Sunday, May 31, 2009

Best Movie Lines in 200 Seconds

Tonight's movie nostalgia - the 100 best movie lines, in 200 seconds:

No Guns for Negroes

Today's documentary on the racist roots of gun control, from Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership:

Part One:

Part Two:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane ...

... without a parachute!

No smile zone

From the Washington Post:
Few places in Virginia are as draining to the soul and as numbing to the buttocks as the branch offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles. And yet, until recently, smiling was still permitted there.

No more. As part of the DMV's effort to develop super-secure driver's licenses and foolproof identification cards, the agency has issued a smile ban, directing customers to adopt a "neutral expression" in their portraits, thereby extinguishing whatever happiness comes with finally hearing one's number called. ...

More here. The article says the new DMV software is programmed to reject smiles or other "non-neutral expression[.]" Of course, after waiting in line at the DMV, you're probably not in a smiling mood anyway.

World electricity consumption expected to decline for first time since World War 2

Via Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed blog, comes this graph (click on image to enlarge):

Another artifact of the global economic contraction we're in, and an indication of its severity -- no other post-World War II recession saw an actual decline in electricity consumption. Obviously, the 2009 figure is an estimate, but unless the world economy stages an unlikely and unusually strong recovery this year, looks like we're on track for the first decrease in 64 years.

Voter intimidation case dropped

From the Washington Times, comes this troubling story:
Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.

The incident - which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube - had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms. [emphasis added]

Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as "the most blatant form of voter intimidation" that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.

The lawyers also had ascertained that one of the three men had gained access to the polling place by securing a credential as a Democratic poll watcher, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Times.

The career Justice lawyers were on the verge of securing sanctions against the men earlier this month when their superiors ordered them to reverse course, according to interviews and documents. The court had already entered a default judgment against the men on April 20.

A Justice Department spokesman on Thursday confirmed that the agency had dropped the case, dismissing two of the men from the lawsuit with no penalty and winning an order against the third man that simply prohibits him from bringing a weapon to a polling place in future elections. ...

Article here. Imagine if white men wielding weapons and spewing racial slurs had tried to intimidate black voters at the polls. Anyone think they would have received the same velvet gloved treatment that these black men did? Two of the three got off scot free. The other got the equivalent of a "don't do that any more" notice.

Stocking up Down Under

From the Sydney Morning Herald:
LLOYD Hughes isn't particularly worried about swine flu. If the Government declares a pandemic, the 63-year-old truck driver will simply bunker down with his wife, three teenage children and their 200 cans of tomatoes.

"We've also got 250 kilograms of rice, 25 litres of olive oil and loads of flour, plus toilet paper and toothpaste," Mr Hughes, who lives in the Upper Hunter region, said. "It's about a year's worth. And if I have to keep the kids at home, I will."

Like many survivalists, Mr Hughes also has "an extensive supply" of over-the-counter medicines: ibuprofen, aspirin, paracetamol, antiseptic creams - everything except Tamiflu. ...

Article here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

No Asians need apply

Tonight's real estate ad, from Down Under (funny ending):

Vessel Tracking

Today's maritime big picture: allows you to see the status of cargo ships in various ports.

You can click on a port, and see the status of vessels tracked in that port -- moving in or out, moored, etc. Mouse over the vessel icon to see the vessel type (cargo ship, tanker, tugboat, etc.) and callsign, and a picture if available. Neat.

Pittsburgh college threatens student for advocating pro-gun views

Another speech suppression incident, this one in Pennsylvania:
A student who wants to form a gun-rights group at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) has been threatened with disciplinary action for her efforts. Student Christine Brashier has turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help after reporting that administrators banned her informational pamphlets, ordered her to destroy all copies of them, and told her that further "academic misconduct" would not be tolerated.

"CCAC has demonstrated a shocking lack of respect for the rights of free speech and free association," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "Across the country, students are increasingly denied the First Amendment right to debate the Second Amendment. At CCAC, this censorship trend has reached a new low."

In April, CCAC student Christine Brashier created pamphlets to distribute to her classmates encouraging them to join her in forming a chapter of the national Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC) organization at CCAC. The handbill states that the group "supports the legalization of concealed carry by licensed individuals on college campuses." She personally distributed copies of the flyer, which identified her as a "Campus Leader" of the effort to start the chapter.

On April 24, Jean Snider, Student Development Specialist at CCAC's Allegheny Campus, summoned Brashier to a meeting that day with Snider and Yvonne Burns, Dean of Student Development. According to Brashier, the deans told Brashier that passing out her non-commercial pamphlets was prohibited as "solicitation." They told Brashier that trying to "sell" other students on the idea of the organization was prohibited.

CCAC also told Brashier that the college must pre-approve any distribution of literature to fellow students, and that pamphlets like hers would not be approved, even insisting that Brashier destroy all copies of her pamphlet. ...

Read more here. This sounds like pure viewpoint discrimination on the part of the college. Perhaps a civil rights lawsuit and some punitive damages may enlighten these college administrators as to the free speech rights of students.

Surge in "Suburban Survivalists"

From AP, via Yahoo News:
SAN DIEGO – Six months ago, Jim Wiseman didn't even have a spare nutrition bar in his kitchen cabinet.

Now, the 54-year-old businessman and father of five has a backup generator, a water filter, a grain mill and a 4-foot-tall pile of emergency food tucked in his home in the expensive San Diego suburb of La Jolla.

Wiseman isn't alone. Emergency supply retailers and military surplus stores nationwide have seen business boom in the past few months as an increasing number of Americans spooked by the economy rush to stock up on gear that was once the domain of hardcore survivalists.

These people snapping up everything from water purification tablets to thermal blankets shatter the survivalist stereotype: they are mostly urban professionals with mortgages, SUVs, solid jobs and a twinge of embarrassment about their newfound hobby.

From teachers to real estate agents, these budding emergency gurus say the dismal economy has made them prepare for financial collapse as if it were an oncoming Category 5 hurricane. They worry about rampant inflation, runs on banks, bare grocery shelves and widespread power failures that could make taps run dry. ...

More here. I wouldn't describe what the folks in the article are doing as a "hobby". What they're doing is probably no more a "hobby" for them than stocking up for a hurricane or natural disaster is a hobby. Rather, these folks have a desire to prepare for what they see as the potential consequences of further and more severe economic turmoil.

Personally, I don't talk about my emergency preparations to newspaper reporters. Or other strangers. But that's just me.

Gun Rights News Roundup

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

[Ohio] Police layoffs lead to surge in gun purchases (hat tip to reader Jim P.):
The first round of Toledo police layoffs, in which 75 officers were let go, may already be having an affect on gun ownership.

"I just don't feel safe with the amount they're laying off," says Jonna Ewing. "I think it's going to be a longer respond time."

She is spending the day at a conceal carry class. She's been thinking of getting a gun for awhile, but feels now's the time due to the recent layoffs. ...

[Ohio] Concealed carry licenses surge:
The Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray (D) has released the concealed handgun license (CHL) statistics for the first quarter of 2009. The demand for concealed carry licenses has been torrid. It appears that a lot of new gun owners are not content to leave their weapon locked up at home; they want to carry it for self defense.

The first quarter in 2009 continued the trend of increasing demand at an increasing rate. The 16,323 regular licenses issues was a whopping 139% increase over the same period a year earlier and was the second quarter in a row that demand more than doubled compared with the prior year. There were an additional 4,906 licenses renewed during the quarter, which is approximately 75% of the licenses expiring during the period. Add in another 41 Temporary Emergency Licenses (TELs), and Ohio Sheriffs issued a whopping 21,248 licenses in the first three months of 2009. That is more licenses than were issued for the entire year in 2006!

Demand for licenses is nearing the record set during the initial surge of applications when Ohio's concealed carry law took effect in 2004, and 2009 is on pace to become the busiest year ever for licenses issued. Over 326 people per work-day picked up a CHL. (And many sheriffs' offices only process applications three days per week.) ...

[Wisconsin] Handgun purchase fees likely to increase:
Background-check fees on handgun purchases would increase less than Gov. Jim Doyle wanted, under a proposal approved by the Legislature's budget committee.

The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 Tuesday to increase the fee from $8 to $13. Doyle had wanted to raise it to $30.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature must approve the $5 fee increase before it takes effect.

