans off-limits, for now:
Members of Congress may be alarmed by the surge in Mexican drug violence and its potential to spill across the border, but when talk turns to gun control, opposition from both Democrats and Republicans grows fierce.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. found that out when he proposed reinstituting a U.S. ban on the sale of certain semiautomatic weapons. Many lawmakers balked. The 1994 ban expired after 10 years.

"The Second Amendment Task Force opposes the discussed ban and will fight any attempts that infringe on our Second Amendment rights," said Rep. Paul Broun, Georgia Republican, a chairman of the group. Six Democrats and six Republicans co-signed his statement.
For his part, President Obama has signaled a willingness to tighten restrictions on guns, calling the flow of drug money and guns "a two-way situation." Yet 65 Democrats said in a letter to Mr. Holder that they would oppose any attempt by the administration to revive a ban on military-style weapons. ...

New York City's economic dirty bomb

Article by Tom Englehardt, giving us an economic snapshot of his part of NYC:
A block from my apartment, on a still largely mom-and-pop, relatively low-slung stretch of Broadway, two spanking new apartment towers rose just as the good times were ending for New York. As I pass the tower on the west side of Broadway each morning, one of its massive ground-floor windows displays the same eternal message in white letters against a bright red background: "Locate yourself at the center of the fastest expanding portion of the affluent Upper West Side."

Successive windows assure any potential renter that this retail space (10,586 square feet available! 110 feet of frontage! 30 foot ceilings! Multiple configurations possible!) is conveniently located only "steps from the 96th Street subway station, servicing 11 million riders annually."

Here's the catch, though: That building was completed as 2007 ended and yet, were you to peer through a window into the gloom beyond, you would make out only a cavernous space of concrete, pillars, and pipes. All those "square feet" and not the slightest evidence that any business is moving in any time soon. Across Broadway, the same thing is true of the other tower.

That once hopeful paean to an "expanding" and "affluent" neighborhood now seems like a notice from a lost era. Those signs, already oddly forlorn only months after our world began its full-scale economic meltdown, now seem like messages in a bottle floating in from BC: Before the Collapse.

And it's not just new buildings having problems either, judging by the increasing number of metal grills and shutters over storefronts in mid-day, all that brown butcher paper covering the insides of windows, or those omnipresent "for rent" and "for lease" signs hawking "retail space" with the names, phone numbers, and websites of real estate agents.

I hadn't paid much attention to any of this until, running late one drizzly evening about a month ago, and needing a piece of meat for dinner, I decided to stop at Oppenheimer's, a butcher shop only three blocks from home. I had shopped there regularly until a new owner came in some years ago, and then the habit slowly died. The store still had its awning ("Oppenheimer, Established 1964, Prime Meats & Seafood") and the same proud boast of "Steaks and Chops Cut to Order, Oven-ready roasts, Fresh-ground meats, Seasonal favorites," but you couldn't miss the "retail space available" sign in the window and, when I put my face to the glass, the shop's insides had been gutted.

Taken aback, I made my way home and said to my wife, "Did you know that Oppenheimer's closed down?" She replied matter-of-factly, "That was months ago."

Okay, that's me, not likely to win an award for awareness of my surroundings. Still, I soon found myself, notebook in hand, walking the neighborhood and looking. Really looking. Now, understand, in New York City, there's nothing strange about small businesses going down, or buildings going up. It's a city that, since birth, has regularly cannibalized itself.

What's strange in my experience -- a New Yorker born and bred -- is when storefronts, once emptied, aren't quickly repopulated.

Broadway in daylight now seems increasingly like an archeological dig in the making. Those storefronts with their fading decals ("Zagat rated") and their old signs look, for all the world, like teeth knocked out of a mouth. In a city in which a section of Broadway was once known as the Great White Way for its profligate use of electricity, and everything normally is aglow at any hour, these dead commercial spaces feel like so many tiny black holes. Get on the wrong set of streets -- Broadway's hardly the worst -- and New York can easily seem like a creeping vision of Hell, not as fire but as darkness slowly snuffing out the blaze of life. ...

Read the rest here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flea travel tips

Tonight's humor:
Two fleas from Detroit had an agreement to meet every winter in Miami for a vacation.

Last year when one flea gets to Miami, he’s all blue, shivering and shaking, damn near frozen to death!

The other flea asks him, “What the hell happened to you?”

The first flea says, “I rode down here from Mount Clemens in the mustache of a guy on a Harley.”

