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Posts Tagged ‘civil liberties’

A Thanksgiving traveler survey

Posted by Richard on November 17, 2010

I’ve come up with a survey I’d like to see Rasmussen or somebody do of potential Thanksgiving travelers:

  1. Are you planning to fly somewhere for Thanksgiving?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  2. If you’re planning to fly, will you be traveling with your children?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  3. If you’re planning to fly with a daughter or daughters, how old is she (or are they)?
    • _____
    • _____
    • _____
  4. How do you feel about letting a TSA screener grab your daughter’s crotch?
    • It’s OK with me. Protecting us from terrorists is more important than her feelings or mine.
    • I’m uncomfortable about it, but if the government says it’s necessary, who am I to question them?
    • No, that’s not acceptable. It’s sexual assault on a child.
    • Hell, no!
  5. Would your response be any different if the TSA screener were a woman instead of a man?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  6. If your daughter has passed puberty, how do you feel about letting a TSA screener cup her breasts and squeeze her breasts?
    • It’s OK with me. Protecting us from terrorists is more important than her feelings or mine.
    • I’m uncomfortable about it, but if the government says it’s necessary, who am I to question them?
    • No, that’s not acceptable. It’s sexual assault on a child.
    • Hell, no!
  7. Would your response be any different if the TSA screener were a woman instead of a man?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  8. If you’re planning to fly with a son or sons, how old is he (or are they)?
    • _____
    • _____
    • _____
  9. How do you feel about letting a TSA screener feel your son’s penis and testicles?
    • It’s OK with me. Protecting us from terrorists is more important than his feelings or mine.
    • I’m uncomfortable about it, but if the government says it’s necessary, who am I to question them?
    • No, that’s not acceptable. It’s sexual assault on a child.
    • Hell, no!
  10. Would your response be any different if the TSA screener were a woman instead of a man?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  11. Would you be more comfortable putting your child(ren) through a back-scatter X-ray scanner that produces a nude image of your child detailed enough to show, for instance, whether your son is circumcised, and possibly increasing their risk of skin cancer?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  12. Are you sure you and your child(ren) want to fly for Thanksgiving?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure

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New Jersey legislators take on TSA

Posted by Richard on November 17, 2010

Here is the press conference held by a bipartisan group of New Jersey legislators challenging the constitutionality, efficacy, safety, and decency of TSA's back-scatter radiation scanners and "enhanced" pat-downs (a.k.a. gropings). They were joined by the New Jersey ACLU.


[YouTube link]

From their press release

Senator Michael J. Doherty (R- Hunterdon, Warren) and Senator James Beach (D- Camden) announced they will present resolutions to the Senate and Assembly calling on the U.S. Congress to end TSA screening procedures requiring full body scans and pat downs at U.S. airports Their action comes in response to widespread concerns over privacy and radiation, as well as reports of inappropriate conduct by TSA agents during the screening process. 

“The pursuit of security should not force Americans to surrender their civil liberties or basic human dignity at a TSA checkpoint,” said Doherty. “Subjecting law-abiding American citizens to naked body scans and full body pat downs is intolerable, humiliating, vulnerable to abuse, and is fast becoming a disincentive to travel. Particularly concerning to us is the fact that physical searches result in children being touched in private areas of the body. Terrorists hate America because of the freedoms upon which this great nation was built. By implementing these screening measures, the TSA has already handed a victory to those who seek to destroy our freedoms.”

Senator Doherty was joined at a State House press conference announcing the resolution by Senator Diane Allen (R- Burlington), American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey Executive Director Deborah Jacobs, and Assembly members Erik Peterson, Alison McHose, John DiMaio, and Valerie Vanieri Huttle.

Read the whole thing. Bravo, New Jersey legislators!

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“Don’t touch my junk”

Posted by Richard on November 15, 2010

The backlash against TSA's new "enhanced" airport screening techniques is continuing to build. Apparently, quite a few Americans object to having to choose between a revealing full-body scan that may increase their risk of cancer and a "pat-down" that includes aggressive groping of their genitals.

Airline pilots are objecting. EPIC is suing. New Jersey lawmakers are calling on Congress to act.