Republicans criticized it as unfairly taxing people who are legally buying guns. ...

[Texas] Senate passes gun rights resolution:
AUSTIN - The Texas Senate passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 54 by State Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) to express opposition to federal legislation infringing on the individual right to keep and bear arms.

“I filed this resolution to reassert our constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” said Estes. “The Second Amendment is fundamental to the founding of our republic and a cornerstone to our personal freedoms.”

The resolution reasserts our “right to keep and bear arms to protect oneself, one’s family, and one’s possessions from either the lawlessness of other persons or the tyranny of the government.” ...

[New York] Bullet bill drawing heavy fire:
ALBANY — Some 200 people jammed into the County Legislature chambers Tuesday night, nearly all to send a message to legislators that a proposed law requiring gun shops to register ammunition sales won't stop crime but could halt re-election bids.

"The people of your towns, villages and cities are fed up with politics as usual, taxes and politicians who don't listen ...," said Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and an NRA board member, to thunderous applause. "Thank you for pushing a ludicrous gun control issue that has finally helped me rally gun owners."

King estimated there are "35,000 voters in this county who are motivated gun owners."

Local Law A is one of the most controversial pieces of legislation to come before the 39-member legislature in some time. All but a handful of the nearly 50 speakers at the public hearing turned a thumbs down on the measure. ...

[Massachusetts] More crime control, not gun control, needed:
If the intent of the Gun Control Act of 1998 was to discourage the sport of hunting and competitive target shooting and to disarm Massachusetts citizens, it must be considered a howling success. In 10 years since its passage, the number of licensed gun owners has decreased from 1,500,000 to 220,000, an 85 percent drop, according to figures provided by the by the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee. Well done!

If the intent was to reduce crime, then that law must be considered a miserable failure. Based on incidents per 100,000, gun-related homicides are up 68 percent, assault related gun injuries up 72 percent, assault related hospital discharges up 160 percent, gun assault Emergency Dept visits up 222 percent and gun assault outpatient observations up 538 percent. Keep in mind that these increases occurred when there were 1,280,000 fewer licensed gun owners in the state.

In addition to not curbing gun crime, the legal gun owners have had to bear the brunt of additional costs and inconvenience, not to mention the constant character assignation that licensed gun owners receive. There appears to be a misconception that has been instilled into the public that everyone who owns a gun is suspect and is one to be feared. ...

The Sotomayor Rules

From the "Do as I say, not as I do" files, comes this WSJ op-ed on the Sotomayor nomination:
President Barack Obama has laid down his ground rules for the debate over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. The big question now is whether Republicans agree to play by rules that neither Mr. Obama nor his party have themselves followed.

Ground Rule No. 1, as decreed by the president, is that this is to be a discussion primarily about Judge Sotomayor's biography, not her qualifications. The media gurus complied, with inspiring stories of how she was born to Puerto Rican immigrants, how she was raised by a single mom in a Bronx housing project, how she went on to Princeton and then Yale. In the years that followed she presumably issued a judicial opinion here or there, but whatever.

The president, after all, had taken great pains to explain that this is more than an American success story. Rather, it is Judge Sotomayor's biography that uniquely qualifies her to sit on the nation's highest bench -- that gives her the "empathy" to rule wisely. Judge Sotomayor agrees: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life," she said in 2001.

If so, perhaps we can expect her to join in opinions with the wise and richly experienced Clarence Thomas. That would be the same Justice Thomas who lost his father, and was raised by his mother in a rural Georgia town, in a shack without running water, until he was sent to his grandfather. The same Justice Thomas who had to work every day after school, though he was not allowed to study at the Savannah Public Library because he was black. The same Justice Thomas who became the first in his family to go to college and receive a law degree from Yale.

By the president's measure, the nation couldn't find a more empathetic referee than Justice Thomas. And yet here's what Mr. Obama had to say last year when Pastor Rick Warren asked him about the Supreme Court: "I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation."

In other words, nine months ago Mr. Obama thought that the primary qualification for the High Court was the soundness of a nominee's legal thinking, or at least that's what Democrats have always stressed when working against a conservative judge. Throughout the Bush years, it was standard Democratic senatorial practice to comb through every last opinion, memo, job application and college term paper, all with an aim of creating a nominee "too extreme" or "unqualified" to sit on the federal bench.

Mr. Obama knows this, as he took part in it, joining a Senate minority who voted against both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. Mr. Obama also understands a discussion of Judge Sotomayor's legal thinking means a discussion about "judicial activism" -- a political loser. In a day when voters routinely rise up to rebuke their activist courts on issues ranging from gay marriage to property rights, few red-state Democrats want to go there. Moreover, a number of Judge Sotomayor's specific legal opinions -- whether on racial preferences, or gun restrictions -- put her to the left of most Americans. ...

Read the rest here. The far Left, in cahoots with their media lapdogs, are masters of the politics of personal destruction (see, e.g., Joe the Plumber, Sarah Palin). Let's see if the Right can mount a principled and spirited attack without resorting to such tactics.

Report: "Gun free" zones site of most mass murders

Via Buckeye Firearms Association, on a mainstream media news report on the perils of "gun free" zones:
... The other statistic that emerged from a study of active killers is that they almost exclusively seek out "gun free" zones for their attacks. In most states, concealed handguns are prohibited at schools and on college campuses even for those with permits. Many malls and workplaces also place signs at their entrances prohibiting firearms on the premises.

Now some tacticians believe the signs themselves may be an invitation to the active killers.

The psychological profile of a mass murderer indicates he is looking to inflict the most casualties as quickly as possible. Also, the data show most active killers have no intention of surviving the event. They may select schools and shopping malls because of the large number of defenseless victims and the virtual guarantee no on the scene one is armed.
We also conducted our own analysis of mass murders in the U.S. The vast majority occurred in schools or on college campuses where firearms are banned as a matter of state statutes. Others took place in post offices where firearms are banned as a matter of federal law. Most of the rest took place in shopping malls or other businesses where the owners posted signs prohibiting firearm possession by anyone including those with CCW permits.

In some states, like Ohio, those signs have the force of law and violators are prosecuted under the relevant statute. In other states, like Texas, the signs are considered trespass notices and violators are first asked to leave, then they are arrested for trespass if they decline (of course, if your weapon is visible, it's no longer concealed and there are other potential legal consequences).

Based on data from the SEALE study, an analysis by TDI, and our own painstaking research, we are able to say definitively that most "active killer" shootings have occurred in so-called "gun free" zones. The experts who say they may be "invitations" are also John Benner and Ron Borsch who have six decades of law enforcement experience and training between them. [emphasis added] ...

I know, stating the obvious for most of my readers. Still, it's unusual to see such candor in a mainstream media news story. Usually, such inconvenient facts are covered up to promote the mainstream media's dangerous and dishonest anti-gun bias.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

French music lessons

Tonight's musical interlude, Paris edition (sorta NSFW):

I love Paris, it's one of my favorite cities. Now you know why. :)

The Casbah of Rotterdam

From the Netherlands, and its ongoing Islamization:
In Feyenoord, veiled women can be seen everywhere, darting like a flash through the streets of the neighborhood. They avoid any sort of contact, even eye contact, especially with men. Feyenoord is the size of a city, and there are seventy nationalities coexisting there. It is an area that lives on subsidies and residential construction, and it is here that it is most obvious that Holland – with all of its rules against discrimination and all of its moral indignation – is a completely segregated society.

Rotterdam is new, having been bombed twice by the Luftwaffe during the second world war. Like Amsterdam, it is below sea level, but unlike the capital it does not enjoy an image of reckless abandon. In Rotterdam, it is the Arab shops selling halal food that dominate the cityscape, not the neon lights of the prostitutes. Everywhere are casbah-cafes, travel agencies offering flights to Rabat and Casablanca, posters expressing solidarity with Hamas, or offering affordable Dutch language lessons.

It is the second-largest city in the country, a poor city, but also the economic engine with its huge port, the most important in Europe. Most of the population are immigrants, and the city has the tallest and most imposing mosque in Europe. Sixty percent of the foreigners who arrive in Holland come here to live. The most striking thing when one arrives in the city by train are the enormous and fascinating mosques framed by the vibrant green, luxuriant, wooded, watery countryside, like an alien presence compared to the rest. They call it "Eurabia." The Turkish Mevlana mosque is imposing. It has the tallest minarets in Europe, even higher than the stadium of the Feyenoord soccer team.

