Monday, June 30, 2008

Iraq Update

All measurements of violence and casualties in Iraq continue to fall. U.S. casualties are at their lowest two month total since the invasion of Iraq. The demise of the "powerful" Mahdi Army is examined. Voluntary pacification programs are encouraging hundreds of former insurgents to turn themselves in. Iraq is opening the bidding for exploitation of its oil resources. The government of Iraq plans to spend huge funds rehabilitating Sadr City. And lastly, Talisman Gate raises a problematic area that has no good solutions.
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Falling Casualties

This from Bizzy Blog with charts:

With less than 10 hours remaining until the end of June in Iraq at the time of this post, it is clear, barring heavy last-minute casuaties, that May and June will show the lowest two-month total of US troop deaths in the five-year history of our involvement there.

How with the media handle the news?

. . . May-June two-month total of 48 troop deaths from all causes is quite a bit lower than any other two-month period in the entire war. The next-lowest is 60, in November and December of 2007.

The two-month death toll of 38 from hostile causes is the lowest since August and September of 2003. . . .

The Iraqi death toll also continues its downward trajectory. The month of June saw a further 10% drop in deaths due to political violence over May's figures. This continues a trend since the summer of 2007, with a blip that occurred in March and April when the government initiated offensives against the Sadrists.

The gains made by the counterinsurgency strategy are huge, and everyone is crossing their fingers, hoping that they hold. If they do, than the "military and political developments that have caused attacks against Coalition troops to fall by 80 percent year-on-year will be viewed with success."

The Demise of the "Powerful" Mahdi Army:

Sadr announced the demobilization of the Mahdi Army about two weeks ago. Long War Journal reports that the decision came amidst high casualties and a loss of public support:

The Mahdi Army suffered a significant blow during fighting against Iraqi and Coalition forces this year, according to an Iraq intelligence report. . . .

. . . "This led to the almost complete collapse of the army," the official said. An estimated 1,300 Mahdi Army fighters "escaped to safe houses in Iran." Muqtada al Sadr currently resides in Qom, Iran, under the protection of Iran's Qods Force. . . .

The setbacks in Baghdad, Basrah, and the South have forced Sadr to turn the Mahdi Army into "a secret military organization," the Iraqi report stated. "The number of members doesn't exceed 150-200, hugely down from the total estimated number of 50,000 in the past two years."

Iraqi intelligence believes the Mahdi Army, which is funded and supported by Iran, "will be somewhat [similar] to Al Qaida and some of the other Sunni armed groups and will have to carry out quality operations against US forces and assassinate some of the important Iraqi figures [to prove itself]."

. . . The intelligence report suggests Sadr was forced to change strategy and retreat in the face of heavy casualties and dwindling support from the Shia population. . . .

Read the entire article.

Voluntary Pacification:

As the Iraqi government and U.S. forces bring greater security, many insurgents are voluntarily turning themselves in, taking advantage of U.S. programs, as word has gotten out that they will be treated fairly. This from NPR reporting on one such program in Salahuddin province:

Iraq's Salahuddin province has been known for years as a violent stronghold of Sunni insurgents, including al-Qaida. But lately it has been relatively quiet. U.S. military units there say that's because former rebel fighters are turning themselves in by the hundreds — including some who had been the most virulently anti-American leaders.

Read the entire report.

Other Iraq Related News:

Iraq produces 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. The country has just opened bidding for 35 oil companies to rehabilitate existing fields and to drill new areas, with the expectation of raising production to 4 million barrels per day.

With Sadr City now under its control, the government of Iraq has pledged $100 million dollars to rebuild Sadr City and to bring in jobs and services.

War is chaotic, solutions to problems are often muddled and gray. Thus you do have probably more than a few very bad actors in the Sons of Iraq and on the U.S. payroll who Iraq decides they do not wish to forgive and forget. Nibras Karzimi discusses one such instance at Talisman Gate. It is one of countless such issues that will rise and be resolved, probably to no one's satisfaction, in the years ahead.


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Interesting Posts From Around The Web - 1 July 2008


The most interesting posts from around the web, all below the fold . . .
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Art: The Declaration of Independence, John Trumbull

Second Amendment

Slapstick Politics hosts a guest blogger who was particularly impressed by the precision of Scalia’s opinion in Heller. It is well worth a read to savor the taste of the seminal originalist opinion of our time.

As Transterrestrial Musings points out, a lot of people who support a robust Second Amendment right will pulling the lever for McCain in November. The reason – as I also pointed out here - an Obama presidency will likely see the Heller decision rendered a nullity. Power and Control thinks likewise.

Meryl Yourish is exercising her Second Amendment rights after the Heller decision.

Soob blogs on the thought process of gun control advocates, as demonstrated in the Fox News panel Sunday morning. Meanwhile, the Educated Shoprat blogs a case study in the practical benefits of a robust Second Amendment.

Carl at No Oil For Pacifists has a great post on the whining and lamentations of the left in the wake of the Heller opinion. The whine that really gets me comes from those who claim the 1939 Miller case was precedent for holding that the Second Amendment did not grant an individual right. The only people who can possibly spout such nonsense and believe it are people who have never read the case and have no understanding of the law.

In the UK, from whom we inherited the Second Amendment right, the Adam Smith organization ponders the erosion of their own rights.

Iraq, Afghanistan, War & the Military

Thunder Run has a superb roll-up from mil-blogs and other war related news.
Bizzyblog wonders how the media will spin the lowest two month death total for U.S. forces in Iraq from all causes since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Seven years after 9-11, the war on terror has been a great success on all major fronts. Four Right Wing Whackos have the new Dem line: "Success against the Taleban. Enemy giving way in Iraq. Al-Qaeda on the run. Situation dire. Let's retreat!"

A great quote from John Adams posted at Power and Control.

A very good post from Callimachus giving his thoughts on the reality of war, total war, and the costs of finding war too brutal to fight to win.

On Jan. 5, Lance Cpl. Robert Crutchfield, home on leave, was shot in front of his girlfriend during a mugging and later died. Red Alerts is following the story and posts that the two thugs who committed this crime will face the death penalty.

Oil & Economics

From Markedmanner, oil hit another all-time high today. Supply is so tight that any problem with any large producer causes a big jump in the futures contracts. That combined with the weak dollar is causing tremendous problems.

From This Ain’t Hell, Dems latest attempts to tie the explosion in oil prices to some highly nebulous Bush big oil agenda. It does not seem to be working. Kollarow is blogging on polls showing the vast majority of Americans favor drill for oil offshore and in ANWR. Even 40% of Democrats are starting to think that a rig or two in ANWR is sounding pretty good. From Pam Meister, Drill Here, Drill Now. Freedom Now ponders our oil woes and Democratic obstructionism – not only at home, it seems, but abroad also.

Matt at Weapons of Mass Discussion has a great blog addressing the canard repeated ad infinitum concerning there is no need to lift the moratorium on ANWR, offshore drilling or the exploration of oil shale when "Big Oil needs to drill in the 68 million acres they already have leased."

Obama

Discriminations post on former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger who compares Obama’s pre-emptive race bomb with the tactics he observed from Joe McCarthy.

Eye on the World posts that Obama tosses Wessley Clark under the bus after Clark’s unconscionable comments on McCain’s service to our country yesterday. Clark is pure ambition unsaddled with ethics.

Comments Confederate Yankee, the saddest thing about Obama’s military experience is that "the only person he knows with the experience of getting a bomb on target is Bill Ayers."

