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Friday, June 17, 2005

Equal Rights for America's Gun Owners

Why Libertarians Support Equal Rights for America's Gun Owners

Libertarians, like other Americans, want to be able to walk city streets safely and be secure in their homes. We also want our Constitutional rights protected, to guard against the erosion of our civil liberties. In particular, Libertarians want to see all people treated equally under the law, as our Constitution requires. America's millions of gun owners are people too.

Law-abiding, responsible citizens do not and should not need to ask anyone's permission or approval to engage in a peaceful activity. Gun ownership, by itself, harms no other person and cannot morally justify criminal penalties.

Constitutional Rights

America's founders fought the Revolutionary War to throw off British tyranny. Most of the revolutionaries owned and used their own guns in that war. After the war, in 1789, the 13 American States adopted the Constitution, creating the federal government. Before ratifying the Constitution, the people demanded a Bill of Rights to prevent our government from depriving them of their liberties as the British had done.

One of the most important protections we have against government tyranny is that we are presumed innocent of any crime until proven guilty, before a jury, in a proper trial.

But, gun control advocates would declare all gun owners guilty without trial, simply for owning guns. although millions of them have never used their guns to harm another person. Such blanket condemnation is immoral, unfair and contrary to the principles on which America was founded.

The Prohibition Lesson

Gun control advocates are much like the prohibitionists of the early 20th Century. By making liquor illegal, they spawned organized crime, caused bloody, violent turf wars and corrupted the criminal justice system. Today's war on drugs has exactly the same results.

Prohibition didn't stop liquor use; the drug laws can't stop drug use. Making gun ownership illegal will not stop gun ownership.

The primary victim of these misguided efforts is the honest citizen whose civil rights are trampled as frustrated legislators and police tighten the screws.

Banning guns will make guns more expensive and give organized crime a great opportunity to make profits in a new black market for weapons. Street violence will increase in new turf wars. Criminals will not give up their guns. But, many law abiding citizens will, leaving them defenseless against armed bandits.

The Right of Self Defense

Libertarians agree with the majority of Americans who believe they have the right to decide how best to protect themselves, their families and their property. Millions of Americans have guns in their homes and sleep more comfortably because of it. Studies show that where gun ownership is illegal, residential burglaries are higher. A man with a gun in his home is no threat to you if you aren't breaking into it.

The police do not provide security in your home, your business or the street. They show up after the crime to take reports and do detective work. The poorer the neighborhood, the riskier it is for peaceful residents.

Only an armed citizenry can be present in sufficient numbers to prevent or deter violent crime before it starts, or to reduce its spread. Interviews with convicted felons indicate that fear of the armed citizen significantly deters crime. A criminal is more likely to be driven off from a particular crime by an armed victim than to be convicted and imprisoned for it. Thus, widespread gun ownership will make neighborhoods safer.

Foolish politicians and police now seek to ban semi-automatic "assault rifles". They ignore the fact that only honest citizens will comply; criminals will still have them. Such a ban will only increase the criminals' ability to victimize the innocent.

Personal Responsibility

Guns are not the problem. They are inanimate objects. Gun control advocates talk as if guns could act on their own, as if human beings cannot control them, so the uncontrollable guns must be banished.

Let us put the responsibility where it belongs, on the owner and user of the gun. If he or she acts responsibly, without attacking others or causing injury negligently, no crime or harm has been done. Leave them in peace. But, if a person commits a crime with a gun, then impose the severest penalties for the injuries done to the victim. Similarly, hold the negligent gun user fully liable for all harm his negligence does to others.

Rather than banning guns, the politicians and the police should encourage gun ownership, as well as education and training programs. A responsible, well-armed and trained citizenry is the best protection against domestic crime and the threat of foreign invasion. America's founders knew that. It is still true today.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Bush threatens his second veto....

Herr Presidente, who never met a spending bill or law curtailing civil liberties that he didn't like, has roundaboutly threated a veto of the 57.5 billion dollar spending bill which is to fund the Justice Department and other federal agencies.

Why? Not due to any concerns over cost-cutting or budget over-runs, no.
Reuters reports: The White House has warned Congress that any weakening of the Patriot Act would prompt senior advisers to recommend that Bush veto the $57.5 billion bill to fund activities next year for the Justice Department and other federal agencies, which now contains Sanders' amendment.

And just what is Sander's amendment?

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday defied President Bush by approving a measure making it harder for federal agents to secretly gather information on people's library reading habits and bookstore purchases.
The House voted 238-187 to scale back the government's powers to conduct secret investigations that were authorized by the Patriot Act, a post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism law. ...
Under the Patriot Act, federal law enforcement authorities can get permission from a special court to investigate what books people buy at bookstores or borrow from libraries, even if they are not suspected of committing any crime.
If the House measure becomes law, which is still a long way off, authorities would have to revert to the more traditional method of convincing federal grand juries of likely criminal activities before starting such investigations.

