Game over, man. GAME OVER!

Demonstrators would be barred from disrupting military funerals at national cemeteries under legislation approved by Congress and sent to the White House.

The measure, passed by voice vote in the House Wednesday hours after the Senate passed an amended version, specifically targets a Kansas church group that has staged protests at military funerals around the country, claiming that the deaths were a sign of God's anger at U.S. tolerance of homosexuals.

CNN tells us that our government has decided that the First Amendment is no longer the law of the land.  You may recall that, in addition to protecting the freedom of speech, that Amendment also protects freedom of assembly

While our government has long chosen not to notice it's own aggressive violations of the Constitution, this law -- passed by both the House and the Senate, awaiting only the presidential signature -- aspires to new heights of offense.  We have seen protesters disrupting military funerals in shameful and disrespectful ways, but how much more shameful is an Act of Congress that spits on the principles those men died for? 

If Republicans think that this bill will buy them votes from the military in November, I suspect they will be surprised.

Hat tip to View From The Porch...

Thu May 25 16:36:50 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Ron Paul needs your help...

It seems that Ron Paul survived a nasty primary battle against the Spawn of Sinatra, and now faces his Democratic challenger with a substantially depleted warchest.  Read about the situation, or just go straight to his website to donate.

If you're wondering whether Ron Paul believes what you believe, here is what his primary opponent said about him:
  • Known as Dr. No because he refuses to vote for anything unconstitutional;
  • has never voted to raise taxes;
  • has never voted to give himself a pay raise;
  • wants to get the US out of the UN.
  • voted against the $80 billion Katrina bailout
When you can use your opponent's description of yourself in your own campaign ads, and win, that's saying something about who is out of touch with the people. 

It is disturbing to me that the Republican party would present a primary challenge to Ron Paul, who has long stood for everything a libertarian should.

Tue May 23 19:37:03 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

So, I went looking for the decision in DC v Beretta...

... and I stumbled across something quite interesting.  Those of you who have been paying attention, particularly before the War on Terror became the major threat to American freedom and liberty, are familiar with the increasingly confiscatory tactics the police have taken in their war on whatever happens to be convenient.  The idea is simple: the police "catch" an individual but can't find probable cause to charge him with anything.  Nevertheless they somehow know he is guilty, so they charge his possessions with being ill-gotten gains.  It is, apparantly, easier to convict a person's property than the person himself. 

This results in cases like:
United States of America v. MQ Power Whisperwatt 85 KW Disel Generator, Serial No. 7700228 et al

In this case, a charge of "28:1345 Complaint for Forfeiture" was brought against the following defendents:

Defendant MQ Power Whisperwatt 85 KW Disel Generator, Serial No. 7700228

Defendant 1998 Honda Foreman Quadrunner, VIN 478TE2204WA006354

Defendant 2003 Honda Foreman Quadrunner, VIN 478TE260334206419

Defendant $7,040 in US Currency

Defendant Ruger Mini 14 Rifle with Scope

Defendant Beretta 12 Gauge Double Barrel Shotgun Defendant Colt .223 Caliber Rifle with Scope

Defendant Norinco Rifle Mak-90 Sporter

Defendant Browning 30-06 Rifle with Scope

Defendant Norinco SKS Rifle with Scope and Bayonet

Defendant Remington 870 12 Gauge Shotgun

Defendant Ruger l22 Caliber Rifle with Scope

Defendant Winchester 30-30 Rifle with Scope

Defendant .22 Caliber Rifle

Defendant Remington 12 Gauge Shotgun

The property was not represented in court.  Now, before you get the wrong idea, this case was dismissed.  I have no idea why -- I figured maybe even a judge in the 9th Circus might wonder why the property was being charged.  Or perhaps the judge threw out the case because the property was not properly represented in court ("So, .22 Caliber Rifle, do  you have any kind of alibi?  Friends who were with you that night, who knew where you were?"). 

So I clicked through the next few.  USA v. Marlin Rifle has the disposition listed as Judgment on Default, so I figure that particular rifle was found guilty on account of not being able to defend itself, not being an animate object.  A case against $37900 and a 1998 Audi is still pending.  Another case brought against a Beretta A303 Semi seems to have a motion for judgement before trial pending, or at least there was such a motion pending in 2003; it seems to have been dropped in 2004 due to lack of activity.  Interestingly enough, in that case the firearms were represented by a real lawyer.  No word on whether they took the stand or pled the 5th.