Jammie Wearing Fool notes the new Democratic talking point: "so McCain was tortured, big deal." These people have a deficit of class matched by their deficit of sense. Gay Patriot also weighs in, and then notes "The more attacks I see from the left the more convinced I become that theirs is a party of hate." In truth, the default position for an increasing majority on the left is not to argue issues, but to demonize those whom they do not agree with. I think "party of hate" only scratches the surface.

Obama supports equal pay for women, just not in his campaign staff – per the Jawa Report.

Vocal Minority posts on Larry Elder, a black conservative, who responded to a query from a fellow African American. Elder explains in detail why he is supporting McCain over Obama. It makes for a good read.

Joshua Pundit posts on Iraq’s decision to sue the UN over the oil for food program – and there is an Obama connection.

Are Obama trolls gaming Google to get anti-Obama blogs shut down? It appears that way. The Irate Nation has the story. The Anchoress also blogs this, along with other stories.

Socialism

Down under at a Western Heart, a good essay that takes a stab at defining the various classes of socialists and the left.

See the Samizdata quote of the day, and then this on the triumph of collectivism in the U.S. and Europe.

I concur with Stop the ACLU that unions are no longer of benefit to our nation. The benefits unions provided to America ended long ago when the worst of employer abuses likewise ended. And with that thought in mind, please note that full and accurate information is the very coin of democracy – and literally so when it concerns the taxpayers coin. Apparently, unions in Washington do not see it that way.

Republicans

Matt at Weapons of Mass Discussion questions the efficacy of donating to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Their strategy is apparently to hide their affiliation and run against McCain. Who dreamed up this strategy, Howard Dean?

Global Warming

Aurora reports from down under that Kevin Rudd is preparing to tank Australia’s economy in the name of global warming. Read the post. It sounds quite dire.

UK & Europe

Blue Crab Boulevard blogs on political correctness gone absolutely stark raving bonkers in Sweden.

Insanity in the UK posted by Dhimmiwatch. The UK is about to deport a Pakistani family that converted to Christianity even though they face a threat of death for that in their home country. This as the UK hosts a rogues gallery of the world’s worst terrorists that they cannot deport for precisely the same reason. Meanwhile, Shield of Achilles blogs on another honor killing of a young girl in the UK.

In the Netherlands, charges dropped by prosecutors against Geert Wilders for insulting Islam. Dinah Lord posts that the decision included the finding that the legislator's comments were part of a legitimate debate. That debate does not extend to the utterly ludicrous UN Human Rights Council which will now, per Europe News, entertain no discussion of Islam. Anyone who does not realize that this is an existential conflict isn’t paying attention.

Seraphic Secret has an articulate and chilling post on "jew hating savages of Paris" and wherein he makes the point that "Jews are the canaries in the coal mine of civilization."

Political InSecurity posts that MI-5 is warning that al Qaeda is planning suicide attacks in the UK using NHS ambulances.

From LGF - According to the study "Imams in Germany," up to 20 percent of preachers belong to the more conservative, fundamentalist strand of Islam. The study also discovered that only one fifth of imam’s possess academic qualifications."

IslamistWatch posts that surgical hymen restoration – i.e., to present as a virgin – are the rage in Europe among Muslim women. And it is on the welfare dime in the UK and Denmark because the women face threats of violence if they are not virgins when married.

Islam In Europe posts a comprehensive round-up of Islamist related news occurring in Europe.

RightTruth posts on a fascinating book by John Press, Culturalism. It poses the opposite of the insane doctrine of multiculturalism. "Culturism holds that majority cultures have a right to define, protect and promote themselves. By that light, preventing the building of mega-mosques is a reasonable culturist policy. Multiculturalism holds that all cultures are the same and that Britain has no core culture. That is obvious rubbish. Then they use the word racism to slander anyone who does not agree. Culturism is a word that can combat the abuse of Western nations with the words multiculturalism and racism." You could also call it common sense.

Dutchblog Israel posts on the slow diminution of democracy as violence by Islamists comes to be seen as a justifiable method of political expression.
To call what is going on in the UK a decline in academic standards at the hands of the socialist Labour government is a grotesque understatement. MK has the story.

Israel

Soccer Dad has an exceptional post on the proposed deal to trade Samir Kuntar to Hezbollah for the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers. Angel at Woman, Honor Thy Self believes PM Olmert is foolish to make a trade of a terrorist who murdered a child for the remains of two Israeli soldiers. Solomnia is troubled by the same issue.

Dave in Boca has a fascinating post with a lot of personal insights on the al Dura affair and the circle the wagons irrespective of the facts approach being taken by the French media to protect a reporter who should be jailed for life for the bloodshed he has caused.

And see Shrinkwrapped’s exceptional essay on the al Dura affair and its reverberations. "The parallels between the Al-Dura blood libel and the Haditha slander suggest that the American elites are coming to closely resemble the Israeli elites in their ready acceptance of guilt and their aesthenic reactions to accusations of evil intent and atrocity against those who protect us."

Islam

Ironic Surrealism has a chilling highlight reel from the film "Suicide Killers", by Pierre Rehov – a documentary at the culture, ideology and tactics that go into the making of Islamist suicide bombers.

A new Holocaust – only this one aimed at Christians in Muslim lands. Persevere has the story and links. DhimmiWatch has the story of the religiously motivated kidnapping and torture of Coptic Christians and Churches in Egypt. Christians Under Attack has the story of state discrimination against Christians in a province in Indonesia and attacks against converted Christians in Iran as the state ponders whether to start executing converts again.

Verum Serum reports on a Saudi marriage officiant who says that there is no minimum age for marriage – you can marry as young as one year old - though the groom should wait a few years before sexual intercourse. The Dhivehistan, a Maldives blog, posts on two pre-pubescent child brides in Yemen who have run away and both filed for divorce. In fairness to Yemen, this is a major story who many in the country are hoping will lead to a reexamination of the practice. The problem is that the Koran records the 50+ year old prophet taking a 6 year old bride and then having sex with her when she was 9.

At the Whited Sepulchre, a memo from a Jihadist Safety Consultant. It is hilarious.

From FireBase America, the Italians are fighting back. Compare that with a day in the life of a French Police Officer at the Covenant Zone.
Sake White has posted on the Islamic slave trade – a trade which has lasted over 14 centuries and, in some areas, continues today.

From Gates of Vienna: "Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don’t speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun."

The Truth posts on the decision of the Canadian HRC to dismiss charges against Mark Steyn and Muslim unhappiness therewith.

The American Jingoist blogs on the shaky legal ground on which stands the Virginia Islamic Academy.

Elder of Ziyon posts on some real tin foil hat level paranoia – this time of the Persian variety.

History

A great post with lots of links of Pre-WWII Americana and more at the Irish Elk.

Entertainment

Under the Hill has a movie review of Wall-E. They love it.

Politics & Pigskins salutes the passing of George Carlin. At Blogs of War, Carlin doing his 7 Words You Can’t Say On Television routine.

D.C. Comics has revived Catwoman – with a spin. She is now a lesbian. Deansworld comments on the likelihood of success of this new marketing ploy.

Humor

Lot’s of oil. No Caribou. Looks like a great place for exploratory drilling – from Power and Control.

Heh – KG has the New Zealand Navy.

The good folk at Vast Right Wing Conspiracy have felt the muse and been moved by Obama to write new lyrics for an old song, Hey, Hey, Hey, Another One Under The Bus . . .