John Tyner's blog post and videos of his experience at the San Diego airport have gone viral, as has the clip of a distraught 3-year-old girl being groped. National Opt-Out Day is getting increasing attention.

Bill Belew asked, "Are new TSA airport security measures sexual harassment?," and provided links, photos, and videos to help you decide.

WorldNetDaily quoted John Whitehead as pointing the finger at the President: 

"Legislation has been proposed to mandate full-body scanners and make them the primary screening method in all U.S. airports by 2013, but Congress has yet to act on it," John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, wrote in a new commentary.

"So we can thank President Obama for this frontal assault on our Fourth Amendment rights. Mind you, this is the same man who insisted that 'we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans,'" Whitehead said.

WND also recounted numerous disturbing TSA stories such as these: 

"We've gotten tons of e-mails, mainly from females about the invasions of the body scanners," Whitehead said. "In one case, a mother [told how] her 12-year-old daughter was pulled out of the security line, and [TSA] did touch her breast and vaginal areas.

"This is an unreasonable search and seizure," he said.

Rutherford said any court adhering to the Constitution would find that so.

In another case, a pilot reported having TSA inspectors put their fingers down inside his pants, and yet another person reported TSA officers, infuriated that she was upset over their pat-down procedures, "put her in a room and isolated her for two hours" so that she missed her flight.

This crap doesn't really enhance security; it just creates the illusion of security. As John Tyner pointed out (emphasis in original):

Every attempt to blow up a plane since 9/11 has been stopped by passengers after the government failed to provide protection for them. Every incident, however, has been met by throwing more money and less sensibility at the problem. Aside from securing the cockpit doors and the realization by passengers that they must fend for themselves …, security is largely the same as it was before 9/11.

The only thing changing is the amount of money being spent on the problem and the constant erosion of liberty, and all I did was draw attention to this.

And as Michelle Malkin noted: 

the American approach to flight security misses the point, thanks to an “everyone must suffer equally” approach. The Israelis have not had an incident in decades, thanks to a much more comprehensive but subtle approach that looks for actual clues to danger, rather than using a random-sample method.

Translation: the Israelis intelligently profile. 

If, like a growing number of Americans, you're ready to say "enough is enough" and demand a stop to this outrageous nonsense, sign this petition. Then go to WeWon'tFly.com and follow some of the suggestions under "How To Raise Hell." And share this info with everyone you know. 

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License to describe

Posted by Richard on September 24, 2010

According to the Institute for Justice, in the 1950s, one in twenty members of the workforce had to have a government license to do their job; today, it's one in three. Defenders of all this government regulation and control argue that it's all about protecting consumers. That argument is specious enough when they're talking about laws to protect us from unskilled flower arrangers or hair braiders.

But the District of Columbia tops even those absurd licensing examples; it recently decided that tourists need to be protected from sightseeing guides who lack sufficient historical knowledge. So new regulations make it a crime, punishable by up to three months in jail, for tour guides to describe things without a license. Getting a license requires completing a bunch of paperwork, paying hundreds in required fees, and passing a multiple-choice test covering "an arbitrary hodgepodge of knowledge about the District."

Segs in the City provides sightseeing tours of Washington on Segways. Ironically, they don't need licenses for the Segways, or for teaching their customers how to ride them, but they do need licenses in order to describe the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The Institute for Justice and Segs in the City's Tonia Edwards and Bill Main have filed a federal lawsuit arguing that they have a "First Amendment right to communicate for a living."

Check out this short video. And then support the Institute for Justice's fine work by donating a few bucks


[YouTube link]

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Protecting the Black Panthers

Posted by Richard on July 1, 2010

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is investigating the Justice Department's dismissal of Voting Rights Act violation charges against the New Black Panthers — a dismissal that was ordered after the career attorneys at the DOJ Civil Rights Division's Voting Rights Section had already won. One of those career attorneys, J. Christian Adams, recently resigned and went public (emphasis added):

On the day President Obama was elected, armed men wearing the black berets and jackboots of the New Black Panther Party were stationed at the entrance to a polling place in Philadelphia. They brandished a weapon and intimidated voters and poll watchers. After the election, the Justice Department brought a voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party and those armed thugs. I and other Justice attorneys diligently pursued the case and obtained an entry of default after the defendants ignored the charges. Before a final judgment could be entered in May 2009, our superiors ordered us to dismiss the case.

