Obamas: Left Hands to Heart … Fake Photo


Complete nonsense continues to pervade the internet, including this photo, which has generated accusations of “treason” and demands for the impeachment of the President:

Obamas Left Hands to Heart

Obamas Left Hands to Heart

A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook, with the question:

“Is this for real?”

The answer to which is, NO, it’s not.  It is a patently doctored photo, as can be seen by comparison to an original photo taken close in time at the same event.  I have not been able to find the original of the exact photo which was used to create this fake, but this one is close enough to demonstrate conclusively the fakery involved:

Obamas Hands to Heart (Original)

Obamas Hands to Heart (Original)

How was it done?

There were several tricks applied to the original photo to create the fake image:

ObamasHand to Heart 1-4Obamas Hand to Heart fake 1-4

First, the original photo was flipped vertically, so as to create what is, essentially, a mirror image.  This gives the immediate impression that the President and First Lady have their left hands over their hearts, rather than their right hands.

There are a couple of dead giveaways to the “flip”:

1)  The part in the First Lady’s hair (real photo parted on left and swept across the right eyebrow;  fake parted on right and swept across the left eyebrow). 

Obamas Hand to Heart original & fake 1

2)  And, lest you’re inclined to say that she changed her hairstyle, check out the ribbon bars on the chest of the Marine at the President’s elbow.  In the original, the ribbon bars are correctly displayed on the left side of the Marine’s chest.  In the fake, they appear on the right side.  Whatever the First Lady may have done with her hair, it’s an absolute certainty that the Marine Corps has not changed its uniform regulations regarding the display of service ribbons.

Obamas Hand to Heart original & fake 2

Second, the photo was tightly cropped to eliminate the other people present at the time (probably to avoid having to reverse “fake” the arms of the other people in the photo).  Notice that the saluting arm of the Marine behind the president is eliminated entirely from the picture.

Third, there are some obvious modifications to the photo which can be seen if it is sufficiently enlarged:

3)  Rings were added to the hands of both the President and the First Lady.  The one on the President’s hand in the fake photo is a particularly obvious (and poorly done) addition.

Obamas Hand to Heart original & fake 3

4)  The jacket alignment and buttons on the President’s suit coat were (once again rather amateurishly) modified to make it look as if the buttons are on the right side of the jacket.

Obamas Hand to Heart original & fake 4

I am no particular fan of President Obama — I rank him #8 of the 12 Presidents of my lifetime, as explained in one of my earlier blog posts:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/the-worst-president-of-my-lifetime/

On the other hand, I believe that criticism of the man should be based on actual facts from the real world, not made up BS, much of which appears to be motivated by considerations other than presidential policies (or politics). 

“Civil Disobedience” in Utah


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CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IN UTAH

in response to the federal government’s shutdown of national parks, San Juan County in Utah has threatened to take over the national parks within its borders:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/09/231086726/county-in-utah-threatens-takeover-of-national-park-areas?utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=20131013&utm_source=mostemailed

NPR: Utah County Threatens Takeover of National Parks

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/09/231086726/county-in-utah-threatens-takeover-of-national-park-areas?utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=20131013&utm_source=mostemailed

The NPR article opens with the following:

“San Juan County has become the fifth county in Utah to declare a state of emergency in response to the closure of National Park areas.

“But the San Juan County Commission has also decided to storm National Park Service barricades, take control of some parks, and reopen them to the public.

“‘This is civil disobedience,’ says Phil Lyman, a CPA and county commissioner from Monticello, Utah, in the southeastern corner of the state. ‘What’s happening to us is wrong.'”

San Juan County plans to use sheriff’s deputies, search and rescue volunteers, firefighters, EMTs, portable toilets, garbage trucks and three mobile command centers in its operation of the national parks.

Yes, this would be an act of civil disobedience … and I applaud it!  This is exactly what government should do in an emergency — step in and fix the problem.  Unfortunately, the bloated, arrogant, over-weening federal government doesn’t give a damn about the hardships that its “shutdown” has created for local communities. 

So, those local communities have to take it upon themselves to do what’s best for their people.  More power to ’em!

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ARIZONA AGREEMENT

The state of Arizona has Reached an agreement with the federal government to re-open the Grand Canyon:

Grand Canyon Train Station 1981

Grand Canyon Train Station 1981

http://news.yahoo.com/grand-canyon-opens-state-fed-natl-parks-deal-194332701.html

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

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THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT & OTHER STATES

The federal government has also announced its willingness to cooperate with other states that want to reopen national parks:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/10/10/canyon-rushmore-shutdown-national-parks-interior/2962499/

Note the two caveats to this agreement, however:

“Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told state officials that she would consider agreements with governors who are willing to fully fund National Park Service personnel to reopen the 401 parks nationwide that have been closed since Oct. 1.”

And:

Blake Androff, an Interior Department spokesman, stressed that the state’s payments would be viewed as donations and would not be reimbursed unless Congress passed legislation to do so.”

In other words, we’re willing to let you do our job — a job that we can’t or won’t do, as long as you pay for it and don’t expect us to reimburse you.  What a shameful disgrace.

Puts me in mind on one of Thomas Jefferson‘s comments on government:

“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”  See Note below.

It seems likely that Jefferson would approve of San Juan County’s plans to exercise some civil disobedience and “a little rebellion”.

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Note:  The Jefferson quote is from a letter written by him from Paris on January 30, 1787, to James Madison.  The full text of the letter is available on the “Archiving Early America” website here:

http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/summer/letter.html

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Grand Canyon Photos © 2013 Jim Reilly

Words of Wisdom from the Dugout


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Clint Hurdle is the manager of the Major League baseball Pittsburgh Pirates.  This year, he has guided his team to its first winning season & first playoff appearance since 1992.  None of which would normally get him mentioned here.

However, Hurdle does something which politicians and lawmakers — indeed, everyone in the political-legal arena — would do well to emulate.  He inspires people.

One way he does this, every day, is by issuing a “Thought of the Day”, via his smartphone, to his players, their wives and friends, his friends and others — more than 1000 people around the world.

On September 9th of this year, his team was stuck at 81 wins — one shy of a winning season — and on a 4 game losing streak.  They would be playing the Texas Rangers that night and facing one of the best pitchers in the game.

In anticipation of this game, he sent the following “Thought of the Day”:

Tim Wrightman, a former All-American UCLA football player, tells a story about how, as a rookie lineman in the National Football League, he was up against the legendary pass rusher Lawrence Taylor. Taylor was not only physically powerful and uncommonly quick, but a master at verbal intimidation.

Looking Tim in the eye, [Taylor] said, “Sonny, get ready. I’m going left and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Wrightman coolly responded, “Sir, is that your left or mine?”

The question froze Taylor long enough to allow Wrightman to throw a perfect block on him.

It’s amazing what we can accomplish if we refuse to be afraid. Fear — whether it’s of pain, failure or rejection–– is a toxic emotion that creates monsters in our mind that consume self-confidence and intimidate us from doing our best or sometimes even trying at all.

Make a difference today.

Love Clint

The anecdote about Tim Wrightman and Lawrence Taylor is interesting, but is neither the important part of this message nor the motivation for blogging about it.  Rather, it is the last full paragraph that moved me to write this.

Much of what passes for political discourse in the United States today — and what motivates laws and governmental procedures — is fear.  Fear of people:  terrorists, murderers, child molesters, religious zealots, virtually anyone who is perceived to be dangerous — or even just different.  Fear of things:  internationally, nuclear weapons — locally, guns.   Fear of equal rights for all people and of social change.

All too often, people respond to fear by seeking the protection of laws designed to prevent that which is feared.  And our politicians respond to the people by passing such laws, even when they are ineffective or, worse yet, counter-productive.

We seem to have forgotten the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural speech, “… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  We are becoming a nation of sheepish ninnies, fearful and risk-averse.

We readily submit to laws which treat us like children, incapable of making our own decisions (such as the so-called “war on drugs” and the panoply of federal, state and local rules governing what, when and how much we can eat and drink). 

We readily submit to laws and procedures which supposedly make us “safer”, but actually subject us to insult, indignity and embarrassment, as we meekly submit to invasive searches and remove our belts and shoes before entering airport terminals, courthouses and federal buildings. 

We cannot even watch Clint Hurdle’s Pirates play baseball without first being stopped and searched in order to enter the stadium where the game is being played.

We Americans have a proud history of strength in the face of adversity and courage in the face of fear.  Our country was founded by men and women willing to defy the world’s reigning power and who pledged  to each other their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. 

It was built into the greatest country in the world by men and women who risked all to explore, settle and tame a continent;  who bravely fought and all too often died in war to protect our freedoms;  who explored the highest mountains and the ocean’s depths; who rode rockets into space and went to the moon;  and who made this “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

Which takes me back to Hurdle’s message of the day on September 9th.  A message we should repeat to our political leaders and lawmakers … and one which we should insist that they have in mind when they make decisions about the well-being our of country and its people:

It’s amazing what we can accomplish if we refuse to be afraid. Fear — whether it’s of pain, failure or rejection–– is a toxic emotion that creates monsters in our mind that consume self-confidence and intimidate us from doing our best or sometimes even trying at all.

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For the full story of Clint Hurdle and his “Thought of the Day” messages, see this moving and inspirational story by Tom Friend of ESPN.com:

http://espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/9726637/pirates-manager-clint-hurdle-inspiring-others-daily&ex_cid=MyESPNToday_MostSent

Voter ID & Non-Citizen Voting


Engaged in a Facebook conversation this weekend with a friend on the subject of voter ID requirements, which led to my further thoughts on the subject of non-citizen voting in American elections.

The friend posed the following:

“I ask this in the interest of educating myself. Why is it so controversial to required voters to produce proof of citizenship (drivers license, passport, etc.) to register to vote? I honestly don’t understand. The vast majority of citizens have the required documentation. I don’t want people who are not citizens to vote and make decisions about how my country is run. It seems like such a little thing to do. But, as I said, I would like to know the other side of the argument. Please – enlighten me.”

To which I responded:

I would approach the issue from a different perspective. Before expressing that perspective, however, some clarifications regarding various documents is appropriate. First, and contrary to popular misconception, it is not necessary to be a citizen to obtain a SSN; and second, it is not necessary to be a citizen to obtain a California driver’s license or ID card (or the equivalents thereof in other states). Therefore, having either or even both, cannot “prove” citizenship.

For anyone born in the US, the only document which really “proves” citizenship is a birth certificate. And even that really doesn’t “prove” anything, for this reason: there is no correlation between the document which is the “birth certificate” and the live person who says that it is his or her proof of citizenship. No fingerprints, no photograph (which wouldn’t be much use anyway) and no DNA. If I show my birth certificate as proof of citizenship, what I am really doing is saying, “This is me”, without any real proof that it is.

Which is, fundamentally, no different than what we do when we sign a verification of citizenship as part of the process of registering to vote.

In essence, by any process currently available, voter registration authorities have to rely on the word of the person registering and voting that he or she is the person attempting to vote.

I am comfortable with that process by which the collective “we” trusts the individuals in our communities to play by the rules. The relatively small number of non-citizens who go to the trouble to falsely registering to vote is, in most places, vanishingly small.

The real question, in my mind, is why should we fear non-citizens voting. For most of the history of the United States, non-citizens were allowed to vote in local and state elections in as many as 22 states and some federal territories. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the concept of disenfranchising non-citizens became widespread. If we are willing to allow non-citizens to become members of our community, seek and maintain employment, own property, buy and sell goods, attend our schools and participate in all manner of governmental programs, why should we not allow them a voice in deciding how government will function in that community?

For a good review of the alternative, see this article about Takoma Park, Maryland, which has allowed non-citizens to vote in local elections since 1991:

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/05/24/2008961/non-citizen-voting/

This article also notes that the city of New York is currently considering a proposal to allow non-citizens (who make up roughly 1/3 of the city’s population) to vote in city elections.

As of 2004, 20 countries in the world, mostly in Europe and including the European Union, allowed non-citizens to vote. See this site for a complete list:

http://www.migrationinformation.org/USfocus/display.cfm?ID=265

Frankly, I’d much rather have hard-working, law-abiding, productive non-citizens voting than many of the “natural-born” citizens that I’ve run across in my lifetime.

Keep in mind, I am referring here to non-citizens legally in the US. Those who are here illegally is a completely separate, and much more complex, issue requiring a somewhat different analysis.

Ge-stop-o & Frisk: Trashing the 4th Amendment in New York City


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I have said before that I consider New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg perhaps “the single most dangerous politician on the national scene these days.”   For that discussion, see my blog post “Trashing the Constitution in New York City”:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/trashing-the-constitution-in-new-york-city/

Whatever doubt I might have had about that assessment has, thanks to Bloomberg’s dictatorial NYPD “stop & frisk” policy, reached the vanishing point.  And what is sad, if not downright frightening, is that a substantial percentage (41%) of Americans approve of the gestapo-like tactics being used by the NYPD in their implementation of this policy.

A YouGov.com poll on the subject is here:

http://today.yougov.com/news/2013/05/24/americans-divided-stop-and-frisk/

It shows that 41% of Americans (and 60% of self-described Republicans) approve of the stop & frisk policy, while 49% oppose and 10% are so oblivious that they have no opinion.
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The Terry Stop & Frisk Law:

In 1962, the United States Supreme Court in the case of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), established the so-called stop & frisk law, which allows police to briefly detain a person if they reasonably suspect that person is involved in criminal activity.

For the full text of Terry v. Ohio, see note 1 below.

The “reasonable suspicion” standard is somewhat less than probable cause to arrest, but there must nevertheless be some specific reasonable suspicion that the person is engaged in criminal activity of some kind.  The Terry decision also held that police may do a limited search of the person’s outer garments for weapons IF they also have a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the person detained may be “armed and dangerous”.  Such a search for weapons is what is now called “stop & frisk”.

Note that the Terry decision allows such a “frisk” (search) only if the officer(s) have a “reasonable and articulable suspicion” that the person is armed.  It does not give carte blanche to frisk every detainee, as Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD seem to think.

Nor does it allow NYPD officers to willy-nilly stop & frisk anyone they choose, for any or no reason.

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Floyd v. City of New York

Protesters participate in a rally near the federal courthouse March 18 in New York. Lawyers for four men who say they were illegally stopped said many of the 5 million people stopped, questioned and sometimes frisked by police in the past decade were wrongly targeted because of their race.

Protesters participate in a rally near the federal courthouse March 18 in New York. Lawyers for four men who say they were illegally stopped said many of the 5 million people stopped, questioned and sometimes frisked by police in the past decade were wrongly targeted because of their race.