Many of the neighborhoods in Rotterdam are captive to the darkest, most violent form of Islamism. Pim Fortuyn's house stands out like a pearl in a sea of chador and niqab. It is at number 11 Burgerplein, behind the train station. Every now and then someone comes to put flowers in front of the home of the professor who was murdered in Amsterdam on May 6, 2002. Someone else leaves a card: "In Holland everything is tolerated, except for the truth." A millionaire named Chris Tummesen bought Pim Fortuyn's house so that it would remain intact. The evening before his murder Pim was nervous, and had said on television that a climate of demonization had been created against him and his ideas. And his fears came true, when he was shot in the head five times by Volkert van der Graaf, a militant of the animal rights left, scrawny, head shaved, eyes dark, dressed like an environmental purist in a handmade shirt, sandals, and goat's wool socks, a strict vegetarian, "a guy impatient to change the world," his friends say.

Not long ago in downtown Rotterdam, funerary photos of Geert Wilders were placed under a tree, with a candle to commemorate his upcoming death. Today Wilders is the most popular politician in the city. He is the heir of Fortuyn, the homosexual, Catholic, ex-Markist professor who had formed his own party to save the country from Islamization. At his funeral, only the absence of Queen Beatrice kept the farewell to the "divine Pim" from becoming a funeral fit for a king. Before his death they made a monster of him (one Dutch minister called him an "untermensch," an inferior man in Nazi parlance), afterward they idolized him. The prostitutes of Amsterdam left a wreath of flowers in his honor beneath the National Monument in Dam Square, a memorial to the victims of World War II.

Three months ago, "The Economist," a weekly publication far from Wilders' anti-Islamic ideas, spoke of Rotterdam as a "Eurabian nightmare." For most of the Dutch who live there, Islamism is now a threat greater than the Delta Plan, the complicated system of dikes that prevents flooding from the sea, like the flood in 1953 that killed two thousand people. The picturesque town of Schiedam, part of the greater Rotterdam area, has always been a jewel in the Dutch imagination. Then the fairy tale glow faded, when in the newspapers three years ago it became the city of Farid A., the Islamist who made death threats against Wilders and Somali dissident Ayaan Hirsi Ali. For six years, Wilders has lived under 24-hour police protection.

Muslim lawyers in Rotterdam also want to change the rules of the courtroom, asking to be allowed to remain seated when the judge enters. They recognize Allah alone. The lawyer Mohammed Enait recently refused to stand when the magistrates enter the courtroom, saying that "Islam teaches that all men are equal." The court of Rotterdam has recognized Enait's right to remain seated: "There is no legal obligation requiring Muslim lawyers to stand in front of the court, insofar as this action is in contrast with the dictates of the Islamic faith." Enait, the head of the legal office Jairam Advocaten, has explained that "he considers all men equal, and does not acknowledge any form of deference toward anyone." All men, but not all women. Enait is well known for his refusal to shake hands with women, and has repeatedly said he would prefer them to wear the burqa. And there are many burqas on the streets of Rotterdam. ...

Read the rest here. Will Europeans fight for their culture? Will they demand that Muslim men treat women with the same respect expected of European men? Will European governments demand that Western law, not Sharia, be the law of the land for all in Europe?

Early retirement claims increase dramatically

So says the Los Angeles Times:
Instead of seeing older workers staying on the job longer as the economy has worsened, the Social Security system is reporting a major surge in early retirement claims that could have implications for the financial security of millions of baby boomers.

Since the current federal fiscal year began Oct. 1, claims have been running 25% ahead of last year, compared with the 15% increase that had been projected as the post-World War II generation reaches eligibility for early retirement, according to Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration.

Many of the additional retirements are probably laid-off workers who are claiming Social Security early, despite reduced benefits, because they are under immediate financial pressure, Goss and other analysts believe.

The numbers upend expectations that older Americans who sustained financial losses in the recession would work longer to rebuild their nest eggs. In a December poll sponsored by CareerBuilder, 60% of workers older than 60 said they planned to postpone retirement.

Goss said it remained unclear whether the uptick in retirements would accelerate or abate in the months ahead. But another wave of older workers may opt for early retirement when they exhaust unemployment benefits late this year or early in 2010, he noted. ...

Article here. A good chuck of the increase is probably due to laid off older workers with pressing financial needs, as the article mentions. But perhaps part of the calculus for some is the growing realization that Social Security, like Medicare, is on a path to insolvency, and thus they should get whatever benefits they can before the system goes bust or (more likely) benefits get cut. Basically, they want to get back at least what they put into the system.

Sotomayor vs. the Second Amendment.

Dave Kopel has a post over at Volokh on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and her ruling in Maloney v. Cuomo:
Maloney v. Cuomo is a 2009 per curiam opinion of the Second Circuit, upholding New York State's complete ban on the possession of nunchaku. New York is the only state in the nation with such an extreme ban.

In the opinion by Judges Pooler, Sotomayor, and Katzmann, the per curiam judges first cite Presser v. Illinois (1886) for the proposition that the Second Amendment directly applies only to the federal government, and not to the states. They also cite a more recent Second Circuit case which relies on Presser, for the same proposition. Bach v. Pataki, 408 F.3d 75 (2d Cir. 2005).

In this regard, Judges Sotomayor et al. are plainly correct. However, they seriously misconstrue the Second Amendment itself, when they write: "The Supreme Court recently held that this confers an individual right on citizens to keep and bear arms." To the contrary, as the Supreme Court explained at length in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Second Amendment does not "confer" any right; the right to arms pre-exists the Constitution. The Second Amendment protects but does not create that pre-existing right. As the Heller Court detailed, the fact that the right to arms is pre-constitutional is elaborated in the 1875 Supreme Court case, United States v. Cruikshank.

[UPDATE: Oren's post, above, accurately points out that Heller itself uses the word "confer", so even though the word is inconsistent with Heller's own explication of the right to arms as a pre-existing right, the Maloney opinion can't be faulted for using the same word.]
In other words, the Second Amendment is not "a fundamental right." The Sotomayor panel could have offered a legal explanation for why (in the panel's opinion) nunchaku are not "arms" within the meaning of the Second Amendment, and therefore a mere rational basis test for nunchaku bans is appropriate. But the Sotomayor court did not do so. To the contrary, the Sotomayor per curiam opinion treats any Second Amendment claim as not involving "a fundamental right." ...

More here. If you're really interested, there's lots more commentary on Judge Sotomayor over at Volokh.

At first blush it would appear that Judge Sotomayor will likely not be the least "empathetic" to the plight of gun owners, suffering under myriad and complex gun control laws, and in some places complete bans on exercising their rights. Given her apparent leftist ideology, and the fact that she is a product of the New York City anti-gun culture, this perhaps comes as little surprise.

So much for her saying that "a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." Exactly what "richness" of experience does growing up, working and living in one of the most anti-gun hellholes in the country provide her when it comes to understanding the importance to our Republic of the right to keep and bear arms, a right exercised by an estimated eighty million Americans?

Gun Rights News Roundup

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

[New York] Proposed ammo registration law draws protest:
ALBANY - Demonstrators called the event a civil rights rally Tuesday night.

"We don't want our privacy violated to be in this database. We don't want local government or law enforcement knowing what we're buying, how much we're buying," said rally organizer Brian Belz.

They are against a proposed law in Albany County that would require people to show their gun license when buying ammunition for handguns, and a driver's license or other ID for ammunition for rifles. ...

[Ohio] Still no blood running in the streets:
The last state mandated report from the Ohio attorney general showed nearly 143,000 concealed handgun licenses had been issued in the Buckeye State since the program's inception in 2004. Considering the substantial increase for 2008 over the previous year, it is safe to assume that the number is over 150,000 by now.

When concealed carry was being considered, those opposed to such licensing claimed that it would lead to shootouts over soccer matches and fender benders, that CCW holders would be dropping their guns at the mall leading to accidental discharges, that cops would be killed during routine traffic stops and that violence in Ohio would skyrocket. Five years later, that still hasn't happened. So why haven't more guns led to more violence? ...

New York Times on the National Parks carry law:
... A new law passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last week will allow guns in the parks and national wildlife refuges. Attached as an amendment to an overhaul of credit card rules, the law will take effect next year. Fine-print rules, allowing both concealed and openly carried weapons, are now being written at the Department of the Interior, which runs the parks system.

