Sebelius caught soliciting "support" from private industry
... for implementing Obamacare, of course. The administration doesn't seem satisfied with the funds Congress has allocated to the task, and was seeking help from outside organizations. Lamar Alexander compares it to Iran-Contra. While this scenario lacks the foreign policy implications, it's very similar in other ways: the White House is seeking outside funds to implement policies that Congress has chosen not to fund. Since the Constitution assigns the power of the purse to Congress, if the Executive is able to raise funds on its own to pursue its own policies, it's a serious evasion of Constitutional checks and balances.
To put this situation in historical perspective, the English kings often had conflicts with parliament over finances. Parliament held the power of the purse over raising and spending money, just as our Congress does; kings who objected to this power would seek other ways to raise funds, often by confiscating private property from the church or nobility. Obviously, that's extremely dangerous for the civil rights of those who have money or property which the executive covets.
Worse, though, the executive could use those funds to operate outside of the restraints imposed by parliament or Congress.
So while this doesn't seem like a big deal at first glance, it will have a corrosive effect on the rule of law if left unchecked.
Immigration reform bill poses civil liberties threat
"It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state, you do have to get permission to do things," said Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union. "More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things."
He's talking about provisions in the immigration bill that would require e-verify (government permission to work) and a biometric database for identification purposes.
If you remember, David Gregory was the news personality who held up a standard-capacity magazine during an on-air interview with an NRA spokesperson. The segment was filmed in DC, and the magazine is illegal there. The law is complete nonsense, of course, but the DC police enforce it vigorously when random citizens violate it while going about their ordinary, lawful business. David Gregory should not be above the law, but was not prosecuted for his stunt.
It turns out the Massachusetts Medical Society adopted a policy on gun violence which encourages reviewing gun safety as part of "preventative care" (even though gun safety has literally nothing to do with the practice of medicine, and doctors are not experts on gun safety), allows the society to promote and support state legislative efforts on gun control (a non-medical policy decision which would seem to fall outside the organization's purpose and expertise), and to work with other organizations to support national gun control.
Conservative groups seeking information from the Environmental Protection Agency have been routinely hindered by fees normally waived for media and watchdog groups, while fees for more than 90 percent of requests from green groups were waived, according to requests reviewed by the Conservative Enterprise Institute.
Combine this with the IRS targeting of tea party groups, and it looks like a systemic problem. At some point, it doesn't matter whether the White House ordered officials at various government agencies to break the law and target their enemies; the officials at those agencies know what to do without being told. They can help and hinder in ways both small and large. And over time, when it is consistent, it adds up.
So, I was discussing gun control with a family member recently...
... and they brought up a recent incident where a two-year-old child was shot by her five-year-old brother. Quite frankly, this infuriates me. It's bad enough when it's the media or a politician; it's much worse coming from someone close to you. The implication of bringing up accidental deaths of children in a gun control debate is obvious: "If you cared about dead children, you would change your position."
I do care about children, and I don't want them dead any more than the next more. But I didn't shoot them. It wasn't one of my guns that was left where a child could find it and shoot their sibling or themselves. I wish that didn't happen, and it's a tragedy when it does.
But I also understand statistics.
The truth is, more kids get killed by swimming pools than guns by a whole order of magnitude. For children younger than 10 years of age, dying by gunshot is literally more than a one-in-a-million chance. 2/3rds of those are shot by adult criminals, people who are not allowed to legally own guns already.
Being a legal gun owner is remarkably safe, even before you consider the lives saved by firearms used in self-defense. It's not perfectly safe, because nothing is perfectly safe. Accidents will always happen.
Blaming responsible gun owners for accidents they had nothing to do with is nothing more than emotional blackmail. It offends me to my core, and I won't stand for it.
On the one hand, it's good for industries to move to states that will appreciate them rather than regulate them out of existence. On the other hand, each state we abandon to the anti-gun forces of darkness -- each state that loses its positive gun culture -- is most likely permanently lost, and that too has consequences.
The state-level gun control push that the Obama administration has been engaged in following the failure of its national agenda is going to -- in fact, already has -- resulted in many court challenges on Second Amendment and other grounds. We have a narrow majority on the Supreme Court, and we have been slowly using the court system to expand gun rights into traditionally anti-gun states.
Take, for example, Illinois -- the last state in the nation to have no concealed carry laws at all. Their complete ban on self-defense was struck down by the federal courts. Their state legislature has been struggling to find a law that will pass both political and Constitutional muster. That's a tremendous opening to bring the gun culture back to Illinois, but it will come to little if gun owners cannot become a political force there.
Our advantage in the courts will be short-lived if Democrats can drive us out of enough blue states to make winning national elections impossible. We're already at risk if Obama has the chance to replace any of the Heller 5.