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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Heh - High Oil Prices Explained

The MoxArgon Group, an extraterrestrial blog I found today, explains the high price of oil in photos so easy to understand even a politician or two might be able to follow it.

XRAN XPLAINS HIGH OIL PRICES

Hello Earthlings!

. . . Today I'm looking at HIGH OIL PRICES, especially the reasons why they're so high and getting higher.

This is...

OIL

It is the fuel that runs your world

Without your planet would be
SCREWED

And lately, even with it your planet is

SCREWED

But why?. . .

Read on to find the answers in this very funny and very good post.

And as one commentor said, I didn't really get the bit about Brazil, can we go over that again?

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The Carnival Of The Insanities


Each week, Dr. Sanity parouses the world for news of the the psychotic, the neurotic, and the just plain insane, then posts them all for our theraputic and viewing pleasure. Do pay the good doctor a visit.

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Two Very Different Congresses

Heh

One country's Congress is torn by division, unable to pass major legislation, and highly unpopular. The other country's has come together to pass several major pieces of legislation and is today highly popular. Roll tape:



Gateway Pundit has the rest of the story and more.

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Identifying Obama's Real Position On The Second Amendment (Updated)


If you think the issue of the Second Amendment and gun rights went away with the Supreme Court decision in Heller, you are sorely mistaken. The issue has just bloomed into what will shortly become a full-scale battle to determine the contours of the Second Amendment right. Outside of the justices sitting on the Supreme Court, the individual who will most effect how that right will be interpreted will be our next President. With that in mind, how would a President Obama effect the Second Amendment?
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The Supreme Court decided in Heller that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. While a momentous decision, it was also a very limited one. All Heller decided was that anyone living on federally administered land has an absolute right to keep a pistol, rifle or shotgun in their home and that they have an absolute right to keep the firearm loaded and ready to fire. We also know that some level of restriction on both gun ownership - i.e., who may own them - and the type of firearm that may be owned – e.g., limits on machine gun and short barrel shotguns – are permissible limitations on the right. Everything else about the Second Amendment awaits future litigation.

The phrase "everything else" includes, for example, the seminal issue of whether states can enact a complete ban on gun ownership, either directly or indirectly. As explained here, Heller did not decide that issue. If the Second Amendment does not apply to the states, then states are free to enact any restrictions they want on gun ownership. Further, gun-control advocates, localities, states and even the federal government can enact an endless variety of gun control restrictions in the wake of Heller in an attempt to severely limit the Second Amendment right to the point that it becomes a nullity. [Update: D.C. is already attempting to limit Heller by maintaining a ban on all semi-automatic pistols, the most popular type of handgun in the U.S.] The next President’s Justice Department will also have a key role to play in the Supreme Court's hearing of Second Amendment litigation, either in support or in opposition to gun rights.

In light of this, where Obama stands both on the judiciary and the Second Amendment are of critical importance, The most important is of course the type of judges Obama would appoint to the Supreme Court. We saw in Heller four activist liberal justices tie themselves in knots trying to make the argument that the right to keep and bear arms - an individual right at inception - into a collective right two hundred plus years later, based on a balancing test of today's equities while the two most junior Supreme Court Justices, Roberts and Alito, both joined the majority decision.

Obama joined a handful of the most liberal Senators to oppose the appointments of both Judges Alito and Roberts on ideological grounds. A President Obama would appoint judges who resemble the dissenters in Heller. And after the Boumediene decision, anyone who believes the activist wing of the Supreme Court see themselves as restrained by either original intent or precedent is partaking of fantasy. There can be no question that an activist majority on the Supreme Court would limit, if not outright emasculate the Second Amendment right. It is likely a President Obama would have at least one and as many as three Supreme Court appointments (and a bevy of appeals courts appointments). One of those could well tip the balance of the Court, giving the activist wing of the Court an outright majority.

Beyond judges, there is the still important question of how a President Obama would approach Second Amendment rights. Both through the legislation he would approve and the positions he would have the Justice Dept. take in litigation, he would play a direct role in shaping the contours of the Second Amendment. If you listen to Obama in the wake of Heller, the answer is that his views are the same as McCain's and, indeed, the same as what was expressed by Justice Scalia in the Supreme Court opinion, District of Columbia v. Heller. That bald assertion stands in near total opposition to Obama's record and prior pronouncements.

Obama’s animus towards an individual right to own guns and to use them in self defense is well documented. As a threshold matter, DC’s draconian gun laws, just overturned in Heller as violating an individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment, are a mirror image of the law in Chicago. Both have an indirect ban on handguns and require guns legally kept in the home to be rendered non-functional. Yet after Obama became a state Senator representing a Chicago district, he never proposed anything that would liberalize Chicago’s laws nor the gun laws in the state of Illinois. To the contrary, Obama’s proposals would have added onerous restrictions and his votes were strongly against any provision that would have allowed law abiding individuals to protect themselves with guns.

In 1994, while Obama was still in a private legal practice, he accepted appointment as a director on the board of the Joyce Foundation, a position he held from 1994 through 2002. According to No Quarter, "the NRA calls the Joyce Foundation an activist foundation whose ‘shadowy web of huge donations’ leads ‘straight to puppet strings that control the agenda of gun ban groups.’"

According to the the NRO, during Obama’s tenure on the Joyce Foundation, they funded the Violence Policy Center for a sum total of $15 million. The Violence Policy Center "touts themselves as "the most aggressive group in the gun control movement" and actively campaigned for a national ban on handguns. The Joyce Foundation also funded the pro-gun control Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research with over a $1.2 million. That organization argued that "guns in the home were more dangerous than protective" and primarily acted in "litigation designed to change the way guns are designed, marketed, distributed, and sold."

Then in 1996, when Obama was first running for office as an Illinois State Senator for Chicago’s Tenth District, an influential local political organization asked Obama to complete a survey on his positions as an integral part of their process to determine which candidate to endorse. The completed survey ascribed to Obama a series of very far left positions on a variety of hot button issues, one of which was support for a total ban on handguns. After the survey came to light, Obama’s aides said he "never saw or approved" the questionnaire. They asserted the responses were filled out by a campaign aide who "unintentionally mischaracterize[d] his position." Indeed, Obama today claim’s that he has never supported a total ban on handguns.

But then additional facts emerged. Obama, it turned out, had met with the organization and was interviewed directly upon the basis of his answers to the survey. Further, the day after the interview, Obama filed an amended survey with hand-written comments in the margins. Once this came to light, according to the Politico, "[t]hrough an aide, Obama, . . . did not dispute that the handwriting was his. But he contended it doesn’t prove he completed, approved — or even read — the latter questionnaire." Several members of the local political organization that accepted the questionarie call Obama’s current claims "unbelievable."

Then in the April debates, Obama not only disclaimed any knowledge of the answers on which he was quizzed, but even claimed that the handwriting wasn’t his on the amended survey. This seems even more unbelievable under the circumstances. And indeed, according to Factcheck.org, it is Obama’s handwriting on the document, though it is not precisely clear how they made that determination. Though this issue now trancends gun rights and goes directly to Obama's honesty and character - and thus his fitness to be President - the MSM seems distinctly uninterested.