In the Southern District of New York federal case of Floyd v. City of New York, the plaintiffs are suing the city over the policy, which they claim has resulted in hundreds of thousands of unlawful stops, primarily (84%) involving blacks and Hispanics.  The plaintiffs asserted and tried to prove in a recently ended two-month trial, that the policy is nothing more or less than racial profiling.  The trial concluded on May 20, 2013, and post-trial submissions are due on June 13, 2013.

See notes 2 & 3 below for information about this case.

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The Center for Constitutional Rights Expert Report

The 2012 Center for Constitutional Rights expert report on the subject of these stops (available through the link in Note 3 below), notes in part:

Race-based police stops, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause

* Blacks and Latinos are significantly more likely to be stopped than Whites. Overall, Blacks and Latinos constitute 84% of the stops, a far higher percentage than their proportion of the city’s population. Even after controlling for crime, local social conditions and the concentration of police officers in particular areas of the City, Blacks and Latinos are significantly more likely to be stopped than Whites.

* This is true at both the neighborhood and the individual level.

Unjustified stops, in violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure

* Analysis of the information recorded by police officers themselves in their stop and frisk reports indicates that more than 95,000 stops lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion and thus violated the Fourth Amendment.

* The NYPD continues to frequently and indiscriminately use the highly subjective and constitutionally questionable categories of “high crime area” and “furtive movements”. “High crime area” is checked off in more than 60% of all stops. A comparison of actual crime rates to the claim that a stop was in a “high crime area” reveals that this factor was cited at roughly the same rate regardless of the crime rate. “Furtive movement” was also checked in a majority of stops, 53% of them. Here, too, there was no correlation between the frequency of this stated reason for a stop and actual crime rates. Both the frequency of these classifications and their complete absence of any relationship to actual crime rates suggest strongly that they are not legitimate indicators or reasonable, articulable suspicion.

* Only 6% of stops result in arrest, an extraordinarily small number given that stops are legally supposed to be based on reasonable, articulable suspicion. The rates of seizure of weapons or contraband are miniscule – .12% of stops yield gun seizures and 1.8% contraband – and are lower than the seizure rates of random stops. (Emphasis added)

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Justifications:  “High Crime Area” and “Furtive Movements”

During the time period 2004-2012, the NYPD averaged approximately 43,400 stops per month.

Anyone who has ever worked in either law enforcement, criminal prosecution or criminal defense knows that the assertion of “high crime area” (cited as justification for almost 61% of all stops) as the “reasonable suspicion” in support of detention is pure BS.  This would allow detention of anyone who happens to be in what the officers believe to be a high crime, regardless of whether there is any other reason to suspect that person of being involved in criminal activity.

Nor do “furtive movements” (cited in almost 54% of all stops) add anything to the “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is involved in criminal activity.  A sampler of “furtive movements” cited by NYPD officers in support of “stop & frisk” contacts, as described in the Floyd expert study, include such “suspicious activities” as:  riding a train, “looking around”, running from one train to another, crouching next to a vehicle, stopping “prematurely” for no reason, “evasive” movements or behavior, “hiding” in a room, holding an item “under a jacket”, “hanging out” in a lobby, “ducking in & out” of a building, “looking around”, looking “nervous”,  “furtive movements” by a wall, “furtive movements” with black marker, “hiding behind” other people, “evading” a bus driver, “hiding” between vehicles, and “looking around at” subway gates.

(Separate and apart from this expert study, I have personally seen police reports in which “furtive movements” justifying “stop & frisk” contacts were described as:  looking away or turning away from cops, walking away from cops, walking toward cops, putting one’s hands into pockets, taking one’s hands out of pockets, standing up from a squatting position, squatting down from a standing position, jerking one’s head from side to side, and simply making “suspicious” movements.)

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Conclusion:  Blatant and Rampant Unconstitutionality

These statistics paint a compelling picture of blatant and rampant unconstitutionality in the implementation of the New York stop & frisk policy.  Nevertheless, Mayor Bloomberg commented, “I can’t imagine any rational person saying that the techniques are not working and that we should stop them.”

I’m not sure in what alternative reality Mayor Bloomberg’s “rational persons” must reside.  Or how 41% of Americans can logically come to the conclusion that this policy is a good idea … or constitutional … or even particularly effective.  It clearly is none of those things.

I consider myself a fairly “rational” person and I say, yes, Mayor Bloomberg, you should stop violating the constitutional rights of the citizens of your city.

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Note 1:  The full text of Terry v. Ohio is available here:

http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/392/1/case.html

Note 2:  For an NPR online article about Floyd v. City of New York, see:

http://www.npr.org/2013/05/20/185458137/court-case-winds-down-in-new-yorks-stop-and-frisk-challenge

Note 3:  The Center for Constitutional Rights webpage about this case is available here:

http://ccrjustice.org/floyd

This site contains links to all of the Floyd case expert reports and court documents, including the complaint, motions, declarations and court orders.  Anyone who is interested in this issue would do well to review the documents linked on this site.  I cannot begin to do justice to this material here in my blog.

Trashing the 1st & 5th Amendments in Illinois


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It is a never-ending source of amazement to me just how badly American public schools are being administered these days.  I am compiling a collection of “Zero Tolerance” articles for use in a future blog post, but today am motivated to write by an event which occurred on April 18 at Batavia High School in Batavia, Illinois.

On that date, Batavia High social studies teacher John Dryden discovered that the school was administering to students a “survey” in which they were asked, in part, about their use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco — use of all of which is, of course, illegal for high school students.  The name of each student appeared on these “surveys”, which also asked about other highly personal matters, including mental health.

Dryden John Batavia (Ill) High School Teacher

Upon discovering the content of the “survey”, teacher Dryden reminded his students in several of his classes of their 5th Amendment right not to incriminate themselves.  For this lesson in civics and constitutional law, Dryden has been threatened with placement of a “letter of remedy” in his personnel file.

Under Illinois law, a “letter of remedy” informs a teacher that his conduct was improper.  The school board can impose adverse consequences ranging all the way up to dismissal.

Former students, parents of current students and even one Batavia alderman have rallied to Dryden’s support and a “Defend and Support John Dryden” petition has garnered more than 1000 signatures (though some apparently are duplicates).

Separate and apart from the absurdity of disciplining a teacher for teaching his students about their constitutional rights, the survey itself raises other concerns.  It was prepared by a private company and is being reviewed by school officials, including social workers, counselors and psychologists.

According to an article in the Batavia Herald, Mr. Brad Newkirk, the school’s “chief academic officer” (whatever that is), commented that, “The survey was not a diagnostic tool, but a ‘screener’ to figure out which students might need specific help.”  Newkirk and other school officials involved in distributing this “survey” are apparently oblivious not only to the constitutional implications, but also to the blatant invasion of personal privacy and the fact that none of this is any of their business.

Despite being targeted for possible discipline, Mr. Dryden defended the school’s administrators, generously stating, “These are good, professional, smart people on the other side who want to do what is right by kids.”  On that point, I disagree with him.  If these administrators really want to “do what is right by the kids”, they will concentrate on teaching and leave law enforcement and mental health issues to professionals qualified to act on those issues.

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The Batavia Herald article discussing this issue is here:

http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130525/news/705259921/

The petition supporting Mr. Dryden, which I have signed, is here:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/927/122/050/defend-and-support-educator-john-dryden/

Summary of 2nd Amendment & Gun Control Posts


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Rich Estes, one of my West Point classmates and with whom I more often than not agree on political issues, posted the following on Facebook today, saying, “… this pretty well sums up my understanding of the 2d Amendment. I’m interested to hear some rational, well informed comments, pro and con.”

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Thanks to The Knowledge Movement for sharing this...

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In response, I posted a summary of my blog posts here on the subjects of the 2nd Amendment and gun control.  Having done so, it occurred to me that re-posting that summary here might help others follow the discussion as well.  So, here it is:

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My first post on the subject was in 2008, shortly after the US Supreme Court decided in the Heller case and contrary to the interpretation contained in “What the 2nd Amendment REALLY Says”, that the “right to bear arms” is an individual right, independent of the establishment of any militia:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/supremes-uphold-individual-handgun-ownership-right/

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After taking a long break from blogging, I resumed in late 2012.  On December 29th, shortly after the Sandy Hook murders, I wrote in part:

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“… in the absence of an amendment to the Constitution modifying its terms, the Second Amendment means that the government (federal directly and state/local through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment) has no authority to “infringe” (per Merriam-Webster online Dictionary:  “to encroach upon in a way that violates law or the rights of another”) on the right of individuals to keep and bear arms.  Period.  Not handguns.  Not rifles.  Not shotguns.  Not even “assault weapons”, regarding which, by the way, there really is no such thing.  When the federal government passed the so-called “Assault Weapons Ban” in 1994, Congress had to make up a definition of what constituted an “assault weapon” within the meaning of the law.”

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After discussing various gun control issues, I concluded: 

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“We should not be teaching our children to live in fear.  And, as horrific as were the events in Sandy Hook, the occasional occurrence of such events is one of the prices we pay … and must pay … to live in a truly free society.”

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The full discussion is here:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/what-now-for-the-second-amendment-gun-control/

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That discussion prompted a comments and questions by another classmate, Terry Atkinson, who’s opinions I value highly.  In response, I wrote a lengthy analysis of the language of the 2nd Amendment and what it meant at the time it was written:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/more-on-the-2nd-amendment-and-gun-control/

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I wrote there that my own “strict construction” interpretation of the 2nd Amendment would “… exclude from constitutional protection such weapons as fighter aircraft, naval ships and weapons, artillery pieces, napalm, nukes & other bombs, as well as even such lesser weapons as 50 caliber machine guns, shoulder mounted rocket launchers, flamethrowers, hand grenades and most other military-style weapons.”

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(As a side-note, I have since come to realize that the term “military-style weapons” is a poorly worded attempt to describe the kinds of weapons used by the military.  It is probably more useful to simply use the term “fully automatic”.)

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I also concluded there that “… a strict construction of the 2nd Amendment would also require that … the mentally ill, like convicted felons, can be thought of as not having any 2nd Amendment right to be infringed by governmental action.”

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Other gun-related discussions on my blog include:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/dispelling-the-myth-that-more-guns-more-murders/

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… in which I contend and explain the basis for the contention that:

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“… proponents of more restrictive gun control laws rely on a bald-faced lie to support their efforts to disarm law-abiding citizens.  That lie, of course, is the claim that possession of more guns by private, law-abiding citizens results in more violent crime and, in particular, more murders … and the corollary thereto, that reducing the number of guns in the possession of such citizens will reduce violent crime and murder.”

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This blog post motivated objections from classmate John Douglas, which led to an even more detailed discussion, which appears here:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/the-advocates-for-self-government-on-guns-gun-control/

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This post includes a number of contemporary (or shortly thereafter) historical references to the meaning of the 2nd Amendment, several of which make the point that the right to bear arms is as much for protection against the government as for any other purpose.  It also includes an analysis of gun violence statistics and their meaning.

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Other posts:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/assault-weapons-band-aid/

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… which is a discussion of why the 1994 so-called “assault weapons ban” was ineffective.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/the-advocates-for-self-government-on-guns-gun-control/

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… for the Libertarian view of guns & control.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/gun-control-and-your-right-to-defend-yourself-your-home-and-your-loved-ones/

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… regarding the use of firearms in self-defense and in cases of large-scale regional or national emergencies.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/no-one-is-coming-to-take-your-guns-yet/

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… on why we should be concerned about governmental confiscation of firearms.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/the-virtual-president-of-the-united-states-on-gun-control/

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… which discusses and links to the absolutely brilliant “Virtual President’s” state of the union address on guns.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/trashing-the-constitution-on-hbo-bill-maher-wrong-again-wrong-again/

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… a response to Bill Maher’s claim that “the Second Amendment is bullshit”.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/2nd-amendment-letter-to-the-editor-june-17-2000/

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… which reproduces a letter to the editor I wrote in 2000 regarding gun control.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/congressman-ron-paul-is-a-voice-of-reason/

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… on Ron Paul’s Libertarian take on gun control and personal security.

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… and finally:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/powerful-congressional-testimony/

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… a link to powerful congressional testimony about the 1991 Luby’s Cafeteria murders in Killeen, Texas.

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Would be happy to hear any response anyone might have to any of these discussions.

Trashing the Constitution on HBO: Bill Maher “Wrong Again, Wrong Again.”


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Just as Michael Bloomberg did recently …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/trashing-the-constitution-in-new-york-city/

… Bill Maher has gone from Just Plain Incorrect …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/bill-maher-just-plain-incorrect/

… to falling off the edge of the political table.

Friday night, April 12, 2013, on his HBO television show “Real Time”, Maher was discussing gun control with his guest panel.  After castigating “liberals” for what he perceived as their “weakness” in the gun control debate, Maher, not exactly making an insightful or clever  addition to the conversation, said:

“Everyone on the left is so afraid to say what should be said.  Which is, the Second Amendment is bullshit.”

http://www.guns.com/2013/04/13/bill-maher-the-second-amendment-is-bullshit-video/

Bill Maher 041213

Maybe so, though I disagree.  But if it is, anyone who thinks it is BS should have the courage to try to change the 2nd Amendment, rather than simply ignoring it and trying to enact legislation which violates its terms.

One of Maher’s guests on this show was David Stockman, former budget director for President Ronald Reagan.  Stockman, an ostensible conservative, commented that the idea of armed citizens rising in the face of the government is a modern day fantasy, saying:

“People who believe in liberty, like I do, we’re up against a 21st-century state equipped with drones, hundreds of satellites in the sky, watching everything we do.  Why would you believe that an 18th-century civilian militia equipped with the equivalent of muskets has anything to do with liberty? It doesn’t.”

Which, to be blunt, is just dumb.  For starters, no one involved in today’s gun control discussion is advancing the idea that an “18th century civilian militia” has anything to do with fighting “a 21st century state … watching everything we do.”  And if you think that a “well-armed civilian militia” equipped with modern weapons cannot resist a “21st century state”, please explain to me how a ragtag militia in Afghanistan has managed to resist the two most powerful military organizations in the world for a combined total of 21 years (the Russians for 9 years, the US for 12).