Imagine that -- Congress actually standing up for the Constitution and demanding judicial review.

From an article in the Washington Post:
House Republican leaders are not accustomed to losing, and they did not hide their anger about the result. One aide to a House leader referred to the victorious coalition as "the crazies on the left and the crazies on the right, meeting in the middle."

Let's see -- 38 Republicans -- those must be the "crazies on the right" who, like Bob Barr, and all those wacko, un-patriotic terrorist sympathizers [on the "right" and the "left"] who make up the coalition Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, and then every single Democrat in the House with the exception of Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.), wow -- all but one Democrat in the House is a "crazy on the left."
Typical Republican ad hominem attacks, from so-called "leaders" so far out of touch with the concerns of their consituents and citizens.
Sorry, but "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear," just doesn't cut it in America.

Poor losers, eh?

At least this bodes well for the hope that the sunsetting provisions of the [anti-]PATRIOT Act will not be renewed, nor the expansions of power and "administrative supeonas" granted.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Let's hear it for the State!

The State of Texas doesn't trust you to make decisions about your own health care (at least if you are a minor), or that of your children (if you're a parent).

Federal judge won’t intervene in girl’s treatment

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the federal courts could not intervene in the case of a family resisting the use of radiation treatment to arrest their teenage daughter's cancer.
[a legally correct ruling on jurisdiction, unfortunately]
This forces the matter back to the state courts, forcing Michele and Edward Wernecke to present reasons why the state should return their 13-year-old daughter Katie to the family and medical testimony for other alternatives to radiation treatment. ...

On June 9, Texas child welfare officials seized Katie from her parents, saying they were blocking radiation treatment that doctors said she needed.

During a court hearing, the Werneckes asked juvenile court Judge Carl Lewis to bar doctors from providing radiation therapy for Katie, who is now in a Houston hospital, until a hearing to determine whether she will stay in state custody.

They said their daughter’s cancer is in remission and they object to her getting the radiation treatment after undergoing a round of chemotherapy. ...

She remains at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where she is undergoing tests, officials said. State Child Protective Services says her life could be in danger without further cancer treatment. ...

Speaking June 9 on NBC’s “Today” show, Michele Wernecke said her daughter’s illness is unique and should be treated as such.

“I think they should treat her for what her body calls for and not standard protocol. Nobody will look at that,” she said. “Not every cancer is the same. Nobody understands that. Her body is not standard, and her cancer is not standard.”

The couple ... believe doctors haven’t been upfront about Katie’s care and have not answered all their questions about the side effects of the radiation. ...

Katie was diagnosed with cancer in January. In a videotaped statement recorded by her parents, Katie said she’s feeling better. “I don’t need radiation treatment. And nobody asked me what I wanted. It’s my body,” she said.

Ask for a Nanny State, and you'll get one. Your life, your body, is not your own, it's just property of the State.

And the Autopsy is in...

So now, perhaps this will finally put to rest the slanderous allegations that Michael Schiavo wanted to kill his wife and abused her....but somehow I doubt it...many people aren't interested in evidence which contradicts their paradigm (witness the denial of the Downing Street Memo showing any intent to lie to and mislead Congress and the American people).

Schiavo's Brain Was Severely Deteriorated, Autopsy Says

LARGO, Fla. (AP) -- An autopsy on Terri Schiavo backed her husband's contention that she was in a persistent vegetative state, finding that she had massive and irreversible brain damage and was blind, the medical examiner's office said Wednesday. It also found no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused. [emphasis added]

Over the years, the Schindlers had sought independent investigation of their daughter's condition and what caused it. Abuse complaints to state social workers were ruled unfounded and the Pinellas state attorney's office did not turn up evidence of abuse.

Calls seeking comments Wednesday from the Schindlers and Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, were not immediately returned.

Speaking before the report was issued, Felos, said the Schindlers continue to engage in a ''smear campaign against Michael to deflect the real issues in the case, which were Terri's wishes and her medical condition.''

Honk for Peace, get a ticket

June 13, 2005 8:40 PM EDT

TIBURON, Calif. - Protesters are locking horns with police in pacifist-packed Marin County for fining drivers who honk for peace. Officers have been pulling over motorists who honk as they drive by a weekly peace demonstration. Protesters say police are squelching freedom of expression.

Full story here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

How personal accounts might be structured


Michael Tanner, Director, Cato Institute Project on Social Security Choice

before the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
Subcommittee on Securities and Investment

June 14, 2005


Social Security reform must allow younger workers to save and invest some of their Social Security taxes through personal accounts. I believe that such accounts can significantly contribute to restoring Social Security to permanent sustainable solvency. More importantly, I believe that personal accounts are essential to modernizing Social Security in keeping with such fundamental American values as ownership, inheritability, and choice.