Obama claims he believes in the Second Amendment as an individual right, but with room for "common sense" laws. Obama gave us an idea of what he considers "common sense" laws in 1999, when he proposed an incredibly restrictive plan for anti-gun legislation at the state and federal level that would have made the D..C. laws just overturned look as if they had been crafted by the NRA. The following article, reprinted at the Volokh Conspiracy, appeared in the Dec. 13, 1999 edition of The Chicago Defender:

Sweeping federal gun control legislation proposed by Sen. Barack Obama (D-13th) would increase the penalties on gun runners who are flooding Chicago's streets with illegal weapons. . . .

Obama outlined his anti-gun plan . . . Obama is proposing to make it a felony for a gun owner whose firearm was stolen from his residence which causes harm to another person if that weapon was not securely stored in that home.

He's proposing restricting gun purchases to one weapon a month and banning the sale of firearms at gun shows except for "antique" weapons. Obama is also proposing increasing the licensing fee to obtain a federal firearms license.

He's also seeking a ban on police agencies from reselling their used weapons even if those funds are used to buy more state-of-the-art weapons for their agencies. Obama wants only those over 21 who've passed a basic course to be able to buy or own a firearm.

He's proposing that all federally licensed gun dealers sell firearms in a storefront and not from their homes while banning their business from being within five miles of a school or a park. He's also banning the sale of 'junk" handguns like the popular Saturday Night Specials.

Obama is . . . also asking that gun manufacturers be required to develop safety measures that permit only the original owner of the firearm to operate the weapon purchased.

. . . Obama is also seeking to increase the federal taxes by 500 percent on the sale of firearms, ammunition [sic] -- weapons he says are most commonly used in firearm deaths.

Some of the provisions discussed above would make it prohibitive to own a firearm – and essentially impossible to buy one. Anyone who faced a felony with over a year in jail for a stolen firearm would logically have to keep the gun under lock and key at all times, assuming one was willing face such severe criminal penalties to own a gun in the first place. The costs Obama would add to gun ownership and the banning of lower priced "junk" handguns would effectively leave only the financially well to do able to own a weapon. The technology Obama wants on the gun raises its own problems, including for weapons available inside homes for any family member to access in an emergency and the ability to resell the weapons. But the most onerous is last. His call for a federal law limiting sales to storefront businesses and banning all firearms sells from "any gun store within five miles of a school or park . . . would eliminate gun stores from almost the entire inhabited portion of the United States." I think it safe to say that inability to legally buy a handgun in the U.S. would likely serve as a significant narrowing of the Second Amendment right Obama claims to believe in so fervently in the wake of the Heller decision.

Although 40 states currently allow concealed carry permits, Obama "told the Chicago Tribune in 2004 that he favored a national ban" on such permits. He did so on the basis that allowing states to issue concealed carry permits threaten residents of Illinois, even though the permits are only valid in the state of issue.

Interestingly enough, Obama voted to allow concealed carry permits in one instance – for retired Illinois police officers. Not to suggest that Obama would alter his position if there were political gains to be had, but his vote happened to come during the period in which "Obama was battling with his GOP opponent to win the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police."

And Obama does not see self-defense as a reasonable justification for carrying handguns. In 2001, as a state senator, Mr. Obama voted against allowing people who had received injunctive domestic violence protective orders dispensation to carry handguns for protection. It is not clear why he objected to law abiding people facing a threat of violence from obtaining a hand gun permit for self-protection. But his subsequent vote in the case of Hale DeMar make clear he sees state control of guns as more important than any individual right to own weapons and use them for self defense.

In 2003, someone broke into the home of Hale DeMar in Wilmette, Illinois. DeMar used a handgun – banned from the locality – to defend his family. DeMar was prosecuted by the town for this offense. A bill was introduced into the Illinois Senate in response that would have given citizens "a legal defense against prosecution for violating a local handgun ban if they actually used the firearm for lawful self-defense on their own property." Obama was one a handful of Democratic Senators to vote against that bill, which passed overwhelmingly in 2004 despite Obama’s opposition.

In 2004, while running for the U.S. Senate, Obama stated that he was in favor of renewing the assault weapons ban on over 200 different types of guns instituted during the Clinton Presidency. He said "I believe we need to renew -- not roll back -- this common sense gun law."

As a U.S. Senator, in 2005, Obama voted against Senate Bill 397 that would have protected gun manufacturers and stores that sell firearms from law suits by cities and states because of gun crime arising solely out of the misuse of their product.

Obama’s sole vote in support of the right of gun owners came in the wake of Katrina, when police and federal agents were breaking into the homes of law abiding citizens to confiscate their weapons. Obama joined with the vast majority of the Senate in voting for a bill to prohibit federal agents from confiscating firearms during a declared state of emergency.

While most of the above has stayed well out of the pages of the MSM, Obama has repeatedly been questioned on whether he supported the D.C. law restricting gun ownership and usage – which Obama clearly does and far more. Obama has changed his publicly stated position from "yes" to "never" to "I don’t know" and back again, all within the space of several months, and all without ever being challenged on his responses.

In November, when his campaign was asked about Obama's position on gun control and the D.C. ban on handguns, the campaign responded that Mr. Obama thought the D.C. gun laws constitutional. No correction was issued until seven months later when, immediately after the Heller decision was released, Obama claimed that he always had believed the opposite. As Charles Krauthammer wryly observed:

Last week, when the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, Obama immediately declared that he agreed with the decision. This is after his campaign explicitly told the Chicago Tribune last November that he believes the D.C. gun ban is constitutional.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton explains the inexplicable by calling the November -- i.e., the primary season -- statement "inartful." Which suggests a first entry in the Obamaworld dictionary -- "Inartful: clear and straightforward, lacking the artistry that allows subsequent self-refutation and denial."

In a February 11, 2008 interview conducted by the Politco, Obama agreed that he supported the D.C. handgun ban as constitutional as a part of "reasonable" gun control measures:

Q: You said recently, "I have no intention of taking away folks' guns." But you support the D.C. handgun ban, and you've said that it's constitutional. How do you reconcile those two positions?

A: . . . Because I think we have two conflicting traditions in this country. I think it's important for us to recognize that we've got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally. And a lot of law-abiding citizens use it for hunting, for sportsmanship, and for protecting their families. We also have a violence on the streets that is the result of illegal handgun usage. And so I think there is nothing wrong with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets. And cracking down on the various loopholes that exist in terms of background checks for children, the mentally ill. We can have reasonable, thoughtful gun control measure that I think respect the Second Amendment and people's traditions.

The problem is of course that, while Obama pays lip service to the Second Amendment, those "reasonable, thoughtful gun control measures" that Obama has supported severely restrict lawful gun ownership. They are inconsistent with a Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for self defense.

According to a February 15, 2008 AP article, "[a]t his news conference, [Obama] voiced support for the District of Columbia's ban on handguns"

During the April 16, 2008 Democratic debate, Obama was asked about the D.C. gun law and whether he saw it as "consistent with an individual's right to bear arms?" Obama, the Constitutional law Professor, sidestepped the specific issue of the D.C. gun law – despite the fact that D.C.’s law is, in all relevant respects the same as Chicago’s. He said that he could not take a position because he had not read the briefs, and then added:

"As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can't constrain the exercise of that right, in the same way that we have a right to private property but local governments can establish zoning ordinances that determine how you can use it. "

And Obama’s latest pronouncement on the Supreme Court decision in Heller has been that the decision mirrors what has always been his own deeply felt beliefs. In an article ": "Obama clarifies position on D.C. gun ban", Obama is quoted as saying:

"What I said was that I believe Second Amendment as being an individual right and have said that consistently. I also think that individual right is constrained by the rights of the community to maintain issues with public safety. I don't think those two principles are contradictory and in fact what I've been saying consistently is what the Supreme Court essentially said today."