Never mind the possibility that a time will come when there are no drones, satellites or 21st century weapons and we will have to protect ourselves against or without the aid of any government.  I have discussed this before:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/gun-control-and-your-right-to-defend-yourself-your-home-and-your-loved-ones/

Scroll down to the second half of that discussion, “Self-Defense in Case of a National Emergency”, for a more complete discussion of this issue.  To briefly repeat the primary point, the book One Second After by William Forstchen, fictionalizes what might happen in the US in the aftermath of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event.  An EMP event (which could occur as part of a foreign attack or as a result of natural occurrences) could conceivably shut down all electricity in large portions of the US.  That would mean no electrically operated devices would work — some obvious examples, computers, televisions, radios and telephones.  Less obvious examples, refrigerators & freezers, microwave ovens, washers & dryers, both interior and exterior lighting, and even most modern motor vehicles (the engines of which are operated by electrical commands).

Should this happen, of course, most “21st century” weaponry, as well as drones and satellites, would be rendered useless.  And, as Forstchen says:

You are on your own … for weeks, maybe months.   Those of you living in Louisiana, Mississippi and coastal Texas know what I mean.  Don’t count on the government to come to your rescue in a post EMP America.  Consider yourself on your own from “one second after,” the event.  Those who realize that now have the greatest chance of survival.”

And, if you think his book is science fiction and farfetched, see the Wikipedia article on EMP:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_pulse

And this Heritage Foundation article about Congressional hearings on the subject:

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/09/11/congressional-hearing-raise-emp-awareness-now/

The possibility of an EMP event and the potential consequences thereof are science fact, not science fiction.

And keep in mind that an EMP event can also result from natural occurrences, such as a major solar flare, and not just as a result of a nuclear attack.  The website “Disaster Survival Resources” …

http://www.disaster-survival-resources.com/emp.html

… provides a relatively minor example of what can happen as a result of a solar flare:

“On March 13th, 1989 a huge solar induced magnetic storm that played havoc with the ionosphere, and the earth’s magnetic field. This storm, the second largest storm experienced in the past 50 years, totally shut down Hydro-Quebec, the power grid servicing Canada’s Quebec province.”

As we grow increasingly dependent on electronically controlled devices, we also become increasingly vulnerable to the adverse effects of an EMP event.  And, having the ability to protect ourselves in case of such an event becomes increasingly important.

So, I call bullshit on Maher, who is wrong again, wrong again.  And on Stockman, who is not just wrong, but dangerously so.

Bill Maher Just Plain Incorrect


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“Many years ago on a television network far, far away”, there was a show called “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher“.  I was a big fan, rarely missed watching and was sorry to see the show cancelled, though I have to admit that the comment which led to its demise went beyond politically incorrect to politically just plain dumb.  See Note 1 below.

I do not subscribe to HBO, so have not had the opportunity to watch Maher’s current show, “Real Time with Bill Maher“.  Thanks to a Facebook post by “Can this poodle wearing a tinfoil hat get more fans than Glenn Beck?“, however, I became aware of this “New Rules” segment by Maher regarding libertarians:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9PezT3n4To

One of the reasons I liked Maher was that he was a self-professed supporter of libertarianism.  As a libertarian myself, I usually found his “politically incorrect” commentary in tune with my political philosophy.  Apparently, however, as demonstrated by his “New Rules” on libertarians, Maher has deserted some of his libertarian ideals, no longer understands what drives the libertarian philosophy and/or simply can no longer recognize a libertarian when he sees one (or doesn’t).

As examples of “libertarians” who are ruining libertarianism, Maher cites Wisconsin republican congressman Paul Ryan and Kentucky republican senator Rand Paul.

Sorry, Bill, but Paul Ryan is mostly a flat out right wing conservative and not a libertarian at all — see this Mother Jones webpage for a 2012 venn diagram showing just how little overlap there is between modern libertarian ideals and Paul Ryan’s political positions:

http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/08/paul-ryan-libertarian-chart

And Rand Paul is no Ron Paul; nor is he anything like real libertarians like two-time Libertarin Party presidential candidate Harry Browne or Judge Andrew NapolitanoSee Note 2 below.

In his monologue, Maher says he once supported libertarianism because he didn’t want “big government in my bedroom, my medicine chest and especially not in the second drawer of the night stand on the left side of my bed”.  (Exactly what do you keep there, anyway, Bill?)  Though professing to still believe in those ideals, Maher charged that libertarianism has “morphed into this creepy obsession with free market capitalism based on an Ayn Rand novel called ‘Atlas Shrugged'”.

Sorry again, Bill, but those of us who are still truly libertarians base our political beliefs on such foundational documents as the Declaration of Independence and (especially) the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution, not “Atlas Shrugged” (or any other work of fiction).  Ayn Rand, by the way, in “Atlas Shrugged” or otherwise, was no libertarian (and, contrary to appearances, Rand Paul was not named in honor of Ayn Rand — his first name is actually Randal).

Ayn Rand in her time was extremely critical of libertarians, and once explained that she disapproved of them because they are “a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people” and “perhaps the worst political group today”.  See note 3 below.

Anyone who wants to learn what modern libertarianism is really about can do so by going to the Libertarian Party website here:

http://www.lp.org/

… or by visiting the Facebook page of The Advocates for Self-Government here:

https://www.facebook.com/SelfGov

The Advocates for Self-Government publish a libertarian newsletter, The Liberator Online, the most recent edition of which is available online here:

http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=8f8d44f1fc10bd074f648a4de&id=6039093196&e=16f5dddde4

The Liberator Online is also distributed by email, for which you can sign up on this page.

And, to see if you are a libertarian, go here and take The World’s Smallest Political Quiz:

http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz

It’s just 10 questions (5 on personal issues and 5 on economic issues) and can be completed in a few minutes.  Perhaps Bill Maher should take it as a refresher course on what libertarianism really is.

___________________________

Note 1:  For a brief explanation of how and why “Politically Incorrect” crossed over into “Politically Stupid” and got cancelled, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Maher#Politically_Incorrect_with_Bill_Maher

Note 2:  For more on Judge Andrew Napolitano, see this earlier “Free Legal Advice” blog:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/lies-the-government-told-you/

and his own website:

http://www.judgenap.com/

Note 3:  For a detailed explication of Ayn Rand’s views on libertarianism, see this Q&A page on the Ayn Rand Institute website:

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ar_libertarianism_qa

The Worst President of My Lifetime


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I was born in 1945, not long after Harry Truman succeeded Franklin Delano Roosevelt as President of the United States.  Thus, in my lifetime, 12 different men have held that office.  I recently had occasion to post a Facebook comment and engage in a conversation about the one I consider the worst of the 12.

Sadly, as presidents go, it has been pretty much downhill slide since 1945.  Only 2 of the 12 presidents since then make it into the Top 10 all time in the collective opinions of presidential scholars and surveys … and they are the first 2 of my lifetime, Harry S. Truman (7th) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (tie for 8th).  See Note 1 below.

The first 4 of the 12 are also the top 4 on my personal list of Best Presidents of my lifetime (I disagree with the collection of scholarly surveys only in the reversed rankings of Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy):

1st — Harry S Truman

2nd — John F. Kennedy

3rd — Dwight D. Eisenhower

4th — Lyndon B. Johnson

Which is why it’s been pretty much downhill ever since.  However, it is not the top of my list that concerns me here — rather it is the bottom, the Worst President of my lifetime.

My Facebook comment was motivated by this graphic from DemocraticUnderground.com …Iraq 10 Years Later 2003-2013

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017106524

… which prompted me to observe that George W. Bush is the worst president of my lifetime.  Of course, I also lived through the presidency of Richard Nixon and once thought I would never see a worse excuse for president than Tricky Dick.  Unfortunately, my expectation in that regard was not very prescient.

I fault Nixon largely for his duplicitous and condescending attitude toward the American people and the disgrace he brought to his office.  Ultimately, I rank him ahead of Bush II largely because of his foreign policy accomplishment of visiting China and opening up an economic dialogue between the U.S. and China.  Bush had no such saving grace and not a single presidential accomplishment of historical note.  See Note 2 below.

On the other hand, his duplicity matches or exceeds that of Nixon in audacity and scope.  By far the most significant (and ultimately horrific) of his deceptions were the falsities upon which he justified the invasion of Iraq.

Bush and his cronies advanced two major themes in support of this war — first, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which posed a threat to the security of the United States;  and second, that Saddam Hussein was somehow in league with al-Qa’ida and played a role in the 9-11 attacks on the U.S.

Neither claim was true and there is good reason to believe that Bush knew that the supposed intelligence on which these claims were based was exaggerated, misleading or downright false.

In the recently aired documentary “Hubris: Selling the Iraq War”, MSNBC provided the best look to date at just how the people of this country were mis-led by the Bush administration:

http://tv.msnbc.com/shows/hubris-selling-the-iraq-war/

In the documentary, declassified documents — and insiders talking on camera for the first time — reveal details on how President Bush and his team justified and marketed a war they had already decided to wage.

As more and more classified materials are declassified, and as insiders speak out, the truth will show Bush for what he was … and the picture will not be pretty. “Hubris: Selling the War in Iraq” is just the beginning of that process.

And for those who dislike or don’t trust MSNBC as a source of accurate information, how about the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which in 2006 issued its “Report on Postwar Findings About Iraq’s WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments”?  This bi-partisan committee was initially chaired by republican Pat Roberts of Kansas and later by democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

This press release by the committee discusses the report …

http://intelligence.senate.gov/press/record.cfm?id=298775

… and the entire 153 page pdf version of it is available here for review:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-109srpt331/pdf/CRPT-109srpt331.pdf

In the press release, the Senate committee, among other things, says:

“Before taking the country to war, this Administration owed it to the American people to give them a 100 percent accurate picture of the threat we faced. Unfortunately, our Committee has concluded that the Administration made significant claims that were not supported by the intelligence,” Rockefeller said. “In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.”

“It is my belief that the Bush Administration was fixated on Iraq, and used the 9/11 attacks by al Qa’ida as justification for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. To accomplish this, top Administration officials made repeated statements that falsely linked Iraq and al Qa’ida as a single threat and insinuated that Iraq played a role in 9/11. Sadly, the Bush Administration led the nation into war under false pretenses.”

The Committee’s report cites several conclusions in which the Administration’s public statements were NOT supported by the intelligence. They include:
 
Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.

Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.
 
The Secretary of Defense’s statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information.
 
The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed.

It is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that there were no WMD’s in Iraq and that Iraq was not allied with al Qa’ida in its terroristic attacks on the US. Furthermore, no one in the Bush administration had any viable plan for what should be done in Iraq once military operations ended.

The DemocraticUnderground.com graphic reproduced above also actually underestimates the total costs of the war in Iraq.

The Office of Management and Budget now estimates that the cost of combat operations will total approximately $822 billion; another $733 billion has been spent on care for wounded veterans and homeland security expenses related to the wars; future medical care of veterans is estimated to total $490 billion; and the interest on the money borrowed to fund the wars will total approximately $4 trillion by the time the debt is repaid sometime after 2050.

It has also proved not to be the case, as some in the administration claimed, that Iraqi oil would pay for the cost of the war.

And none of that includes the costs of foreign aid for rebuilding Iraq or the foreign aid paid to Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in the region to secure their cooperation (such as it is) in the war effort.

The death toll cited in the Democratic Underground article is very conservative; some estimates of the civilian death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan are as high as 330,000 or more.

There are other reasons to consider the Bush administration the worst of my lifetime: his tax policies have led to an economic crisis in the country; the response of his administration to Hurricane Katrina was a disgrace; and he vetoed a stem cell research bill that might have provided medical and health benefits to Americans for generations to come.  See Note 3 below.

A long time friend of mine criticized my Facebook comments about Bush and asked me what I would have done in response to the 9-11 attacks.

What I would have done is of no real consequence. But, I would rather have seen our president respond with an all-out effort to find Osama bin Laden and others who were responsible for that attack, rather than going off on a wild tangent in Iraq, a country which had no connection whatsoever with 9-11.

There is no doubt that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein and his sons. That, however, can be said about hundreds, perhaps thousands or even millions of people — does that mean the US government should summarily go around killing people that we think are “bad” for the world? I think not. And there is flip side to that question — is the world better off without the 330,000 or more other Iraqis who were killed in the war? Was it worth all of those lives (and those of the Americans and our allies) who were killed? I think the answer to that question is a clear and unequivocal “no”.

With respect to radical Islam, protecting ourselves against radicals of any stripe is a proper governmental function and I support all reasonable efforts to do so.  The war in Iraq was just not such a reasonable effort. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Muslim, but was not a radical Islamist. Rather, he was a secular ruler who ruthlessly suppressed Shi’a Muslims and elevated minority Sunnis to power only if they were also members of the Ba-athist party (a secular, rather than religious, organization). Ergo, invading Iraq and removing Hussein from power had absolutely nothing to do with any perceived need to protect the US against radical Islam.

Thus, taking everything into consideration, it is an inescapable conclusion that George W. Bush was the worst president of my lifetime.

_________________________

Ranking all of the presidents of my lifetime:

1st — Harry S Truman — See Note 4 below.

2nd — John F. Kennedy

3rd — Dwight D. Eisenhower

4th — Lyndon B. Johnson

5th — William J. Clinton

6th — Ronald Reagan

7th — George H. W. Bush

8th — Barack H. Obama

9th — Gerald R. Ford

10th — Jimmy Carter

11th — Richard M. Nixon

12th — George W. Bush

_________________________

Note 1 — For a comprehensive listing of presidential rankings, see this Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_rankings_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States

Scroll down to the rankings chart and see the final column of the aggregate ranking of each president based on these various scholarly surveys.

Note 2 — Bush ranks 34th of 43 presidents on the aggregate scholars list.  I suspect that as we gain historical perspective, his position will solidify in the bottom quarter of presidents and that his stature will, if anything, decline.

Note 3 — For another view on the deficiencies of the Bush presidency, see this website, which cites 31 reasons why Bush was a bad president:

http://www.bengarvey.com/2008/08/07/31-reasons-why-bush-is-a-bad-president/

I don’t personally agree with all of the reasons stated in this litany of deficiencies.  For example, I don’t fault any president for taking vacation time, as the presidency is a stressful job that always goes with the president and everyone needs to be able to relax and get away from that kind of pressure.

Obviously, however, I do agree with his ultimate conclusion.

Note 4 — Truman had only a middle initial — “S” — and no middle name.  He also used no period after that initial;  hence, Harry S Truman, not Harry S. Truman.

Trashing the 1st Amendment in North Carolina


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North Carolina state representatives have introduced legislation that would, if adopted, purport to exempt the state from the strictures of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and would allow North Carolina to establish an official state religion.

The proposed legislation, reported today on HuffingtonPost.com …

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/03/north-carolina-religion-bill_n_3003401.html#slide=467436

… is co-sponsored by state representatives Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury) and is backed by nine other republican representatives.

