Improper donations

I'm not a fan of most campaign finance laws, but I do think there are a few legitimate elements:
  • Donations should be public, so the people can evaluate who is supporting a candidate
  • Donations should be limited to those eligible to vote (arguably, those who are eligible to vote for the specific candidate).
The idea behind these rules is to ensure that the public has a chance to vet the supporters of a particular candidate, and to prevent foreign powers from funding their favored candidates in return for policy concessions.  Actual campaign finance laws go substantially farther than that -- but after breaking his pledge to use public financing for his general election campaign, Obama has found a way around the disclosure law. 

He is taking in the vast majority of his campaign donations -- $150 million in September -- through online credit cards.  In theory, I'm ok with that; it makes sense.  But he has turned off the standard credit card verification methods that match the credit card number with the name, address, and zip code of the doner. 

Anyone who has ever made a purchase over the internet is familiar with those requirements.  The online merchant requests that you fill out a form with that information along with your credit card, and if you make a mistake, you get an error message instead of a completed purchase. 

What most people don't know is that they are not a requirement.  Instead, those security measures are best described as a "strong recommendation" that can be disabled if, for some reason, a website operator wants to allow for an increased chance of fraudulent purchases.  (I have implemented credit card processing sites in the past; that's how I know).  The Obama campaign site currently requests the necessary information to do that verification, but does not actually deny donations where the information doesn't match.

What makes this particularly tricky is when you consider legal requirements to report campaign donations.  After the election, and likely after the campaign has already spent the majority of its money, Obama will have a list of names, addresses, and companies who donated to his campaign that needs to be disclosed.  And he will have absolutely no way to know that the names and addresses associated with each donation are accurate.

Sure, it's easy enough to guess that donations from "Mickey Mouse" are probably not real.  But would anyone expect the campaign to contact millions of real-sounding names and offer to refund their donations after the election?  Or to refund by default those who cannot be contacted?

No.  For obvious reasons, only the most inept donations will be detected and refunded, and even those will only be handled at a pace that normal humans operate -- a pace that means the Obama campaign won't have to worry about actually refunding money until after the election. 

Without the automated verification process that credit card processors use by default, it is impossible to assign any confidence to the donor names reported by Obamas campaign to the FEC.  It is impossible to enforce limits on individual contributions.  The Obama campaign appears to have worked out how to completely ignore even those campaign finance laws that do not depend on voluntary participation, and bring Chicago machine politics into the internet age.

Thu Oct 30 21:46:28 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

A Guide for Global-Warming Skeptics

It's very well put together and discusses the current evidence, the evidence that used to be valid but has since been demonstrated wrong, and most importantly, the correct process that should be used when investigating the issue.

Thu Oct 30 13:51:57 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

If you can't trust the police to follow the law, who can you trust?

It seems there's a bit of an issue with firearm purchases in Delaware.  When an 81-year-old woman tried to buy a gun, the police delayed her purchase for 10 days to investigate it first, and required an interview with her and the dealer before allowing the transaction to proceed.  As part of their investigation, they searched 7 years of firearms purchase records to see if she had ever purchased a firearm before.

There are lots of problems here:
  • The checks are supposed to only look for legally disabling criteria -- never age or sex.
  • If there is reason to delay a check, it's only supposed to be delayed for 3 days; after that the transaction is supposed to go through.
  • So far as I know, there's no provision for a law enforcement interview as part of the investigation; it's supposed to be just a background check.
  • The records of the check are supposed to be deleted after 60 days (local Delaware rules, apparantly; federal checks are supposed to be deleted after 24 hours).
  • The records of past checks aren't supposed to exist and therefore should never be used (even if they do exist through some accident).
As a software developer I know how important keeping logs can be to diagnose problems with the software.  But for a sensitive application like this one, those logs need to be carefully protected while they exist and destroyed in accordance with the law.  That someone was able to not only know that those logs exist, but casually check them to verify a purchaser's history of firearms transactions, is evidence of a dramatic failure in security.

This is the fundamental problem with background checks: the police cannot be trusted not to impose their own views of "who should have a gun" into the process, in open defiance of the laws, because there is no punishment for violating them.  What is supposed to be a simple measure to prevent criminals from buying firearms has been implemented as a requirement to ask police permission for each purchase -- permission that can be arbitrarily delayed or denied with no consequences to the police for doing so.

Shouldn't this case draw a lawsuit for deprivation of civil rights under color of law?

Wed Oct 29 11:21:27 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Admitting there's a problem...

... is the first step to fixing it.  But what about the damage that has already been done?

No, what I object to (and I think most other Americans do as well) is the lack of equivalent hardball coverage of the other side -- or worse, actively serving as attack dogs for the presidential ticket of Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Joe Biden, D-Del.

If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as president of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography.

That isn't Sen. Obama's fault: His job is to put his best face forward. No, it is the traditional media's fault, for it alone (unlike the alternative media) has had the resources to cover this story properly, and has systematically refused to do so.

A thousand mea-culpas won't make any difference after the election.  And the mainstream media sits on videos of Barack Obama toasting PLO terrorists.

Tue Oct 28 11:49:28 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Activity in the Chicago gun case

The Chicago case seeking incorporation of the 2nd Amendment has had some activity.  The plaintiffs have filed a Rule 16 motion to narrow the issues in the case, which they had been advised was how the court preferred to see the issue.  We will likely see a reply to that motion, followed by a surreply from our side and a ruling from the judge. 