(H/T Powerline).

Obama's big lie there is claiming that what he believes should be the law is what the Heller Court decided. As to his lie about supporting the D.C. law, with special thanks to Hot Air, here it is in video form:



As amply demonstrated above, what Obama has supported are gun laws far more onerous and restrictive than D.C.’s. It is wholly at odds with his claim to have always supported an individual right to keep and bear arms that mirrored the Heller decision. While Obama mouths the words that the Second Amendment is an individual right that he supports, his belief in "common sense" laws restricting that right are such as would render it a nullity. All of this tells us as much about Obama's character, honesty and trustworthiness as it does about his real position on the Second Amendment.


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Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Results Are In At The Watcher's Council

The posts have been reviewed and the votes for this weeks submissions for the best posts have been tallied by the Watcher. And the winners are:



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Coming in first this week was an excellent piece by our newest member, The Razor, South Africa's Neville Chamberlain. TR takes to task South Africa's president for failing to react and react strongly to the nightmare created on his border by Robert Mugabe. Coming in second place was an equally good and educational post by Soccer Dad, The Whole Shebaa-ng, discussing the history, current status, and proposals surrounding the Shebba Farms.

In the non-council category, first place went to Classical Values' Why You Should Apologize -- Ineffectively and Dishonestly -- For What You Didn't Do and second place to Shrink Wrapped for The Unconscious Roots of Media Bias. Also garnering votes was the piece I submitted from Brits At Their Best, An Almost Unfathomable Ignorance of History - an important piece for anyone wondering how the British can toss aside their hard earned sovereignty, democracy and Anglo-Saxon customs to become a province in the EU.

You can find a full tally of the week's voting at the Watcher's Site.

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Obama And His Positions Du Jour


Obama's spotless history as a hard left socialist is being whitewashed overnight by Obama and a complicit press corps. His flip flops are of such number and magnitude as to make John Kerry look like a gross amateur at the art. Obama changes positions with the fluidity of water based on the day's political expediencies, and then claims that his position du jour has always been his position. It creates a cognitive dissonance reverberating at such high a pitch as to make it seemingly beyond the capacity of all but canines to hear. That may explain why it is outside the auditory range of the MSM. Charles Krauthammer addressed this issue yesterday, concluding that Obama is so unscrupulous and so disengenuous as to, in comparison, make the Clintons seem paragons of veracity and intellectual honesty. Victor Davis Hanson and the editorial board of the NY Post also weigh in.
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This from Charles Krauthammer:

"To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."

-- Obama spokesman Bill Burton, Oct. 24, 2007

That was then: Democratic primaries to be won, netroot lefties to be seduced. With all that (and Hillary Clinton) out of the way, Obama now says he'll vote in favor of the new FISA bill that gives the telecom companies blanket immunity for post-Sept. 11 eavesdropping.

Back then, in the yesteryear of primary season, he thoroughly trashed the North American Free Trade Agreement, pledging to force a renegotiation, take "the hammer" to Canada and Mexico and threaten unilateral abrogation.

Today the hammer is holstered. Obama calls his previous NAFTA rhetoric "overheated" and essentially endorses what one of his senior economic advisers privately told the Canadians: The anti-trade stuff was nothing more than populist posturing.

Nor is there much left of his primary season pledge to meet "without preconditions" with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There will be "preparations," you see, which are being spun by his aides into the functional equivalent of preconditions.

Obama's long march to the center has begun.

. . . Normally, flip-flopping presidential candidates have to worry about the press. Not Obama. After all, this is a press corps that heard his grandiloquent Philadelphia speech -- designed to rationalize why "I can no more disown [Jeremiah Wright] than I can disown my white grandmother" -- then wiped away a tear and hailed him as the second coming of Abraham Lincoln. Three months later, with Wright disowned, grandma embraced and the great "race speech" now inoperative, not a word of reconsideration is heard from his media acolytes.

Worry about the press? His FISA flip-flop elicited a few grumbles from lefty bloggers, but hardly a murmur from the mainstream press. Remember his pledge to stick to public financing? Now flush with cash, he is the first general-election candidate since Watergate to opt out. Some goo-goo clean-government types chided him, but the mainstream editorialists who for years had been railing against private financing as hopelessly corrupt and corrupting evinced only the mildest of disappointment.

Indeed, the New York Times expressed a sympathetic understanding of Obama's about-face by buying his preposterous claim that it was a preemptive attack on McCain's 527 independent expenditure groups -- notwithstanding the fact that (a) as Politico's Jonathan Martin notes, "there are no serious anti-Obama 527s in existence nor are there any immediate plans to create such a group" and (b) the only independent ad of any consequence now running in the entire country is an AFSCME-MoveOn.org co-production savaging McCain.

. . . I have never had any illusions about Obama. I merely note with amazement that his media swooners seem to accept his every policy reversal with an equanimity unseen since the Daily Worker would change the party line overnight -- switching sides in World War II, for example -- whenever the wind from Moscow changed direction.

The truth about Obama is uncomplicated. He is just a politician (though of unusual skill and ambition). The man who dared say it plainly is the man who knows Obama all too well. "He does what politicians do," explained Jeremiah Wright.

When it's time to throw campaign finance reform, telecom accountability, NAFTA renegotiation or Jeremiah Wright overboard, Obama is not sentimental. He does not hesitate. He tosses lustily.

Why, the man even tossed his own grandmother overboard back in Philadelphia -- only to haul her back on deck now that her services are needed. Yesterday, granny was the moral equivalent of the raving Reverend Wright. Today, she is a featured prop in Obama's fuzzy-wuzzy get-to-know-me national TV ad.

Not a flinch. Not a flicker. Not a hint of shame. By the time he's finished, Obama will have made the Clintons look scrupulous.

Read the entire article. This is a drum many of us been beating for some time. Obama has no identifiable principles beyond ambition and seemingly not a shred of intellectual honesty. His candidacy is only made possible by a press corps whose attitude towards Obama is perfectly captured by Krauthammer in his comparison to communist newspapers reporting without a blink or question the day's changed position from Moscow.

There are such a plethora of examples, only a few of which are mentioned by Mr. Krauthammer. Victor Davis Hanson also has a compendium that is well worth a read. And today the NY Post weighs in on the issue, questioning whether we know anything that Obama actually stands for:

What does Barack Obama truly believe? Does it depend on the day of the week?

True, candidates typically tack to the center after contentious primaries. But the "candidate of change" is taking that process to Twilight Zone levels.

* Last fall, a spokesman said of a controversial element in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization bill, "To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies." . . .

* He's managed to switch his position on NAFTA twice: He supported it before the primary; said he wanted to renegotiate it while campaigning in Ohio - and now has told a magazine interviewer that his language during the primaries may have been "overheated."

* On foreign policy, his longstanding assertion that he would meet with the leaders of regimes hostile to the United States "without preconditions" has gone by the boards.

* His declaration before AIPAC that he believed in a "united Jerusalem" didn't even last a news cycle - a spokesman produced a "clarification" within hours after Obama's speech.

. . . Barack Obama's twists and turns reveal a lack of fundamental bearings.

Does he stand for anything?