The New Black Panther case was the simplest and most obvious violation of federal law I saw in my Justice Department career. Because of the corrupt nature of the dismissal, statements falsely characterizing the case and, most of all, indefensible orders for the career attorneys not to comply with lawful subpoenas investigating the dismissal, this month I resigned my position as a Department of Justice (DOJ) attorney.

… 

The assistant attorney general for civil rights, Tom Perez, has testified repeatedly that the "facts and law" did not support this case. That claim is false. If the actions in Philadelphia do not constitute voter intimidation, it is hard to imagine what would, short of an actual outbreak of violence at the polls. Let's all hope this administration has not invited that outcome through the corrupt dismissal. 

Others have falsely claimed that no voters were affected. Not only did the evidence rebut this claim, but the law does not require a successful effort to intimidate; it punishes even the attempt. 

Read the whole thing. And if you wonder about Adams' claims about the evidence and testimony, you might want to look into it. Start by reading the affidavit of Bartle Bull (PDF), an attorney poll observer at the precinct in question. It's only three pages, and well worth your time. Mr. Bull helped secure the voting rights of blacks in Mississippi in the 1960s and worked on the Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Carter campaigns — not exactly a right-wing bigot.

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Flynn v. Holder: the fight for marrow cell liberation

Posted by Richard on October 31, 2009

The Institute for Justice is one of my favorite non-profits. This "merry band of libertarian litigators" just keeps finding wonderful ways of using the courts and the court of public opinion to fight for individual liberty, especially economic liberty. And they keep winning. IJ has been the leader in the fight against eminent domain abuse and for school choice, and it's helped countless minority entrepreneurs overcome arbitrary and discriminatory licensing laws, regulations, and other barriers to entry erected by governments.

On Wednesday, IJ and a diverse group of plaintiffs took on another stupid and unconstitutional law against capitalist acts between consenting adults — and this time there are many lives at stake. Flynn v. Holder seeks to overturn the ban on compensating marrow cell donors:

Every year, 1,000 Americans die because they cannot find a matching bone marrow donor.  Minorities are hit especially hard.  Common sense suggests that offering modest incentives to attract more bone marrow donors would be worth pursuing, but federal law makes that a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

That is why on October 28, 2009, adults with deadly blood diseases, the parents of sick children, a California nonprofit and a world-renowned medical doctor who specializes in bone marrow research joined with the Institute for Justice to sue the U.S. Attorney General to put an end to a ban on offering compensation to bone marrow donors.

The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) of 1984 treats compensating marrow donors as though it were black-market organ sales.  Under NOTA, giving a college student a scholarship or a new homeowner a mortgage payment for donating marrow could land everyone—doctors, nurses, donors and patients—in federal prison for up to five years.

NOTA’s criminal ban violates equal protection because it arbitrarily treats renewable bone marrow like nonrenewable solid organs instead of like other renewable or inexhaustible cells—such as blood—for which compensated donation is legal.  That makes no sense because bone marrow, unlike organs such as kidneys, replenishes itself in just a few weeks after it is donated, leaving the donor whole once again.  The ban also violates substantive due process because it irrationally interferes with the right to participate in safe, accepted, lifesaving, and otherwise legal medical treatment.

Jeff Rowes, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, said, “The only thing the bone marrow provision of the National Organ Transplant Act appears to accomplish is unnecessary deaths.  A victory in this case will not only give hope to thousands facing deadly diseases, but also reaffirm bedrock principles about constitutional protection for individual liberty.”

Read the rest to learn about the people involved and their compelling stories.

It's the time of year when I make the bulk of my charitable contributions, and IJ is always near the top of my list. This suit strikes me as a terrific cause, so I'm going to donate online right now. Won't you help, too?

HT: Megan McArdle, whose column about this in the Atlantic I strongly recommend.

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Dissent is no longer patriotic

Posted by Richard on August 6, 2009

Lanny Davis thinks the spontaneous chants of "Read the bill!" that have erupted at town hall meetings are "fascist" tactics, and he wants such dissidents photographed and investigated.