The other flea tells him, “That’s the worst way to travel. Try what I do: Go to the Metro airport bar. Have a few drinks. While you are there, look for a nice stewardess. Crawl up her leg and nestle in where it’s warm and cozy. It’s the best way to travel that I can think of.”

The first flea thanks the second flea and says he will give it a try next winter.

A year goes by, and when the first flea shows up in Miami he is all blue, and shivering and shaking again. Damn near frozen to death!

The second flea says, “Didn’t you try what I told you?”

Yes,” says the first flea, “I did exactly as you said: I went to the Metro airport bar. I had a few drinks. Finally, this nice young stewardess came in. I crawled right up to a warm cozy spot. It was so nice and warm that I fell asleep immediately.”

“Well then, what happened?” the first flea asked.

“When I woke up, I was back in the mustache of the guy on the Harley!”


Gun Rights News Roundup

Articles, news stories, and op-eds of interest to gun owners:

[North Carolina] Lawmaker introduces bill to protect vets from losing gun rights:
North Carolina U.S. Senator Richard Burr, along with 14 other cosponsors, introduced legislation that would end a seemingly arbitrary process by which the government "strips" veterans and other Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) beneficiaries of their Second Amendment rights.

Currently veterans who have a fiduciary appointed to act on their behalf are deemed "mentally defective" and are reported to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a system which prevents individuals from purchasing firearms in the United States.

The Veterans' Second Amendment Protection Act would require a judicial authority to determine that a VA beneficiary poses a danger to themselves or others before VA may send their names to be listed in the FBI's NICS.

"Under current law, veterans who have come to (the) VA for help but who are determined to be unable to manage their own financial affairs are labeled as mentally defective and, on that basis alone, are denied their 2nd amendment rights," Burr said. "I am very concerned that government employees can so easily take away a veteran's right to bear arms. My legislation would protect the rights of veterans and their families by ensuring that only a proper judicial authority is able to determine who is referred to NICS." ...

[Massachusetts] Fewer gun dealers due to onerous regulations:
Fifteen years ago there were 23 federal firearms licenses issued in Belchertown.

Today, there are three.

"I would say that's a pretty major decline," said Rich Kimball, of R&R Gun Sales, 450 State St., and one of the three remaining license holders.

Stricter federal licensing regulations dating back to 1993, plus the overall climate in Massachusetts with some of the toughest firearms laws in the country, have made it tough for gun dealers in the Bay State, according to Kimball. The combination, he says, "caused a lot of dealers to get out of the business."

Since 1994, the number of federal firearm licenses - FFLs - issued in Massachusetts has declined from 4,109 to 531, or by 87 percent.
In 1993 there were 240,000 federal firearms licenses issued nationwide. As it was pointed out at the time by one pro-gun control group, there were more licensed firearms dealers in the United State than there were gas stations.

Since then the number has declined to about 109,000, or by 62 percent, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The decline is part of a national trend that dates back to two pieces of legislation, according to the federal agency that oversees the licensing.

The first is the Brady Bill, named after White House press secretary James Brady who was shot in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981. It increased the license fee from $10 per year to $200 for the first three years and $90 for each three-year renewal.

The second piece of legislation was the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, also known as the Crime Bill. It requires applicants for the federal licenses to notify their local police department, submit fingerprints and a photo with the application, and certify that their businesses adhere to local zoning regulations.

It also requires gun dealers to have an established location for their shops that must be separate from their residences. This eliminated many hobbyists and part-time dealers.
Ultimately the federal legislation and state regulations did little to fight crime, Wallace contends, but they have managed put a lot of honest dealers out of the business. He also cited the Massachusetts Gun Control Act of 1998, which, he said, enacted more layers of restrictions and regulations for the purchase and sale of guns. ...

[West Virginia] Lawmaker wants permitless carry ... for himself:
CHARLESTON — Controversy often inflames passions, and mindful of this lawless age and a propensity of some in society to go over the edge, a few lawmakers want the right to arm themselves without a weapons permit.

One sponsor of such a House bill, in fact, Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, relayed a personal threat directed at him and his family, penned by the hand of a convict.

A self-described “monster,” the man behind bars warned of what he intended to do to Hunt and his children.

Hunt decided to leave nothing to chance and get a firearm, but was told he had to wait during a two-month concealed weapon application process. [emphasis added] ...

Comment: What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Shouldn't the citizens Mr. Hunt represents have the same RKBA rights as their elected servants? Mr. Hunt's complaint appears to be that West Virginia law also applies to him.