How gun owners and weekend warrior hikers can find accommodation on this new trail is only part of the story. Parks officials are also scratching their heads about how the new rules will affect enforcement of laws on things like gun permits, which vary widely and will still hold sway even on federal park lands, and wildlife poaching. Some people believe that the change will be immense, others that it will not be noticeable at all.
Park rangers and volunteers said they were not sure whether gun possession in the park would increase or not when the new law takes effect, partly because they have no idea how many visitors are illegally carrying concealed weapons now. Hardly anyone is ever caught, though current law requires owners to lock or store their guns in a trunk or glove box while in the parks.

“If a person is going to bring a weapon in here, they’ll do it whether there’s a law or not,” said Major Sansam, a seasonal volunteer at Rocky Mountain National Park, the seventh-most popular in the system, with about 2.8 million visits last year. ...

128 Days later: It can always get worse

Satire, from Reason TV:

Be afraid, be very afraid. :)

Chrysler dealership closings: What are the odds?

From Doug Ross' Journal, on the possibility that the Obama administration selected Chrysler dealerships for termination based on partisan political considerations rather than purely economic ones (no! say it ain't so!):
... Dealers on the closing list donated millions to Republicans, $200 for Obama

The initial pass at the list of shuttered dealers showed they had donated, in the aggregate, millions to Republican candidates and PACs and a total of $200 to Barack Obama.

In fact, I have thus far found only a single Obama donor ($200 from Jeffrey Hunter of Waco, Texas) on the closing list.

Another review of all 789 closing dealerships, by WND, found $450,000 donated to GOP presidential candidates; $7,970 to Sen. Hillary Clinton; $2,200 to John Edwards and $450 to Barack Obama.

Now, and this is important, Chrysler claimed that its formula for determining whether a dealership should close or not included "sales volume, customer service scores, local market share and average household income in the immediate area."

Dealer Jim Anderer told Fox News' Neil Cavuto he can't comprehend how his dealership can be among those killed: he stated that his sales volume ranking is in the top 2 percent of all dealers.

Furthermore, Anderer says explanations aren't forthcoming. "They won't tell us. They seem to be running for cover right now because they won't give us a solid explanation. They come up with all these reasons, but none of them seem to make sense... This is insanity. The government is stealing my business. And they're telling me there's nothing I can do about it... There was no process that you could put your finger on and say, 'Hey, we cut 25 percent of the lowest performing dealers.' They didn't do that. Nobody will give us a real clear explanation of the formula that they came up with."

The odds of a non-partisan process being employed can best be illustrated by RLJ.

The Mysterious Case of RLJ

In Smith's research, one company kept popping up on the list of dealerships remaining open. The company is RLJ-McLarty-Landers, which owns six Chrysler dealerships. All six dealerships are on "the safe list."

RLJ's owners "are Steve Landers (long-time car dealer, 4th-generation dealer), Thomas "Mack" McLarty (former Chief of Staff for President Clinton), and Robert Johnson (founder of Black Entertainment Television and co-owner of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats)... McLarty campaigned for Obama in 2008, and Johnson has given countless amounts of money to Democrats over the years." ...

Read it here. Lots more details at the link.

Buffett: The Master of Money

Interesting article (book review, really) in The New Republic by Michael Lewis on the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett:
... In describing how Buffett's mind works, and why it is so well suited to his chosen career, Schroeder is particularly good. A shrewd evaluator of businesses and the people who ran them, Buffett turned himself, at a young age, into a kind of odds-calculating machine. As Schroeder puts it, "he tended to extrapolate mathematical probabilities over time to the inevitable (and often correct) conclusion that if something can go wrong it eventually will." This habit of mind informed not just his investment decisions but also much else--for instance, his obsession with nuclear proliferation. In Buffett's mind, it is not a question of if but when a nuclear bomb explodes in a big city, and the goal should be not to prevent it but to reduce the odds, and put the terrible day off for as long as possible.

To his natural gifts as a bookie Buffett coupled an incredibly keen sense of self-preservation. He seems always to have been something of a physical and emotional coward. He is actually less wary in his financial life than he is outside of it. He avoids social conflict, unless there is money on the line, and also all sorts of new experiences. His long-time partner Charlie Munger likes to call Buffett a "learning machine," but there are whole swaths of human activity he actively resists learning anything at all about, such as the entire high-tech industry. He confines himself to the diet of an eight-year-old, refusing to eat anything much beyond spaghetti, hamburgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Schroeder describes a bizarre scene in which Katharine Graham escorted Buffett to dinner at the Manhattan apartment of Sony Chairman Akio Morita. Japanese chefs served plate after plate that Buffett left completely untouched. "By the end of fifteen courses, he still had not eaten a bite," writes Schroeder. "The Moritas could not have been more polite, which added to his humiliation. He was desperate to escape back to Kay's apartment, where popcorn and peanuts and strawberry ice cream awaited him. 'It was the worst,' he says about the meal he did not eat. 'I've had others like it but it was by far the worst. I will never eat Japanese food again.'" Buffett ate what he needed to eat to remain alive--and learned what he needed to learn to invest shrewdly.

Finally, and most critically, Schroeder stresses Buffett's obsession with money, which he famously views less as a unit of exchange than a store of value. Kay Graham once asked him for a dime to make a phone call and Buffett, finding only a quarter in his pocket, went off to make change. In telling the tale of Buffett's rise, Schroeder returns over and over to his pathological stinginess. As rich as Buffett became, he never stopped measuring himself by how much money he had. He tells Schroeder that he pretty much measures his whole life by Berkshire Hathaway's book value, and the reader can't help wondering if that is ultimately how he measures other people, too. "He was preoccupied with money," Schroeder remarks. "He wanted to amass a lot of it, and saw it as a competitive game. If asked to give up some of his money, Warren responded like a dog fiercely guarding its bone, or even as though he had been attacked. His struggle to let go of the smallest amounts of money was so apparent that it was as if the money possessed him, rather than the other way around."

Buffett's single-minded pursuit of money seems to have left him with little interest in anything else. His detachment from his children became a running joke in the Buffett family. Schroeder quotes a friend's description of the first Mrs. Warren Buffett as "sort of a single mother. ... He was so used to her attention and remained so undomesticated that once, when she was nauseous and asked him to bring her a basin, he came back with a colander. She pointed out that it had holes; he rattled around the kitchen and returned triumphantly bearing the colander on a cookie sheet. After that she knew he was hopeless." In the late 1970s Susie Buffett moved to San Francisco and pursued other relationships, and even told one lover that she would seek a divorce. In the bargain she persuaded her housekeeper back in Omaha, an attractive younger woman named Astrid Menks, more or less to replace her as Buffett's caretaker. Buffett apparently leapt rather more enthusiastically into this arrangement than his wife expected. "Susie herself was shocked," writes Schroeder. "This wasn't what she had in mind when she stressed to her husband that they both had needs. But it might have been predicted. Warren had searched his whole life for the perfect Daisy Mae, and whatever he wanted Astrid did: buy the Pepsi, do the laundry, take care of the house, give him head rubs, cook the meals, answer the telephone, and provide all the companionship he needed."

Through it all, Buffett maintained his desire to present to the outside world a life simple and ordinary. He only ever made one public statement on his polygamous family arrangements ("[I]f you knew the people involved, you'd see that it suited all of us quite well"), though he added to Schroeder that "they both need to give, and I'm a great receiver, so it works for them." His life was structured to maximize the time and energy he could devote to Berkshire Hathaway, and he seems to have spent very little time questioning that structure. From time to time he seems to have backed away from his life with what sound like tiny spasms of self-doubt. As early as 1970, he wrote to his shareholders that "I don't want to be totally occupied with outpacing a market rabbit all my life." But always he takes a deep breath and waits for the feeling to pass. ...

Read it here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yet another search engine

Tonight's preview of new search engine Wolfram|Alpha, whose logo says it's a "computational knowledge engine", and which purports to make finding statistics and computable data available on the web.

From the site's description:
Wolfram|Alpha's long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.

Wolfram|Alpha aims to bring expert-level knowledge and capabilities to the broadest possible range of people—spanning all professions and education levels. Our goal is to accept completely free-form input, and to serve as a knowledge engine that generates powerful results and presents them with maximum clarity.