The White House has a dedicated email address for turning in people who say something "fishy" about its health care plan. As Sen. Cornyn observed, this looks like they're compiling an "enemies list" (emphasis added):

I am not aware of any precedent for a President asking American citizens to report their fellow citizens to the White House for pure political speech that is deemed "fishy" or otherwise inimical to the White House's political interests.

By requesting that citizens send "fishy" emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email addresses, IP addresses, and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House. You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program. As Congress debates health care reform and other critical policy matters, citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights.

I can only imagine the level of justifiable outrage had your predecessor asked Americans to forward emails critical of his policies to the White House. I suspect that you would have been leading the charge in condemning such a program–and I would have been at your side denouncing such heavy-handed government action.

The people who, with funding from George Soros, invented Astroturfing are trying to portray the ordinary citizens who attend Tea Parties and show up at town hall meetings as shills for the insurance industry. Barbara Boxer said she can tell they're not genuine because they're too well-dressed. I guess to be a genuine concerned citizen, you have to look like part of a Code Pink or MoveOn.org freak show. 

Meanwhile, the Prez himself is directing the troops to create a real top-down, manufactured, Astroturf response. No indication of how the mobilized army of volunteers will be dressed. 

Count on Nancy Pelosi to jump in with a shark-jumping comment reminding us that Godwin's Law still operates (emphasis added):

Interviewer: Do you think there's legitimate grassroot opposition going on here?

Pelosi: "I think they're Astroturf… You be the judge. "They're carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on healthcare."

Remember when dissent was the highest form of patriotism? When swastikas at protest rallies were all the rage? Don Surber remembers.

UPDATE: Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary who's made Scott McClellan appear competent, has assured us that Sen. Cornyn's concerns about those "fishy" emails are completely unfounded. Well, sort of

"Nobody is collecting names," Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at today's the White House press briefing. "Nobody's keeping anybody's email."

Asked later by THE WEEKLY STANDARD if the White House is required by law to save all correspondence it receives, Gibbs acknowledged, "Obviously, the National Archives documents correspondence with the White House." Gibbs also said he didn't know how many emails the White House has yet received yet.

So remember: "Nobody is keeping anybody's email," except the federal government at the U.S. National Archives.

What a relief.

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Gun rights leaders oppose Sotomayor

Posted by Richard on July 8, 2009

Leaders of several gun rights groups and activists supporting the Second Amendment have jointly informed the Senate of their strong opposition to the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court (emphasis added):

“It is extremely important that a Supreme Court justice understand and appreciate the origin and meaning of the Second Amendment, a constitutional guarantee permanently enshrined in the Bill of Rights, ” said a letter from the group, which was hand-delivered to every member of the U.S. Senate. “Judge Sotomayor’s record on the Second Amendment causes us grave concern about her treatment of this enumerated Constitutional right.”

Included among the signators were Sandra S. Froman, former president of the National Rifle Association; Alan M. Gottlieb, CCRKBA chairman; Joseph Tartaro, SAF president; Gene Hoffman, chairman of the CalGUNS Foundation; several current or former NRA directors; Robert Corbin, former Arizona attorney general and past NRA president; former Congressman Bob Barr; Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League in Massachusetts; John T. lee, president of the Pennsylvania Rifle and Pistol Association; Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association; Robert E. Sanders, former assistant director of law enforcement for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and several others, 25 in all.

“The Supreme Court is almost certain to decide next year whether the Second Amendment applies to states and local governments, as it does to the federal government,” they wrote. “While on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor revealed her views on the right to keep and bear arms in Maloney v. Cuomo, a case decided after Heller, yet holding that the Second Amendment is not a fundamental right, that it does not apply to the states, and that if an object is “designed primarily as a weapon” that is a sufficient basis for total prohibition even within the home. Earlier in a 2004 case, United States v. Sanchez-Villar, Sotomayor and two colleagues perfunctorily dismissed a Second Amendment claim holding that "the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right." Imagine if such a view were expressed about other fundamental rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, such as the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.”

“We joined in this effort,” Gottlieb said, “because our nation stands at point in history where we either defend all civil rights, or begin to surrender them one by one until none are left. It would be unconscionable to stand silently as the Senate deliberates confirmation of a new associate justice with such evident disregard for a key tenet, if not the critical element, of the Bill of Rights.”