The proposed laws read as follows:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

The name of the bill is “A JOINT RESOLUTION TO PROCLAIM THE ROWAN COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, DEFENSE OF RELIGION ACT OF 2013” and is denominated House Joint Resolution DRHJR10194-MM-54.  The full text of the resolution is here:

http://www.ncleg.net/Applications/BillLookUp/LoadBillDocument.aspx?SessionCode=2013&DocNum=2501&SeqNum=0

The introduction to this bill acknowledges that the “Establishment Clause” of the 1st Amendment says “… Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….”  It goes on, however, to declare that “… this prohibition does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools ….”

Supporters of the bill cite the 10th Amendment …

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

… for the proposition that the federal government cannot expand its powers beyond those specifically enumerated in the Constitution.  They also also assert that the Constitution does not authorize either the federal government or federal courts to determine what “is or is not constitutional” and that, consequently, the ability to determine constitutionality is reserved to the states and the people thereof.

Apparently, these state legislators stopped reading when they finished with the 10th Amendment.  They certainly didn’t get to section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which says in part …

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

… and which has been repeatedly held to mean that all of the protections of the Bill of Rights apply as to the states as well as the federal government.  In other words, the Constitution of the United States of America does “prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion”.

And it does require the North Carolina General Assembly to “recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion”.

Thus, the state of North Carolina cannot constitutionally declare a state religion, whether this resolution passes or not.

On the other hand, I have to admit that it might be fun to watch them trying to do so.  Fewer than 48% of all North Carolinians consider themselves active participants in any religion.  The most popular religion in the state is Southern Baptist;  however, just 19% of people in the state are active Baptists.  Methodists total 9% and Roman Catholics (the fastest growing religion in the state) just over 4%.  Other Christian denominations, including Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Latter Day Saints (Mormon), range down from less than 3% to less than 1% each.  All other splinter Christian denominations combined make up roughly 7% of the population.

Jews, Muslims and adherents of Eastern religions (who together total less than 1% of the state’s population) may, in any discussion of this subject, be voices in a Christian wilderness.  However, adherents of which of the various Christian denominations do you suppose are going to stand idly by while some other denomination is declared to be the official religion of the state of North Carolina?  Even if the proposed state religion is Baptist, will this be acceptable to the other 30% of North Carolinians who actively practice some other religion (never mind the 52% of the people in the state who are not active in any religion)?

And then, even if the North Carolina legislature is able to pass this resolution and declares an official state religion, we’ll have the consequent litigation and inevitable smackdown by the U.S. Supreme Court, the members of which — contrary to the beliefs of the sponsors of this legislation — believe it does have the authority to determine what “is or is not” constitutional.  And which will certainly find any “establishment” of a state religion violative of the 1st Amendment.

Oh, by the way, one more thing — it appears that the sponsors of this bill have not even recently read their own state constitution, since the proposed bill violates Article 1, section 5 of the North Carolina  constitution.  This provision requires the state and its citizens (presumably including its legislators) to comply with federal laws:

Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the United States, and no law or ordinance of the State in contravention or subversion thereof can have any binding force.

___________________________________

For other interesting (and somewhat amusing) discussions of this proposed legislation, see these articles on TheAtlantic.com website:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/04/north-carolinas-proposed-state-religion-isnt-as-unprecedented-as-it-sounds/274646/

… which notes, in part:  “You can safely file this under Not Gonna Happen. Even if the state passes the law, there’s no chance it would be upheld. Phillip Bump at The Atlantic Wire explains the fun circular logic going on: Yes, Marbury v. Madison established federal judicial review, but it was a federal decision so it’s not binding. (The Tar Heel State could of course try seceding, but that didn’t work out so well for them the first time around.)”

and:

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/04/north-carolina-official-government-religion/63833/

… which opens:  “Let’s say you’re a state and you want, for some reason, to declare an official government religion. You’d probably recall that such behavior runs a bit afoul of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Leaving you with only one option: Decide that your state gets to interpret the Constitution however it sees fit.”

… adds:  “Yes, the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison clearly settled the issue of the primacy of federal judicial review, but that was decided by the Feds and they don’t have the right, so it doesn’t count. As WRAL notes, this strategy has been tried before to block federal measures that any particular state didn’t like at any particular time. Never, we should point out, successfully.”

… and concludes:  “Anyway, the bill will never ever pass and if it did would quickly be struck down by the federal courts, since they have complete authority to do so. The end.”

The Virtual President of the United States on Gun Control


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This is absolutely brilliant.

Click on the following link or the picture of Virtual President Bill Whittle below:

http://www.mrvirtualpresident.com/blog/article/guns-virtual-state-union-2013

Mr. Virtual President headerMr. Virtual President on 2nd Amendment & Guns

For additional virtual speeches, see the main page of the Virtual President here:

http://www.mrvirtualpresident.com/

On that page, you can also sign up for “Virtual Updates”, so as not to miss future offerings of the Virtual President.  I did.

You can also download a pdf version of the text of the gun speech by clicking on the link on the site — or here:

http://www.mrvirtualpresident.com/sites/default/files/transcripts/SOTU2013%20GUNSv3.pdf

Trashing the Constitution in New York City


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Perhaps the single most dangerous politician on the national scene these days is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  He is dangerous in part because he appears to be a megalomaniacal would-be dictator and in part because he is a billionaire who is willing to spend considerable sums of his own money to achieve his blatantly unconstitutional political aims.

Whatever rationality Bloomberg may once have brought to political discourse has rapidly dissolved with his recent series of assaults on personal freedom and liberty in New York and across the country.  Hizzoner “I Know What’s Best For You” is well-known for his attempts to dictate to his subjects when where and how much they can eat (transfats), smoke (cigarettes) and even drink (sodas).  See, for example:

http://www.refusetoregain.com/2012/06/mayor-bloombergs-war-vs-the-freedom-to-eat-whatever.html

And now, Bloomberg has now gone off the statist edge of the political platform, declaring:

“I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom.”

Bloomberg Infringe on Your Freedom

Bloomberg’s irrational and unconstitutional claim has been reported and discussed on any number of websites, such as:

Hotair.com:

http://hotair.com/archives/2013/03/25/mike-bloomberg-i-do-think-there-are-certain-times-we-should-infringe-on-your-freedom/

The NRA Institute for Legislative Action:

http://www.nraila.org/news-issues/articles/2013/3/outrage-of-the-week-bloomberg.aspx

PoliticalOutcast.com:

http://politicaloutcast.com/2013/03/mayor-michael-bloomberg-government-infringe-freedom-piers-morgan/

To all of which, I say, NO, there aren’t certain times when you should infringe on our freedoms.

Here are some thoughts for you Michael:

“[It is] the people, to whom all authority belongs.” —Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1821.

“… all power is inherent in the people … it is their right and duty to be at all times armed ….” –Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824.

“But of all things, they least think of subjecting themselves to the will of one man.” –Thomas Jefferson to Francis W. Gilmer, 1816.

“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” –Thomas Jefferson: Declaration of Independence, 1776.

“What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them.” –Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787.

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.” –Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 1787.

“Most codes extend their definitions of treason to acts not really against one’s country. They do not distinguish between acts against the government, and acts against the oppressions of the government. The latter are virtues, yet have furnished more victims to the executioner than the former, because real treasons are rare; oppressions frequent. The unsuccessful strugglers against tyranny have been the chief martyrs of treason laws in all countries.” –Thomas Jefferson: Report on Spanish Convention, 1792.

“I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people, which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is medicine necessary for the sound health of government.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” –Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787.

Thomas Jefferson — remember him, Michael?  You couldn’t carry his slop jar.

The Righteous Mind — A Study of Human Morality


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What is human morality and how does it affect (primarily American) politics and religion?

In his book The Righteous Mind:  Why Good People Are Divided byPolitics and Religion, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt purports to answer that question.  Despite having conducted extensive psychological research, however, Haidt ultimately fails to deliver a satisfactory answer.

In part, the failure is attributable to a rhetorical trick on his part — that is, the withholding from the reader until nearly the end of the book the fundamental premise upon which his conclusions are based.  And even then, he does not provide what he promised:  a definition of “morality” upon which to base his discussion of how “morality” impacts politics and religion.

Rather, what he ultimately provides is a definition of “moral systems”, rather than “morality”:

“Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible.”

Which sounds like a definition written by a group of politicians or lawyers!

Although a lawyer myself, I would have defined “morality” much more simply as “doing what’s right under the existing circumstances”, which comports more closely with the dictionary definition.  See here, for example, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary definition:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/morality

… where morality is defined as “a doctrine or system of moral conduct” or “conformity to ideals of right human conduct”.

And I say “under the existing circumstances” despite the criticism often leveled at the term “situational ethics”, because what may be the “moral” course of conduct in one situation may not be acceptable in another.  The most obvious example of the circumstantial nature of morality is in the killing of another human being, which most people would agree is generally immoral, but is acceptable in self-defense.

The book is also somewhat tough going because Haidt writes in a rather esoteric and somewhat pedantic style.  For example, he slavishly follows the timeworn advice, “Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you have told them”.  While this might (or might not) be a good approach to making a relatively short oral presentation, the repetition gets downright boring in a book as lengthy as Haidt’s.

(As an aside on this subject, see the note “Oh Spare Me!” at the end of this discussion.)

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Moral Foundations Theory

In support of his thesis, Haidt posits what he and other social psychologists call “Moral Foundations Theory”.  The theory is discussed in detail on the “MoralFoundations.org” website at:

http://www.moralfoundations.org/

On the home page of their site, the group says, “… the theory proposes that several innate and universally available psychological systems are the foundations of ‘intuitive ethics’”, then goes on to describe six such foundations as follows:

1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.

2) Fairness/cheating: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. [Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, we emphasize proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives.]

3) Liberty/oppression: This foundation is about the feelings of reactance and resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor.

4) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”

5) Authority/subversion: This foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.

6) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).

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My Take on Haidt’s Studies

I have a fundamental disagreement with Haidt and his compatriots with respect to their conception of “morality” as necessary and appropriate “to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible”.  In other words, and in the modern context, to make us compliant with the will of government.

Addressing each of Haidt’s six supposed “foundations” of morality:

1)  Care/harm:   I accept and agree with the observation that how we care for and avoid harm to others (human and animal) is a fundamental aspect of morality.  Under most circumstances, caring for others is the “moral” (or “right”) thing to do.  This, of course, is particularly true with those closest to us, our family and friends.  It is also true of our pets.  To the extent that each of us is capable of doing so, it is also true with respect to others we do not know personally.  We exhibit our morality in this regard by making donations to charities, assisting others in time of need, buying cookies from local girl scouts or even such simple acts of kindness as holding doors for women and stopping our cars for people crossing the street.

2)  Fairness/cheating:  While I also agree that treating others “fairly” and not “cheating” is “moral”, I am not sure that this isn’t just an alternative or particularized formulation of the so-called care/harm “foundation” — we “care” for others by treating them fairly and we avoid harm to others, at least in one limited respect, by not “cheating” them in our dealings with them.

On the other hand, I’m not convinced that concern for either “equality” or “proportionality” is properly considered an aspect of morality.  In a political context (to the extent that politics has anything to do with morality),  treating others “fairly” does not necessarily mean treating them “equally” … or even “proportionately” (whatever that means).  Whether or not any individual or group of individuals can achieve “equality” or “proportionality” is an amoral concern;  that is, the end result is not a moral consideration at all.

3)  Liberty/oppression:  Once again, it seems to me that this “foundation”, as defined by Haidt, is just a particular application of the “care/harm” foundation.  Someone who “dominates” others and “restricts their liberty” is harming them, psychologically and emotionally at least, if not physically or materially.  “Bullies” and “dominators” are people who fail to care for others and intentionally harm them.

In the political context, giving moral people the liberty to do what is right will generally result in them doing so.

4)  Loyalty/betrayal:  While I agree that matters of loyalty and betrayal can be matters of morality, it seems to me that they become such only when an individual has made a commitment of some kind to others.  And even then, this is once again just another expression of the care/harm foundation.  Take for example the most basic human relationship — male and female.  Once committed to each other, a man and a woman have a moral duty to maintain loyalty to that commitment (that is, to care for and avoid harm to the other).  Failure to do so by harming the other in some way, would constitute a betrayal of that commitment.  Similarly with respect to parents and children;  by having a child, a parent makes a commitment to care for and avoid harm to that child.  Maintaining loyalty to that commitment is morally correct;  failing to do so would be immoral.

On the other hand, no one has a moral obligation of loyalty to any other person or group of persons with whom he has exchanged or made no individual commitment.  And no person or group of persons can impose such a commitment on any other person against that person’s will.  Doing so, using Haidt’s terminology, would constitute “bullying” or “dominating” and would itself be immoral (“harmful”).  Under such circumstances, there would be no moral imperative to maintain loyalty or avoid betrayal to the bullying or domineering person or persons.

5)  Authority/subversion:  Politically, I am a libertarian.  Perhaps not surprisingly then (at least in Haidt’s view), I put little or no weight on what he characterizes as the “authority/subversion” foundation in evaluating “morality”.  In his book, Haidt notes, “On the Moral Foundations Questionnaire, libertarians join liberals in scoring very low on the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity foundations.”

That would be me;  in fact, I consider resistance to authority to generally be the “right” (and therefore moral) thing to do under many circumstances.  The reason is actually quite simple — if the “authority” is seeking moral conduct, then any individual should act accordingly on the basis of that individual’s own moral code;  no imposition of “authority” is necessary to achieve the desired result.  On the other hand, if the “authority” is seeking conduct which is immoral, any individual acting in accordance with the dictates of that authority would be acting immorally.  Doing what is “right” under those circumstances requires one to resist that “authority”.  A single word makes the point clear:  Hitler.

In other words, no degree of “authority” can make moral what is not;  to make right what is wrong;  or to justify what is not right under the circumstances.  Therefore, “authority/subversion” has no bearing whatsoever on one’s individual morality.

6)  Sanctity/degradation:  Similarly, I reject the idea that “religious notions” have any bearing on morality.  Just as no “authority” figure can make right what is wrong, no religious (“sanctity”) figure can make moral what is not or — as is more commonly the case with religion — make immoral that which is not.

In fact, throughout human history, “religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way” have more often than not been used by individuals or small groups of people to “bully” and “dominate” those within their sphere of influence and to impose the will of the minority on the majority.