Without immediately speculating about the chances of winning the motion, it seems fairly clear that this motion will determine the outcome of the case at this level.  If we win the motion, the judge pretty much must strike down Chicago's law.  If not, appeal is inevitable -- although the appeal would probably need to wait until after final judgement in the case.  I have some selected quotes from the motion below.
The question of Fourteenth Amendment incorporation must be decided in Plaintiffs' favor. As described herein, the protection of the people's right to keep and bear arms against the states' attempted abridgements of that right was one of the primary purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment. It is widely acknowledged the Supreme Court wrongly interpreted the Privileges or Immunities Clause in The Slaughter-House Cases, giving it an unduly narrow interpretation that is long overdue for correction. Since Second Amendment incorporation through that provision is proper, Plaintiffs respectfully request this Court to avail itself of the opportunity to honor the original intent, meaning, and plain text of the Fourteenth Amendment by holding the Second Amendment's freedoms apply to the Defendant in this case.
The Slaughter-House Cases arise from early 14th Amendment law, involving general property rights rather than a specific enumerated right, and the Supreme Court initially ruled narrowly.  Subsequent courts have selectively used the 14th Amendment to apply the various enumerated rights in the Bill of Rights against State infringement.  Courts have mostly been ducking the 2nd Amendment question by relying on older rulings that predate modern incorporation doctrine; we should be on fairly safe ground with an honest judge and an enumerated right.  However, due to the nature of the legal system, the lower courts may well be constrained to follow unfavorable Supreme Court precedent until the Supreme Court itself overrules.
The individual Plaintiffs assert in their Complaint that they applied for permits to own handguns and various long arms in their homes, and that these applications were denied by Defendant, or are subject to the various challenged registration restrictions. In its Amended Answer, Defendant admits both the applications and denials, even citing the respective ordinances on which the denials were based, and does not otherwise challenge the content and operation of the ordinances as alleged by Plaintiff. Defendant?s sole affirmative defense is that the Complaint fails to state a claim.
Translated from legalese, this is essentially saying "Yes, we admit denying the applications.  So what?  That's what the law says."  However, it provides a sharp contrast with DC's arguments before the lower courts; DC attempted to deny that it banned self-defense (suggesting that plaintiffs could violate the law with impunity so long as they were not caught until the firearm was used in self-defense).  To me, this says that we're being taken seriously; Chicago's counsel won't be wasting time with absurd arguments.
The right to keep and bear arms is among the privileges or immunities of United States citizenship which the states are forbidden from abridging. Indeed, the Fourteenth Amendment was intended and originally understood to stop the states? abridgement of the right to keep and bear arms. The Fourteenth Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause may have been given a wrong, parsimoniously narrow interpretation by the Supreme Court in The Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36 (1873), but Second Amendment incorporation through that provision remains the most logical course of action. Considering the widely held view that the current Privileges or Immunities Clause jurisprudence is incorrect, and the recent suggestion by an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court that this doctrine be revisited, Plaintiffs would in good faith urge that this precedent be reconsidered to better honor the original intent, meaning, and plain text of the Fourteenth Amendment.
We have here two conflicting, but very important, points.  The 14th Amendment was originally passed to protect the rights of newly freed slaves against state governments hostile to them, but the Supreme Court's initial interpertations basically gutted the intent of the Amendment.  It took almost a hundred years before the civil rights moment forced legal equality in practice, and when it happened, it happened piecemeal -- one right at a time.  The courts managed to avoid extending that umbrella to cover the 2nd Amendment... hopefully, until now.
The Fourteenth Amendment provides, in pertinent part: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, sec. 1, cl. 2. The Fourteenth Amendment Privileges or Immunities Clause was originally intended and understood to incorporate the Bill of Rights -- including, specifically, the Second Amendment -- as against the states. It should be given this effect today.
That part of the argument is obvious.  In the wake of the Civil War, many southern states were determined to continue violating the rights of the newly-freed slaves.  They passed a whole variety of laws to this effect, sometimes laws which were blanket prohibitions on the 2nd Amendment rights of their population, and then enforced those laws only upon their black population.  The Supreme Court which upheld those laws was definitely a low point in American jurisprudence.  The only flaw in the ointment is that the precedent is still present and binding upon lower courts.
Plaintiffs acknowledge that this argument is foreclosed in this Court by The Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36 (1873), holding that the Privileges or Immunities Clause "guarantees only rights that flow from the existence of United States citizenship, such as the rights to diplomatic protection abroad or to access the navigable waterways of the United States."  Slaughter-House may be binding law, but "everyone" agrees the Court [has] incorrectly interpreted the Privileges or Immunities Clause." Richard L. Aynes, Constricting the Law of Freedom. Justice Miller, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Slaughter-House Cases, 70 Chi. Kent L. Rev. 627 (1994); see also Laurence H. Tribe, Taking Text and Structure Seriously. Reflections on Free-Form Method in Constitutional Interpretation, 108 Harv. L. Rev. 1121, 1297 n. 247 (1995) ("[T]he Slaughter-House Cases incorrectly gutted the Privileges or Immunities Clause"); Akhil Reed Amar, The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, 101 Yale L.J. 1193, 1258-59 (1992).
This of course is the big problem here: we're asking a lower court to overturn a Supreme Court precedent.  It likely will not happen in the lower court.  Instead we'll likely see the case kicked upwards one level at a time until the Supreme Court can review and hopefully overturn it's prior precedent.  This is a more difficult process than the Heller case (which saw victories at the lower court level, where it was known as Parker) because we actually do have incorrect Supreme Court precedent to overcome.  Parker was a very carefully designed case that did not seek to overturn existing precedent -- instead it targetted a narrow area of the law where precedent was nonexistent.
"Legal scholars agree on little beyond the conclusion that the Clause does not mean what the Court said it meant in 1873." Saenz v. Roe, 526 U.S. 489, 523 n.1 (1999) (Thomas, J. dissenting) (citations omitted). Indeed, Justice Thomas, joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist, declared that he "would be open to reevaluating [the Privileges or Immunities Clause's] meaning in an appropriate case." Saenz, 526 U.S. at 528 (Thomas, J., dissenting).1 This is such an appropriate case, considering that no modern court has considered the interplay between the Second Amendment, properly understood, and the Fourteenth Amendment.
Of course our case is made easier by the fact that the Supreme Court has basically begged for an appropriation incorporation case.  The "properly understood" wording refers, of course, to the recent Heller case.  Previous 2nd Amendment cases touching on incorporation have failed to "properly understand" the issue.  And this lawsuit was filed the same day the Heller ruling was released, so it would be very difficult to get significantly contradictory precedent.
Before the Civil War, the Supreme Court held that states were not bound by the Bill of Rights. Barron ex rel. Tiernan v. Mayor of Baltimore, 32 U.S. (7 Pet.) 243 (1833). Barron proved intolerable during Reconstruction. With recalcitrant southern states actively oppressing Americans just freed from slavery, Congress saw the need to constitutionally define American citizenship and imbue that citizenship with meaningful federal protection. Thus the Fourteenth Amendment?s first section was designed to overrule two Supreme Court precedents. The first clause dispensed with Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857), which held that people of African descent could not be American citizens or citizens of American states. The Privileges or Immunities Clause was aimed squarely at overruling Barron.
The initial Supreme Court decisions that held the Bill of Rights as not applicable against the states actually have some reasonable support.  The Constitution, after all, was an agreement between states to form a unified and limited Federal government.  Existing laws in many of the early states violated the modern view of the First Amendment (by establishing a state church, for example).  The idea was to prevent the Federal government form imposing it's own rule upon the states or the people -- not necessarily to prevent the States from doing so. 