Try it yourself here.

Looks like the search engine still needs some work. For example, I had no luck finding the violent crime rate in New York City, Boston, Washington DC, or California.

Florida Gov. Crist vetos raid of CCW permit funds

From the Miami Herald:
TALLAHASSEE -- Breaking a pledge against raising taxes, Gov. Charlie Crist signed Florida's $66.5 billion budget into law Wednesday and barely used his veto pen.

Crist rejected a pay cut for state workers earning more than $45,000, and he vetoed a measure to take $6 million from a special spending account that processes concealed weapons permits.
Crist described his decision to veto a $6 million raid on the weapons-licensing trust fund as a way to protect Second Amendment rights. Yet Crist had asked legislators in February to take even more money from the trust fund, $8 million.

Asked to explain his change of heart over the trust fund, Crist said he was convinced by Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, whose agency oversees the licensure of concealed weapons, applications for which have skyrocketed. Crist described the veto as a ``safety issue.''

The NRA also strongly lobbied against the trust-fund cut by besieging the governor's office with e-mails from nearly 20,000 gun owners. ...

Article here. Looks like Gov. Crist knows which way the political winds are blowing, as he chooses to side with gun owners. Crist is running for the U.S. Senate next year, and he knows better than to piss off an important constituency like gun owners.

The Sotomayor Factor

With President Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court, inquiring minds are wondering about the implications of her appointment (if, as appears likely, she is confirmed by the Senate) on Second Amendment and other issues. Here's what some are saying:

Ken Blackwell: President Obama declares war on gun owners with Supreme Court pick:
President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a declaration of war against America’s gun owners and the Second Amendment to our Constitution. If gun owners mobilize and unite, it’s possible (though unlikely) to stop this radical nominee.

Last year the Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision in D.C. v. Heller, holding that the Second Amendment right to bear arms applies to individual citizens in their private lives. The ruling marked a turning point in gun rights in this country.

In the past year, the biggest question courts now face is whether the Second Amendment applies to the states. That may sound crazy, but the reality is that the Bill of Rights only controls the federal government, it doesn’t apply directly to states or cities. Only the parts of the Bill of Rights that are “incorporated” through the Fourteenth Amendment apply to the states.

Since the Heller decision, only two federal appeals courts have written on the Second Amendment. That’s six judges out of about 170. Of those six, three said the Second Amendment does apply to the states. And those judges were out of the liberal Ninth Circuit in California, and included a judge appointed by Bill Clinton and another appointed by Jimmy Carter. — Even leftist judges can get this.

But not Judge Sonia Sotomayor. She is one of only three federal appellate judges in America to issue a court opinion saying that the Second Amendment does not apply to states. The case was Maloney v. Cuomo, and it came down this past January.

That means if Chicago, or even the state of Illinois or New York, wants to ban you from owning any guns at all, even in your own house, that’s okay with her. According to Judge Sotomayor, if your state or city bans all guns the way Washington, D.C. did, that’s okay under the Constitution. ...

Reason Magazine: Sotomayor on gun rights and racial preferences:
President Barack Obama's announcement that he wants federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter comes as something less than a shock. For months, Sotomayor's name has topped most lists of potential candidates. With her compelling personal story, which stretches from a Bronx, New York housing project to Yale Law School to the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Sotomayor's likely appointment as the Court's first Hispanic justice nicely complements Obama's own "only in America" narrative.

But when it comes to her judicial philosophy, there are some real causes for concern. In particular, on the hot-button issues of affirmative action and Second Amendment rights, her record suggests a decidedly illiberal vision of constitutional law.
Equally troubling is Sotomayor's record on the Second Amendment. This past January, the Second Circuit issued its opinion in Maloney v. Cuomo, which Sotomayor joined, ruling that the Second Amendment does not apply against state and local governments. At issue was a New York ban on various weapons, including nunchucks. After last year's District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down DC's handgun ban, attention turned to whether state and local gun control laws might violate the Second Amendment as well.

"It is settled law," Sotomayor and the Second Circuit held, "that the Second Amendment applies only to limitations the federal government seeks to impose on this right." But contrast that with the Ninth Circuit's decision last month in Nordyke v. King, which reached a very different conclusion, one that matches the Second Amendment's text, original meaning, and history:
We therefore conclude that the right to keep and bear arms is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition." Colonial revolutionaries, the Founders, and a host of commentators and lawmakers living during the first one hundred years of the Republic all insisted on the fundamental nature of the right. It has long been regarded as the "true palladium of liberty." Colonists relied on it to assert and to win their independence, and the victorious Union sought to prevent a recalcitrant South from abridging it less than a century later. The crucial role this deeply rooted right has played in our birth and history compels us to recognize that it is indeed fundamental, that it is necessary to the Anglo-American conception of ordered liberty that we have inherited. We are therefore persuaded that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment and applies it against the states and local governments.

This split between the two circuits means that the Supreme Court is almost certain to take up the question in the near future. What role might soon-to-be Justice Sotomayor play? As gun rights scholar and Independence Institute Research Director Dave Kopel told me via email, Sotomayor's opinions "demonstrate a profound hostility to Second Amendment rights. If we follow Senator Obama's principle that Senators should vote against judges whose views on legal issues are harmful, then it is hard to see how someone who supports Second Amendment rights could vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor." ...

Wall Street Journal: The 'Empathy' Nominee:
... In a speech published in the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal in 2002, Judge Sotomayor offered her own interpretation of this jurisprudence. "Justice [Sandra Day] O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases," she declared. "I am . . . not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, . . . there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

We quote at such length because, even more than her opinions, these words are a guide to Ms. Sotomayor's likely behavior on the High Court. She is a judge steeped in the legal school of identity politics. This is not the same as taking justifiable pride in being the first Puerto Rican-American nominated to the Court, as both she and the President did yesterday. Her personal and family stories are admirable. Italian-Americans also swelled at the achievement of Justice Antonin Scalia, as Jewish-Americans did at the nomination of Benjamin Cardozo.

But these men saw themselves as judges first and ethnic representatives second. Judge Sotomayor's belief is that a "Latina woman" is by definition a superior judge to a "white male" because she has had more "richness" in her struggle. The danger inherent in this judicial view is that the law isn't what the Constitution says but whatever the judge in the "richness" of her experience comes to believe it should be. ...

Washington Times: A judge too far:
With his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court, President Obama has abandoned all pretense of being a post-partisan president. While he may like to think of himself as a thoughtful moderate soaring above the issues that divide America, his actions reveal what hides under that hopeful lining.

Presidents usually nominate judges that espouse their philosophy. So what does this nomination tell us about Mr. Obama's true colors?

Even the liberal establishment worries that Judge Sotomayor tilts too far to the left. New Republic essayist Jeffrey Rosen reports that fellow liberals who have watched or worked with her closely "expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and... [they have said] she is 'not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench.' "

A suspiciously high number of her decisions have been overruled by higher courts. Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network said that record shows "she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court." ...

Investor's Business Daily: Oppose 'empathy', defend the Law:
... Add to her ethnicity Sotomayor's rise from inner-city poverty after her father's death during her childhood, the White House's shrewd highlighting of her education at Catholic schools, plus her lifelong struggle against diabetes and it's hard not to find the political math coming out in her favor.

But Hispanic ethnicity didn't stop Senate Democrats, then in the minority, from spending 28 months successfully blocking Honduran-born Miguel Estrada's 2001 nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by President Bush.

Estrada's life story was inspiring too. Knowing little English, he immigrated to America at 17 to join his mother after his parents' divorce. A few years later, he was graduating with honors from both Columbia and Harvard Law.

A November 2001 internal memo from the staff of current Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., explained that Estrada was "dangerous" owing to his "minimal paper trail, he is Latino and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment."

Consider the blatantly racist analysis — "he is Latino." In other words, conservative plus nonwhite equals "dangerous." It was exactly that kind of thinking that led Senate Democrats to turn the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings into an X-rated circus in 1991.

By contrast, a spirited effort against Judge Sotomayor would be in spite of her being Hispanic, not because of it, as was the case with the Democrats' assault on Estrada — the first-ever filibuster of a Court of Appeals nominee. ...