Furthermore, when it comes to the actions of any individual which might “desecrate by immoral activities and contaminants” the “temple” of that person’s body, there is no moral issue because such actions are (or at least should be) of no concern to anyone other than the individual involved.

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YourMorals.Org

Haidt’s group has a website on which you can “Explore Your Morals” by taking one or more of the questionnaires and surveys contained on the site:

http://www.yourmorals.org/

The basic “Moral Foundations Questionnaire” is described as follows:  “Why do you care about some virtues and issues more than others?  This survey gives you a broad overview of your morals.”

“Your morals” as defined by Haidt, of course.

After finishing the book, I went to the website and completed the questionnaire.  My results are reproduced below.  Interestingly, I scored higher than the average for both liberals and conservatives on the “care/harm” scale; between the two on the “fairness/cheating” (below liberals and above conservatives) and “loyalty/betrayal” (above liberals and below conservatives) scales; and below both on the “authority/subversion” and “purity” (“sanctity/degradation”) scales.  The questionnaire, as currently constituted on the website, does not evaluate the “liberty/oppression” characteristic of the responses.

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YourMorals Questionnaire DescriptionYourMorals Questionnaire Results

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Note:  Oh Spare Me!

In his blog “The Articulate CEO”, Brett Rutledge, the “World Champion of Public Speaking”, posted a discussion entitled, “Tell them What You’re Going to Tell Them, Tell Them, Tell Them … Oh Spare Me!”  In it, he says:

It’s the holy grail of presentations training:

“Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you have told them”

It’s also quite possibly the biggest load of nonsense I have ever come across and the one piece of advice that, if followed, is guaranteed to make your next presentation a boring one. The simple format outlined above is great if you are a six-year-old doing show and tell at your school. It gives the little tike some basic structure to bolster their confidence and help get them through the dreaded five minutes they have to fill. If you are an adult, however, you require something more.

Repeating something three times does not make it interesting or engaging. Nor does it make it memorable (particularly when your audience has nodded off in the first ten minutes). If you want an audience engaged and interested in what you have to say then you need themes and stories rather than mindless repetition.

Rutledge’s complete discussion of the subject is on his website here:

http://thearticulateceo.typepad.com/my-blog/2011/07/tell-them-what-youre-going-to-tell-them-tell-them-oh-spare-me.html

Why You Should Never Talk to the Cops


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A post today on the “Personal Liberty” Facebook page on the subject of how to interact with law enforcement prompted me to both respond there and to address the subject here.

In his interesting interview about how to respond to attempted over-reaching by law enforcement officials, Attorney Evan Nappen emphasized three responses with which I agree — invoke your right to remain silent, demand your right to speak with an attorney and never consent to anything until you have spoken with an attorney.

Expanding on those basics a bit:

Never submit to a police interview, even if you are innocent. I have seen many cases in which innocent responses to accusatory questions were twisted to make the suspect look guilty. Even statements which you believe to be exculpatory can ultimately be used against you. On the other hand, anything you say which is truly exonerating is generally not admissible in court, so you can’t help yourself by talking to the cops.

Contrary to popular belief, if the cops have enough probable cause to arrest you, you are not going to be able to talk your way out of that arrest.  And don’t even think about believing it when a cop says he can help you out if you talk to him or that you can help yourself by doing so.  The only objective of a police officer interrogating a suspect is to gain additional evidence to make proving the case easier.  Furthermore, cops have no authority to make “deals” about criminal prosecutions;  only the prosecutor’s office can do that.

Even denying that you committed any crime won’t help.  For starters, the cops won’t believe you … and the denial will not be admissible in court, so you gain absolutely nothing by making such a statement.

There are other good reasons for not talking to the cops — even if you’re innocent, you might tell a small lie or even just make a mistake, either of which can be used against you in court.  And, unless the statement is being video or audio recorded, the cop may mis-recollect or even lie about what you said.  I recently tried a child molestation case in which my client said within hearing of a police officer, “I just tickled her”, but the cop who heard the statement testified that he said, “I just diddled her”.  The statement was not recorded and the jury believed the cop’s version.  In the end, this made a huge difference in the minds of some of the jurors.  Maybe the cop mis-understood what was said and maybe he lied about it.  In either event, this damaging statement could not have been used against the defendant if he hadn’t made it to begin with.

By the way, this is true even for such simple situations as traffic stops. For example, if a cop stops you and asks if you know why, do not answer because whatever you say can be used against you if you decide to fight the ticket. If you feel coerced by his position of authority into answering, the only acceptable answer is “no”.

Because of the inherent dangers in speaking with the cops, always invoke your rights to remain silent and to speak with an attorney before answering any questions.

Never consent to anything. Without a warrant, police cannot enter your home. So, if they ask if they can come in, the answer is “no”. If they ask you to step out of your residence, the answer is “no”. If they ask you to open the door to your residence, the answer is “no”. If you’re in a vehicle and they ask if they can search it, the answer is “no”. If they ask if they can search your person, the answer is “no”.  Do not let them intimidate you into consenting, either.  Politely suggest that if they think they have grounds to conduct a search, they can get a warrant, at which point you will let them search.

If the cops have probable cause to arrest you, they will do so and you’ll have to go with them involuntarily. If they don’t have probable cause to arrest you, they cannot compel you to go anywhere with them. So, if they ask if you’re willing to go to the station to be interviewed, the answer is “no”.

Also, do not be fooled by the old, “if you have nothing to hide, you’ll talk to us” trick. If you have nothing to hide, refusing to answer questions, consent to a search or go with the cops cannot hurt you. Answering questions, consenting to a search or going with the cops can hurt you even if you have nothing to hide.

Finally, even if you’re actually guilty, don’t admit it to the cops.  There will be plenty of time later, during plea bargaining between your attorney and the prosecutor, for you to accept responsibility for your actions.  The terms of any plea agreement … and, in particular, the amount of time that you might have to spend in jail or prison … may well depend on the strength of the prosecution’s case.  So, don’t help them increase your ultimate punishment by making incriminating admissions.

So, to reiterate the primary points, never talk to the cops, always invoke your rights to remain silent and to consult with an attorney, and never consent to anything, particularly searches by the cops of your person, vehicle or residence.

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For a detailed constitutional discussion of the 5th Amendment and why you should never talk to cops, see this video by Regent Law School Professor (and former criminal defense attorney) James Duane:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

For more on why you should not talk to the cops, also see this video of my KRON-TV (Channel 4) interview on June 23, 2010, uploaded on YouTube November 29, 2010. In it, I discussed the impact of the US Supreme Court case of Berghuis v. Thompkins, which was decided on June 1, 2010.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqY2smL1oJo

Berghuis essentially held that individuals must affirmatively and unambiguously invoke their rights.  Simply remaining silent and declining to respond for an extended period of time (3 hours in this case) is not, by itself, enough to constitute an invocation of rights.

For the full text of the Berghuis decision, see:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-1470.ZS.html

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The “Personal Liberty” Facebook page is here:

https://www.facebook.com/personalliberty

And the article on the “Personal Liberty” webpage with the interview of Attorney Nappen is here:

http://personalliberty.com/2013/03/21/interview-attorney-evan-nappen-explains-the-moore-ordeal-and-how-to-protect-yourself-from-unconstitutional-activity/

My Facebook page is here:

https://www.facebook.com/jamest.reilly.3

Red Light Camera Tickets … Update


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Many of the visitors to this blog continue to read my 2008 post about red light camera tickets.  I looked back at it myself today and saw that it is somewhat outdated, in part because of changes in legal and administrative procedures.  So, I decided to update it.

I remain an adamant opponent of the use of cameras to enforce the traffic (or any other) laws. Too much Big Brother for my Libertarian philosophy of what government should be.  Nevertheless, it remains true that, generally speaking, California courts uphold the use of these red light cameras, even though no law enforcement officer saw the violation.

However, in some California jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles and Riverside Counties, red light camera tickets have fallen into disfavor, in part because they are an administrative headache for the courts, in part because in some communities they have resulted in a net loss in revenue, and in part because they simply do not accomplish the desired goal of reducing accidents.

For a great website addressing red light camera ticket issues, see:

http://www.highwayrobbery.net/

Among the common red light camera ticket problems addressed there are:

What to do if you weren’t the driver when the car supposedly ran the red light?  Do you have to identify the driver?  Generally speaking, no, you do not.

What to do if duration of the “yellow” light seems too short?  There are minimum limits below which the duration of the yellow light may not go.  If it is not long enough, the ticket is not valid.

What if the “ticket” comes by email?  Or you are told it is “delinquent” or “in collection”?  These are almost certainly tricks to get you to pay a fine that otherwise cannot be imposed.

Can you use reflective spray on your license plate to defeat red light cameras?  No, you can’t, at least not legally.  You can be cited for a separate violation for doing so.  California Vehicle Code section 5201, which you can see here:

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=veh&group=05001-06000&file=5200-5206

Is running a yellow light a violation?  No.  If any part of your vehicle has crossed the limit line when the light turns red, it is not a violation.

HighwayRobbery.Net also contains suggestions about how to fight red light camera tickets.

This site also contains suggestions for fighting such tickets:

http://www.ehow.com/how_5040059_beat-light-camera-ticket-california.html

Neither addresses every possible legal or factual defense that might conceivably apply, but anyone who is thinking about fighting such a ticket would do well to check out their suggestions.

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Fighting a Red Light Camera Ticket

If you do want to fight such a ticket, the first thing you should do is to read the code section itself:

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=veh&group=21001-22000&file=21450-21468

Make sure you understand what it says and exactly what is or is not prohibited by this law.  Once you have decided to fight the ticket, you can do so by appearing in court or by submitting to a Trial by Declaration.

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Trial by Declaration

Using this procedure, you can submit your side of the case to the court by written declaration.

The California Judicial Council forms for a Trial by Declaration are located at:

http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/documents/tr200.pdf

http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/fillable/tr205.pdf

http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/fillable/tr220.pdf

http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/fillable/tr225.pdf

The first two of these forms are the ones you will need to submit your request. The last two are for use if it becomes necessary to request a new trial after the first result is unsatisfactory.

Use of the trial by declaration, rather than simply paying the fine, will at least give you the chance to present mitigating factors to the court.  Even if the judge still finds you guilty (which, frankly, is quite likely, except in very unusual circumstances), mitigating factors may convince the court to impose a lesser fine than would normally be assessed.

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Court Trial

If you decide to fight the ticket in court, in most California counties you will have to go to the clerk’s office to request a trial date (in some courts, this can be done by telephone or by mail — check with the court clerk where your ticket is pending to find out what the correct procedure is for that court).

Review the  two websites linked above for suggestions on how to proceed in court.  The best single piece of advice anyone can give is to BE PREPARED — have with you any photos, documents or other evidence that you want to use.  If you tell the judge that some piece of evidence exists, but you “didn’t bring it with” you to court, the judge will not give it any weight.  Request discovery of what evidence might be used against you (see item #3 on the “How to Beat a Red Light Ticket in California” website).   Review the court decisions, transcripts and briefs on the HighwayRobberty.Net website page here:

http://www.highwayrobbery.net/redlightcamsLawaaIndexTransBrfsDecisions.html

Some of them may be helpful to your case.  Have a checklist of the things you want to tell the judge and make sure that you cover each one when making your presentation to the court.

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On Line Traffic School

If you do not want to fight the ticket, California also allows minor traffic offenses to be resolved by attending traffic school, which can now be done online. This requires payment of the full fine, plus the cost of the traffic school, so the expense will be greater, but has the advantage of resulting in dismissal of the ticket so that it does not appear on your driving record.

In the end, this could save you as much on insurance as the cost of the ticket and the traffic school combined.

The clerk’s office of the court where your ticket is pending will give you a list of approved in person and online traffic schools.

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Failing to Appear (“Just Ignoring It”)

In some counties (such as Los Angeles), failing to appear or otherwise respond to a red light camera ticket will not result in the issuance of a failure to appear warrant.  However, even in such counties, the failure to appear will remain in the court records and if you ever have to go for some other reason, is likely to be found and you will have to deal with it.

In other counties, if you do not follow any of the allowable procedures (pay the fine, do traffic school, file a request for Trial by Declaration or appear in court), a bench warrant will be issued for Failure to Appear (FTA). This will just make the situation worse, as that is a separate, misdemeanor criminal offense.  Furthermore, a  failure to appear warrant could be discovered by your insurance company. This would probably result in an increase in premiums or even outright cancellation of your auto insurance.

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Results of a Conviction (in Trial, by Pleading Guilty or by just Paying the Fine)

Conviction of a red light violation will result in a fine (these vary from county to county) and one point on your DMV record.  Points violations can result in suspension or revocation of your driver’s license and will almost certainly cause an increase in your insurance premiums.  To be clear, if you decide to “just pay the fine”, that constitutes a conviction of the offense and a point on your driving record.

Should Government Regulate the Sugar Content of Food?


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The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Official) is one of my favorite organizations.  Dawkins, of course, is the author of  The God Delusion and other popular books about reason, science, evolution and religion.  The Facebook “About” page for the Richard Dawkins Foundation says, “This Foundation supports reason and science. We organize to overcome the suffering and intolerance that springs from religious fundamentalism.”

The foundation’s Facebook page is here:

http://www.facebook.com/RichardDawkinsFoundation

Today, the foundation posted an article which asked the question, “Do you feed your child toxins?” and suggested, “Read the science before commenting” along with a link to a New York Times op-ed piece by Mark Bittman:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/its-the-sugar-folks/

The op-ed discusses a recently released study from the journal PLoS One which announced the results of a statistical “study on the relationship between sugars and diabetes”.  This study is available here:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0057873

And a blog explanation by the principal author of the study, Sanjay Basu, is available here:

http://epianalysis.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/sugardiabetes/

A number of comments to the Dawkins Facebook post suggest that this study is an appropriate basis upon which government could (and perhaps should) regulate the sugar content of American food, some going so far as to suggest that government should “ban” added sugar in food.  These suggestions follow a pattern of governmental regulation of what Americans eat and drink, such as New York City’s ban on servings of sugary sodas exceeding 16 ounces and the restrictions by many school districts across the country on what food & drink can be served to children for lunch (and even on what they can bring from home).

I usually find posts by the Richard Dawkins Foundation to be useful and, more importantly, accurate. However, this NY Times opinion piece misses the mark in one significant way — the author makes the statement (third paragraph):

“In other words, according to this study, obesity doesn’t cause diabetes: sugar does.”