The First Amendment encapsulates this idea in its opening clause: "Congress shall make no law..."  Congress may not be able to make such laws, but the States could and did.  Ironically, the counterexample is the 2nd Amendment, which provides that the right to keep and bear arms "shall not be infringed."  There is no narrowing limitation on laws Congress may pass; just a blanket prohibition on infringement.  Yet it is the First Amendment which has been readily and completely incorporated against the restrictions of the States, and the 2nd which has been shamefully ignored by the courts.

However, with that history in mind, the 14th Amendment was explicitly  intended to apply the protections of the Bill of Rights to State governments as well as the Federal government.

As for the privileges and immunities that "no state shall . . . abridge," these included, at a minimum, the Bill of Rights. "Congress in 1866 understood perfectly well that section one was intended to repudiate Barron. "Over and over [John Bingham] described the privileges-or-immunities clause as encompassing 'the bill of rights' -- a phrase he used more than a dozen times in a key speech . . ." Lawrence, 72 Mo. L. Rev. at 19 (quoting Akhil Reed Amar, THE BILL OF RIGHTS 182 (1998) (hereafter "Amar"). The Fourteenth Amendment's Senate sponsor, Senator Jacob Howard, explained the Privileges or Immunities Clause's incorporating scope:
To these privileges and immunities, whatever they may be -- for they are not and cannot be fully defined in their entire extent and precise nature -- to these should be added the personal right guarantied and secured by the first eight amendments of the Constitution; such as the freedom of speech, . . . and the right to keep and to bear arms . . . . The great object of the first section of this amendment is, therefore, to restrain the power of the States and compel them at all times to respect these great fundamental guarantees.
Cong. Globe, 39th Cong., 1st Sess. 2765-66 (1866) (emphasis added).
So what we have here is a painfully obvious case where a Constitutional Amendment was explicitly passed to overrule a pair of arguably correct but no longer politically acceptable Supreme Court decisions... which the courts then proceded to ignore for almost a hundred and fifty years.

