Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Explanation of the law in the TX Confederate flag license plate case.

Here's the legal background in a nutshell.
"Because Texas allows more than 300 civic organizations to buy space on its license plates, free-speech advocates say that the state has created a limited public forum in branded logo plates. If that’s right, the sons of Confederate veterans who want to put the Confederate battle flag on a license plate should win their case. The government can’t favor nonracist speech over racist speech, because racism is a viewpoint, albeit a nasty one.
But that’s only half the legal story. On the other side is a separate doctrine, known as the doctrine of government speech. According to this principle, if the government is speaking, and not a private person, then the free-speech clause doesn’t apply at all. The government is under no obligation to speak neutrally. It can advance any viewpoint it wishes, provided that viewpoint isn’t itself unconstitutional.
Courts love the government speech doctrine because it enables them to make difficult free-speech cases disappear. In the Texas license plate case, it means the state could express any view it wants on its license plates without worrying about embracing any one viewpoint. If the logos on the plate are government speech, Texas wins.
At this point you may be getting frustrated with me, or rather with the Supreme Court. “Come on,” you say, “this isn’t simply a limited public forum or simply government speech — it’s obviously both!”
Well, yes. But the Supreme Court’s judicial doctrine hasn’t really clarified what would happen if the case presented a true hybrid between a limited public forum and government speech. The law insists on slotting every example into one of the two boxes. And which doctrinal box the court chooses dictates the outcome of the case."

This is a toughie.  In a close case I believe that constitutional rights should always prevail.  I believe Texas has created a limited public forum.  This being so, it cannot discriminate against viewpoints.  It must allow the rebel flag plates.  The solution is to abolish the specialized plates option. 

Firing squad now an option in Utah for death penalty

Utah's governor signed the bill making firing squad an alternate means of execution if no drugs are available.  Utah is currently the only state using this method.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lawsuit challenges CA's prostitution ban

A "sex-workers" group has filed a lawsuit to overturn California's laws against consensual prostitution.  The group relies, in part, on the Supreme Court's decision (Lawrence v. Texas), overturning laws prohibiting consensual adult homosexual acts.  However, from the article, it appears that they are not following the rationale of the plurality in Lawrence, which did not get into "fundamental rights," it merely asked whether "liberty" was involved.  Stay tuned!

Justice Kennedy calls for Prison Reform


According to the AP,  U.S. Supreme” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy  told a U.S. House Commtte that 'American prisons rely too much on holding inmates in isolation and that the corrections system is "broken" in many respects.
At a  hearing on  Monday to discuss the Supreme Court's budget, "Kennedy told lawmakers that the country does not spend enough time thinking about making prisons more humane.
Kennedy says solitary confinement "literally drives men mad."
He is the author of the court's opinion in 2011 that ordered California to cut its inmate population to deal with unconstitutional prison conditions caused by overcrowding.""

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Supreme Court to hear case on police use of force on the mentally disabled

The issues involve both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fourth Amendment.  Oral argument is coming up.  Expect a decision sometime in late May or early June. According to SCOTUS.blog, the facts area as follows:

"In August 2008, a city social worker made an attempt to check up on Teresa Sheehan, a mentally disabled woman living in a group home in San Francisco.  The worker planned to take Sheehan for a current psychiatric evaluation.  He let himself into her room with a key, apparently without first getting permission.
Sheehan told him to leave and, he said later, brandished a knife and threatened to kill him.  He called the police and took other residents out of the home. Two San Francisco police officers, Kimberly Reynolds and Katherine Holder, responded and learned of the situation.  The social worker asked them to help get Sheehan to the facility for the planned test.  He told them that Sheehan had not been taking her medicines, and was not taking care of herself physically.
The officers knocked on the door of Sheehan’s room and announced themselves.  Using the social worker’s key, they unlocked the door and entered.  Sheehan was lying on the bed, but apparently got up suddenly.  The officers later said that she grabbed a knife, told them to get out, and said she did not need any help.  She allegedly also threatened to kill the two police officers, and said they had no warrant to arrest her.
The officers left the room and called for back-up support.  Without waiting for other officers to arrive, according to the record in the case, the two officers decided to force their way back into Sheehan’s room, fearing that she might try to escape and might have other weapons.
With guns drawn, they went in.  They testified later that she came at them with a knife, and that they tried to subdue her with pepper spray but that she kept advancing toward them with the knife in hand.  The officers fired their weapons, hitting Sheehan five or six times.  She survived the wounds."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Obama Administration appears to fear transparency