“The Second Amendment survives today by a single vote in the Supreme Court,” the letter notes. “Judge Sotomayor has already revealed her views on the right to keep and bear arms and we believe they are contrary to the intent and purposes of the Second Amendment and Bill of Rights.”  

Considering what we already know about Sotomayor's racist ideas, I can't help but wonder (tongue in cheek) whether her opposition to gun rights is absolutist or relative. Does she, perhaps, think that a Hispanic woman in possession of a handgun is likely to use it more wisely than a white male, and thus should be given a pass?  

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Twenty years after Tiananmen

Posted by Richard on June 4, 2009

Stopping the tanks in Tiananmen SquareToday is the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. I didn't expect much, if any, acknowledgment from the U.S. government, which has recently displayed about zero interest in China's abysmal human rights record.

Hillary Clinton didn't bring it up when she went begging the Chinese to finance our exploding deficit. And Nancy Pelosi, who was expelled from China in 1991 for protesting Tiananmen (the only act of hers I can think of that elicits a "bravo!" from me), on her recent visit, was too busy schmoozing and blathering about "environmental rights" to mention human rights.

So I was pleasantly surprised by this

The Obama administration issued a rare public critique Wednesday of China, pressing Beijing to reveal how many protesters were killed in the government crackdown on the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989 and to free any of those still imprisoned for their parts in the protests.

One day before the 20th anniversary of the crackdown, the comments were a shift for the Obama administration, which has until now hesitated to question Beijing's human rights record. In February, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that human rights issues shouldn't be allowed to "interfere with" other key matters between the two countries, such as climate change and the global financial crisis.

Mrs. Clinton pressed China to "examine openly the darker events of its past" by providing a "public accounting of those killed, detained or missing" and freeing "all those still serving sentences in connection" with the protests.

The substance of the remarks echoed demands that U.S. officials have been making — in almost the same words — for years. In 2006, a State Department spokesman under George W. Bush urged China "to provide a full accounting of the thousands who were killed, detained or went missing and of the government's role in the massacre."

Personally, I'd prefer language like "the atrocities of its past" and "those murdered," along with a demand that the Chinese government end the repression and human rights abuses that continue to this day. But it's more than I expected.

Chinese netizens, meanwhile, are protesting the crackdown and censorship surrounding the occasion in a clever and subtle way:

Twenty years after the pro-democracy protests that claimed the lives of hundreds – or even thousands – of unarmed civilians in Beijing, a number of websites appear to be making a veiled protest at state censorship by referring to the date sarcastically as "Chinese Internet Maintenance Day".

Earlier this week the government blocked access to a number of popular western websites, in what was widely seen as way of controlling access to information about the events at Tiananmen Square. Among the sites that were screened out were photo-sharing website Flickr, Microsoft's Hotmail email service and the popular online messaging site Twitter.

A number of other sites appear to have gone down over recent days, however, in a move that may be part of an ad hoc anniversary protest online.

It is not clear whether any of the sites took down their services as a result of government pressure: most have had previous trouble with the authorities in Beijing, and reports suggest that many sites were told that they would face serious consequences if they published anything relating to the events of 4 June 1989.

But it was also suggested that the phrasing used by some of the websites indicates a subtle attack on the government.

While deliberate government action cannot be ruled out, more than 300 Chinese sites appear to have posted increasingly blasé maintenance messages on the anniversary.

"The Fanfou server is undergoing technical maintenance. Service is expected to resume before dawn on 6 June," said one message. On dictionary website WordKu.com, its owners said they had taken the site down for Chinese Internet Maintenance Day.

Blog hosting service Bullog.org, meanwhile, says it has gone "on strike" for the day, and Wuqing.org carried a message saying: "I, too, am under maintenance!"

Here's to Chinese Internet Maintenance Day and the brave geeks commemorating it. 

UPDATE: They were allowed to remember in Hong Kong, and they did so in great numbers (emphasis in original): 

A vigil marking 20 years since the Tiananmen massacre has been held in Hong Kong, the only part of China to commemorate the event.

An estimated 150,000 people gathered in Victoria Park for the annual event, which was addressed by one of the 1989 student leaders, Xiong Yan.