However, later courts did manage to incorporate some selective elements of the Bill of Rights against State infringement:
Slaughter-House may have rendered the Privileges or Immunities Clause meaningless, but the Supreme Court would discover another approach to Fourteenth Amendment incorporation. It is now well-established that the amendment?s Due Process Clause has a substantive dimension, and that deprivation of enumerated constitutional rights is thus largely incompatible with due process. Almost every provision of the Bill of Rights considered for incorporation in the modern era has been incorporated.
Some of the basic arguments for incorporation are easily summarized here:
  • The Right to Arms was considered fundamental at the time of the founding
  • Forty-four states secure a right to arms in their Constitution
  • 32 states advised in Heller briefs that the right to arms should be incorporated
  • The right to self-defense is a natural right (Blackstone)
But then we get into more interesting territory.
The Supreme Court binds the states to respect unenumerated rights which, like the Second Amendment, are rooted in deference to preserving personal autonomy. Observing that "no right is held more sacred, or is more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every individual to the possession and control of his own person, free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by clear and unquestionable authority of law," Cruzan v. Dir., Mo. Dept. of Health, 497 U.S. 261, 269 (1990) (citation omitted), the Supreme Court recognized a right to refuse life-sustaining medical care. Id., at 278; see also Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 11 438, 453 (1972) ("the right of the individual . . . to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child"); Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 562 (2003) ("liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions" supports right to consensual intimate relationships); Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165 (1952) (right of bodily integrity against police searches).
The choice of cases here is very interesting.  We have Lawrence v Texas, a controversial recent case protecting a right to private, consensual sexual activity for homoesexuals; Rochin v California, which I have not heard of but which isn't a typically conservative police-powers case; Eisenstatd v Baird, which looks from this summary to be an abortion or birth control case; and Planned Parenthood v Casey (cited later), an explicit abortion case.  In short, we're citing liberal and left-wing cases to make our point.The motion then moves on to deal with the three cases they expect the defense to cite:
Three Supreme Court decisions have rejected the Second Amendment's direct application to the states. But these holdings predate and therefore did not discuss the incorporation doctrine.
With respect to Cruikshank's [United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876)] continuing validity on incorporation, a question not presented by this case, we note that Cruikshank also said that the First Amendment did not apply against the States and did not engage in the sort of Fourteenth Amendment inquiry required by our later cases.
Heller, 128 S. Ct. at 2813 n.23 (emphasis added).
Heller noted that Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252 (1886) and Miller v. Texas, 153 U.S. 535 (1894) "reaffirmed that the Second Amendment applies only to the Federal Government." Id. But both these cases precede the incorporation era, and suffer from the same flaw that renders Cruikshank non-authoritative: an absence of the "required" modern incorporation analysis. See also Duncan, 391 U.S. at 155 (complete non-incorporation "a position long since repudiated"). Miller's observation that the Second Amendment did not bind the states referenced the Fourth Amendment for the same proposition. Miller, 153 U.S. at 538. Clearly the city would not cite Miller's language for the proposition that its police force need not obey the Fourth Amendment.
So, in effect, Chicago is citing Supreme Court cases that say the 2nd Amendment doesn't apply to the States, and the plaintiffs are citing Supreme Court cases that say the defense's cases are invalid because they do not engage in the appropriate analysis.

It's difficult to predict the right outcome here.  Clearly, in the wake of Heller and the bulk of modern 14th Amendment jurisprudence, the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies to the States.  But the lower courts may still feel themselves bound by the existing, yet somewhat invalidated, precedent until the Supreme Court overturns it.  With this motion the plaintiffs have made a good argument for reaching the correct result and disregarding precedent demonstrably invalidated by later Supreme Court decisions, but whether the judge will take the opening offered is still an open question. 

As I follow this case, I would urge my readers to be cautious in their expectations.  We may lose the early stages of the case on our way to the Supreme Court, no matter how good our arguments.  But we can and should take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary, and we can reasonably expect to win that case before the current court.

Whether we can win that case before a court with more Obama-appointed justices is a question I would rather not have to answer.  Remember that when you vote: Heller was 5-4, and Obama only has to switch one vote on the Court to give us a 2nd Amendment that applies only in Washington, DC.

Mon Oct 27 12:22:58 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Surveilance Society Inside Your Car...

It also sounds pretty benign, even useful. But unlike Weires, I'm a technology guy -- and I have a very acute sense of how seemingly harmless new technologies have a tendency to metastasize into something far nastier and, usually, end up invading our privacy or diminishing our freedoms. And, perhaps due to my own driving history, the story of Weires and his black box had sirens going off in my head.

Think of the worst possible scenarios, and whatever you come up with has a good chance of happening. For example, you know those random checkpoint stops that the police set up every year around the holidays to catch drunks. I've never been a big fan of them, mostly for civil liberties reasons, but like most people I endure this little inconvenience for the perceived larger good.

But what about a checkpoint where the cop walks up, plugs his laptop into your car and then tickets you for going over the speed limit three times last week? Put up some "smart" speed signs that send out signals to your car's black box and it would be simple to make the comparison. Like that one?

Even simpler to hook the black box up to a GPS receiver that the car probably already has. 

Mon Oct 27 11:35:45 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Security Theater

Bruce Schneier, a security expert, has been complaining about the TSA's security theater for years.  Now, a journalist has put some of his ideas into practice -- and the TSA has egg on its face.

Wed Oct 22 20:39:08 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Factchecking the Brady's "Translation" of the NRA's questionaire...

In each election year the NRA sends around a questionnaire to politicians running for office asking them to specify their position on guns and gun rights.  The questionnaires are important in picking who to endorse or oppose.  It seems the Brady campaign isn't happy with the way the questions are worded, so they did a bit of fact-checking.  Now, it's my turn to fact-check their fact check.
When the NRA says "gun sales by private citizens who are not engaged in an ongoing firearms business should not be subject to federal background check requirements," its officials mean that unlicensed sellers should be able sell dozens of guns at gun shows, at tables marked by huge banners saying "No Background Checks!," to anyone who shows up.
Has anyone seen a table like that at a gun show?  I haven't.

