Dave Kopel on Obama's Attorney General nominee

It should not surprise anyone that the man is a nightmare for gun owners.  It seems that when Obama claimed he supported the 2nd Amendment, he was... shock!  horror!  lying.  Like many other politicians.

Fri Nov 21 11:29:48 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

When is involuntary servitude not slavery?

Apparantly, when it's proposed by a black president.  I concede that Obama has since backed off that claim, even if his key advisors haven't.  But because Obama no longer advocates making his community service involuntary -- only strong recommended, with financial penalties for non-compliance -- apparantly some people are convinced that the comparison to slavery was overblown.

I don't buy that.

Involuntary servitude, no matter what nice name you drape it in, is slavery.  And that includes "strongly encouraged" servitude, when the encouragement comes in the form of graduation requirements or tuition inflation. 

The author compounds her error by responding to a commenter:

Dave, the slavery comments I read and HEARD were made well after everyone knew he changed the wording. The people who said those words were well aware of the change yet still chose to use the word slavery.

By the way, there are many high schools across the nation that require some form of community service for graduation. Nobody was complaining about that. But suddenly, that?s slavery.

I graduated from a high school that required community service as a condition of graduation.  I complained. I still do.  I did not call it slavery, because it was not, but it was nonetheless disturbingly close, because the practical alternatives for someone at that stage in their life are few.  And I will further add that as a mechanism for accomplishing anything at all it was completely useless

That a program has moved from an explicit call to involuntary servitude to a slightly-less-strong call to semi-voluntary "service" does not redeem it.
Obama would encourage a goal of 50 hours of community service for high school students. That?s 50 hours over the course of a year, hours that could be spent cleaning up a park, reading to the elderly, working in a soup kitchen, assisting developmentally disabled children, delivering meals, collecting clothing for shelters, or working with local community programs like Kiwanis. There are myriad ways in which the youth of America can get involved with their surrounding communities, providing a give and take that benefits both the student and the community at large.
That's 50 hours that could be spent working a decent job and preparing for success, or studying, or even just relaxing and having fun... in other words, however the person chose to spend their time.  Having a government program make that choice for students is not an improvement.
On the college level, Obama's plan would ensure a $4,000 tuition credit to students who complete 100 hours of community service a year. With the cost of college education soaring, that $4,000 is like a windfall to a college student. The student would be rewarded monetarily, but the reward of completing service toward the community is something that will stay with them, as well as the community, forever. Service to others is a lasting gift.
The cost of college education is soaring because the number of loan programs, tuition aids, and other government subsidies for education are producing tremendous tuition inflation.  Is there any reason to suspect that colleges will not simply raise their tuition by approximately $4000 a year following enactment of this program?

Mind you, that $4000 a year is coming out of the taxes paid by other hard-working Americans.  Taxes that those Americans earned, often at a rate of skilled labor substantially less than $40/hour. 
Community service is not a dirty word; nor is it an idea to be tossed aside because you don't like who is delivering the message about it. Encouraging our youth to take part in something selfless is encouraging them to be better human beings. What could be better for this country?
To quote Ayn Rand in response:
Capitalism demands the best of every man - his rationality - and rewards him accordingly. It leaves every man free to choose the work he likes, to specialize in it, to trade his product for the products of others, and to go as far on the road of achievement as his ability and ambition will carry him.

Fri Nov 21 08:54:13 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Want to help an NRA A+ rating beat an anti-gun challenger in Georgia?

Bitter has the details.  This is a runoff election and the Democrats are making a major effort to win the race.  We need to show up, too -- Senators are too important to throw away right now.  If you're interested in helping out, there's a rally with Wayne LaPierre, the NRA president, TODAY.  That way Saxby will understand where his help is coming from.