Thomas Sowell: Sotomayor: "empathy" in action:
... Much is being made of the fact that Sonia Sotomayor had to struggle to rise in the world. But stop and think.

If you were going to have open heart surgery, would you want to be operated on by a surgeon who was chosen because he had to struggle to get where he is or by the best surgeon you could find-- even if he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and had every advantage that money and social position could offer?

If it were you who was going to be lying on that operating table with his heart cut open, you wouldn't give a tinker's damn about somebody's struggle or somebody else's privileges.

The Supreme Court of the United States is in effect operating on the heart of our nation-- the Constitution and the statutes and government policies that all of us must live under.
Nothing demonstrates the fatal dangers from judicial "empathy" more than Judge Sotomayor's decision in a 2008 case involving firemen who took an exam for promotion. After the racial mix of those who passed that test turned out to be predominantly white, with only a few blacks and Hispanics, the results were thrown out.

When this action by the local civil service authorities was taken to court and eventually reached the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Sotomayor did not give the case even the courtesy of a spelling out of the issues. She backed those who threw out the test results. Apparently she didn't have "empathy" with those predominantly white males who had been cheated out of promotions they had earned.

Fellow 2nd Circuit Court judge Jose Cabranes commented on the short shrift given to the serious issues in this case. It so happens that he too is Hispanic, but apparently he does not decide legal issues on the basis of "empathy" or lack thereof. ...

Gun Rights News Roundup

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

[Colorado] Demand for guns up:
GREELEY - Signs that segments of the nation’s economy struggling are nearly endless, but the sales of guns is not one of them.

Sales of handguns, rifles and shotguns remain high, area dealers say, and the surge in sales following the results of the November election continue.

Zeke Garretson, owner of Garretson’s Sports Center, 3817 10th St., in Greeley, said sales of guns, particularly handguns, has been steady since late last year. The current buying frenzy, he said, started the day after Barack Obama was elected president. He said he has heard customer after customer explain they are buying weapons ‘‘while they still can’’ or something to that effect. ...

[Florida] Gun lobby fires back at CCW permit funds raid:
TALLAHASSEE -- Despite a huge backlog for gun permits, Florida legislators have signed off on taking $6 million out of a trust fund dedicated to helping process concealed weapon permits.

Gun rights advocates, however, are firing back, calling on Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the move.

Florida’s gun lobby said between the backlog and applications up 60 percent, the timing could not be worse. ...

[Massachusetts] Op-ed: More infringements on the way:
Gov. Deval L. Patrick's recently filed gun control legislation ought to leave most lawful gun owners in Massachusetts' feeling like Al Pacino in The Godfather, Part III: "Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in."

State officials readily admit that Massachusetts already has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation. Now, they have returned to file the "Act to Reduce Firearm Violence," a series of measures that take a scatter-shot approach to reducing gun violence in the state.

We think the act puts too much of a burden on sportsmen and recreational shooters.

A key provision of the bill would limit licensed gun owners from buying more than one gun a month. ...

Anti-gun liberals: Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest:
The positions of most urban liberals on firearms are dumb, dumber and dumbest.

It is dumb to suppose that the way to decrease crime is to make sure all potential victims of violent crime are disarmed. It is dumber yet to believe that a criminal will obey a gun-control law. No bank robber or rapist has ever set out and then stopped and said, "Gosh, I don't have a permit for this weapon, so I guess I'd better not rob that bank or rape that girl." No serial killer has ever said: "Gosh, I can't kill this person with an unregistered weapon. That would be against the law."

The dumbest idea is to suppose that an inanimate object can turn a noncriminal into a criminal. To believe that guns cause crime is as stupid as believing that hammers and saws cause houses. It is the grossest kind of mindless superstition to suppose that some magical qualities of an inanimate object can overpower the human will.

A gun is neither a romantic nor a sinister object. It is just a plain tool, like a hammer, a saw or a router. It can be used for recreation, and it can be used for self-defense. Like a chain saw, it can hurt its owner if the owner is careless or stupid. But the modern firearm is inherently safe. The gun cannot load itself or fire itself. Properly stored and used, it is safer than a stepladder or a swimming pool or an automobile. It is even safer than eating.

Here are the statistics from the National Safety Council: In the year 2000, firearms killed 600 Americans accidentally. That's 600 out of nearly 280 million. Here are the other numbers of accidental fatalities for that year: autos, 43,000; falls, 16,200; poisons, 11,700; drowning, 3,900; ingestion of food or other object, 3,400. The only number of fatalities lower than accidental firearms deaths is that from poison gases – 400. ...

Britain's new hall monitors ... now with police-style powers

From the formerly great Britain:
A growing army of private security guards and town hall snoopers with sweeping police-style powers is being quietly established, the Daily Mail can reveal.

Under a Home Office-run scheme, people such as park wardens, dog wardens, car park attendants and shopping centre guards receive the powers if they undergo training, and pay a small fee to their local police force. [emphasis added]

Their powers include issuing £60 fines for truancy and dropping litter, and being able to demand a person's name and address on the street.

Under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme, the number of civilians wearing a special badge, and a uniform approved by the local chief constable, has rocketed by almost 30 per cent in a year and there are now 1,406.

Critics claim Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is quietly seeking to create a third-tier within the 'policing family', with even less training and accountability than the controversial Police Community Support Officers.

The civilians are known as Accredited Persons, but they have been nicknamed 'Jacqui Smith's Irregulars'. The only significant difference between them and PCSOs is that they do not have the power to detain a suspect. Instead, they have to summon police. ...

Article here. The nanny state continues it's natural progression into the police state.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Not again

Tonight's blonde humor:
Bob, a handsome young man, walked into a sports bar around 9:58 pm. He sat down next to a pretty blonde at the bar and stared up at the TV.

The 10 pm news was coming on. The news crew was covering the story of a man on the ledge of a large building preparing to jump.

The blonde looked at Bob and said, “Do you think he’ll jump?”

Bob said, “You know, I bet he’ll jump.”

The blonde replied, “Well, I bet he won’t.”

Bob placed a $20 bill on the bar and said, “You’re on!”

Just as the blonde placed her money on the bar, the guy on the ledge did a swan dive off the building, falling to his death.

The blonde was very upset, but willingly handed her $20 to Bob, saying, “Fair’s fair. Here’s your money.”

Bob replied, “I can’t take your money. I saw this earlier on the 5 pm news, and so I knew he would jump.”

The blonde replied, “I did too, but didn’t think he’d do it again.”

Bob took the money.


Gun Rights News Roundup

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

[Wisconsin] Progress in the Badger State:
In just the past month, gun rights advocates have managed to do the following, under the noses of the most radical gun hating administration at the federal level, and Jim Doyle and friends in Wisconsin.

One month ago, Attorney General J B Van Hollen said in a memo to law enforcement publicly what has been the law in Wisconsin since forever. Open carry is lawful and is not by itself, disorderly conduct.

His memo has (predictably) prompted talk at the Capitol of a bill to ban open carry. This is good. The people of Wisconsin passed an amendment in 1998 to protect their rights to bear arms for self defense and other lawful purposes. They have been prohibited from carrying a gun concealed for 137 years but since open carry is allowed, the states law and constitution worked well together. If open carry becomes prohibited, it will be impossible for anyone to exercise their constitutionally protected right and the Wisconsin Supreme Court will get to decide which (or perhaps both) law to overturn. This outcome will give some anti-gun democrats serious heartburn because they know your good judgement can’t be trusted (you did elect them after all) but it is not likely to stop them from trying to deny you your rights anyway. You can fix this problem at the polls.

There is also talk of repealing the states preemption law which says local jurisdictions can not create ordinances which are stricter than state law. Well, unconstitutional local ordinances will not stand either, and for the same reasons. This is an opportunity for a few people to sue for civil rights violations in federal court and redistribute some city’s wealth to them self. ...

[Georgia] Open carry arrest prompts lawsuit:
... When the police first stopped and surrounded Mr. Woodard, he asked "What is the problem?" He was told that the problem was that he was "carrying a firearm openly." His attempts to explain the legality of his conduct fell on deaf ears. Ironically, Mr. Woodard was not charged with carrying a weapon openly, but with carrying a concealed weapon.