Regardless, it's important to realize that there is no gun show loophole.  Gun shows are no different than other private sales by federal law; individuals can sell guns to other individuals at a gun show and be governed by the same laws that apply to private sales generally.  If someone is in the business of selling guns, rather than selling off their own private collection, they need a federal firearms license (on top of whatever state or local requirements are).  Since there is usually a strong law enforcement presence at gun shows, anyone actually in the business of selling firearms without a license will probably be out of business before very long.
When the questionnaire reads "the Federal government should not ban firearms," what is meant is that no type of firearm whatsoever should be prohibited for sale, even handguns that would not be detected by airport security, or military-style AK-47s, or even machine guns. The NRA opposes the Federal machine gun ban enacted in 1986.
The 2nd Amendment does seem to preclude almost all blanket gun bans, based on the Supreme Court's ruling in Heller.  Handguns that would not be detected by airport security for any reason other than TSA's incompetence are a gun banner's fantasy, not a real threat.  According to the rules of the assault weapons ban, there's no functional difference between a "military-style AK-47" and a common semiautomatic hunting rifle.  And of course the 1986 ban on machine guns was justified by the total number of 0 crimes committed by ordinary citizens with legally-owned machine guns since those were heavily regulated in 1934.  Yes, zero.
When it asks if the candidate agrees that "ammunition magazines should not be banned," it means there should be no restrictions whatsoever on the number of rounds a gun can fire without reloading. The NRA opposed the Federal assault weapons ban, which limited ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. Now that the ban has expired, the sale of 30, 50, even more than 100 round magazines is legal again.
Because criminals can't switch magazines, right?  This is just another case where restrictions on millions of law-abiding citizens are passed in the vain hope of mildly inconveniencing some criminal somewhere.
When it says "no records should be maintained on any lawful gun buyer," it means that Federal law enforcement shouldn't be allowed to retain even for 24 hours the records of anyone who successfully cleared a Federal Brady background check - even if more time is needed to see if a gun was illegally sold, or if the buyer is on a Federal terrorist watch list.
Because if they passed the check then they are not a criminal.  Mechanisms are already in place to provide for a "delay" response while the purchaser's identity and criminal history can be verified if necessary.  That is already a prior restraint on 2nd Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens.  (I was about to say that we would never tolerate such a prior restraint upon the 1st Amendment, but I fear we already are.)
When it asks candidates if they "support legislation to restore the Second Amendment rights of DC residents," it means legislation which would go much farther than the Supreme Court's decision in D.C. v. Heller, and eliminate the District of Columbia government's authority to pass any gun laws at all.
That would be because the DC government has proven itself incapable of acting in good faith in complying with the Heller decision and respecting the 2nd Amendment rights of their residents.

UPDATE: A case study in new media versus old media.

Hits from a link posted to saysuncle: 100 and counting
Hits from a link posted to the New York Times gun control page: 2
Hits from a link posted to Instapundit: Unknown...
Hits from a link posted to Daily Kos: I may never know.

Tue Oct 21 02:13:52 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

How free are we?

... so free that we can't tell fiction from terrorism.  So writing a short story now makes you a felon.

Fri Oct 17 10:59:53 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Factchecking Obama's claims on guns

There's been a lot of fact-checking going around about Obama's positions on gun issues.  First he was against them, then he was still against them, then he still was against them, then gun owners were bitter and clingy, then he supported the DC ban, then the Supreme Court struck it down, and finally he supported the Supreme Court... except that he would appoint judges in the mold of those who voted to uphold DC's ban, and then the Brady Campaign to Ban Guns endorsed him...

Confused yet?  That's exactly where Obama wants you.  He wants people who like guns to think he's for gun ownership and the 2nd Amendment, and he wants people who hate guns to think he hates them too -- so long as they are quiet about it and don't interfere with the election.

So one way to find out is to ask people who have met him and talked to him about the issue.  Let's ask John Lott:
I knew Obama during the mid-1990s, when we were both at the University of Chicago Law School. Indeed, when I introduced myself to him, he said, "Oh, you are the gun guy."

I responded, "Yes, I guess so." His response, as I recall it, was, "I don't believe that people should be able to own guns."

When I said it might be fun sometime to talk about the question and his support of Chicago's lawsuit against gunmakers, he simply grimaced and turned away, ending the conversation.

Well, that wasn't very helpful to Obama's case for supporting gun rights.  How about someone who lobbied Obama on gun issues while he was in the Illinois legislature?
Hello, my name is Rich Pearson and I have been active in the firearm rights movement for over 40 years. For the past 15 years, I have served in the Illinois state capitol as the chief lobbyist for the Illinois State Rifle Association.

I lobbied Barack Obama extensively while he was an Illinois State Senator. As a result of that experience, I know Obama's attitudes toward guns and gun owners better than anyone. The truth be told, in all my years in the Capitol I have never met a legislator who harbors more contempt for the law-abiding firearm owner than does Barack Obama.

Although Obama claims to be an advocate for the 2nd Amendment, his voting record in the Illinois Senate paints a very different picture. While a state senator, Obama voted for a bill that would ban nearly every hunting rifle, shotgun and target rifle owned by Illinois citizens. That same bill would authorize the state police to raid homes of gun owners to forcibly confiscate banned guns. Obama supported a bill that would shut down law-abiding firearm manufacturers including Springfield Armory, Armalite, Rock River Arms and Les Baer. Obama also voted for a bill that would prohibit law-abiding citizens from purchasing more than one gun per month.

Without a doubt, Barack Obama has proven himself to be an enemy of the law abiding firearm owner. At the same time, Obama has proven himself to be a friend to the hardened criminal. While a state senator, Obama voted 4 times against legislation that would allow a homeowner to use a firearm in defense of home and family.
Read the whole thing.

Thu Oct 16 11:53:13 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Open Mouth, insert foot

Derek Reeves over at Outdoor Life has a good article on the divisions within the gun community and how those divisions often hurt our ability to elect politicians who support the whole community rather than one narrow splinter of it.  On the whole, he has a good point, as the Zumbo affair demonstrated.  However, he does make one significant error:
Now is the time for all of us, gun owners and constitutionally minded individuals, to come together under one banner. That banner can be the NRA but most importantly it has to be heard through votes. There are an estimated two to three hundred million registered firearms in the hands of law abiding Americans--that is a strong and very loud voice at the polls. Or we can stay divided, kick back and hope for change or is it change for hope?
"Registered" firearms?  Last I checked we don't have universal firearms registration in this country.  Three hundred million legal firearms, sure.  But let's not give the antis ammunition by equating "registered" firearms with "legally owned" firearms.