The principal author of the study, however, in the blog about it, clearly states that this is NOT in fact what their study found. This was a statistical study, not a controlled scientific study. As Basu says in the blog, “There are, nevertheless, limitations to any statistical study. As we teach our students, we can’t ‘prove causality’ through any amount of statistics—we’re simply halfway between the typical weak medical correlation studies and the ideal case of a randomized controlled trial (which often also can’t prove causality for a variety of reasons, despite common misconceptions).” (emphasis added)

In other words, and contrary to Mr. Bittman’s conclusion, this study did not (and could not) find that sugar causes diabetes.  Or, as it is sometimes stated, “correlation does not prove causation”.

The Basu blog also makes some other significant qualifications about the study:

“… like any epidemiological study using aggregate data we can suffer from the ‘ecological fallacy’, which means that when we look at aggregate populations, we can’t be sure that those people eating the greater sugars were the exact same people who experienced more diabetes in that given country.”

Which is to say, they can’t even tell if the specific people who ate more sugar are actually the ones who suffered from an increased risk of diabetes.

“… the data themselves are not perfect—in addition to looking for selection bias and doing ‘robustness checks’ by repeating the analysis while excluding outliers or extreme data points (finding, still, consistent results), we have to acknowledge that food availability data from even the best sources are not perfect, and diabetes surveillance rates (even though we checked them against multiple sources), as well as estimates of overweight, obesity and physical activity in many countries are far from perfect. We just used the best data available to date, given the urgency of this question.”

Thus, the data on which the study was based may not have been accurate to begin with, leading to obvious reservations about the conclusions of the study.

And, most significantly:

“The study was conducted to understand a statistical theory, using a statistical approach. It doesn’t say anything about any specific person’s diabetes risk or provide any kind of dietary advice. This data cannot distinguish between types of sugars (like high fructose corn syrup versus other types of sugars), nor does it establish more insight into the mechanisms that are at play, which need to be pieced together in laboratory and experimental research studies. This study also can’t inform any specific policies like the New York City ban on large soft drinks, since the real-world effects of specific policies weren’t evaluated in this experiment.” (emphasis added)

In short, this study is NOT a basis upon which government should act to impose restrictions (or “bans”) on sugar, even if it was otherwise appropriate for government to be regulating what we eat — which, in my opinion, is not in any event the government’s business.

Perhaps the best approach of all is for people to simply “forthrightly accept responsibility” for their own food choices, “regardless of the consequences”.  And, once having done so, to make better choices.

“No man has greater courage, honor and integrity …


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… than he who forthrightly accepts responsibility for his actions, regardless of the consequences.”

As a young Deputy DA in 1976, I was assigned as the supervising attorney of the Orange County (CA) DA’s office drunk driving program for multiple DUI offenders.  It was called “Lucky Deuce” — DUI’s in California were referred to as “deuces” because they were originally violations of Penal Code section 502, and later Vehicle Code section 23102 and eventually VC section 23152.

Lucky Deuce was a 15 month program of counseling, rehabilitation and public service, by which multiple DUI offenders could earn less serious punishment for their convictions.  It was a predecessor to and somewhat of a model for the statewide SB38 program later adopted by California.

Early on in my supervision of this program, I learned that alcoholics (and many, if not most, of the participants were alcoholics) were resistant to admitting their problem and even more resistant to accepting that there were consequences for their anti-social behavior.

Therefore, I wrote the title quote and had it printed on business cards which I then gave to each of the program participants.  As the first step toward rehabilitation … and the hoped for leniency … each of them had to first accept responsibility for his or her actions.  The more forthrightly each did so, the more likely he or she was to succeed in the program.

Of course, the quote is of more universal application and appeal than just in DUI cases.  It often does take courage to accept responsibility for one’s actions … and doing so does demonstrate both honor and integrity … particularly if the consequences are substantially adverse.

With few exceptions, therefore, such acceptance warrants both respect and admiration.

No Man Has Greater Courage Placque

2nd Amendment Letter to the Editor June 17, 2000


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While looking through an old file today, I ran across this clipping of a letter to the editor of the Marin County Independent Journal (IJ) that was published on June 17, 2000.  Thirteen years later, it would seem that little has changed.

Note in particular the final sentence of the letter.  It presages where the government would now like to go — registration of every gun in the country, so that government officials know where all guns are.  Well, I own one, obtained before changes in the law required government involvement and approval.  I remain of the opinion expressed in this letter:  Unless and until I commit a crime using one, it is none of the government’s business whether I own a gun.

Letter to the Editor, Marin Independent Journal -- June 17, 2000

Letter to the Editor, Marin Independent Journal — June 17, 2000

“No One is Coming to Take Your Guns” … Yet


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In an effort to re-assure people that stricter gun control laws are no threat to law-abiding gun owners, gun control advocates often say, “No one is coming to take your guns”.

Yet.

A recent example is a column published on Saturday, February 16th, by Sam Pollak of the Oneonta (NY) Daily Star:

http://thedailystar.com/columns/x1525014201/No-one-is-coming-to-take-your-guns

In this column, Pollak asserts:

“I have some very disappointing news for some of the more-virulent foes of sane gun-control legislation.  If you’re what the National Rifle Association loves to call a “law-abiding American citizen,” no one is going to take away your guns.

Not the federal government.  Not the state government.  Not the local government.  Not the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard.  Not the United Nations.”

Obviously, Mr. Pollak hasn’t been paying attention.  Legislators in at least five states, including his home state of New York, have recently introduced gun control proposals which would include, to at least some degree, confiscation of firearms which are lawfully owned by citizens of those states.

Perhaps even more important than possible gun confiscation legislation is what might happen in one of those disaster situations, or MCEs, discussed in my previous blog post.  After reading that post, #2 son Matt brought to my attention one aspect of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans of which I was unaware or which I had forgotten — the confiscation of civilian firearms at the very time they were most needed by their owners.

On September 8, 2005, New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass, without any legal authority whatsoever and in blatant violation of the 2nd Amendment, issued an order to local police, the Army National Guard and Deputy U.S. Marshals to confiscate all civilian owned firearms in the City of New Orleans.  He said, “No one will be able to be armed.  Guns will be taken.  Only law enforcement will be allowed to have guns.”

Pursuant to this order, New Orleans cops seized privately owned weapons without benefit of search or arrest warrants and, sometimes, by use of excessive force.

One such excessive force incident was the seizure from 58 year old New Orleans resident Patricia Konie of a revolver.  Konie had declined to evacuate her home, which was well-provisioned, and kept the revolver for self-protection.

Several police officers entered her home and demanded that she surrender the revolver.  When she refused to do so, they took it from her by force, fracturing her shoulder in the process, then took her into custody for refusing to give up her weapon.

Unfortunately for the cops, the incident was video recorded and became the basis of virulent criticism of the confiscation order and the police tactics.  Several lawsuits ensued and, on September 23rd, a federal court issued an order restraining any further confiscation of lawfully owned weapons.

In response to the criticism (and the lawsuits), the city initially denied having confiscated any weapons.  Ultimately, however, the city admitted that more than 1000 weapons had been illegally seized.  And, despite several court orders that the weapons be returned, it was more than two years before this was finally accomplished.

As a result of these seizures, Louisiana enacted a 2006 law which prohibits confiscation of firearms during an emergency, unless the seizure is necessary to prevent immediate harm to a police officer or other person, or if it is part of a criminal investigation during which seizure would otherwise be lawful.  Subsequently, several other states passed similar laws.  And, as part of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007, a federal law prohibiting the seizure of lawfully owned private weapons during an emergency was enacted.

There are some law enforcement officials who understand and are prepared to uphold the law and the 2nd Amendment.  A group of Montana sheriffs has spoken out on the subject, vowing that they would not enforce any unconstitutional new federal gun laws.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton, in a written statement, announced:  “You will not find the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputies participating in ANY confiscation of firearms in an unlawful manner.”

In a letter to Vice President Joe Biden, Powell County sheriff Scott Howard said:  “We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws.”

For more information about these sheriffs, see this Helena, Montana, Independent Record article and photo:

http://helenair.com/news/local/sheriff-i-m-not-going-to-take-your-gun/article_ff94517a-6d8a-11e2-9deb-0019bb2963f4.html

Montana Sheriffs Scott Howard & Leo Dutton

Montana Sheriffs Scott Howard & Leo Dutton

Nevertheless, there are plenty of government officials like New Orleans Police Superintendent Compass who are more than ready to ignore the law and the Constitution in their zeal to disarm people.  That they may claim, as they often do, that they are acting out of concerns for “public safety” does not justify their unlawful actions.

This kind of official mentality brings to mind the saying — often mis-attributed to Thomas Jefferson — “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”.  Whoever may have actually said it, the sentiment expressed remains valid.  Today, on the subject of private ownership of firearms, it is necessary to assert that vigilance against our own government officials and in favor of our constitutional rights.

Gun Control and Your Right to Defend Yourself, Your Home and Your Loved Ones


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Following up on the conclusion to my previous post, two points to discuss here:

1)  Gun control from the perspective of those who have actually used guns in defense of themselves, their homes and their loved ones;  and

2)  Why and under what possible future circumstances the availability of firearms for such protection would be desirable, if not essential, to the survival not only of individuals, but our society as a whole.

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Your Right to Defend Yourself, Your Home and Your Loved Ones

Lost in the gun control debate, which has focused almost exclusively on the negative uses of firearms by criminals, is any discussion of the right of people to use guns to defend themselves and protects their homes and families.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much available in the way of reliable statistics about such use — in part for the same reasons that the subject is ignored in the gun control debate.  One nut killing a number of people with a gun is BIG news.  A homeowner using a gun to protect himself and his family against criminals rates barely a mention in the local newspaper and none whatsoever in the national news.

A recent article by Paul Barrett on the Bloomberg BusinessWeek website summarized the statistical dispute over defensive use of firearms. This article is available here:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-12-27/how-often-do-we-use-guns-in-self-defense

Barrett notes that one 1994 study (by Gary Kleck, an accomplished criminologist at Florida State University) extrapolated a result of 2 million self-defense uses per year.  Conversely, an annual federal government research project, called the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), estimates in the neighborhood of 100,000 defensive gun uses per year.

Finally, Barrett notes, “… other social scientists have suggested that perhaps a figure somewhere between 250,000 and 370,000 might be more accurate.”  In support of this statement, he cites a 1997 article by Tom W. Smith of the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, in the Northwestern Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, which is available here:

http://www.saf.org/lawreviews/smitht1.htm

So, what does this all mean in terms of the gun violence/control debate?

There is, of course, no way of knowing how many innocent lives are saved every year by these defensive gun uses.  Not every such use saves a life, but some assuredly must do so.  What percentage?  5%?  10%?

One gun rights source, Second Amendment Sisters, in an article entitled “Nine Myths About Gun Control”, estimates 20%. See the concluding sentence of the discussion of Myth #1 in this article here:

http://rense.com/general76/mths.htm

This estimate, in turn, is based on the 1994 article “Guns in the Medical Literature — A Failure of Peer Review” by Edgar A. Suter, MD, in the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia, which is available in full here:

http://www.rkba.org/research/suter/med-lit.html#abstract

Dr. Suter observes, correctly in my opinion, that:  “The true measure of the protective benefits of guns are the lives saved, the injuries prevented, the medical costs saved, and the property protected ….” by defensive gun use.

Gary Kleck’s analysis of defensive gun use notes that:  “Each year about 1500-2800 criminals are lawfully killed by gun-wielding American civilians in justifiable or excusable homicides, far more than are killed by police officers.”

So, for purposes of this discussion, let’s use the lowest estimate of defensive gun uses per year, the NCVS estimate of 100,000.  And let’s assume that only one in ten of such uses saves an innocent life.  In that case, the total number of lives saved is 10,000, at a cost of between 1500-2800 dead bad guys.  Sounds like a pretty fair trade off to me.

Furthermore, it also means that every year guns save nearly as many innocent lives as they take … and that’s a low estimate.  If we use the “more accurate” estimate of 250,000 to 370,000 defensive gun uses per year, guns are saving upwards of three times as many innocent lives as they are taking.

What this means in terms of the gun control debate is this — the more we restrict access by law-abiding citizens to self-defense firearms, the fewer innocent lives those citizens and their firearms will save.  And, since it seems likely that most crooks won’t any more attention to stricter gun control laws than they currently pay to the existing gun control laws, the relative rate of innocent lives lost compared to those saved will rise.  In other words, the stricter the gun control, the higher the relative loss of innocent lives.

All of which says nothing about the other “protective benefits of guns” — “the injuries prevented, the medical costs saved, and the property protected“.

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Self-Defense in Case of a National Emergency

Earlier today, I posted on Facebook a comment about the recent Public Service Announcement by Milwaukee County WI Sheriff David Clarke in which he urged citizens to arm themselves for self-protection.  In this PSA, Sheriff Clarke said:

“You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed or you can fight back.  But, are you prepared?  Consider taking a certified safety course in handling of firearms so you can defend yourself until we get there.  You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.

Sheriff Clarke’s full 32 second PSA is available here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8TCx-sM1vw

My comment about this announcement is here:

http://www.facebook.com/jamest.reilly.3

I said:

“If you think that the government — national, state or local — will always be able to protect you in an emergency, just ask the folks in New Orleans. And, even if it is a personal emergency only (such as a home invasion), how quickly do you think the local cops will get there to rescue you? Ten minutes? Five? Two? Too late in any event. Your personal safety is your personal responsibility. Have a family? They are your responsibility, too. Not the government’s. Not the local sheriff or chief of police. You are your family’s first line of defense and, perhaps, the last as well.”

In the U.S. government’s assessment of its own response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, it was noted that:

“Almost immediately following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, law and order began to deteriorate in New Orleans. The city’s overwhelmed police force–70 percent of which were themselves victims of the disaster—did not have the capacity to arrest every person witnessed committing a crime, and many more crimes were undoubtedly neither observed by police nor reported. The resulting lawlessness in New Orleans significantly impeded—and in some cases temporarily halted—relief efforts and delayed restoration of essential private sector services such as power, water, and telecommunications.”

This comment appears in the section of the report entitled “Critical Challenge: Public Safety and Security”.  The report in full is available here:

http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/reports/katrina-lessons-learned/chapter5.html

In this regard, of course, New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is not unique.  Any time there is a breakdown in civil order, crime is increasingly prevalent as civil disorder increases.  And, all too often, in the midst of such civil disorder, governmental authorities, including law enforcement officials, will simply not be available to protect most citizens.  As Sheriff Clarke says, “You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.”  If the bad guys have guns and you don’t, it is going to be difficult or impossible for you to fulfill that duty.