Because the charge of carrying a concealed weapon is a disqualifier, Mr. Woodard lost his Georgia firearms license, and he was facing two years in jail. The charges against Mr. Woodard were pending for months until the intervention of the Georgia organization GeorgiaCarry.Org and Marietta criminal defense attorney Doug King. The criminal charges have now disappeared, and Mr. Woodard retained Roswell attorney John Monroe to file a federal lawsuit for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Yesteday, Mr. Woodard filed a motion for summary judgment. ...

Democrats beat retreat on gun control (for now):
... Amid the ambitious sweep of the '09 policy agenda, it's easy to overlook the battles that Obama is loath to fight. Case in point: He and the Democrats are notoriously gun-shy. They don't dare clamor for a crackdown on the easy purchase of over-the-counter weaponry, because they have judged the gun-control issue to be a stone-cold political loser, now and forever. On this front in the long-running culture war, they have surrendered and the gun lobby has won.

The White House line is that any fight for the restoration of the assault-weapons ban would distract Congress at a time when the economic and health-care crises deserve top priority. That's true, as far as it goes; tangling with the National Rifle Association, and putting the squeeze on pro-NRA Democratic lawmakers, would require the expenditure of precious political capital.

Obama's reluctance is merely the latest manifestation of Democratic skittishness, stretching back nearly a decade. The party's surrender isn't necessarily rooted in the belief that the gun-control argument lacks merit; rather, the party has made a practical determination that the issue hurts them with blue-collar white guys.who view all gun curbs as akin to confiscation or privacy invasion. ...

[Oklahoma] Guns in parking lots law stands:
A 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that allows Oklahomans to store firearms in locked vehicles parked on company property will stand after the filing deadline passed for further legal appeals, Attorney General Drew Edmondson announced.

Edmondson's office, in partnership with the National Rifle Association (NRA), defended the constitutionality of two Oklahoma gun laws that prohibit businesses from forbidding their employees to store firearms in locked vehicles parked on company property. ...

[Louisiana] Gun, ammo sales tax holiday bill advances:
Gun, ammunition and other hunting-related purchases would be exempt from sales taxes one weekend a year under a bill approved Thursday by the Senate.

The Senate voted 34-0 to establish an annual Second Amendment sales tax holiday the first weekend in September.

The tax break would cover sales between Friday and Sunday.

State and local government would lose about $263,000 in revenue, according to a fiscal note on the measure from lost sales taxes.

State Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, said his Senate Bill 52 had the support of the National Rifle Association and hunting supply stores.

The tax break only applies to consumer purchases. ...

Guns barred in National Parks until Feb. 2010:
The Interior Department says a new law allowing loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges will not take effect until next year.

President Barack Obama signed the gun law Friday as part of a measure creating new rules for the credit card industry. But the Interior Department says that because the credit card law won't take effect until nine months after it is signed, the gun measure also will be delayed. ...

[New York] Ammo registration proposal sparks debate:
ALBANY — One of the most controversial measures to come before the County Legislature in some time is expected to draw an overflow crowd at a public hearing Tuesday night.

At issue is a proposed law that would require gun shops to register sales of ammunition, a measure that has been condemned by gun proponents as a back-door means to register guns and learn what weapons people have. Supporters say it is merely an attempt to close a loophole in state law governing how ammunition is purchased.

In the weeks since the March meeting when proposed Local Law A, gun rights advocates have spoken at public forums before the start of legislature meetings. The measure is sponsored by three Democratic legislators: Phil Steck of Colonie and Wanda Willingham and Doug Bullock, both of Albany.

In advance of this week's hearing, opponents have distributed fliers at guns shops and sportsmen's clubs, and, for the last week, they have taken to the airwaves. ...

[Tennessee] Op-ed by widow of man killed in bar supports restaurant carry bill:
I am Nicole Goeser, widow of Benjamin Felix Goeser. First, I want to say that I love my husband very much and I miss him terribly. He was the most giving, loving, concerned, thoughtful person I have ever met.

My husband was gunned down on April 2 right in front of me at Jonny's Sports Bar on Nolensville Road here in Nashville. There is a very important bill that has passed the House and Senate called the Restaurant Carry Bill. This bill is awaiting Gov. Phil Bredesen's signature.

I support this bill.

I am a permitted gun owner here in the state of Tennessee. If I could have been allowed to carry my gun that night, perhaps I could have saved my wonderful husband (Metro Police have charged Hank Calvin Wise, 43, of W. Main Street in Hendersonville with Benjamin Goeser's death).

I can tell you that the odds would have been more in our favor. I had to leave my gun locked in my car in the parking lot that night because we have a law in place right now that makes innocent people "helpless" and at the mercy of people with horrible intentions. People who have gone through proper training, a complete background check and have the permit should be allowed to carry a concealed gun for their own protection and protection of loved ones as long as they are not under the influence of alcohol. ...

[Colorado] Firearm training classes booked:
More and more people are trying to learn how to use handguns, and at least one local instructor chalks up the interest to fears about the Obama administration.

Another, though, says interest in self-defense started with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has never really abated.

Either way, instructors said, they’re seeing more women joining men in looking for training on how to handle a handgun.

“It used to be about 20 percent” of his students were women, said Linn Armstrong, a National Rifle Association instructor. “After 9/11, it went up to 40 to 45 percent” and has remained at that level, he said.

Randy Jones, also an NRA instructor, said he likewise saw an increase after 9-/1. “And then it leveled off until last fall” after the presidential election,” Jones said.

“I hear people say that,” Armstrong said, though he added that his classes are as crowded as ever.

Either way, Jones said, he’s now booked five to six months out, and there’s no sign of slackening interest. ...

Retired cop asks: Does gun control benefit law enforcement? (lots of comments on his op-ed at the link):
... Gun Control Laws actually have existed for hundreds of years. Of course, in colonial America they were vastly different than they are today. For instance, in colonial Massachusetts, it was required that any citizen traveling more than one mile from home be armed. Get that? It was required that they carry a gun! Can you imagine? In Massachusetts no less?

Today - a couple hundred years and a lot of technological evolution later - the reality of citizens carrying guns isn’t embraced quite as strongly by most state governments and usually not by the federal government. And, although we can all be cynical and wonder what’s really behind the votes, even our current federal government seems to want to avoid gun control issues… for now. Just recently Congress passed a bill that will allow those with concealed carry permits to carry those weapons in federal parks. While this bill may have passed because it was attached to a Credit Card Reform bill, the separate vote taken indicates suprisingly large support for the carry law.

But let us return to the question at hand: do Gun Control Laws benefit law enforcement? ...

[D.C.] Gun case triggers amicus support from ACLU:
Robert Ord says he stays away from the District of Columbia because he fears he will be arrested on a gun charge. The private security officer unsuccessfully sought a declaration in federal court that he is immune from prosecution on D.C. gun laws. His suit was tossed for a lack of standing.

Ord is challenging the dismissal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where the Second Amendment Foundation and the ACLU National Capital Area are participating as amicus curiae in support of Ord, saying his case against the city should move forward. At issue on appeal is whether Ord has standing to sue the District.
The amicus curiae lawyers, Alan Gura of Gura & Possessky and Art Spitzer of the ACLU National Capital Area, say the D.C. Circuit has adopted too narrow a standard to prove standing, effectively limiting access to the courts.

“We think the doors to the courthouse ought to be open to people who have legitimate disputes,” Spitzer says. Gura, who successfully argued in the Supreme Court the landmark Second Amendment case, D.C. v. Heller, says the Ord case is a chance for the D.C. Circuit to “correct its error” in how to show standing. ...

Seattle tries to subvert preemption law

From the Evergreen State:
In the wake of last year's shootings at Seattle's Folklife Festival, Mayor Greg Nickels pledged to ban guns on city property. But except for one public hearing, there's been little sign of activity. Now as the festival kicks off this weekend at Seattle Center, city officials say the new policy is in effect.

When folk music fans arrive at Seattle Center for the festival, they'll see signs posted saying no guns allowed. And that applies even to concealed weapons with legal permits.

Bob Scales is Seattle's senior policy analyst on this issue. He says gun owners will have a few options.

Scales: "They can either take their gun and either take it home or store it legally in their car. Or if they want to store it at Seattle Center they're making safe storage devices available."

There are lock boxes in Key Arena, where gun owners can leave their guns until they're ready to go home.