In particular, regarding the subject of this hearing, economic theory holds that private capital investment should provide a higher rate of return than a mature PAYGO Social Security system. If one accepts the Social Security Administration's assumptions about future bond and stock returns, a balanced portfolio (50 percent stocks, 30 percent corporate bonds, and 20 percent government bonds) could be expected to yield a return of 4.9 percent. Subtracting 25 basis points of administrative costs provides a net yield of 4.65 percent. Shifting the mix slightly in favor of equities should raise the expected return to roughly 5 percent. This clearly exceeds the return available from Social Security, and also significantly exceeds the offset interest rate suggested under the president's reform proposal.

This is not to say that personal accounts can perform miracles. They cannot, by themselves, solve Social Security's entire $12.8 trillion funding shortfall. However, workers who choose the personal account option-and I note that personal accounts are voluntary under all the major reform proposals-can expect to receive more in retirement benefits than Social Security can actually pay them.

That said, how personal accounts are structured and the investment options available to workers can make a significant difference in the success of any personal account proposal. In short, details matter.

The Old and the Rested

More sanity on Social (In)Security

The Old and the Rested
Is it possible that people this age are still physically capable of putting in a full day's work at the office?

I realize I'm being impolitic. In the Social Security debate, the notion of raising the retirement age is the elephant in the room, as Robin Toner and David Rosenbaum reported in The Times on Sunday. Both liberal and conservative economists favor the change, but politicians are terrified to even mention it to voters.

Americans now feel entitled to spend nearly a third of their adult lives in retirement. Their jobs are less physically demanding than their parents' were, but they're retiring younger and typically start collecting Social Security by age 62. Most could keep working - fewer than 10 percent of people 65 to 75 are in poor health - but, like Bartleby the Scrivener, they prefer not to.

Heaven Forbid consumers actually have choices to make!

Sometimes the strangest letters make it into the New York Times.

Shoppers Beware! Multiple Choices in Aisle 3 (3 Letters)

Pink Triangles

If you needed more evidence of the rise of neo-fascism in the US:

Christian Coalition: Gay Warning Labels

The leader of a conservative Christian lobby group appears to suggest that gays should be required to wear warning labels, although he denies that was his intention.
"We put warning labels on cigarette packs because we know that smoking takes one to two years off the average life span, yet we 'celebrate' a lifestyle that we know spreads every kind of sexually transmitted disease and takes at least 20 years off the average life span according to the 2005 issue of the revered scientific journal Psychological Reports," Rev. Bill Banuchi, executive director of the New York Christian Coalition told the Mid Hudson News.
The journal regularly publishes articles described by many mainstream psychologists as misleading and faulty. The homosexuality morbidity study was conducted by the conservative anti-gay Family Research Institute.
The issue of labels is particularly sensitive to gays. In Nazi Germany they were forced to wear the pink triangle to differentiate them from other internees at concentration camps.

See also

Essays around the Blogosphere

Enabling Evil

Americans are complicit in the deaths and maiming of thousands of American soldiers for no valid purpose. Americans are complicit in the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi women and children as "collateral damage." No one knows how high the number is because the Bush administration does not regard Iraqi lives as worth counting.
How much more shame and complicity will Americans allow Bush and his neocon brownshirts to shovel onto their shoulders before Americans say "enough!" and remove from office the war criminal who has sullied America’s good name?

A Walk On the Dark Side

Let us suppose that some mysterious foreigners managed to pull off a major atrocity someplace in America, killing close to three thousand people. You become, understandably, both fearful and angry: fearful that you or your loved ones might be vulnerable to attack, and angry that someone could make you feel vulnerable. Your fear is enhanced by the anonymous nature of the attackers, so there is no clear target upon which, or whom, to focus your anger.

A political leader whom you respect informs you that he knows the identity of the forces behind this atrocity. "It is the Lower Ruritanians," he tells you, "who are in league with the Slobovian Liberation Front, who engineered this attack as the first step in destroying America and taking over the world!" This leader then tells you that he has located the center of this wicked conspiracy in Lockstockia, whose national leaders are on the verge of an all-out attack on American cities; an attack that can be averted only if "we" attack and destroy "them" first!

Your fears having been mobilized to a sufficient level of frenzy, you join your like-minded neighbors to demand the most unrestrained retribution against all Lockstockians for their collective guilt for ill-defined wrongs. Those who urge caution are denounced as "traitors," "America-haters," or, perhaps, even "terrorist sympathizers." No amount of military force is regarded as too much to inflict upon such agents of evil; no police-state restraints are beyond the pale of permissibility if a "free" society is to protect itself. Flags must be thrust into the breezes; the leader who advised you of these threats must be deified: to be against this man is to be against God!