Other Tiananmen veterans were banned from entering the territory.

When the UK returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, the territory retained its own legal system, including the right to protest.

Thursday's gathering saw the biggest turnout for a Tiananmen anniversary ever recorded in Hong Kong, the BBC's John Simpson reports.

If the Beijing government hoped that by clamping down on all commemoration in mainland China, they could make people forget what happened, they were very wrong, our correspondent says.

On the contrary, it has underlined the lack of political freedom that there still is in China.

RTWT and watch the moving one-minute video. Here's to the citizens of Hong Kong, courageously clinging to their heritage of liberty.

 

 

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3/13 beer smash

Posted by Richard on March 13, 2009

The Colorado House Business Affairs and Labor Committee killed a bill on Wednesday that would have allowed supermarkets and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer instead of 3.2% beer. Ari Armstrong is upset about it.

The audacious Armstrong, publisher of FreeColorado.com, has organized a protest taking place on the west steps of the Capitol at 11 AM Friday, March 13. Via email (emphasis added):

"Grocery stores have a right to sell regular beer to consenting adults, and beer drinkers have the right to shop at stores of their choice. By killing Bill 1192 Wednesday, the legislature maintained unjust protectionism at the cost of individual liberty, property rights, and freedom of association," said Ari Armstrong.

Armstrong will smash beer bottles from Colorado brewers who endorsed protectionism. The event will feature appropriate measures for safety and cleanup, so no beer or glass will be left on state property.

"The protectionists are smashing our liberty, so it's only appropriate that we smash their beer," Armstrong said.

I've got to admit I have mixed feelings about this. I agree completely with Ari that this is unjust protectionism, and that the State of Colorado should long ago have abandoned this vestige of prohibitionism (I believe only six states still have 3.2% beer). I'm utterly contemptuous of legislators who argued that this bill would promote teenage alcohol abuse.

But… but… but… 

The idea of smashing perfectly good, drinkable bottles of beer just disturbs me deeply. 

I think I've got a tear in my eye.

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Happy Bill of Rights Day!

Posted by Richard on December 16, 2008

Bill of Rights DayOn December 15, 1791, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, were ratified by Virginia and became part of the Constitution. Bill of Rights Day was first declared by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941.

In recent years, no organization has supported Bill of Rights Day more tirelessly than Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, which has lots of resources and information aimed at re-establishing a Bill of Rights culture. Check it out.

The Second Amendment Foundation and Independent Institute are urging people to buy a book for Bill of Rights Day:

December 15 marks America’s Bill of Rights Day, the anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. To commemorate this event, we have created the Second Amendment Book Bomb, a unique and powerful way to communicate the importance of the Bill of Rights’ Second Amendment for the protection of liberty. With your help, we can launch constitutional rights to the top of national book bestseller lists, making a loud and clear statement that Second Amendment rights are unalienable!

As you know, the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2008 landmark District of Columbia v. Heller ruling finally affirmed that the Founders fully intended the Second Amendment to protect an individual right to own and bear arms. The renowned Second Amendment scholar and lawyer Dr. Stephen P. Halbrook, Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, was key to the Heller victory—as well as to three previous gun-rights victories in cases before the Supreme Court. And his definitive defense of the Second Amendment is now available in The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms the first in-depth, book-length account of the origins of the Second Amendment and the most readable, comprehensive, and compelling work ever assembled arguing that the right to own a gun is as fundamental under the U.S. Constitution as freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

I just ordered two from Amazon.

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Envisioning the worst-case future

Posted by Richard on October 15, 2008

In his latest Weekly Standard column, Fred Barnes foresaw a bleak future for advocates of liberty and limited government (as if it isn't bleak enough, with half the nation's Republicans embracing Keynesian economic policies):

Thanks particularly to the month-long financial crisis, Republicans are in extremely poor shape with the election three weeks away. This means the worst case scenario is now a distinct possibility: a Democrat in the White House, a Democratic Senate with a filibuster-proof majority, and a Democratic House with a bolstered majority.

If this scenario unfolds, Washington would become a solidly liberal town again for the first time in decades. And the prospects of passing the liberal agenda–nearly all of it–would be bright. Enacting major parts of it would be even brighter. You can forget about bipartisanship.