We need to be cautious about cheering companies leaving states that fall to the enemy. Yes, moving manufacturers out of an anti-gun state can punish that state economically for passing gun control, and that threat can help us politically elsewhere. But make no mistake, it is still a retreat, and it costs us influence in the states we abandon.
I've always felt the claim that the Second Amendment was about something other than armed insurrection against a tyrannical government was the claim that needed supporting evidence. The framers who wrote that Amendment did so only a decade after their own armed rebellion. It's not so great a leap to think that they anticipated another might be necessary.
That this idea scares the establishment is the intended result.
The Democrats are trying to go back to the gun control issue, but they have a "new" idea: smart guns! Never mind that their new idea doesn't exist despite various companies spending years trying to come up with one. Apparently, if James Bond has one in his latest movie, that's good enough for House Democrats. There are a lot of problems with this, but I'm going to lead with the low-hanging fruit:
Tierney said his Personalized Handgun Safety Act, H.R. 2005, would help prevent accidental deaths, like the case in New Jersey last month when a six-year old accidentally shot and killed a four-year-old child.
OK, so the theory is, this .22 caliber rifle would be modified to add some sort of biometric recognition device, and not actually fire when the 6-year-old pointed it at his sister and pulled the trigger.
We'll assume for the sake of argument that the new technology functions properly and that the person who bought the rifle was willing to pay for it -- considering that the technology probably doubles or triples the cost of a simple .22 caliber rifle. (If the legislation passes, they would be forced to pay for it, or else go without).
The rifle would still have fired, and the child would still be dead.
The rifle was a gift. The 6-year-old owned it. He was an authorized user -- whether or not that is a smart decision is another matter -- and thus allowed to fire the gun.
So what are the real problems here?
First, a 6-year-old child had unsupervised access to a firearm. It's one thing to train a child to shoot under adult supervision, quite another for them to be allowed access to a firearm unsupervised.
Second, both children were unsupervised, period. Even inside a house there are many dangerous things to young children. It's not a problem unique to firearms. Which brings me to the statistics:
The CDC reports that for 2010 (the latest year available), one single six-year old died from a gunshot. For all children younger than 10, there were 36 accidental gun deaths, and that is out of 41 million children. Perhaps most important, about two-thirds of these accidental gun deaths involving young children are not shots fired by other little kids but rather by adult males with criminal backgrounds...
Indeed, if you are going to worry about your child?s safety you should check into other, perhaps less obvious dangers lurking in the playmate's house: swimming pools, bathtubs, water buckets, bicycles, and chemicals and medications that can cause fatal poisoning. Drownings alone claimed 609 deaths; fires, 262 lives; poisonings, 54 lives. And don't forget to ask about the playmate's parents' car and their driving records if your child will ride with them: After all, motor-vehicle accidents killed 923 children younger than 10.
Firearms safety for young children is a solved problem. There will always be tragic accidents, but 36 deaths in one year out of 41 million children is incredibly low. The right course of action for this "problem" is to not let your children play with dangerous things.
That's not the only problem with this latest gun control proposal, though. Smart guns have been around in concept for decades. They have yet to be successfully implemented, because:
Firearms, particularly those intended for self-defense, are emergency tools that absolutely must function reliably when called upon.
Adding a biometric identification function that must succeed in order to allow the gun to fire is adding a failure mode, which could cost lives if the firearm does not function when it is needed
The basic technology to identify a user by grip characteristics doesn't exist; while there are prototypes, they are not reliable
Self-defense firearms are emergency tools that often stay in a drawer for years before being needed; adding a battery-powered device to the firearm is an invitation for a dead battery -- and a dead gun owner when their firearm fails at a crucial time
What happens if an authorized user holds the gun with their left hand, or with their hands dirty? If the gun doesn't fire, we have a dead gun owner again
Fundamentally, "smart" guns are assuming a stupid gun owner who needs to be protected from himself more than he needs the gun to protect himself from a criminal. The low rate of accidental gun injuries with existing firearms technology tells us that "smart" guns are a stupid idea, at least outside of Hollywood where the fights aren't scripted.
"Today I'm going to take a big leap over all of the many specific challenges we're facing, some of which you'll hear about from the incomparable Cecile Richards, to suggest a more comprehensive solution, Schakowsky said. "Today I am asserting that humanity is at a crossroads on this small planet and that our survival as a species is dependent on women taking charge, taking the world in our own hands."
"I really do believe that we are at a tipping point from which there could be no turning back -- a turning point that the traditional male hierarchy of the world ignores at their own peril. A peril that puts us all in the unacceptable danger -- actually of extinction, so let us begin the era of the woman."