Wed Nov 19 08:56:33 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Reason Magazine on Heller

Reason magazine, a major libertarian publication, has an article on the Heller case:
In retrospect, D.C. v. Heller seems almost inevitable, because of shifting public and academic attitudes toward gun rights. But victory came only after a protracted struggle, with many pitfalls along the way. It was pulled off by a small gang of philosophically dedicated lawyers -- not "gun nuts" in any stereotypical sense, but thoughtful libertarians who believe Second Amendment liberties are a vital part of our free republic. Together they consciously crafted a solid, clean civil rights case to overturn the most onerous and restrictive set of gun regulations in the country. In the process, they set the stage for further legal challenges to other firearms restrictions from coast to coast.
There's an important but unstated subtext here, in the context of the last two elections: Heller was brought by a legal team of libertarians, and privately funded by a wealthy individual associated with the Cato Institute, another libertarian organization.  Traditional Republican organizations were mostly silent on the issue.  Even those organizations associated with gun rights were less than helpful; the largest and most influential such organization went so far as to file the Seegars case in an attempt to disrupt the case which would become Heller v DC at the Supreme Court level.

Meanwhile, four Republicans have taken it upon themselves to introduce their own version of an assault weapons ban.  You may recall that fiasco in 1994 was originally a Democratic idea, and it cost them control of congress and, arguably, the Presidency.

Why weren't the NRA and the Republicans leading the charge?  I don't know, but I suspect that their loss of limited-government leadership on this issue and many others is part of the reason they lost their leadership of Congress in 2006 and the Presidency in 2008.  We depend on interest groups and politicians to lead the way, with the courage of their convictions if not exactly a fixed-bayonet charge, and with respect to the 2nd Amendment both the Republican party and the NRA failed to recognize a leadership opportunity when it bit them in the ass.

I am slightly disappointed that the Reason article doesn't mention my in-depth reporting on the Parker v DC case -- the case which eventually became Heller v DC.  To my knowledge I was the only news source actually posting and commenting on full documents from the case.  But I suppose I can't have everything.

Tue Nov 18 14:10:21 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

A new age of tolerance?

Funny, it looks like the same old repression to me.

Tue Nov 18 13:28:20 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Who needs a secret ballot?

Apparantly it wasn't just card check that the Obama campaign supported during the election.  Wired's Thread Level blog, which deals with privacy and security issues, has an extensive article detailing the huge databases that the Obama campaign has built up on voters.  Anyone who spoke with a door-to-door canvasser or telephone pollster had their data entered into a database; do that often enough and pretty soon you'll be able to tell who voted for whom with a good degree of certainty, even if you can't actually prove it. 

So what does this have to do with card check?

Card check is the practice of holding collective bargaining votes within a company where a union was seeking to establish itself, and using non-secret ballots to do the vote.  Anyone who voted against the union would be visited by union thugs and beat up.  Anyone who voted for the union would be visited by company thugs and beat up.  You may notice that, either way, everyone got beat up.

Somehow, I don't think that going back to this process represents an improvement in our political discourse.

Tue Nov 18 09:23:06 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Better late than never...

Mr. Duncan said one suit will be filed in the District of Columbia to strike down the soft-money ban that is the central tenet of the McCain-Feingold Act ? formally known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. ?Soft money? is largely unrestricted contributions from wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions.

The second suit will be in a Louisiana federal court to strike down the limits under the law Mr. McCain co-sponsored with Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, that control coordination between parties and their candidates.

Campaign Finance "Reform" was a bad idea from the beginning, and it's good to see it being challenged.  I do remember that it was challenged earlier, though, and the challenge failed, so I'm wondering if the plaintiffs are hoping that the new justices will change the outcome or if they are trying to challenge different areas of the law.

Thu Nov 13 12:41:41 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Bans on lead hunting ammunition

... the anti-gun agenda surely has come out of the woodwork now that the election is over.  From Sebastian and Ahab comes this press release from the Humane Society of the United States, seeking a ban on lead-based hunting ammunition.  They claim there is a health hazard involved in eating meat killed with lead bullets or shot.  Unfortunately for them, the study they cite for their proposition explicitly concludes that there is no health risk at all:

Participants [people who eat game meat harvested with traditional ammo] in the study had readings lower than the national average and well below the level the CDC considers to be of concern.