When it is later shown that the "evidence" upon which the leader relied to enlist your support had been fabricated out of smoke and mirrors, that his solemn pronouncements were all lies, and that the Lockstockians were no more responsible for the original atrocity than was Elvis Presley’s ghost, such information does little to abate your energies. The truth-tellers are simply added to the list of "enemies" and "traitors" to be exorcised by a more intense devotion to the leader and his purposes. The truth puts the leader in a negative light and reflects badly upon you for having supported him.

Palaver from Persimmon Crossing

Do you listen to the radio? Why do talk shows pander to hate and fear instead of positive attitudes?

Why are liberals supporting an illiberal system? Social Security's current structure consistent with Democratic values, ... or are the Democrats falling all over themselves to defend a legacy of discrimination?

As it has evolved, Social Security has attempted to provide American workers and their families with three things: retirement benefits, disability insurance, and survivor benefits. Those are solid liberal goals. But because of the program's age, aspects of Social Security discriminate against many modern families, particularly gay couples, unmarried couples, dual-earner couples, and divorcees.

Compulsion: It’s What’s for Dinner

Most recent free-speech controversies have been about government efforts to restrict someone’s right to express himself. So it is noteworthy that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a case involving not stifled speech, but rather coerced speech. Alas, it decided the case wrongly.
Scalia makes explicit what few like to think about: government by nature routinely aggresses against peaceful individuals. It takes their money for a variety of purposes, including advocacy, with which they may vehemently disagree, and they have no legal standing to object. So much for the vaunted “rights of the minority.” [emphasis added]

The Secret's Out – Now What?
The first paragraph of the Downing Street minutes of July 23, 2002, warns that they "should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents." In a democracy, we the people have a genuine need to know the background of decisions on war and peace – so the source(s) who leaked the minutes and other documents were performing a duty that can be seen as truly patriotic. And patriotic leaks can be done without revealing information that truly needs to be protected.

UN Bill Not What It Appears to Be (by Rep. Ron Paul)
The official adoption ... by the United Nations would have the effect of making resistance to any government or any international organization an international crime. It would make any attempt to overthrow a government an international casus belli for UN military action. Until this point, a sovereign government retained the legal right to defend against or defeat any rebellion within its own territory. Now any such activity would constitute justification for United Nations action inside that country. This could be whenever any splinter group decides to resist any regime – regardless of the nature of that regime. [emphasis added]

Web of cold-blooded lies

Sir Richard Dearlove ("M" to James Bond fans) reported that U.S. President George Bush had decided to invade oil-rich Iraq in March 2003, in a war "to be justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy."

Translation: The U.S. and British governments would concoct charges against Iraq to justify war.

After Britain's attorney general warned that unprovoked invasion of Iraq would violate international law, Dearlove opined with oily cynicism, "If the political context were right, people would support regime change." Translation: Use propaganda and scare tactics to whip up war fever.

Iraq and Moral Corruption

Consider the Soviet failure in Afghanistan. The ostensible goal of the Russian government – which invaded the country by citing security concerns – was to replace a backward religious regime with an enlightened one that brought rights to all, guaranteed a higher standard of living, and put the country on the path to progress.

Of course we all saw through these lies. To us, the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was a transparent and brutal exercise of empire. It was evidence of the moral rot in the Kremlin. In the end, the Soviets controlled only the ground underneath their tank treads. It was the last hurrah of an evil empire.
Americans need to face the reality that most of the world sees our nation as the new evil empire, and many people in the Gulf region are dedicated to making sure that the Iraq War is the last hurrah for American militarism. How tragic to admit that the analogy is not entirely implausible.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Now that there's a verdict in the Jackson Trial...

Perhaps the media can take a minute away from their coverage of the latest Paris Hilton sightings, Katie Holmes's conversion to Scientology, or what's going on with Brad and Angelina, let alone letting the rewriting of Watergate history go with a pass, and go ahead and get down to some serious reporting of impeachable offenses (lying to Congress counts) of George Bush and his imperialist ambitions. In a pre-cursor to the Downing Street Memo, released Sunday by the Sunday Times, comes a "Cabinet Office Paper," an agenda for meeting which produced the Downing Street Memo.

Here's some excerpts:

1. The US Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.

2. When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met:...

So it's clear that the decision had been made in April 2002 (not February 2003 as Dubya keeps saying), and it was necessary to "create the political conditions." (Not that this should surprise anyone at this time.

[excerpted from the Downing Street Memo]
Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

Read more about it here.
And here.
And here.

Stay tuned, same bat time, same bat channel.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Deep Throat Today, redux