The city included new language in its leases with the Folklife Festival and other renters this year. These groups are now required to take steps to keep guns off city property. Right now, the policy only applies to locations covered by those leases. Later this year, the city will implement the gun ban in all city parks and buildings. But they aren't calling it a ban. That's because state law preempts tighter gun laws by cities.

Scales says it's a "rule."

Scales: "The state preemption clearly prohibits the city from passing a law. A rule is not a law. What a rule is, is essentially a formalized policy."
[emphasis added]

And if someone breaks that rule by bringing a gun to Seattle Center or City Hall, there won't be any penalty. The penalty will be a citation for criminal trespass, if the person is asked to leave and refuses.

Alan Gottlieb heads the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue. He's been a vocal critic of the Seattle gun rule. He says it violates state law and he'll be in court as soon as the city implements it. ...

Article here. Imagine if the city tried to subvert anti-discrimination laws by passing a "rule" that no blacks, or hispanics, or asians, could enter the festival. Think they'd get very far? Or a "rule" that tried to muzzle free speech in all city parks?

In general, a municipality's administrative rules cannot override state law, absent some explicit authorization by the state legislature or state Constitution. Municipalities are political subdivisions of the state, and hence subject to its power.

The solution to the Gitmo problem

Satire, from a Washington Examiner op-ed by Scott Ott:
In an effort to shut down the U.S. Naval Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, thereby restoring America's moral standing in the world, President Barack Obama today declared some 240 enemy combatants held at Gitmo to be 'human fetuses'.

In an executive order, the president said, "Since I ordered Gitmo shut down, and people don't want us to bring the inmates here, the only way to extract them from the facility is to change their legal status to one that offers us more choices."

While accused terrorists have access to attorneys, and nearly-limitless legal appeals, a fetus has no legal standing, cannot speak for itself, and is subject to the death penalty without regard to guilt or innocence.
"We can debate whether enemy combatants have access to protections under the U.S. Constitution," said Obama. "However, no serious person would grant such protection to an embryo or fetus. The loss of 240 fetuses wouldn't raise an eyebrow in a nation where more than 3,000 of them hit the Dumpster daily." ...

Read it here. See, it's really just a terminology problem. :)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Floating crystal ball

Tonight's optical illusion:

McMansion for sale ... cheap

From Michigan, comes this cautionary tale:
Sally Russell had something to prove.

As the 20th century became the 21st, she wanted to build a bigger, more beautiful house than any boys might dare. She would create a dazzling home on Bloomfield Hills acreage, a spec house to top them all. It would be so perfect the buyer wouldn't flinch at its extraordinary price: $14.75 million.

She built it. Nobody bought. And today, in the exclusive neighborhood where the 22,000-square-foot English country house sits on 3 1/3 manicured and terraced acres, the mansion is known as "the Sally Russell house," a dream turned to folly.

As auctioneers plan to sell the home to the highest bidder May 28, it might as well stand for the era that now lies, shattered, behind us -- a time of ever-rising home values, and spiraling expectations, when engineers became aspiring country squires and CEOs lived like potentates, and few imagined that what goes up might just as quickly plummet.

"It was never supposed to be my dream house," says Russell, 60, who wore shorts, work boots and diamond earrings in the home's hotel-sized kitchen.

"It was supposed to be adream house. ... I didn't have a crystal ball."

That's one of the few amenities the house doesn't have. ...

Article here, with photos. The article says the minimum auction bid is $2.5 million; the Russells originally planned to sell it for $15 million. How's that for housing price deflation? Meanwhile, they're paying property taxes and upkeep expenses for a multi-million dollar house they can't sell. The bigger problem for the Russells is this:
So many things had worked out for the Russells: They were wealthy, well-liked and cashed out. Chuck suffered medical scares -- two brain operations and one for the heart -- but survived. It was his idea, not hers, to showcase her talents with a spec house on steroids.

Sally Russell, cheerful, blond and blue-eyed, had been licensed as a builder since 1993. Eight years later, her children grown, she'd built one house, renovated many others and longed to prove herself.

After three years, the house was finished. Unfortunately, so was the real estate market.

Listed in 2004, the home's price gradually fell until it hit $7.69 million earlier this year before going on the auction block.

Never lived-in, it stands pristine, from the wine cellar to the top of its three-level turret.

Sally Russell has paid for her audacious plan. Reluctant to detail the financial fallout, she acknowledges her family's once-secure, affluent lifestyle is at risk. They've given up two private club memberships and placed their own home, also in Bloomfield Hills, on the market. "We'll buy a smaller house," if it sells, she says.

How much of their worth have they invested?

For a moment, she is still. "Everything," she says quietly.
[emphasis added] ...

It sounds like they rode the market down, always keeping the mansion's asking price too high in what was a rapidly declining market. Thus, no takers. Now they find themselves having to put the house on the auction block, to salvage what they can from their investment.

Having invested much of their net worth ("everything") in an illiquid asset as a speculative investment, they now find themselves, each in their 60's, financially strapped, at least relative to their prior standard of living. A tough place to be, at a tough time. Of course, assuming that they financed the mansion out of their own money, i.e., without taking on debt, the Russells may not actually be poor, just poor relative to their previous financial position, and with a hard to sell major asset in a declining market.

We see similar mansion auctions in other markets. Here's a story from the Wall Street Journal, about couples in Florida and New York:
In today’s Wall Street Journal, I tell the story of Richard and Amanda Peacock, a multimillionaire couple in Vero Beach, Fla. The aptly named Peacocks enjoyed putting their success on display–with a 10,000 square-foot, oceanfront mansion, more than a half-dozen sports cars, an Italian speed boat, motorcycles and a second beach home a few miles away.

Their giant “trophy/game” room is filled with hundreds of antique road signs, gas pumps, pinball machines and stuffed animal heads, including an elephant, rhino and baboon.

But the Mr. Peacocks decided they had had enough of stuff. So they put the two homes, the cars and most of their personal possessions up for sale in a one-day auction.

The couple says the main reason for the sale was psychological. He recently had a cancer scare and they want a simpler life in a cabin in the Blue Mountains. Finances also played a role. They have millions of dollars in mortgage debt and his commercial-real estate business in Miami is facing more vacancies.

The sale is an example of the increasing number of so-called living estate sales–a kind of Richistan rummage sale in which everything must go.

Just this past weekend, Mark and Kathryn McLane of Waterville, N.Y., tried to sell their 52-room pile, called the Sanger Mansion, along with more than 400 items inside in a one-day sale.

“We want to downsize, and we’re moving to Florida,” said Kathryn McLane.

But just as with the Peacocks, the McLanes weren’t able to sell the house for the minimum price. So they are going to keep hanging on. ...

In this WSJ story about the Peacocks and their attempt to auction off their stuff, the high bid is $5.5 million for a house they had put $8 million into building and furnishing. They decide that's too low, and pull the house and most of the stuff off the block.
The couple now has a $2.2 million mortgage on their mansion, Mr. Peacock says, and a $1 million mortgage on a four-bedroom oceanfront home nearby that they used while building the mansion. Maintaining the house is also costly: $50,000 a year in taxes, $25,000 for insurance and more than $100,000 a year for indoor and outdoor maintenance. That's not to mention the upkeep on their other home.

Time will tell whether they should have taken the $5.5 million offer. The real estate market might go up from here, but it can always go down.
Mr. Peacock's auction marked a new moment in the fall of the latest Gilded Age. Fire-sale auctions of mansions, yachts, sports cars and other trappings of wealth have become increasingly common as the rich become less rich. But Mr. Peacock is in the vanguard in attempting to downsize in just one day. The event was less an auction than a lifestyle liquidation, a clearance sale on a decade's worth of conspicuous consumption.

He has plenty of company among the once-wealthy. Half of all millionaires have lost 30% or more of their fortunes during the financial crisis, according to a recent survey from Chicago-based Spectrem Group. Whether unable to pay their bills or loath to appear lavish at a time of national thrift, many millionaires and billionaires are unloading their baubles. In a twist on the estate sales of deceased celebrities, "living estate sales" have become increasingly popular.

Todd Good, president of Accelerated Marketing Group in California, recently auctioned off a 15,000-square-foot mansion in Walla Walla, Wash., along with a collection of more than 70 motorcycles, a large wine cellar, antiques and artwork. The house, which was listed for more than $13 million, sold for $3.5 million. ...

When the bubble bursts, those sitting at the top of the bubble fall far, fast.