The specifics are grim: big tax rate increases, liberal court appointments, protectionism, the fairness doctrine, Canada-like health care, card-check and other pro-union measures, cap-and-trade… Read the whole thing. 

Stephen Green, after an admittedly large intake of wine, envisioned new threats to free speech and in particular to bloggers:

If (when?) Obama is elected, by my estimation there’s an at least even chance that the newly-reconstructed FCC will reverse course and attempt to apply the New Fairness Doctrine to blogs.

If (when?) it happens, I’ll break that law. I will break it with all due malice and in full knowledge of the possible consequences. I’ll shout “Fire Obama!” in a crowded theater. And then, for the first time ever, I’ll ask for reader donations. Because I’ll going to need them, lots of them, to pay for the lawyers.

Green went on to make a point that dovetails with something I've maintained for some time — the left views its opponents as evil enemies to be crushed by any means necessary, and they're willing and eager to use any means necessary. The libertarian/conservative side simply can't and won't fight on that level: 

Libertarians/Conservatives like “Jay” and myself underestimate liberals/progressives — and what we’re guilty of is projection. But when we’re drunk and honest, we have to admit: We’re effing pikers. To restate more plainly: We don’t want power, and don’t know how to wield it. We’re pikers.

Progressives have no such qualms. Given power, they’ll take more and they’ll exercise it ruthlessly. Look at the Democrats in Congress these last two years. In not even 24 months, they’ve sunk to depths it took the Republican Congress six or more years to sink to. Their unpopularity levels are even worse than the Republicans’ in 2006. And what will happen in November? The Democrats will win seats — because they know how to wield their power to deliver the goods to please their corrupt, greedy, grabby, needy base.

I hope Barnes and Green are too pessimistic, but it's not looking good. 

Green was concerned enough to blast email his many influential contacts (and me, too) with "My First-Ever Mass Mailing In Almost Eight Years of Blogging," which may lead to some kind of organization or movement, or something. Maybe not right now, but probably — if the polls turn out to be right this time. 

Stay tuned. 

 

 

 

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Restoring self-defense rights in national parks

Posted by Richard on July 13, 2008

The Department of the Interior is accepting public comments on its proposed regulatory change regarding guns in national parks. Right now, firearms can only be transported through a national park if they're unloaded, locked up, disassembled, and have their bores stuffed with Skittles. Or something like that.

I don't know all the details of the new rule, but I understand that it allows people who can legally carry outside the park to carry a loaded weapon inside, thus restoring their right to self-defense.

I encourage you to submit a comment supporting this change, and Instapundit found a way to do so easily, and on the anti-gunners' dime. The National Parks Conservation Association has an online form that lets you submit your comment to the appropriate office, with copies sent to your senators and congresscritter.

NPCA has some suggested language for your comment — some kind of nonsense about how troubled you are by loaded guns — but as Glenn pointed out, you're free to edit the comment (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

Want some help with your comments? Glenn posted suggested language from Marc Danziger, and my comment is below. I recommend not using either verbatim, but borrow from them to say something in your own words. 

My submission (with a stupid typo corrected after the fact — d'oh!):

 I'm very pleased that the administration is considering allowing loaded guns in national parks. Forty states routinely permit honest, law-abiding citizens to carry weapons so they can defend themselves and their families. Contrary to the claims of gun banners, this has led to less crime and violence, not more.

The same will be true in our national parks. That's because, just like in Washington, New York, and Chicago, the people inclined to commit violent crime don't pay any attention to gun bans. So these restrictions serve only to disarm the honest, peaceful people and leave them at the mercy of predators.

Arguably, the need for guns is greater in the backcountry or at remote campsites and trailheads. Help is far away, and we are on our own. Sometimes, not even a cell phone call to 911 is possible.

I urge you to adopt this sensible step toward recognizing our self-defense rights in our national parks. Thank you for considering my views.

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Where Democrats stand on surveillance

Posted by Richard on July 11, 2008

President Bush today signed legislation expanding intelligence agencies' powers to monitor communications involving foreign terrorist suspects.

If you're planning on contacting a bin Laden-backed, Taliban-supported Deobandi madrassa in Pakistan to see if the sons you sent there to be radicalized have been turned into jihadis and are ready to come home to continue the struggle, consider yourself warned.