This is exactly the sort of absurdity that results from the erosion of our Constitutional rights and protections.  Why is our government so eager for an easy victory in court that it is willing to make itself a laughingstock by charging inanimate property with crimes?  Is it merely greed?  Or something worse?

UPDATE: Oh, and anyone who was wondering why the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was necessary... I was simply searching for cases involving Beretta.  I got maybe 110 results, of which perhaps 20-30 were against humans named Beretta and another 30 or so were against guns made by Beretta.  That's about 50 lawsuits involving just one manufacturer.

Tue May 23 18:56:11 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Delusions of relevency?

It seems that Amy Fisher is making a living as an opinion columnist.  You remember her; as a 16-year-old she got national media attention by attempting murder and served 7 years in jail.  Her present employer is very open about hiring her to exploit her notoriety.  As you might expect from someone whose criminal history prevents her from owning or possessing a firearm, she's in favor of gun control

There seem to be quite a few people on the gun control side with this sort of problem.  Everything from the infamous Mrs. Brady buying her son a gun to Million Mommies who file off their serial numbers.  It's easier to blame the gun than to realize you, personally, are the villian in your own life story.

Tue May 23 18:20:32 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's... a journalist who does research?!

Don't worry -- I didn't believe it either.  But do click through the link to read about how Michael Bowers dispells the myth of the easy machine gun.

Tue May 23 18:05:44 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Does gun control lead to political corruption?

Captain Ed says maybe so, at least in Canada, and he has a convincing argument.  The Liberal government, recently ousted, had imposed a national registry of firearms upon the country.  The RCMP (Canada's national law enforcement body) were tasked with creating and maintaining that registry, but they were not given sufficient funding for the task.  Instead, other law enforcement operations had to be shortchanged in order to operate the registry.  This had the obvious consequence of ensuring that the registry itself was very poorly run, and the less obvious consequence of diverting the RCMP from other enforcement activities -- such as investigating political corruption.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Canadian government fell in large part due to long-standing internal corruption, particularly the AdScam scandal.  It's useful to remember that everything has unintended consequences, even when those consequences are only visible as opportunity costs.  When you keep law enforcement busy doing paperwork to keep track of honest citizens who own guns, they aren't doing the legwork necessary to track down criminals who abuse them.

For example, there are a lot of people at the BATFE whose time would be better spent issuing parking tickets. 

Sat May 20 16:51:04 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

It's an election year...

... and the push is back.  Representative Moran has introduced a bill that would ban the manufacture or sale of .50 caliber rifles, and require that existing examples be registered under the NFA rules.  And here I was thinking that the Democrats had figured out that gun control was a losing issue; not that I ever thought they weren't lying through their teeth about "supporting" the 2nd Amendment, I'm just surprised that they are willing to go back to their same old tricks openly.  Speaking of old tricks, he's also trying to resurrect the so-called Assault Weapons Ban.

Well, perhaps it's not quite so backwards as all that; apparantly the only organization willing to share the press release upon which this story was obviously based was the "Virginians Against Handgun Violence".  Notably absent are the Violence Policy Center, the Million-Mom-March-United-With-Somebody, and the Brady Bunch. 

I'm not too concerned about either bill with the current makeup of Congress.  The House is probably secure enough even if the Senate would be a close vote on the Assault Weapons Ban.  I'm a bit more concerned about what happens after the November elections.  If the Democrats take back some ground with anti-gun rhetoric, and both sides feel like that is the new winning formula, we could see Republicans caving to cowardice and some losses.

Time to start saving up for that Barret .50, just in case.

Wed May 17 17:25:13 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

What once was old is new again...

It seems the press is pounding the streets with the story that the NSA is evesdropping on Americans.  Again.  Several bloggers have already pegged this story as being quite similar to one that dropped a few months ago, related to the NSA evesdropping on international calls to or from Al Qaeda members.  Others have explained the legal arguments used to convince judges it's legal.  Lots of panties are bunched. 

Those of you who have been reading this site for some time will not be surprised that I oppose such monitoring.  That we are at war with a terrorist organization does not materially change that fact; blanket surveillance is wrong regardless of justification.  I'm perfectly OK with evesdropping on conversations with terrorists so long as the letter of the law, including the Constitution, is followed; but blanket surveillance of Americans without probable cause is wrong.  So, sure, I don't like what the NSA is doing.