In a 2012 “Mass Violence & Emergency National Training Conference” program entitled “Dealing with Secondary Crime Arising from Mass Casualty Events”, several key points are addressed:

1)  During major disasters (“Mass Casualty Events” or MCEs), people are more vulnerable, local law enforcement officers are distracted or overwhelmed, and criminals can exploit the situation.

2)  As a result, property crimes, including looting, are common.

3)  Regarding Hurricane Katrina in particular, “a growing body of evidence suggests there were more storm-related sexual assaults than previously known.

4)  “Disasters contribute to a significant increase in domestic violence, including acts such as domestic-related criminal homicide, rape, aggravated assault, stalking, and violent threats or intimidation.”

5)  “An increase in human trafficking often comes in the wake of a natural disaster.”

6)  The incidence of hate crimes can rise after a major disaster:  “Post-disaster hate crimes have consisted of telephone, internet, mail, and face-to-face threats; minor assaults as well as assaults with dangerous weapons and assaults resulting in serious injury and death; and vandalism, shootings, arson and bombings directed at homes, businesses, and places of worship.”  (emphasis added)

The complete slide presentation for this program is available here:

https://ncjtc.org/CONF/Ovcconf/AttMat/Dealing%20with%20Secondary%20Crime_Crimando.pdf

In short, during a major disaster, you are more likely to become a victim of crime, including violent crimes like rape, aggravated assault, arson and murder, than at other times.  At the same time, local law enforcement is being overwhelmed by the demands of the disaster.  Meaning that those upon whom you might otherwise depend to protect yourself against increased crime are simply not available to do so.  At such times, more than ever, you have a duty to protect yourself and your family.  How are you going to do so?

And what happens in the event of a more generalized breakdown in civil order.  Localized disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, are bad enough.  But what happens in the event of a more widespread disaster?

In an earlier post about gun control …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/what-now-for-the-second-amendment-gun-control/

… I referred to the book One Second After by William Forstchen, in which the author fictionalized what might happen in the US in the aftermath of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.  For those unfamiliar with EMP, such an event could conceivably shut down all electricity supply in large portions of the US.  That would mean no electrically operated devices would work — some obvious examples, computers, televisions, radios and telephones.  Less obvious examples, refrigerators & freezers, microwave ovens, washers & dryers, both interior and exterior lighting, and even most modern motor vehicles (the engines of which are operated by electrical commands).

Forstchen’s book focuses on how one American community in North Carolina deals with the consequences of an EMP attack.  And makes clear just how important having firearms for self-protection would be in the event of such an attack.

See Forstchen’s website for detailed discussions of EMP and how to prepare for such an attack:

http://www.onesecondafter.com/

In the section of this site entitled “Preparing for EMP” …

http://www.onesecondafter.com/pb/wp_194d9c9d/wp_194d9c9d.html

… Forstchen says:

You are on your own … for weeks, maybe months.   Those of you living in Louisiana, Mississippi and coastal Texas know what I mean.  Don’t count on the government to come to your rescue in a post EMP America.  Consider yourself on your own from “one second after,” the event.  Those who realize that now have the greatest chance of survival.”

With respect to personal security, Forstchen says:

“This is a tough one to discuss.  In 1999 I kinda chuckled at some friends who were convinced Y2K was going to wipe us out and I think were slightly disappointed when it did not. I am not some right wing gun fanatic who sees conspiracies lurking round every corner, but I do take personal security seriously. This is a personal choice you will have to make on your own, I can’t advise other than to say this:

“There is a percentage of our population who will view a post EMP world as a paradise, where their system of survival, their personal greed, their willingness to use any means possible to survive will come to the fore. Yes, it is a plot point of the novel, but it is also a harsh reality. There are places in this world, at this very moment, where someone would kill you for a can of food. Someday, that could be America.   

“If you do not own a gun but should decide to do so now, please get the proper training.  I was fortunate in that my father was a firearms instructor during WWII and my training from him was the best, a training I have passed on to my daughter.  Always remember the valid statistics that a weapon in your house is an increased danger to you and your family, especially without proper training of all family members and not just yourself, but on the other side, it might be the crucial factor of survival in a post EMP world.  If you are unfamiliar with firearms but decide to purchase one, talk to the experts, you will find your local police are great guys to point you in the proper and safe direction.  I have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.  I know that in some areas you cannot obtain that. If you can, the training to get the permit is superb and again crucial to your own safety and that of your family and does insure that your having a loaded weapon on you is legal.”  (emphasis added)

And, if you think his book is science fiction and farfetched, see the Wikipedia article on EMP:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_pulse

And this Heritage Foundation article about Congressional hearings on the subject:

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/09/11/congressional-hearing-raise-emp-awareness-now/

The possibility of an EMP event and the potential consequences thereof are science fact, not science fiction.

And keep in mind that an EMP event can also result from natural occurrences, such as a major solar flare, and not just as a result of a nuclear attack.  The website “Disaster Survival Resources” …

http://www.disaster-survival-resources.com/emp.html

… provides a relatively minor example of what can happen as a result of a solar flare:

“On March 13th, 1989 a huge solar induced magnetic storm that played havoc with the ionosphere, and the earth’s magnetic field. This storm, the second largest storm experienced in the past 50 years, totally shut down Hydro-Quebec, the power grid servicing Canada’s Quebec province.”

As we grow increasingly dependent on electronically controlled devices, we also become increasingly vulnerable to the adverse effects of an EMP event.  And, having the ability to protect ourselves in case of such an event becomes increasingly important.

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Conclusion

You have a right to defend yourself, your home and your loved ones.  You have that right today, tomorrow and every day thereafter … and under all circumstances.  You cannot know in advance when it may become necessary for you to do so, either against a routine criminal assault or during a localized or national emergency.

In fact, as noted by Sheriff Clarke, you not only have a right to defend yourself, your home and your loved ones, “You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.”

Do not allow the government to impair your ability to fulfill that duty by diluting or eliminating your 2nd Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” … or by restricting that right in such a way as to make it impossible to effectively use those arms should it become necessary to do so.  Do not succumb to the fear-mongering of those who would disarm you, or unduly restrict your ability to use your weapons, in the name of “public safety”.

Ongoing Debate re 2nd Amendment & Gun Control


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My earlier post here “Dispelling the Myth that More Guns = More Murders” …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/dispelling-the-myth-that-more-guns-more-murders/

… generated considerable discussion among my West Point classmates.  One of them, John Douglas, is also an attorney with whom, on political issues, I more often than not agree.  On this subject, however, he disagrees with both my interpretation of the language of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution … discussed in detail at …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/what-now-for-the-second-amendment-gun-control/

… and my position on gun control.

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The “plain language” of the 2nd Amendment

In response to my comment that proponents of gun control demonstrate an “inability or unwillingness to read and comprehend the plain language of the 2nd Amendment”, John replied:

… the 2d Amendment has a contradictory construction, a tortured legal history and is notably devoid of “plain language.” The Amendment (in the version ratified by the States) reads, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  According to gun rights advocates, this Amendment that speaks so highly of regulation clearly prohibits regulation of guns.  Hmmm.  Whatever it might have meant back then or should mean now, “the” meaning is hardly “plain”.

As I have said previously, I believe that the introductory clause to the 2nd Amendment is just that — an introduction which explains the reason for the right which is protected in the second clause, “the right to bear arms”.  The fact that the introduction refers to a “well-regulated militia” implies regulation of the militia (that is, the body of non-military citizens who can be organized, if necessary, for military service), not a limitation on the rights of the individuals who comprise that militia.

I replied to John:

In any event, the “tortured” historical interpretation of the 2nd Amendment came to be only because representatives of the government contorted what is, on its face, clear and unequivocal, so as to make it possible for the government to impose controls which would otherwise have been impermissible.

A detailed explanation of my “plain language” interpretation of the amendment is here:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/more-on-the-2nd-amendment-and-gun-control/

John then responded:

I don’t think the tortured history of the Second Amendment is due to ‘contortions by representatives of the government’, but is rather due almost entirely to the amendment’s obtuse wording.  I’m told the former headquarters of the NRA had on the side of the building: ‘THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.’  That is, of course, only half the amendment.  So far as the NRA and like-minded folk were (and mostly are) concerned, that’s the whole amendment.  Except it isn’t.

The next most important factors in the tortured history would be the historical evolution of gun ownership in the US and the role of gov’t here.  In our early years, the federal gov’t’s role with guns was not particularly controversial.  Early on it mandated musket ownership by all military age males AND regulated that (by requiring regular musters for inspections of the muskets & registration of the same).  Despite what some now argue about prohibitions on regulations on ownership, our Founding Fathers actually altogether prohibited some classes of people from owning guns (such as slaves and even white males who refused to swear allegiance to the country).  We have had many changing alliances and understandings regarding the roles of guns in our society (particularly those that followed the upheaval of the Civil War), which have accompanied the evolving and multifaceted interpretations of the 2d Amend.  The short of it is that neither the wording of the Second Amendment nor the varying historical understandings of it are ‘plain’ or simple.

1792 Militia Act:  It is true that in 1792, Congress passed a law essentially requiring, with some exceptions, all able-bodied white male citizens and residents between the ages of 18 and 45 to acquire and maintain a musket, related supplies and other military equipment.  This law was poorly and unevenly enforced and did not, in fact, prohibit ownership of guns by slaves;  it simply did not require them to have guns.  Restrictions on gun ownership by slaves were imposed in the slave-owning states, but not by federal law.  Of course, under the constitution, slaves were not considered citizens (or even “whole” people, counting as they did under the constitution as only “three-fifths” of a person each), so would not have been covered by the 1792 militia act in any event.

Commentary by St. George TuckerA good indication of what the 2nd Amendment “plainly” meant can be ascertained from the early legal commentaries on the subject.  The earliest known such commentary was written in 1803 by St. George Tucker, whose annotated five volume edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England contained the observation that the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment was not subject to the restrictions that were part of English law:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed … and this without any qualification as to their condition or degree, as is the case in the British government ….”  (emphasis added)

Tucker went on to express the hope that Americans “… never cease to regard the right of keeping and bearing arms as the surest pledge of their liberty.”

Commentary by William RawleIn 1825, William Rawle, in A View of the Constitution of the United States of America, characterized the second clause of the Second Amendment as a general prohibition against government control of private gun ownership, saying:

No clause could by any rule of construction be conceived to give to congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some general pretence by a state legislature. But if in any blind pursuit of inordinate power, either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both.

Rawle’s comment is particularly interesting in its suggestion that the 2nd Amendment could be relied upon to restrain state laws infringing on the right to bear arms.  This comment presaged the limitation on state power ultimately included in the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, which was not passed until 43 years later.  Section 1 of the 14th Amendment provides in part, “… nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”.

Commentary by Joseph Story:  In 1833, Joseph Story published his Commentaries on the Constitution. As expressed in those “commentaries”, his view the meaning of the Amendment was clear (and “plain”):

The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.  (emphasis added)

In short, one of the primary purposes of the 2nd Amendment was to enable the people to protect themselves, if necessary, against the government.  That objective can hardly be accomplished if the government has the power to constitutionally infringe on the right of those same people to bear the arms needed for that very protection.

It was not, in fact, until after the American Civil War and on into the 19th century that legal scholars and commentary began to call into question whether the 2nd Amendment provided an individual right to bear arms or merely a “collective” right of the people to maintain an armed militia.

And that question, of course, was finally answered by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2008 decision in  District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the full text of which can be seen here:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/search/display.html?terms=heller&url=/supct/html/07-290.ZS.html

In this decision, the Supreme Court held that the 2nd Amendment does protect an individual right to possess firearms unconnected with service in a militia;  that such weapons may be used for “traditionally lawful purposes”, such as self-defense;  that the first clause of the 2nd Amendment “announces a purpose”, but does not limit the second and operative clause of the amendment;  and that the text and history of the phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” indicates “an individual right to keep and bear arms”.

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The effects of gun control

John Douglas also took exception to my discussion of the statistical evidence regarding the effects of gun control, saying:

I am also immediately turned off when a gun rights advocate attacks statistics on the effects of gun control with the ‘there is no evidence’ chain of reasoning.  One of the reasons we have limited evidence on the effects of gun possession in the US is the NRA’s successful stifling of research in the area – and, indeed, in the very collection of data upon which research might be done.  At the peak of gun violence in the early 90s, research results were released showing the higher death rates in homes with guns.   (emphasis added)

John then cited two studies funded by the Centers for Disease Control in support of that conclusion, studies the results of which are available at:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199310073291506#t=article

and

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199208133270705

The first of these studies addressed homicides in three American counties (Shelby County, TN;  King County, WA;  and Cuyahoga County, OH) during the years 1987 through 1992.  This study notes that more than 24,000 homicides were being committed across the country every year, indicating that approximately 120,000 homicides were committed during the five years addressed by the study.  However, the study actually considered just 420 homicides, or roughly 1/3 of 1% of the total U.S. homicides committed during those years.

Regarding the 420 homicides that were considered, the study noted:

Two hundred nine victims (49.8 percent) died from gunshot wounds. A knife or some other sharp instrument was used to kill 111 victims (26.4 percent). The remaining victims were either bludgeoned (11.7 percent), strangled (6.4 percent), or killed by other means (5.7 percent).

The study ultimately concluded that there was an increased risk of homicide in the home if guns were present (though it is readily apparent that even without guns, if people wanted to kill other people in their homes, there were a variety of other effective means available for that purpose).  However, the study also concluded that there were other factors which were “strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide in the home”, including rental rather than ownership, living alone, previous violence in the home, previous arrest of any resident of the home and drug use in the home.

In fact, four of these five other factors were found to have created a greater increased risk of homicide in the home than did the presence of guns. Use of drugs created an increased risk of homicide that was more than double that of the presence of guns in the home;  previous violence and living in a rental home each created a risk of homicide in the home 63% greater than the presence of guns;  and living alone created a risk of homicide in the home 37% greater than the presence of guns.  The only characteristic that created a lesser increased risk of homicide in the home than the presence of guns was the prior arrest of a resident in the home.

The sample in this study was so small as to be virtually meaningless in the big picture of gun violence and control.  Nevertheless, if taken at face value, it indicates that it is more important, in terms of reducing homicide in the home, to control drug use and violence in the home than it is to control the presence of guns.  In fact, if governmental policy is to be based on this type of statistical analysis, it would also appear to be more important to prohibit people from living alone or renting homes than it is to control the presence of guns.

In other words, this study isn’t very helpful in determining whether or not increased gun controls are useful in preventing homicides in the home or generally.