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Friday, June 27, 2008

The Supreme Court: Originalism, Activism, and America’s Future


There are two broad schools of Constitutional interpretation today – originalism and the "living constitution" theory. The latter is pure judicial activism dressed in a bare patina of Constitutional justification. In the last week, we have been treated to the best – an originalist Second Amendment decision - and worst – an activist habeas corpus decision - of the Supreme Court by Judges applying those two schools of thought.

Originalists attempt to interpret the Constitution by determining what the people who drafted it and voted for it understood it to mean at the time. An intellectually honest originalist does not announce new policy, he or she interprets history and precedent. That is a bit oversimplified - originalism is certainly not always that clean and can become muddled as precedent builds (and see the discussion here). But because there is always a strong bias to stay limited to what the Constitution says and what the drafters meant, it provides a carefully circumscribed role for unelected judges, thus paying the maximum deference to democracy.

When a Court stops interpreting the meaning of the Constitution and starts to impose its own policy views under the color of a "living constitution," it transforms into a Politburo legislating by fiat. Judicial activists and the left who champions them are the people who see an activist Court as a way around democracy and an irreplacable tool to remake society.

The Goracle did a good job of describing the "living Constitution" theory in his 2000 election campaign, as well as demonstating the left's total embrace of judicial activism:

I would look for justices of the Supreme Court who understand that our Constitution is a living and breathing document, that it was intended by our founders to be interpreted in the light of the constantly evolving experience of the American people.

That is scary. That is pure judicial activism of the type which:

- came within one vote yesterday of allowing the government the power to disarm all Americans - and will no doubt, if given the chance to gain a majority, so narrow the right as to render it meaningless

- now allows government to take your private property and give it to another private party for their own purpose, even though the plain language of the 5th Amendment clearly forbids it as unconstitutional.

- now holds that modern foreign law can be used to interpret the U.S. Constitution, thus allowing our modern activists to arrive at any policy decision they so desire and then to turn it into Constitutional law, irrespective of how far removed it may be from the original meaning of the Constitution.

- in a vast expansion of the power of the Court, and in what may turn out to be the most costly decision ever to our nation, the activist wing of the Supreme Court twisted precedent out of recognition to arrive at a decision that has inserted the Judicial Branch into the national security and defense roles of our President and Congress. The activist wing of the Supreme Court has taken for itself powers clearly authorized only to the other branches by the plain language of the Constitution. As law professor Kenneth Anderson, cogently opined, "the Court seems to be marking out a long-term trajectory of forcing a reconception of war, even combat, as a form of police work."

- have greatly limited the use of the death penalty, irrespective of the intent of the founders, in how the states can apply it and by what method. While some of these restrictions are valid as a means of insuring due process, others are examples of pure policy decisions / Constitutional legislation by the Court.

- have created numerous rights out of whole cloth, taking social policy, such as whether to allow abortions and under what circumstance, out of the hands of the people and the states and making Constitutional law of their personal policy preferences. (Note here that originalists hold questions such as abortion to be outside the text of the Constitution and thus wholly states rights issues, beyond the scope of the Supreme Court's jurisdiction and beyond the competence of the federal government to regulate.)

- have read into the anti-establishment clause a "wall between church and state" and used that theory to dismember any hint of religion in the pubic square, thus promoting, whether intentionally or in the breech, the religion of the left - radical secularism.

There is no greater internal threat to our nation than an activist Supreme Court acting without respect for democracy and unconstrained by the original intent of the founders. Two very recent examples show the different methods used by originalists and activists respectively and serve as textbook examples of these philosophies in action.

The recent decision of Kennedy vLouisiana, written by Justice Kennedy and decided in a 5-4 decision, is an example of the judicial activism that has run rampant over the past sixty years in respect to the death penalty. The case interpreted whether a death sentence imposed for an incredibly brutal rape of a young child was Constitutional under the Eighth Amendment. That Amendment holds: "[e]xcessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." Nearly the first words in Justice Kennedy’s opinion were to quote a 1958 Supreme Court case that was a part of the great move towards judicial activism [citations removed for ease of reading]:

. . . [T]he Eighth Amendment’s protection against excessive or cruel and unusual punishments flows from the basic “precept of justice that punishment for [a] crime should be graduated and proportioned to [the] offense.” Whether this requirement has been fulfilled is determined not by the standards that prevailed when the Eighth Amendment was adopted in 1791 but by the norms that “currently prevail.” The [8th] Amendment "draw[s] its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society."

Suffice it to say, it was almost two centuries after the founding of the country that an activist wing of the Supreme Court decided to unglue the 8th Amendment from its original meaning and move it into the realm of judge-made policy cast as Constitutional law. Who determines what the "standards of decency" should be and what "norms" currently prevail? Shouldn't it be the people of Louisiana, acting throught their democratically elected legislature, who decide what is appropriate - at least so long as they do not violate the original meaning of the 8th Amendment? Or should it be the role of the unlected and unaccountable left wing of the Supreme Court to magically devine these "norms" and "evolving standards" for Louisiana based on whatever select data they choose to justify their decision? That data certainly isin't the national polls on the topic of imposing the death penalty for child rape. As the Jim Lindrgen wrote at the Volokh Conspiracy, after examining polls taken on the topic:

If the American public has a “national consensus” about child rape, it is that the death penalty is appropriate and that the courts are too lenient in punishing first-time offenders. But that’s not the sort of national consensus that Justice Anthony Kennedy wants to follow.

And indeed, the Supreme Court in Kennedy found an alternate consensus which, as explained by Justice Alito in his dissent, hardly qualified for the proposition which the activists used it. Regardless, the activists struck down Louisian's law as violative of their current policy preferences - or as those preferences are now known, Constitutional law.

To those who would argue that we should not be stuck in Revolutionary era concrete, please note that our Founders allowed for that by providing methods for amending the Constitution. The methods listed in the Constitution are democratic. We certainly can amend the 8th Amendment to limit the scope of what is "cruel and unusual" to a democratically accepted norm in the 21st century. But having 5 of 9 unelected judges impose those changes based on their whim and under the label of the "living Constituion" is not one of the methods you will find enumerated in the Constitution.

Compare this to Justice Scalia’s opinion in Heller v. District of Columbia, a primer in Constitutional interpretation by an originalist. The Second Amendment provides: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Scalia begins with an examination of how the language of the Second Amendment would have been defined and understood at the time the Amendment was drafted.

Scalia notes that the term "the people" is used throughout the Bill of Rights to provide rights to individuals. To interpret "keep and bear arms," he uses dictionaries from the Colonial period and refers to that era's seminal treatise on British law, William Blackstone’s 1769 Commentaries on the Laws of England. Scalia then looked to the history of the Second Amendment, finding it did not create a new right out of whole cloth, but rather protected a preexisting right inherited from well established British law of the period. That law, blogged here, provided an individual right to bear arms for self defense and a defense against the tyrannical acts of government. Using a similar inquiry for the prefatory clause, he finds that the term "militia" meant, in 1789, all able-bodied men and that the term "free State" was a term of art in the period that could refer to a State or to individuals in a state.

Scalia also looked to the various treatises and case law in the years following ratification to see how the Amendment was interpreted, including what limits were recognized upon the right. And he finishes with this thought:

Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad. We would not apply an "interest-balancing" approach to the prohibition of a peaceful neo-Nazi march through Skokie. See National Socialist Party of America v. Skokie, 432 U. S. 43 (1977) (per curiam). The First Amendment contains the freedom-of-speech guarantee that the people ratified, which included exceptions for obscenity, libel, and disclosure of state secrets, but not for the expression of extremely unpopular and wrong-headed views. The Second Amendment is no different. Like the First, it is the very product of an interest-balancing by the people—which JUSTICE BREYER would now conduct for them anew. And whatever else it leaves to future evaluation, it surely elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.