Children in the study had readings that were less than half the national average and far below the level the CDC considers to be of concern.

The study showed a statistically insignificant difference between participants who ate game harvested using traditional hunting ammunition and the non-hunters in the control group.

The Humane Society here is simply lying, and hoping that no one will call them on it.

Wed Nov 12 20:01:25 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

New Jersey to vote on banning .50 caliber rifles

On Monday, November 17, the New Jersey Assembly is scheduled to vote on A2116 -- legislation banning most firearms over .50 caliber. Though previously amended in an attempt to address gun owner concerns, the legislation still bans many popular hunting guns, historical firearms, and large bore target firearms, based on alleged public safety concerns. Ironically, the legislation bans many of the guns that won the very freedoms the bill seeks to destroy, including some Revolutionary War and Civil War guns and their replicas. A2116 makes the fundamental mistake of banning guns based on the size of the hole in the barrel rather than punishing criminal behavior. It treats law abiding citizens who choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights like potential criminals. Please immediately email, call, and/or fax your Assembly Members and urge them to oppose A2116! Their contact information is available here.
That's a vote coming up on Monday, folks.  There's not much time to contact your legislators if you live in New Jersey.

Wed Nov 12 20:01:02 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Journalist with a Gun

This sort of thing can only be a good thing.  More, please.  Media bias is at least partially a product of ignorance, and a good dose of reality can do a lot of good.  It's not even a case of one reporter at a time, because each reporter who understands this issue can begin to break down the barriers of prejudice for her friends and colleagues.

Fri Nov 07 15:20:02 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Well, that didn't last long...

From Obama's transition website:
Address Gun Violence in Cities: As president, Barack Obama would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information, and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals who shouldn't have them. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent, as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets.
So what's the story here?

First, the Tiahrt Amendment is a budgetary rider that forbids the federal BATFE (the agency in charge of regulating firearms) from sharing certain types of gun trace data.  It does NOT forbid sharing information necessary for local law enforcement to investigate crimes; instead, it protects information that many local governments have sought solely for the purpose of formulating lawsuits against firearms manufacturers.

"Common sense" measures for keeping guns away from criminals and children are already in place.

Closing the "gun show loophole" is nonsense; there is no such loophole.  What Obama wants here to is make all firearms sales require government permission and recordkeeping, ie, firearms registration.

"Childproofing" guns is basically impossible.  Young children should not have access to firearms at all; older children should be supervised; that's common sense.  What Obama means here is that he wants "smart guns" which only fire for the "authorized user".  The problem is, that technology doesn't exist.

And of course the assault weapons ban is self-explanatory at this point.   It had no effect on crime, bans cosmetic features that make no functional difference to the firearm, and is generally a worthless piece of annoyance.

Hat tip to Sebastian of Snowflakes in Hell for finding it first.

UPDATE: The page is gone, down the memory hole.  Interesting.

Fri Nov 07 11:16:49 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The Army of the Republic

I remember reading a study once that asked liberals and conversatives to try to understand the viewpoints of the opposing side.  Generally, conservatives were able to do so successfully, while liberals were not -- instead, the arguments that liberals used when trying to sound conservative were almost parodies of themselves, demonstrating a lack of effort or intellectual attention spent understanding the conservative position. 

I'm not trying to argue that this is necessarily true, and certainly not of everyone... but it is a remarkably good description of The Army of the Republic.  Perhaps best described as a left-wing paranoid fantasy, the author attempts to portray a terrorist movement that "progressive" Americans could understand and sympathize with.  In that the characters come across as well-intended but misguided individuals who become everything that they claimed to be fighting against, it succeeds. 