The second of the two studies John cited addressed 554 in-home suicides in two counties (Shelby County, TN, and King County, WA) over a 32 month period from 1987 to 1990.  Of these suicides, approximately 58% were committed using firearms.

While this study found an increased risk of suicide based on a gun being kept in the home, four other factors were found to have an even higher correlation to increased risk of suicide than the presence of a gun.  Use of prescribed psychotropic medication created an increased suicide risk 7.5 times that created by the presence of a gun; previous hospitalization for alcohol use more than three times;  use of drugs more than double;  and living alone slightly higher than the presence of a gun in the home.  Even failing to graduate from high school had a correlation to an increased risk of suicide that was almost equal to that created by the presence of a gun in the home.

In short, this study is even less useful than the other in determining whether or not greater government control of guns would be appropriate or effective at achieving the desired goals of gun control.

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A straw man argument?

John also took exception to my discussion on another ground:

Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, you set up a straw man argument and, not surprisingly, defeat it, when you claim that gun control advocates are asserting that an increase in the number of guns – irrespective of all other variables – leads to an increase in crimes, especially murder.

To which I say, anyone who contends that reducing the number of guns in the possession of law-abiding citizens will reduce violent crime and murder is also necessarily claiming that an increase in the number of guns will have the opposite effect.  If you don’t contend that reducing the number of guns in the possession of law-abiding citizens will reduce violent crime and murder, then what is the purpose of imposing new laws and regulations designed to accomplish that goal?

John added:

I’m sure there are a few ill-informed fringe gun control advocates who think that way, but no reasonable proponents do.  We all have to recognize that violence levels have many causes. 

And to that I say, exactly.  And that is in fact the primary point of my opposition to the reflexive response of so many that simply imposing stricter gun controls will substantially reduce or even eliminate violent crime.  Interestingly, the two studies cited by John above actually support the conclusion that there are other factors which are much more important, at least with respect to deaths in the home, whether homicides or suicides, than the mere presence in the home of firearms.

John also disagreed with the statistical analysis I presented in “Dispelling the Myth …”, suggesting that the best comparison regarding prevalence of guns and murder rates is not between the U.S. and countries such as Mexico and Honduras, but “comparable” countries like Canada (even though Canadians have no rights comparable to those granted to Americans by the 2nd Amendment).  He notes that Canada is 31st in “homicide rate” (below the U.S., which is 14th), while the U.S. has a homicide per 1000 guns rate that is  7 times that of Canada.

And yet, the overall homicide rate in the U.S. (4.8 per 100,000 people in 2010) is just 3 times that of Canada;  meaning, of course, that Canadians are easily finding other ways, in the absence of ready access to guns, to kill each other.  Just as Americans would if they did not have access to guns.

There are other considerations which must be accounted for in any comparison between the American and Canadian gun-related and overall homicide rates.  For example, while it is true that the homicide rate is higher in the U.S., the overall difference in the rate of violent crimes, including homicides, has decreased, as the rate of violent crimes dropped faster in the U.S., during the 1990’s and 2000’s, than it did in Canada.

Other factors have a significant impact on the relative homicide rates for reasons that are largely unrelated to access to or possession of guns.  The U.S. has more cities with large, concentrated populations, and cities almost invariably have higher murder rates than rural areas, even in countries with strict gun controls and relatively rare private gun ownership.  The U.S. also has substantially more and a higher rate of both gang activity and drug related crime than does Canada; each of these criminal activities contribute disproportionately to the rate of gun-related homicides.

Elimination of the “insane war on drugs” and adoption of social policies designed to reduce gang activity would each do more to reduce the “gun-related” homicide rate in the U.S. than any of the proposed “gun control” measures.

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Conclusion

John wrapped up his comments by saying:

As for the effects of gun control, I harbor no illusions that implementing even draconian restrictions would quickly alter our level of gun violence, since we are awash in guns and it would take decades to ‘drain the swamp’.  The modest restrictions on gun ownership that have been implemented here and there in the past, and that are likely in the future here, are mostly band-aids on a large open wound and will have at most a modest effect on gun violence.  To me, that’s sad, but that is the political reality. 

However, despite my pessimism on what can be done in the US, I stand by what I regard as the clear balance of evidence in regard to the relationship between the level of violence and the prevalence of guns.  When you compare countries with comparable levels of development and comparable social structures, the ones with much lower levels of gun ownership have much lower levels of gun violence.

And I stand by my own analysis in this regard, though I have to agree with the ultimate extrapolation of John’s concluding comment.  That is, there can be no doubt that if there were no guns in the U.S., there would be no gun violence in the U.S.  That, however, is not really the point, as we are never going to have a society in which there are no firearms, nor would or should we want to have such a society.

Furthermore, neither I nor John have addressed the issue of gun control from the perspective of those who have actually used guns in defense of themselves, their homes and their loved ones.

Or why and under what possible future circumstances the availability of firearms for such protection be desirable, if not essential, to the survival of not only individuals, but our society as a whole.

I will address both of these subjects in future discussions here.

Trashing the 1st Amendment in Arizona


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Right wing conservative legislators in Arizona have proposed a new law which would, in blatant violation of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, require that high school students recite an oath of allegiance as a prerequisite to graduating from high school.  The legislation would require recitation of the following oath:

“I, _______, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.

See Note 1 below for online news articles and commentary about this proposed legislation.

“Freedom of speech” including both the freedom to speak and the freedom not to speak, any requirement that a high school student recite an oath of allegiance in order to graduate is almost certainly unconstitutional as a violation of the 1st Amendment.

More significantly, and the primary point of the controversy over the proposed legislation, is that  the requirement that students invoke “god” in the oath clearly violates the 1st Amendment’s freedom of religion clause.

As a reminder, here is what the 1st Amendment says:

          Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Proponents of this proposed oath can draw no support from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School District, in which the phrase “under god” in the Pledge of Allegiance was upheld in a 2-1 ruling.  The majority opinion in that case, by Judge Carlos Bea, said:

          We hold that the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the Establishment Clause because Congress’ ostensible and predominant purpose was to inspire patriotism and that the context of the Pledge—its wording as a whole, the preamble to the statute, and this nation’s history—demonstrate that it is a predominantly patriotic exercise. For these reasons, the phrase “one Nation under God” does not turn this patriotic exercise into a religious activity.

See Note 2 below for the full text of the Newdow decision.

Significantly, however, this ruling was predicated, in significant part, on the fact that the practice involved, teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, was required only of “willing” students.  The ruling was therefore consistent with other Circuit Court decisions upholding similar practices in Virginia and Illinois.  The statutes in each of those states allowed any student who objected to reciting the pledge to sit or stand silently.

See Note 3 below for the Virginia and Illinois cases citations.

As noted by Judge Stephen Reinhardt in his Newdow dissent, even this option should not have saved the school policy:

          Were this a case to be decided on the basis of the law or the Constitution, the outcome would be clear. Under no sound legal analysis adhering to binding Supreme Court precedent could this court uphold state-directed, teacher-led, daily recitation of the “under God” version of the Pledge of Allegiance by children in public schools. It is not the recitation of the Pledge as it long endured that is at issue here, but its recitation with the congressionally added two words, “under God”words added in 1954 for the specific religious purpose, among others, of indoctrinating public schoolchildren with a religious belief. …  Only a desire to change the rules regarding the separation of church and state or an unwillingness to place this court on the unpopular side of a highly controversial dispute regarding both patriotism and religion could explain the decision the members of the majority reach here and the lengths to which their muddled and self-contradictory decision goes in order to reach the result they do.

          To put it bluntly, no judge familiar with the history of the Pledge could in good conscience believe, as today’s majority purports to do, that the words “under God” were inserted into the Pledge for any purpose other than an explicitly and predominantly religious one: “to recognize the power and the universality of God in our pledge of allegiance;” to “acknowledge the dependence of our people, and our Government upon the moral direction and the restraints of religion,” … and to indoctrinate schoolchildren in the belief that God exists. Nor could any judge familiar with controlling Supreme Court precedent seriously deny that carrying out such an indoctrination in a public school classroom unconstitutionally forces many young children either to profess a religious belief antithetical to their personal views or to declare themselves through their silence or nonparticipation to be protesting nonbelievers, thereby subjecting themselves to hostility and ridicule.  (emphasis added and citations omitted)

In any event, it is clear that even under the rulings in Newdow, Myers & Sherman, the proposed Arizona legislation, which provides no exception for those who object to the final clause of the oath and which prevents an objector who declines to recite the oath from graduating, would be unconstitutional.

Regarding the lack of an exception for conscientious objection to the oath, one of the sponsors of the bill, freshman Republican representative and Tea Party member Bob Thorpe,  said, “In that we had a tight deadline for dropping our bills, I was not able to update the language”.  Which is all well and good, except I can’t help wondering why it is that “the language” wasn’t properly — and constitutionally — crafted in the first place.  Are representative Thorpe and his co-sponsors — Republican representatives Sonny Borrelli, Carl Seel, T.J. Shope, Jeff Dial, David Livingston, Chester Crandell and Steve Smith — all really that ignorant of the law and the constitution that they couldn’t have written this bill correctly and constitutionally in the first place?

Thorpe also said,Even though I want to encourage all of our students to understand and respect our Constitution and constitutional form of government, I do not want to create a requirement that students or parents may feel uncomfortable with.”  In that case, Mr. Thorpe, perhaps you should withdraw your ill-considered and unnecessary proposal.

Finally, as noted by Comedy Central’s Ilya Gerner, “Nothing says ‘I take this obligation freely’ quite like a state law that withholds your diploma unless you swear an oath”.  Maybe Arizonans should consider electing Gerner, who appears to have a better understanding of the law than their current representatives, to their state legislature.

See Note 4 below for Gerner’s “Comedy Central’s Indecision” blog post.

A personal aside:  I was a 9 year old elementary school student when the Pledge of Allegiance was modified on June 14, 1954, to add the words “under god”.  Although I did not speak out against the change then, as I would now, I soon after adopted the practice of omitting those words each day when we recited the pledge, and have continued doing so to this day. 

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Note 1:  For news article about this proposed legislation, see these websites:

http://current.com/groups/news-blog/94031387_arizona-bill-would-require-loyalty-oath-for-high-school-graduation.htm

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/01/26/arizona-bill-would-require-hs-students-to-swear-constitutional-oath-under-god-to-get-their-diplomas/

For a commentary about this proposed legislation from the atheist perspective, see this article on the website “Friendly Atheist”:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/01/25/arizona-republicans-propose-bill-that-would-not-allow-atheists-to-graduate-high-school/

Note 2:  For the full text of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Decision in Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School District, see:

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=11662288665673910405&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr

Note 3:   The Virginia case referred to above is Myers v. Loudoun County Public Schools.  The full text of the opinion in this case is available here:

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=1292322060893856606&hl=en&as_sdt=2,5&as_vis=1

The Illinois case referred to above is Sherman v. Community Consolidated School District 21 of Wheeling Township.  The full text of the opinion in this case is available here:

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=17988630665576858060&hl=en&as_sdt=2,5&as_vis=1

Note 4:  For Ilya Gerner’s “Comedy Central’s Indecision” blog post about this proposed legislation, see:

http://www.indecisionforever.com/blog/2013/01/23/arizona-legislators-propose-loyalty-oath-for-high-school-graduation

“Lies the Government Told You”


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I just finished listening to the audio book, “Lies the Government Told You” by former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew P. Napolitano and highly recommend it.  In fact, this is a book that every American should read (or listen to the audio version of).  In it, Judge Napolitano discusses the many ways in which the US federal government has deceived and continues to deceive the American People as it arrogates unto itself more and more power, diminishing in the process both individual liberties and the power of the states.

Judge Napolitano concludes his compelling discourse with a bold and detailed statement of what We The People must do to rectify this situation and reverse the federal government’s ongoing and increasing power grab.  To whet your appetite, I am going to quote the concluding paragraphs of the book in full:

We will need a major political transformation in this country to rid ourselves of persons in government who kill, lie, cheat, and steal in our names. We will need to recognize some painful truths.

First, we must acknowledge that through the actions of the government we have lost much of the freedom that we once all thought was guaranteed by the Constitution, our laws, and our values. The lost freedoms have been cataloged in this book and need not be restated here. In sum, they are the loss of the primacy of the individual’s inalienable rights and the concept that government is limited in its powers. We have lost the diffusion of power between the states and the federal government. We have lost a federal government that stays within the confines of the Constitution.

Second, we must recognize that we do not have a two-party system in this country; we have one party, the Big Government Party. There is a Republican version that assaults our civil liberties and loves deficits and war, and a Democratic version that assaults our commercial liberties and loves wealth transfers and taxes.

Third, we must acknowledge that there is a fire in the bellies of millions of young people who reject both wretched visions of the Big Government Party. These millions of young folks need either to form a Liberty Party or to build on the libertarian base in the Republican Party by banishing Big Government conservatives, neocons, and so-called social conservatives who want to use government to tell others how to live their lives back to the Democratic Party from whence they came.

Then we need a political fever that consumes the careers of all in government who voted for the Patriot Act, the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the TARP and stimulus programs, the federal takeover of education, spying on Americans without warrants, and all other unconstitutional monstrosities that have tethered lovers of liberty to Washington, D.C.

We should abolish the federal income tax, prohibit eminent domain, impose term congressional limits, make Congress part-time, return the power to elect senators to State legislatures, abolish the Federal Reserve system, and prosecute for malfeasance any member of Congress who cannot articulate where the Constitution authorizes whatever he or she is voting for or who has voted for any law that he has or she has not certified under oath that he or she read and fully understands. And we must reject the nice smiles and easy ways and seductive promises of anyone in government who lies to us.

The Big Government Party crowd is obviously not afraid of lying or being caught in a lie. Its members do not fear their own lawlessness or our loss of freedom. They only fear the loss of their own power. So let’s use that fear against them. Jefferson understood and articulated this best when he wrote: “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

If we fear our own government, if we accept its deceptions, its lies to us, if we take no action to redress them, our freedoms are doomed.

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For Judge Napolitano’s personal website, see here:

http://www.judgenap.com/

For Judge Napolitano’s biography, see here:

http://www.judgenap.com/bio/

The “Lies the Government Told You” page of the judge’s website is here:

http://www.judgenap.com/books/lies-the-government-told-you/

The Advocates for Self-Government on Guns & Gun Control


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For excellent articles presenting the Libertarian perspective on guns & gun control, see the current issue of The Liberator Online, published by The Advocates for Self-Government, here:

http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=8f8d44f1fc10bd074f648a4de&id=f71e617efd&e=16f5dddde4