There really is a war going on in America. It is a war between those who wish to preserve the society created by our founders, one based on capitalism, federalism, certain individual rights and a respect for religion versus those on the left, espousing views of socialism and secularlism who want to radically remake society to accord with their own views. There is nothing wrong with that so long as the fight takes place at the ballot box. The problem is that a centerpiece of the left's efforts is to use activist courts to circumvent democracy.

The next President will choose at least one and as many as four Supreme Court justices. He will remake the Court for the next several decades. And if that Court is activist, God help America, for America will come to the end of those decades bearing little resemblance to the nation we created in 1776, nor for that matter the world's most successful nation that existed at our bi-centennial.

Update: An extremely important point is made by David Bernstein writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, that I neglected to include above. Any suggestion that the practitioners of judicial activism are the protectors of our civil rights as against government encroachment is a pure fairy tale. Judicial activists regulalry expand the power of government as against the individual, unless of course it is some new right that fits within the modern socialist pantheon. As Mr. Bernstein writes:

The Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, upholding the Second Amendment right of individuals to own firearms, should finally lay to rest the widespread myth that the defining difference between liberal and conservative justices is that the former support "individual rights" and "civil liberties," while the latter routinely defer to government assertions of authority. The Heller dissent presents the remarkable spectacle of four liberal Supreme Court justices tying themselves into an intellectual knot to narrow the protections the Bill of Rights provides. Or perhaps it's not as remarkable as we've been led to think.

And related to that is this observation from Hot Air that I must admit I missed in reading the Heller opinon - I plead brain death by the time I got towards the end of Steven's dissent. At any rate, it is Stevens, just unbelievably trying to cast the Bill of Rights as an enabler of government control rather than a brake on it:

The quote of the day comes not from Scalia but from Stevens in dissent:

The Court properly disclaims any interest in evaluating the wisdom of the specific policy choice challenged in this case, but it fails to pay heed to a far more important policy choice—the choice made by the Framers themselves. The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons, and to authorize this Court to use the common-law process of case-by-case judicial lawmaking to define the contours of acceptable gun control policy. Absent compelling evidence that is nowhere to be found in the Court’s opinion, I could not possibly conclude that the Framers made such a choice.

Yeah, that’s … the whole scheme of the Constitution, isn’t it? To limit the power of government? Or does that principle only apply to Article II anymore?

That really is a Freudian slip of epic proportions by an activist Supreme Court justice more concerned with his policies and government control than the individual rights of Americans. Any elementary school child can likely tell you that the Bill of Rights enumerates individual rights safe against government transgression. Enumerated powers of government appear elsewhere in the Constitution - unless, as Stevens makes clear, an activist judge has a policy preference in conflict. These people really are a clear and present danger to democracy and our nation.


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A Constitutional Lesson In British History


In a post below, responding to a post by Dr. David Abbott at Brits At Their Best, I added my agreement to his assertion that the British have forgotten - or as I see it, have been taught to devalue - their history. In either case, both roads lead to the current circumstance, where the British have passively acceded over time to giving up the freedoms and liberties hard earned by their progenitors. One of the freedoms the British people held for centuries was an individual right to own and bear guns. That right has been extinguished over the past century. This is at variance with America, yet we both started from precisely the same place in 1776. In the U.S. Supreme Court's decision yesterday in Heller v. District of Columbia, Justice Scalia explained the British history of this right to bear arms.
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This from Justice Scalia's opinion in Heller [citations removed for ease of reading]:

. . . Between the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution, the Stuart Kings Charles II and James II succeeded in using select militias loyal to them to suppress political dissidents, in part by disarming their opponents. Under the auspices of the 1671 Game Act, for example, the Catholic James II had ordered general disarmaments of regions home to his Protestant enemies. These experiences caused Englishmen to be extremely wary of concentrated military forces run by the state and to be jealous of their arms. They accordingly obtained an assurance from William and Mary, in the Declaration of Right (which was codified as the English Bill of Rights), that Protestants would never be disarmed: “That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.” This right has long been understood to be the predecessor to our Second Amendment. It was clearly an individual right, having nothing whatever to do with service in a militia. To be sure, it was an individual right not available to the whole population, given that it was restricted to Protestants, and like all written English rights it was held only against the Crown, not Parliament. But it was secured to them as individuals, according to “libertarian political principles,” not as members of a fighting force.

By the time of the founding [i.e., the drafting of the U.S. Constitution in 1789], the right to have arms had become fundamental for English subjects. Blackstone, whose works, we have said, “constituted the preeminent authority on English law for the founding generation,” cited the arms provision of the Bill of Rights as one of the fundamental rights of Englishmen. His description of it cannot possibly be thought to tie it to militia or military service. It was, he said, “the natural right of resistance and selfpreservation,” and “the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defence.” Other contemporary authorities concurred. Thus, the right secured in 1689 as a result of the Stuarts’ abuses was by the time of the founding understood to be an individual right protecting against both public and private violence. And, of course, what the Stuarts had tried to do to their political enemies, George III had tried to do to the colonists. In the tumultuous decades of the 1760’s and 1770’s, the Crown began to disarm the inhabitants of the most rebellious areas. That provoked polemical reactions by Americans invoking their rights as Englishmen to keep arms. A New York article of April 1769 said that “[i]t is a natural right which the people have reserved to themselves, confirmed by the Bill of Rights, to keep arms for their own defence.” They understood the right to enable individuals to defend themselves. As the most important early American edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries (by the law professor and former Antifederalist St. George Tucker) made clear in the notes to the description of the arms right, Americans understood the “right of self-preservation” as permitting a citizen to “repe[l] force by force” when “the intervention of society in his behalf, may be too late to prevent an injury.”

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. . . .

While the British wrote down the right of individuals to bear arms as against the Crown in the 1689 Bill of Rights, they wrote down no limitation on Parliament circumscribing Parliament's ability to extinguish their rights. Thus Britain lives under a tyranny of sorts today. Without any recognized Constitution, and with Parliament over a century ago having claimed for itself unlimited sovereignty, there are no permanent rights in Britain. Thus today you have in Britian a populace that has not only been largely disarmed of firearms over the past century, but a populace wherein the law abiding among them are prevented from carrying any sort of weapon for self defense. Even carrying the innocuous pepper spray is illegal.

And then of course there is the penultimate tyrannical act. In what amounts to a coup, the current Labour government has broken its promise to the people of Britain, given but three years ago, to give the people a vote in the decision to extinguish the sovereignty of Britain and become a province in a socialist and anti-democratic EU superstate. By this act, and in the even larger sense that this transfer of sovereignty severly and forever more degrades the democratic right of the British to choose their government, Labour evinces utter disdain for the liberty of Britian's citizens. And with that in mind, there is at least one more passage highly apropos from Justice Scalia's decision:

St. George Tucker’s version of Blackstone’s Commentaries, as we explained above, conceived of the Blackstonian arms right as necessary for self-defense. He equated that right, absent the religious and class-based restrictions, with the Second Amendment. See 2 Tucker’s Blackstone 143. In Note D, entitled, “View of the Constitution of the United States,” Tucker elaborated on the Second Amendment: “This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty . . . . The right to self-defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine the right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.” . . .