I was initially interested in the book based on the premise -- in America, pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric is mostly the province of the right.  While there are groups on the left committed to terrorism as a means to advance political goals, for the most part they limit themselves to acts of violence against a supposedly oppressive system.  I was hoping to see a left-wing take on the idea of a popular revolt capable of producing sweeping change.  That concept isn't inherently a bad idea for a novel, if handled intelligently enough to avoid digressing into paranoid fantasies and communist reeducation camps.  Unfortunately, what the author delivers is little more than an apologia for terrorism.

With any book dealing with a controversial topic like this one, and particularly one where the protagonists are engaged in morally dubious actions that the reader is expected to, if not agree with, at least have some sympathy for, the author needs to present a credible case for both sides of the issue.  When the reader finds himself arguing points in opposition to the protagonists simply because the characters are doing a truly awful job at defending their actions, the reader's sympathy has shifted away from the protagonists.  That's a fatal flaw in a book that depends entirely on keeping the reader attached to their morally flawed characters. 

Quite simply, in trying to understand and explain the conservative perspective, the book fails miserably -- mostly for lack of trying.  The representatives of the status quo are nearly faceless, immoral corporate tyrants who neither have nor need justification for their actions.  The sole character who can make a credible case for the defense is a painfully obvious plant for later conversion to the true cause -- a conversion that is later driven not by ideological arguments but the emotional impact of a biological imperative. 

Most authors are able to sell their protagonists as reasonably sympathetic characters, since they are free to construct the world around the characters in whatever way seems necessary.   When a book so closely intersects with the present, however, it's necessary to do a lot more than prop up vaguely shaped cardboard figures to represent the opposition.  For someone who doesn't automatically share the left-wing assumptions of the author, there are painful gaps in the narrative where a passionate conservative or libertarian could have made a powerful case for their perspective, and the book would have been far better as a result.  Shooting fish in a barrel is a particularly apt metaphor.

The Army of the Republic suffers greatly from a comparison with what is perhaps the first and greatest modern pseudo-revolutionary novel, John Ross's controversial Unintended Consequences.  Ross spends at least 600 pages detailing, at length, the history and grievances of his protagonists before sending them past the point of no return through no fault of their own.  By contrast, Cohen takes 250 pages before his cardboard Establishment Figures commit their first actual villiany -- while his protagonists committed their first deliberate assassination within 50 pages.

Of course, once the fecal matter hits the oxygen redistribution system, true fascism descends rapidly -- almost, but not quite, all the way to concentration camps and cattle cars full of candidates for reeducation.  All pretense at moral ambiguity is lost as the sole character capable of making even a halfhearted case for the "regime" is brought face to face with the reality of oppression in a manner that I had been predicting since the very first chapter featuring that character.  (That's not necessarily a bad sign, since good use of foreshadowing can let an attentive reader pick up on small clues -- but this was more like a small 2x4 to the forehead). 

On the whole, it took me about a week cover to cover, and that's far longer than it should have for a relatively short novel.  I can't say the book is a complete waste of time; it does at least have an interesting premise even if the execution is horribly flawed.  But most of my readers are probably better off spending the time thinking about the premise on their own than reading this book. 

Even those aspects of the book that might interest my readers and are divorced from the left-leaning politics are poorly handled.  There are some interesting sections on running an intelligence network, for example, that show some promise... right up to the moment when the supposed expert explaining the techniques makes the absolute worst choice possible, demonstrating not so much ignorance of the topic as an educated and erudite utter failure to comprehend.

Now that I think about it, that pretty much describes the whole book.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free review copy of this book.  Whether that influenced my review is up to you to decide.

Thu Nov 06 12:10:10 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Post-Election thoughts

America has a new President-Elect, if not yet a new president.  The man who won the election did not receive my vote, nor was he even my preferred choice between the two major party candidates; nonetheless, he appears to have won the election by enough of a margin that even the worst-case scenarios of voter fraud, poll intimidation, or campaign finance problems would not have changed the results.  I may not have chosen the man as president, but I will not challenge his legitimacy in the office.