I just don't see why it's suddenly news, at least without the sudden intervention of political expediency.  You see, the NSA has been doing this for a long, long, long time.  I first learned about it under the Clinton administration.  I doubt it started there, or with Bush I before him.  There's an article on the subject from 1988.  It is the NSA's job to conduct traffic analysis and broad-scale surveillance, and the legal justifications to get around Constitutional limits were different then but the capabilities probably are not -- except that national technical means, as author Tom Clancy euphemized, have probably advanced significantly.

You'd think the reporters acting so outraged about this hadn't ever realized our intelligence apparatus had this capability.  Maybe they hadn't.  Ignorance or malice?  It's hardly a new question to be asking about the news media these days, and that's just sad.

So why aren't I worked up about it?  I recognize that nothing has really changed.  Sure, I'd like surveillance programs like this to be shut down.  Unfortunately I'm convinced this is a losing battle.  It's much simpler, not to mention technically better, to simply encrypt everything.  "Can't" trumps "not allowed to".

Mon May 15 17:56:28 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Carnival of Cordite!

As I return, so does the Carnival!

Mon May 15 15:25:17 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

When it rains, it pours...

Well, after working far too many hours for far too many months, I finally get some time freed up to catch up on things here... and not more than a few days later, my server dies.  Worse, the cause of death is a multiple, simultaneous harddrive failure -- meaning, my RAID array didn't save me, and I had to recover everything from backups or from scratch.  I had not even managed to fully recover from that before an idiot in a delivery truck rear-ended me... in a parking lot... while I wasn't even in my car.  Yet more time down the drain that I could have spent blogging.

Luckily I did have backups to work from, which means it only took me several days to build a new server and load the backup data to it.  It could have been a lot worse; there are some 4000 posts here that I would prefer not to lose.

The fact that you are reading this means that the ordeal is mostly over, and things should be settling back to normal.  I still have a lot of other, less public, data to restore, and the state of relative calm that my work is in at the moment can be best described as the eye of the storm, and there are car repairs to arrange and insurance companies to harass and kittens to feed and lawns to mow and... well, you get the idea.

I'm back.  Such as it is.

Mon May 15 14:02:41 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Annoying Speech

Some people have suggested that the law criminalizing "annoying" speech on the web isn't really all that bad.  Eugene Volokh says otherwise, convincingly.  It's a pity I didn't have time for any annoying speech back when this item was current, but just in case you missed it...

Wed May 03 01:03:51 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

On the front lines...

The Liberty Zone has two stories of activism (now a bit dated) on the carry front: Mark Marchiafava and Shawn of  One of the advantages to open carry is that it pushes the gun issue into the awareness of those around you.  With enough people carrying openly and peacefully, minds could be changed.  It also strikes me as slightly rude; guns make many people nervous, and who wants to be nervous all the time? 

If there weren't so many more of them than of us, I'd be inclined to tell them to get over it.  But making people nervous doesn't win hearts and minds.

Wed May 03 00:56:32 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Briefing schedule issued for Parker...

PACER has this to say:
CLERK'S ORDER filed [962744] establishing the initial briefing schedule [962744-1]:
Appellant's brief due on 6/1/06 ;
Appellant's appendix due on 6/1/06 ;
Amicus Curiae's brief due on 6/16/06 ;
Appellee's brief due on 7/17/06 ;
Amicus Curiae's brief due on 8/1/06 ;
Appellant's reply brief due on 8/15/06.
[Entry Date: 4/14/06] (cwc)
Nothing really exciting, just dates and times.  Considering that I am writing this on the 30th of April, it shows both that I have been substantially behind the times for a while, and that we have only about a month until stuff finally starts to happen in this case. 

For those curious about the ordering, here's how I think it translates: Our side (Parker) files, followed by any friend-of-the-court briefs; DC then briefs, followed by their amici; and we reply to the DC brief.  We will have the first and last word, to the extent that such things matter. 

The actual order is here.

For anyone who is still reading, I'd like to add my heartfelt thanks for your patience and understanding with my schedule and lack of activity for the past few months.  Hopefully, the load will be lighter for a while and I can devote more time to hobbies like this one.  I've already got a fair number of things queued up to post, just as soon as I can find the time to write about them.

UPDATE: Of course, the day after I post this, I work 12 hours straight.  I am my own worst enemy.

Mon May 01 17:41:51 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

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