I think the appropriate phrase to finish on is the truism, "those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it."


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Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Second Amendment (Updated)


The case of District of Columbia v. Heller has been decided by the Supreme Court in a bare 5 to 4 decision with a majority opinion authored by Justice Scalia. The opinion is seminal in establishing that the Second Amendment provides Americans with an individual right to keep and bear arms, leaving open for future cases the outer contours of the right. The holdings of the opinion are:
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1. The right to keep and bear arms is an individual right related to the right of self defense.

2. The right protects against any absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.

3. The right protects against any law that would require a lawfully owned firearm to be rendered unfireable in the home, or otherwise not immediately firable for self defense.

4. The right protected by the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms that were “in common use at the time” of the Second Amendment's passage. The Court interprets this to mean there can be limitations imposed on possession of modern advanced weaponry and does nothing to disturb the holding in the 1939 case of Miller v. that upheld federal law restricting possession of classes of weapons, such as automatic weapons and sawed off shotguns.

5. Prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons are lawful.

6. This case leaves open the door for federal regulation of guns in certain aspects. Quote: "Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

[Update - should have included this: 7. The Court makes clear that licensure and registration requirements are acceptable so long as they do not otherwise infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.]

8. The critical issue of whether states must respect the Second Amendment is still an open issue. The Heller Case involved the District of Columbia - an area subject to federal law and without the rights of a state. The Bill of Rights protects against federal law encroachment on rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, but at the time it was written did not clearly apply stop state law encroachment on the same rights. It wasn't until passage of the Fourteenth Amendment after the Civil War that at least some of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights were held to apply equally to limit state interference. The relevant part of the 14th Amendment is the "privleges and immunities" clause:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;

U.S. Const., 14th Am., Sec. 1.

This clause has been held at various time to "incorporate" protections against fedral law encroachment articulated in the Bill of Rights against similar state law encroachment. You can find a good discussion of this legal issue here.

The Court in Heller does not decide whether the Second Amendment limitation against federal infringement of the right to individually keep and bear arms similarly limits the right of a state to do so. The Court intimates that it will. As the explained at the Volokh Conspiracy:

The majority doesn't clearly signal its view on the question, but it does suggest that simply citing some late 1800s cases which rejected incorporation (at a time when incorporation was generally being rejected as to nearly all of the Bill of Rights) will not suffice. Here's footnote 23, on page 48 of the majority oinion:

With respect to Cruikshank’s 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. Our later decisions in Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252, 265 (1886) and Miller v. Texas, 153 U. S. 535, 538 (1894), reaffirmed that the Second Amendment applies only to the Federal Government.

Cruikshank's judgment that the First Amendment wasn't incorporated was of course reversed by "later cases" starting in the 1920s.

Read the entire post.

A final parting thought. How much in danger are our rights from an activist Court? But for one vote, the right of an individual to keep and bear arms could have been taken away from us. By the skin on our collective teeth, we dodged that bullet today. But we are in every bit as much danger from an activist court as we are from external enemies.

Update: The very first rabid Moonbat siting was by Confederate Yankee:

. . . within moments [of the decision], a commenter to the liberal blog Crooks and Liars said Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority decision on the case, should be murdered. . . .

Update: As noted by a sharp-eyed "Jabba the Tutt" in the comments, this is the same David Ehrenstein that created the meme of Barack the Magic Negro.

The NYT carries a story on the reaction of gun control advocates:

Gun-control advocates across the country reacted with shock and outrage at the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns today, saying the ruling would threaten gun-control measures in other states. . . .

Read the entire article. Shock and outrage? Whether the Second Amendment was written so as to provide an individual right to gun ownership is not a policy decision to be made by an unelected supra-legislature of activists. The mindset of the left is a clear and present danger to the continued freedoms of this country and our viability as a nation.


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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

UK's Continued March Towards The EU


As I pointed out two weeks ago, Britain only had three chances to stay out of the EU - the vote in the House of Lords, the Irish Referendum, and the court case challenging Labour's refusal to grant a referendum to the people of Britain. As an aside, voting in the Tories would be utterly useless - Tory leader (term used loosely) David Cameron has already shrugged his shoulders and announced that he would treat Labour's acts as a fait accompli. Since I wrote that post, The House of Lords, gerrymandered by Labour PM Tony Blair near a decade ago, rolled over for Labour. Ireland voted against ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon / EU Constitution, but the EU is doing all it can to ignore its own laws and go ahead with the Treaty anyway. And today, the court case by Stuart Wheeler predicated on enforcing Labour's promise in their 2005 election plank to put any EU Constitution to a vote of the people, has failed at the lower court.
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This from the Telegraph:

A High court ruling removed the last obstacle to Britain's ratification of the European Union's treaty despite Labour's manifesto for a public vote.

Mr Brown has been under intense pressure to declare the treaty dead after Irish voters rejected it in a referendum earlier this month.

Mr Wheeler's case had forced the Prime Minister to delay the formal ratification of the treaty until the court's ruling.

At the heart of the case was the question of whether a political party's election manifesto was legally enforceable and whether the public have a "legitimate expectation" to see measures pledged during an election campaign enacted.

Rabinder Singh QC, appearing for Mr Wheeler, 73, said at a recent two-day hearing: "The Government promised a referendum and should keep its promise."

At stake were the fundamental principles "of good administration, fair play and straight dealing with the public," he said.

However, Jonathan Sumption QC, appearing for the Office of the Prime Minister, told the judges: "This case is politics dressed up as law."

. . . Ruth Lea, Director of the Global Vision think-tank, said: "Today's ruling by the High Court is extremely dispiriting especially as many European politicians have made it quite clear that the Lisbon Treaty is the Constitutional Treaty in all but name.

"Under these circumstances, the British people are surely entitled to their referendum on the Treaty as the Irish people did. All our polling shows an overwhelming majority in favour of a referendum."

Read the entire article. You can find the Court's decision here. According to the Court, Mr. Wheeler did not establish to the Court's satisfaction that the original EU Constitution and the new Lisbon Treaty are essentially identical documents and that, as a matter of policy, the Court would not enforce a campaign promise.

As to the argument that Wheeler's case that this was nothing more than politics dressed up as the law, what does that attorney think the law is if not politics "dressed up" with the police power of the state? This was really a case of whether politicians can be held to their political promises, which I happen to think is the weakest of arguments that could have been brought in this matter. As a policy matter, I do not think that appropriate for a court to decide for that as, carried to its logical extreme, it has the potential for havoc as circumstances or minds may validly change. That said, this particular promise was on a matter that goes to the heart of democracy in Britain and, as such, is I think a special case. Further, Courts in Britain, just as in the U.S., seem wholly unable to stay out of making inappropriate policy decisions of late, so we shall see.

The EU Referendum proclaims itself "disappointed but not surprised." They note that Mr. Wheeler's chances on appeal are, at best, slim.

The approval process for the EU is going forward with the Queen apparently having already given her assent. At Brits At Their Best, they have posted an open letter to the Queen noting that she has violated her Coronation Oath to defend the laws of Britain and withdrawing their fealty to the Crown. The fight is hardly over, and the Irish No vote has at least exposed how the EU's ruthless determination to put its plans in place wholly irrespective of democracy or law - something that will surely come back to haunt them. And perhaps the Irish vote may yet prove decisive.

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