Nor will I deny the historical impact of his success.  Obama may usher in a post-racial America despite the best efforts of some of his more fervent supporters, and indeed perhaps even against his own professed views.  From this moment forward, there can be no more excuses that the "system" won't allow a black man or woman to succeed.  Those who do not will need to take the responsibility for their lack of success upon their own shoulders.  That could be a truly transformative proposition.

For those who have doubted his experience and talents, in whose number I count myself: give the man a fair chance to do the right thing for the country.  He might surprise us.  In fact, given that his record includes more "Present" votes than anything else, surprise is perhaps inevitable.  Note that "a fair chance" does not necessarily exclude stocking up on firearms likely to be targeted for bans in a democratic-controlled government.

I don't expect the next four years to go particularly well for America, and I'm sure that I'll be opposing many of the initiatives that our New Glorious Leader proposes, but I'm willing to be pleasantly surprised.

Thu Nov 06 11:26:15 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

When Obama said he would form a civilian national security force...

... I was dreading something like this as a worst-case scenario, but not actually during the election

I very very sincerely hope that these two people are acting entirely on their own without any sort of direction or encouragement from the Obama campaign.

UPDATE: Also in Philadelphia, poll watchers tossed out of half a dozen polling stations.

Tue Nov 04 12:55:52 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Today is Election Day

If you have not already voted, you should be voting right now rather than reading this blog.  After all, if you are reading this blog, I am fairly sure you're going to vote the right way.  But you still need to get out and do it.

Tue Nov 04 00:32:53 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Someone should go to jail over this

... but somehow I doubt that will be how it plays out.  Suffice to say that living in a world where Obama controls the mechanisms of the State doesn't look like a world where ordinary Americans can expect their privacy to be respected.  At a minimum we should be seeing very strongly worded condemnations from the Obama campaign, even if they officially had nothing to do with this.  The next step should be criminal charges for the official who ordered the probe (the individual who actually performed it appears to have acted in good faith).

Mon Nov 03 15:50:33 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Impacting the Courts...

Wondering whart sort of impact Obama's judges might have on the court system?  Even if the Supreme Court is not likely to have a lot of vacancies, the lower courts could see a dramatic increase in the number of judges appointed by a Democrat.  And remember, Obama's choice of model justices voted against Heller.  That should scare you.  Beldar has more comments on possible judicial picks from Obama, and so does Sandy Froman (former NRA president).

Mon Nov 03 15:01:35 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Chris Cox of the NRA-ILA summarizes Obama's gun record

I'll summarize it even shorter:
  • Supports banning handguns (manufacture, sale, and possession -- Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in!)
  • Supports punishing people who use handguns in self-defense
  • Opposes concealed carry -- including supporting federal legislation to ban state laws which permit it.
  • Supports a ban on most rifle ammunition
  • Supports increasing firearms taxes 500%
  • Supports banning single-shot and double-barreled shotguns
  • Supports banning many semi-automatic firearms
  • Served on the Joyce Foundation, a major funder of anti-gun causes, and under his direction donated almost $19 million to anti-gun groups.
  • Opposed 4 of the 5 justices who voted in favor of the Heller case, which established Supreme Court protection for the individual right to own a firearm.
Read the whole thing.  If you are a gun owner and considering voting for Obama, think again, and think fast.

Mon Nov 03 09:49:40 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Obama: Bankrupt new coal plants

Sure, destroying the economies of several swing states will help recover from a recession.  Voting for Obama is like voting for the train that's about to run you over, and hoping it will change it's path fast enough to miss you.  But the thing about trains is that they run on tracks...

Mon Nov 03 09:49:34 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The Inside Scoop...

... from a Hiilary volunteer absorbed by, and disillusioned with, the Obama campaign.  Take with a grain or two of salt.

Mon Nov 03 09:49:26 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

It's a start

The city of san francisco will be paying attorney's fees for the suit that struck down their handgun ban.  Gun control always has a cost, but sometimes that cost is more tangible than others.

Sun Nov 02 13:43:59 CST 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

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