Wed Oct 15 15:17:35 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Oh, this is just lovely...

You may have heard of the TSA's new insta-porn device, which bounces low-energy x-rays off of your skin when you go through airport screening, producing an image of your body that looks remarkably like... a very detailed (but somewhat ghostlike and bluish) naked human body.   For a while now they've been trying to calm the objections by insisting that the images will have the sensitive areas of the image, breasts and genitals, blurred, plus using same-gender screeners to look at the images. 

However, now that they are actually deploying the system for a live trial, they admit that the images are not blurred.  Oh, and those separate screeners?  They will rely on human signals from other TSA agents to determine the gender of the person being screened.  I wonder how long it will take before no one bothers to signal for gender?

But it's OK, says the TSA.  The screeners won't be allowed to take cameras or cell phones into the screening booth.  How long will that rule last in an agency that can't keep even a single employee from stealing over a quarter-million dollars from luggage?  Including a $47,000 camera?

If they can get a professional-grade TV camera out of the secure area, they can get a cell phone camera in.

Oh, and the screeners will be watching the machine in a private booth, where you won't be able to see or object to their inevitable antics.

I wonder how much you could get on ebay for skin-radar pictures of a naked Angelina Jolie, for example?  I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.

Wed Oct 15 13:18:17 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]


Richard Feldman writes
"Obama supports the Second Amendment and he's unabashed about saying so."
What about when Obama was saying that he supported DC's handgun ban?  What about his proposals to ban gun stores from anywhere south of the North Pole?  What about his support for handgun bans in Chicago and its suburbs, including voting to prosecute people who defended themselves from a criminal with a handgun?  What about Obama's endorsement from the Brady Bunch? 
Why aren't the leaders of the "gun rights" movement in America pleased with the fact that the Democratic nominee for President has reached out to gun owners in re-assuring them that he supports gun ownership?
Because he's lying.  It really is that simple.  There's a lot more to it than votes from 10 years ago... like Obama's infamous claim that gun owners were "bitter" and "clinging to their guns and religion." 
As a gun owner, I want both parties' nominees to support my rights. As a gun owner it's in my interests that the gun issue has been largely resolved by the Heller case. I can cast my ballet on the basis of other more contentious and significant issues that need to be decided.
It would be nice if both parties did in fact support gun ownership.  When warranted, the NRA has endorsed Democrats (including some in this election).  But it would be a mistake to imagine that the Heller case "resolves" the gun control issue. It was a 5-4 decision, vulnerable to any of those five justices retiring from the bench under an unfavorable presidency. 

Furthermore, the Heller case is only the first step.  It demonstrated that the Supreme Court would protect an individual right to keep and bear arms from the Federal government, to at least some minimal degree.  But the issue of incorporation against state infringements is still on the table, and the next battlefield is likely to be Chicago -- the other major gun-ban city, and not insignificantly Obama's home turf.  If Obama feels comfortable living under and supporting a gun ban with his legislative powers, can we really trust him with the power to appoint Supreme Court justices who just might decide that the 2nd Amendment doesn't mean anything after all?
As a voter, I haven't made up my mind who I'm supporting on November. But, in my view, Obama has neutralized gun as an issue. It sure would be helpful if NRA leaders looked ahead to the problems facing Americans who own guns and not just backwards to the good old days of " liberal gun grabber" bashing. It's worn pretty thin and really has gotten kind of old. Frankly, guys, our side won - move on already!
Denial is more than a river in Eqypt.

Wed Oct 15 00:19:13 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

American Hunters and Shooters Association is a Brady clone

Sensibly Progressive lays it out.

Tue Oct 14 23:55:05 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Proven legal theories?

In attempting to challenge the legal fees proposed by the winning team in the Heller case, DC's Attorney General described the Heller case as using "proven legal theories" and thus, according to him, is not worth a fee enhancement despite being "significant" and "above-average". 

If that was the case, why didn't DC settle the case and change it's laws?  There's just no way to make that argument coherent. 

Tue Oct 14 23:54:42 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The soccer mom who lost her permit

... for openly and legally carrying a firearm at her child's soccer game has now gotten it back.  And thus justice is served, even when law enforcement is determined to prevent it.

Tue Oct 14 23:39:48 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]


... when did the Fourth Amendment stop applying to American citizens crossing the border into the US after travel abroad?

Mon Oct 13 15:15:46 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Bradys endorse Obama

I'm with Sebastian here: if they wanted Obama to be elected they would be better off biting their tongue.  Or even disbanding their organization.

Mon Oct 13 14:39:08 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The American Bar Association summarizes post-Heller litigation...

... they are emphasizing the Chicago cases, since those are likely to lead the way on incorporation.  The article has a mild bias, beginning with quotes from the lawyer who expects to defend Chicago's gun ban, and including a few paragraphs down the claim that guns kill children and prevent the Olympics and probably blend puppies too:
In recent years, gunfire has killed dozens of Chicago schoolchildren. The city received a potential PR setback in its bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics when four people were shot?one fatally?downtown July 3 as a crowd of more than 1 million dispersed after the city?s Independence Day fireworks show.
That's hardly relevant to an article on the legal issues of the 2nd Amendment.  Somewhat better is their discussion of the three precedents the city plans to rely on:

In the seminal 1875 case, United States v. Cruikshank, the court vacated the convictions of members of a white mob accused of depriving blacks of their Second Amend­ment right to keep and bear arms. Though cryptic in its reasoning, the court left no doubt that the amendment was the wrong tool: ?This is one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.?