I don't intend to be taken charge of by politicians of either party -- or gender. Moreover, I am offended by the blame that Schakowsky places upon my gender for what she claims is the end of the world.
1) Fast and Furious -- smuggled thousands of firearms to Mexican drug
cartels, resulting in the deaths of several American law enforcement
officers and hundreds of Mexican citizens. The President blocked
release of evidence to Congressional investigators using executive
privilege, yet claims to have known nothing about the operation.
Americans died, and the President lied.
2) Benghazi -- a US consulate was overrun after requests for increased
security were denied. No military aid was provided during the attack
and operatives willing and able to go to the aid of those under attack
were told to stand down. Within days of the attack, a coverup was
initiated, and a video on youtube which no one had seen before it was
pointed out by the administration was blamed for provoking the attack.
Talking points were heavily edited by the State Department and the White
House to remove references to terrorism and Al-Qaeda. The person
behind the YouTube video was publically arrested, and ads apologizing
for his video were broadcast in Pakistan with taxpayer money. The
filmmaker is still in jail. Americans died, and the President lied.
(1) He has, acting personally and through his subordinated and agents, endeavored to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposes not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigation to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.
The police pulled someone over because he had "an inadequate light on his license plate". He had a handgun in his car with him, though, and the magazine had 9 rather than 7 rounds. The handgun itself was legally possessed -- meaning, in New York State, that he had a license to own it and was either heading to or from a gun store or shooting range, or had an endorsement to carry the firearm on his license.
But they charged him with having two bullets too many anyway.
Oh, and the police officers? They were probably carrying Glock handguns with a magazine capacity of 15-19 rounds, violating the same law because the SAFE act was passed without an exception for law enforcement.
Given that this is New Jersey, that's a surprising good package. The really bad stuff was blocked, along with a pro-gun bill.
The gun trafficking stuff is already illegal, just increasing penalties (although the due process implications of property seizure are troubling, this is hardly an issue unique to firearms). A state commission to study violence means nothing without legislation to back up its conclusions, submitting mental health records to the background check system is one of things that makes you ask "Why weren't you doing this already?", reporting on gun trafficking crimes is meaningless, and an illegal gun amnesty is even more meaningless.
The real kicker is that "delayed" does not mean "stopped". It may mean "pass at midnight when no one is watching."
But since we're comparing blog ages here, I thought I would point out some ofmyfirstposts. That sure is a blast from the distant past, isn't it? But we're still facing many of the same issues today.
Almost as interesting, though, is the number 8608. That's the database ID assigned automatically to this post. Why is it interesting? Well, the blog assigns a new database ID to each post when I write it, and it happens to assign those IDs in sequential order. Which means I've written roughly eight thousand blog posts in the almost 11 years I've been writing this blog.
Schools are staging "code red" drills involving an active shooter with assault weapons and fake blood. Students are reporting being locked in closets thinking their fellow students were being massacred just outside.
Maybe I'm being paranoid here, but it strikes me that these drills are much, much more effective at teaching emotionally vulnerable children to be deathly afraid of guns than they are at improving emergency response capabilities.
Well, that was fast. I didn't even have time to post a link to the original design files before the State Department ordered them taken down, citing arms export regulations. For those with long memories, it's very reminiscent of the fight over cryptography during the Clinton administration.
The good guys won that fight, but it took years, and a lot of legal risk, and finally a fait-accompli strategy of publishing the source code to Pretty Good Privacy in a printed book, sending the book out of the country, where some tireless soul typed it back in and hosted it outside of US jurisdiction. And that was First Amendment issue with clearly settled law. Adding firearms issues into the mix is only going to make it more complicated.
The good news is that the file has already made it outside the US to various hosting locations. The bad news is, that doesn't mean the fight is over. Anyone hosting the file inside US jurisdiction is likely to become a target for lawyers in cheap suits. They have lots of ways to attack this particular project; they've chosen to start with "posting the design on the internet is a violation of arms export regulations", but they could go after it for being an undetectable plastic gun, for not having a rifled barrel making it an NFA-regulated Any Other Weapon, for manufacturing a firearm without a license (the rules on this are tricky; it may be legal to print one for yourself if you never, ever let anyone else touch it)...
Remember when gun control groups kept saying that teddy bears are more heavily regulated than guns? Yeah, about that...
So why aren't I hosting the files? Well, I certainly believe that people in the US have both a First and Second Amendment right to host design files for printable firearms. That doesn't mean that the present administration agrees, and it has already indicated that it will enforce that view.
At any rate, if you're inside US jurisdiction, you don't want to be the guy they pick to prosecute. No matter how stupid the laws are. Anyone hosting the files while located in the US had better do so with the support of well-prepared lawyers and an organization like the EFF prepared to back a court challenge.