You may already be familiar with the saying that "sunlight is the best disinfectant."  Unfortunately, far too many levels of government and agencies act like Dracula.
According to the Associated Press:
"The Obama administration set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.
"The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn't find documents and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.
It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law — but only when it was challenged."

When the add on the IRA e-mail and Sec. of State Clinton's private e-mail and server and disposal of "personal e-mails," anyone who expected Obama's promises of "change" to result in more sunlight has to be greatly disappointed.  If course, most if not all administrations have been guilty too.

Two New Gun Rights Bills in Texas


The Texas Senate has approved both open carry (for those with concealed carry licenses) and allowing licensed concealed carry in buildings on public college campuses.  Both votes were strictly along party-lines.  All Repubs for, all Dems against.  The campus carry bill is the most controversial.  From the  negative side: “The people of Texas don’t want this bill. The administrators don’t want this bill. Faculty doesn’t want this bill. Workers and employees don’t want this bill. Students don’t want this bill,” Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said. “Why are we doing this?"
 First, the factual assertions are incorrect.  I personally know students, faculty and a  number of Texans who are not opposed to the bill.

Second like so many politicians on both the left and rights, they never knew, forgot or don’t care that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  An individual’s prejudices and ideology and party loyalty are not the law of the land.  The Second Amendment protects both the right to keep and bear arms.  While these rights are not absolute, certainly the Second Amendment protects carrying in college campus buildings by state-licensed individuals.  While government can restrict carrying in highly sensitive places, e.g. jails, courthouses, etc.  public university campuses are not in the same category as these other locations.   Much of the Constitution and all of the Bill of Rights are “contermajoritarian.”  It doesn’t matter what the majority wants, these rights prevail over legislative and popular preference.  In Texas and most, if not all, of the South, segregated public schools were required by statute. If, in  1953  there was a referendum on whether public schools should be racially integrated, it would have lost badly.  The next year,  the Supreme Court ruled otherwise.  The only way for the majority to overrule the Constitution is to follow the difficult process of amending it.
Thirdly, fear is a powerful motivator that has been used throughout history to trample rights (Red Scares 1920-21 and 1947-57,,  crime and rape by black students in integrated public schools, communist threats in 1950’s, etc.).  There was no increase in; gun crime after Texas passed concealed carry.  No state saw an increase in gun crime after passing concealed carry.  Concealed carry is already allowed on campus grounds.  There have been no shootings that I know of by licensees on college grounds.  Further, to get a license, a person must be 21, pass a shooting demonstration, have “clean” criminal record, be fingerprinted and screened, and pay a sizeable amount for the training and license.  The people most likely to be a problem will not be able to get a license.

Finally, many public universities and colleges nationwide show a widespread disrespect for First Amendment rights. (See the FIRE website).  They show a similar disrespect for Second Amendment rights.  Apparently there are public officials and public employees who think they are above the law.  Prejudice and ideology trumps the law for these arrogant, self-righteous individuals.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Arrest in shooting of 2 cops during demonstration in Ferguson, MO

A black male was arrested in the shooting of  2 police officers during a demonstration outside the Ferguson, MO police department.  His story appears to be that he was trying to shoot someone else.
Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Boston Marathon Bombing trial underway. Death penalty sought.