I don't think this case will be very helpful to Chicago's side.  We're talking about a racist mob violating the civil rights of black citizens.  It  would be unconscionable to uphold an openly racist precedent in the face of contradictory precedents for the other amendments that make up the Bill of Rights.  This case is also trivially distinguishable from the current situation because private actions infringing a civil right (ie, the mob) are not the same as state or local laws doing so.

City lawyers also are keen on Pres­ser v. Illinois, where the court in 1886 held that the amendment didn?t pre­vent the state from prohib­iting a parade of 400 armed men through the streets of Chicago. Similarly in 1894, the court, in Miller v. Texas, affirmed a state law forbid­ding a murder defendant from carrying a weapon.

Miller v Texas won't be helpful, because Heller doesn't challenge felon-in-possession and the vast majority of people in Chicago aren't felons.  Presser is even less helpful because the Chicago laws are a complete ban on possession, not merely a ban on firearms carried in public.  If those are the only cases in Chicago's quiver they will likely lose... barring an Obama presidency and judicial retirements.  The ABA gets fair credit for accepting that in the article, although they use the point to bring up how DC responded to keep restrictive laws in place following their loss in Heller. 

It's clear the ABA has chosen a side, but the bits of strategy noted are interesting.

Mon Oct 13 14:37:07 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Obama campaign misuses NSSF mailing list

It seems the Obama campaign has allegedly somehow acquired and misused one of the mailing lists for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.  The message apparently included the NSSF list itself in the message.  The NSSF has issued a press release with evidence and a demand letter asking for $250,000 in damages, on the basis that the list is a trade secret. 

I'm not terribly familiar with trade secret law, but what I do understand is that trade secrets are not necessarily protected very heavily by law.  Generally, if someone signs a contract saying they will protect a trade secret, they can be penalized according to that contract if they do not.  If the owner of the secret is careless with it, the secret can become valueless such that remedies are no longer available.  Given that the list was attached to the whole message that was sent out, it's clear that the list is no longer a trade secret.

So the real question here is how the sender of the message acquired the list.  There are a couple obvious scenarios -- a disgruntled staffer, or one who supports Obama, passing on the list.  But the press release uses very strong words about the Obama campaign's involvement:
The Obama campaign in Indiana, on September 27, unlawfully obtained and made unauthorized use of a proprietary media list belonging to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) ? the trade association for the firearms industry.  Sen. Obama used this list to e-mail a press release concerning National Hunting and Fishing Day.
"Unlawfully obtained" is a pretty strong description.  It suggests a deliberate effort by the campaign to obtain the mailing list, and given that the value of the list was destroyed (by including it in mailing, presumably inadvertantly) the damages claim might actually stick.  But hat presumes the NSSF can prove that the Obama campaign deliberately made efforts to obtain the list in an underhanded fashion.  If they can't prove that, I think the NSSF legal team may be stuck going after whoever leaked the list for contract violations.

If true, these allegations really put the anti-gun complaints about NRA spies in perspective, don't they?

Thu Oct 09 15:06:50 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The NRA has endorsed the McCain/Palin ticket....

... This is only a surprise in the sense that they might have chosen to oppose Obama without endorsing McCain, thinking that if McCain loses it would hurt their political victory record.  But it seems that the prospect of Obama winning the Presidency is enough to encourage a little risk-taking in opposition.

While McCain hasn't been perfect on gun issues, he's been good enough for the NRA.

Thu Oct 09 11:11:07 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

False-Flag political activist group attracts "over a dozen" to event

Yes, you read that right -- a lengthy newspaper article reporting on an America Hunters and Shooters Association event which attracted "over a dozen" people.  Great showing there, guys.  I can see that there are lots of sportsmen willing to support Obama.  In fact... I bet there are over a dozen.  And I won't even count the executive board of the AHSA in that number.
"It's the first time in my memory someone has come down and presented the other side. Just because we are Democrats, we're not anti-gun," said UMWA member Babe Erdos.
You know, I can believe that there are ordinary rank and file Democrats who are not anti-gun.  But the list of elected Democrats who support pro-gun causes is rather short when you look at their votes rather than their campaign rhetoric.  And Obama's record as an elected Democrat is quite clear.

Thu Oct 09 02:25:48 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Settlement in Katrina gun seizures...

There's a short article here.  One possible explanation for police claims that they "only took guns that were stolen or found in abandoned homes": apparantly, New Orleans police have had an informal policy of confiscating any firearm they encountered in a traffic stop unless the person could produce a receipt:
In the course of doing research for our book ("The Great New Orleans Gun Grab") Todd Masson (my co-author) and I kept running across stories and evidence that New Orleans traffic cops were taking guns from motorists during routine traffic stops. The ploy used is to ask a motorist if he has a gun in the car, then ask to see it. Upon issuing the traffic citation, the cop asks the motorist if he has a receipt for the gun. Of course, no one has one, so the cop informs the motorist when he/she comes up with a receipt proving ownership, he/she can retrieve the gun at such-and-such a district.
After something like that, the gun certainly could be described as "stolen". 

Thu Oct 09 02:16:21 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Even when Democrats defend their gun record...