The bill was passed by the Senate Wednesday 69-28. Twenty-two Democrats voted for the bill, including Senators Bayh, Casey, Feinstein, Inouye, Landrieu, both Nelsons, Rockefeller, Salazar, and Webb. Oh, yeah, and Sen. Obama, who had pledged during the primary campaign to filibuster the bill.

It was another significant victory by the purportedly incompetent and unpopular lame duck:

Even as his political stature has waned, Mr. Bush has managed to maintain his dominance on national security issues in a Democratic-led Congress. He has beat back efforts to cut troops and financing in Iraq, and he has won important victories on issues like interrogation tactics and military tribunals in the fight against terrorism.

Debate over the surveillance law was the one area where Democrats had held firm in opposition. House Democrats went so far as to allow a temporary surveillance measure to expire in February, leading to a five-month impasse and prompting accusations from Mr. Bush that the nation’s defenses against another strike by Al Qaeda had been weakened.

But in the end Mr. Bush won out, as administration officials helped forge a deal between Republican and Democratic leaders that included almost all the major elements the White House wanted. The measure gives the executive branch broader latitude in eavesdropping on people abroad and at home who it believes are tied to terrorism, and it reduces the role of a secret intelligence court in overseeing some operations.

The bill also made it clear just where many leading Democrats — including the presumptive presidential nominee — stand on this "privacy rights" issue: They're unalterably opposed to any compromise on communications privacy, even for foreign terrorists, and even if their opposition threatens national security and the safety of Americans … but not if it threatens their political future. 

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Heller win

Posted by Richard on June 27, 2008

The Heller ruling is in:

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms, ending a ban on owning handguns in the capital city in its first ruling on gun rights in 70 years.

The court's 5-4 landmark decision — on whether the right to keep and bear arms is fundamentally an individual or collective right — said the city's law violated the second amendment of the US constitution which the justices said guaranteed citizens the right to keep guns at home for self-defense.

"There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in the court's decision.

He added that while the court took seriously the problem of handgun violence: "The constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns.

"The enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."

It was a victory for gun rights advocates and could have a far reaching impact on gun control legislation across the country. Opponents may now challenge other laws in cities such as New York that restrict the ownership of handguns in the name of public safety.

Scalia wrote the 63-page majority opinion, which was joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, and Thomas. This seems to be a qualified victory, but a victory nonetheless. I've just skimmed the syllabus and the last couple of pages of Scalia's opinion, and this paragraph in the latter jumped out at me:

JUSTICE BREYER chides us for leaving so many applications of the right to keep and bear arms in doubt, and for not providing extensive historical justification for those regulations of the right that we describe as permissible. See post, at 42–43. But since this case represents this Court’s first in-depth examination of the Second Amendment, one should not expect it to clarify the entire field, any more than Reynolds v. United States, 98 U. S. 145 (1879), our first in-depth Free Exercise Clause case, left that area in a state of utter certainty. And there will be time enough to expound upon the historical justifications for the exceptions we have mentioned if and when those exceptions come before us.

So, stay tuned. 

And don't forget, the next President will probably name two or three Supreme Court justices. One more Ginsberg or Breyer and this decision would have gone the other way. In other words, if Bush had not been re-elected, a SCOTUS with two Kerry nominees in place of Scalia and Roberts would have declared that the Second Amendment did not confer an individual right and was essentially null and void. 

If gun rights matter to you, you may want to think about that. And maybe get one of these.  

UPDATE: FreedomSight has a plethora of links, quotes, and biting commentary (and Jed's promising an "in-depth" look at the ruling itself later). At the end of the post, he also has great Kalashnikitty news. Don't miss it. And I'm not just saying that because he quoted and linked to me. 🙂

UPDATE 2: Billll singled out for attention a couple of quotes from the dissenting opinions, one from Stevens and one from Breyer. Go read. If you're like me, you'll involuntarily laugh, then you'll shudder and work to suppress your gag reflex, and then you'll shake your head in disbelief that such men were considered to be among the best jurists in the country and tasked with protecting the Constitution.

Billll's reaction is perfect: "We really don’t need any more like these." Maybe he should get one of these.  

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