[Ireland] From the "oops" file: Gangster shoots himself in head [hat tip to reader Jim P.]:
A WELL-known criminal who is a central figure in Limerick's ongoing feud was in a critical condition on a life support machine last night after he accidentally shot himself.

Feared gangster Philip Collopy (29) from St Mary's Park, Limerick is in the city's Mid-Western Regional Hospital where he has been since he shot himself in the head on Saturday morning.

The career criminal shot himself with a glock handgun at close range in a house at St Munchin's Street, St Mary's Park. He had been inspecting the gun and removed the loaded magazine from it while handling it. However, he failed to realise a bullet was still in the chamber before he discharged the weapon while it was pointed at his head. [emphasis added] ...

Comment: Well, at least he now knows the gun works. :)

Columnist asks: Would you know an "assault weapon" if you say one?
... If you answered "D)all of the above" congratulations, you qualify for a California Senate seat! You'd also be wrong.

Those who want to take away gun from civilians know they can't take them all at once. The only way to get them is to vilify and ban one class of firearms at a time. Two of the most frequent targets are handguns and "assault weapons." But, what exactly is an assault weapon, and why do they claim we need to ban them?

Actually, the term "assault weapon" is made up. It is a derivative of the real phrase "assault rifle" which is a selective fire (can switch between automatic and semi-automatic) rifle or carbine firing ammunition with muzzle energies intermediate between those typical of pistol and high-powered rifle ammunition. If you look at the above pictures again, only one of the above is an assault rifle, and that is "B", a M-16. Both the AR-15 (A) and the SIG 556 (C) are semi-automatic only. But the gun grabbers want to ban them because they are evil looking black rifles.

Since there is a very specific definition of an assault rifle, the gun control crowd needed something that sounded similar and scary so that they could apply that label to this scary looking class of firearms. So, they made up "assault weapon". Sounds close enough.

Looks are the only thing these firearms have in common with real assault rifles. No army or terrorist group in the world would limit themselves to such weapons as they are primarily suitable for sporting purposes and civilian self defense, not the battlefield. A study done by the US Department of Justice found that these kinds of guns are used in less than 1% of all gun crimes. And yet, these unscrupulous individuals have absolutely no qualms about lying to the public in order to sell their agenda.
One of the reasons this incident made the headlines is because how rare it is that such an incident occurs. That hardly makes for a description of our cities as "demilitarized zones." Much more troubling is the fact that witnesses to the crime were cheering the deaths of these officers. But, why focus on the root of violence and try to fix the real problem when you can just blame the gun and try to disarm innocent, law-abiding citizens?

One argument regularly used by those in favor of an AWB is that criminals can easily convert these semi-automatic firearms into automatic firearms (machine guns). If it is so easy, why isn't it being done? Right now, there is no AWB, so there shouldn't there be machine gun killings on the news every night? The ban is a farce for crime control, and they know it. ...

[Washington] Seattle mayor moves ahead with gun ban:
Mayor Greg Nickels is going forward with a controversial executive order which would ban "dangerous weapons" - including firearms - on Seattle owned parks and properties. An exact date has not been set yet for when the ban will go into effect. However, a spokesman for the Mayor's office said the ban is currently expected to begin sometime in May.

Coincidentally, this places the time somewhere around the one-year anniversary of the freak shooting incident at Folklife, last year, that left two people injured and was the casus belli for the order.

The move also comes in spite of legal concerns questioning whether the city can unilaterally prohibit firearms owners, particularly those possessing Concealed Pistol Licenses, from exercising their legal rights. ...

[Arkansas] Open carry bill dies in committee:
Yet another weapons bill hit committee this afternoon as the House Judiciary Committee considered Rep. Mark Martin’s legislation to allow people to carry firearms in plain sight. The bill’s lack of provisions for training and its apparent permissiveness toward the open-carry of machine guns was too much for the committee. Though Rep. Martin did not agree with these criticisms, he pulled the bill down for amendment to ensure that it would not be legal for children to wield a gun.

Several legislators suggested they might vote for the bill if it required some sort of permit or training for open carry, but Rep. Martin firmly resisted making a change. He argued that such a requirement would place a financial burden on impoverished people. The poor who couldn’t pay would be unable to exercise what Rep. Martin considers a constitutional right to bear arms in the open. In response to the comment that anyone who owns a gun can also afford a training course, Rep. Martin responded that a gun might be inherited or earned from some sort of program.

“[A fee] would have a chilling effect on people who were discriminated against before,” Rep. Martin said in reference to the 19th century slave laws he cited to justify the necessity of open-carry legislation. ...