... somehow their prejudices show through.  The Huffington Post gets all annoyed at gun owners for refusing to believe Democrats will leave their guns alone:
National Public Radio (9-24-08) recently spoke to Democrat Louis Brandenburg in southwestern Pennsylvania, whose friends are voting for McCain-Palin because of "the hunting issue." "I can't understand what happened to our party....the Republican Party is always the ones who back hunters and sportsmen...all we get from the other one is flack about hunting and guns," protested Mr. Brandenburg.
So here's a Democrat who doesn't believe the Democrats on guns. Is it any wonder that they have no credibility on the issue?  In an attempt to skewer their purported ally, the Post explains...
In fact, Democrats have never challenged the right to own hunting or sports guns. Yet, in classic bait-and-switch fashion, leaders of the National Rifle Association incite the masses by raising the specter of Democratic "gun grabbers" confiscating citizens' "hunting" and "sports" guns - even as NRA leaders promote "sporting" events with automatic weapons and .50-caliber military sniper rifles (deadly at a mile, with a range of over four miles).
And yet in the very same paragraph they claim that Democrats have never challenged hunting or sporting guns, they challenge guns regularly used in extremely popular sporting events.  Yes, there are sporting events that use automatic weapons (already heavily regulated, no thanks to the Democrats) and .50-caliber rifles.  I've participated in some of the latter, albeit without using a .50 -- others at Boomershoot did

What's happening here is that anti-gun Democrats believe they can get away with their prejudices by separating out "hunting" and "sporting" weapons and then attacking anything that's not "hunting" or sporting".  The problem is that hunting and target rifles become "military sniper rifles", popular competitive sporting rifles become "assault weapons", and handguns become "Saturday-Night-Specials". 

Following that spectacular demonstration of idiocy, there follows a huge parade of attacks on gun owners, the religious, and even abortion opponents.  While political differences are fine and dandy, I thought this article was supposed to be about how Democrats aren't attacking gun owners?  Most of it isn't even worth quoting.  Finally, several paragraphs down, there's some actual argument worth rebutting:
The stranglehold of the gun lobby on Congress supercedes even national security. Agents of bin Laden were revealed buyers of U.S. .50-caliber military sniper weapons during the trial of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. Yet, three separate bills to regulate .50-caliber weapons by reclassifying them the same as machine guns under the National Firearms Act have languished in congressional committee since 1999. Consequently, U.S. 18-year-olds have easier legal access to fifty-caliber guns than to handguns. CBS 60 Minutes reported in 2005 that .50-caliber guns and other assault weapons continue to be shipped out of the U.S. as "hunting rifles," often on commercial airlines.
Oh, the horror that such instruments of death and destruction have contributed to a grand total of ... 0? deaths in the United States.  Criminals simply don't use .50 caliber rifles to commit crimes, because they can't be concealed and cost several thousand dollars each.  There's no .50-caliber crime wave.  People who buy these rifles are serious shooters who have the time and money to invest in developing their long-range shooting skills.  Not criminals.

Oh, and the alleged sale to bin Laden agents?  It was legal, because it happened when Afghanistan was fighting to free their country from the Soviets. 
The NRA's shell game nurturing false fears of Democrats seizing hunting guns is classic bait-and-switch, calculated to scare voters, intimidate lawmakers and derail reasonable gun safety laws and national security measures.
That's "reasonable gun safety laws and national security measures" that, by some remarkable coincidence, would ban hunting and sporting guns.  The anti-gun lobby would be a lot more effective if they could manage to hide their agenda effectively.  They realize this and are increasingly investing in false-flag groups like the so-called "American Hunters and Shooters Association".  But even when they are explicitly trying to appeal to gun owners, they can't keep the lies and vitriol concealed.

The facts are simple.  The only way to be pro-gun is to be pro-gun.  Gun owners aren't easy to fool.

Wed Oct 08 13:15:03 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The rule of law or the rule of the police?

The trial of John Noble for the legal activity of carrying a firearm openly to a political rally began today.  He is charged with misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace and disrupting a public meeting, neither of which appear to have any basis in fact beyond his presence at the rally distributing literature and openly carrying his firearm.  (The arresting officer even described him as "pleasant gentleman").

What disturbs me about this case, beyond the so-called authorities exceeding their legal authority, is the fact that the police were called by someone else there with a concealed carry permit:
Prosecutors called John Atkinson Sr. of Vanport Township, the first person to spot Noble in a crowd of about 300 people standing in Beaver?s McIntosh Square... Atkinson said Noble had a semiautomatic 9mm handgun holstered on his right hip and was carrying a Bible. Noble crossed under a police tape cordoning off the park and began distributing literature... Atkinson, who has a license to carry a concealed weapon and has been a gun owner most of his life, said he immediately hailed a sheriff?s deputy and pointed out Noble, who was arrested on the spot.

?He had every right to (have the gun), but in my opinion, this was a presidential rally, and that isn?t the right time or place to carry a firearm,? Atkinson said.

I have a little sympathy for Atkinson's position.  There are legitimate security concerns involved, but the appropriate way to handle that is to ask people who attend armed to leave their weapons outside the secure area or leave the event, not bring charges against them for a legal activity. 

There have been quite a few cases where open-carry activists have been arrested for peacefully going about their business armed.  They usually end in vindication for the gun owner, but not always... and fighting charges, even baseless misdemeanor charges, is expensive and time-consuming.  There's a definite discouraging effect and I suspect that's the point. 

If we can be arrested for activities that aren't against the law, do we have the rule of law or the rule of the police?

Wed Oct 08 10:12:06 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

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