The 2nd big trail of 2015 is now well underway.  The surviving brother in the Boston Marathon bombing, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, faces the death penalty.  A defense request for the a change of venue away from Boston was denied.  This is questionable given the number of Bostonians killed, (3) hurt (264, many seriously), outraged, and who followed the manhunt after the bombing with great intensity.  Nonetheless, a jury was seated. This will obviously be a potential point for appeal. 
The defense has conceded guilt.  As in many capital cases, the real issue is the penalty, not guilt or innocence. The defense theory is that Dzokhar was a lost teenager who fell under the spell of his evil, radical, brother.  This mitigation-of-punishment theory is sometimes referred to as the "Svenagali Defense."  This is reminiscent of the Beltway sniper case where the teenage accomplice, Lee Malvo, was able to avoid the death penalty. 
 "Since 1988, of the cases in which juries in federal death penalty trials reached the point of choosing between life and death, they have opted for life 66 percent of the time, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project."  It appears that federal juries are capable of lenience.

 The defense offered to plead guilty if life was the sentence, but the prosecution refused to go along.
While this case is clearly not as horrific and the Oklahoma city bombing (Timothy McVea) odds are,  however, that he will get the death penalty.  Stay tuned.

Prostitution: The Swedish Model

Prostitution is not a big issue in the U.S.  Although laws vary somewhat, it is illegal everywhere except a few rural counties in Nevada.   However when the topic comes up, the range of views is, wide, as seems to be the case with most issues in this country.  Opinions range from cracking down even more or maintaining the status to decriminalization to legalization regulation (and of course taxation).
  COYOTE, is prostitute rights advocacy organization in the U.S.  It argues for decriminalization.  Could this become the next "rights" or "freedom of choice" issue in the U.S.?
 Some advocates of change point to the Swedish model.  It is not clear if it really has done a lot in Sweden, or if it could work here.  But is worth thinking about.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Utah legislature proposes white-collar criminal offender registry

The Utah legislature passed a bill establishing an online white-collar criminal  felony offender registry complete with pictures.  Let's hope other states follow suit.  Let's hope people will use it and that it will help avoid future crimes.

No real decline in percentage of American Homes containing firearms (?)

The latest results from the General Social Survey  (GSS), a well-respected survey operation, show that the percentage of homes in the U.S. containing firearms is declining.   Like many, I am skeptical of this result. This is in spite of tremendous sales of new guns and tremendous increases in people licensed to carry guns. How can this discrepancy be explained?   First, note that the GSS result are not consistent with some other surveys.  Second, the GSS is an in-person survey where there is no anonymity unlike, for instance, telephone surveys. This may cause many gun-owners, who distrust the government on gun control, to deny ownership.  Perhaps they are unsure about whether their ownership is legal.  "Further, (According to the Globe and Mail):
"In December, 2014, a survey by the Pew Research Center reported that for the first time in 20 years, support for gun rights was greater than support for gun control – and that since the Newtown tragedy in which 20 children and six school staff were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, support for gun rights increased from 45 per cent to 52 per cent.
The survey also pointed out that an increasing number of Americans believe gun ownership protects people from crime. In December, 2012, 48 per cent held that position. Two years after Newtown, 57 per cent believed guns save people from becoming victims of crime."  Further, according to the G&M:
"According to the 2014 edition of the General Social Survey, one of the largest general trend reports in the U.S., 31 per cent of households reported having a firearm. That’s the lowest level on record, tied with 2010, since the survey began standardized monitoring in 1972.
But at the same time, firearms sales appear to be as healthy as ever. According to the FBI criminal background-check database – often used as a proxy for measuring gun sales – checks have steadily risen over the past decade and a half, from 8.5 million in 2000 to nearly 21 million last year. Some of the sharpest spikes coincide with the election and re-election of President Barack Obama, suggesting a concern that a Democratic White House would move to limit gun rights – a concern that, for the most part, has not materialized.
But within the data, there is a more complex story. For years, the General Social Survey tended to show a significantly lower rate of gun ownership in the United States than many other surveys – a discrepancy that may be explained not by statistics, but by the basic mistrust of authority that appears to be a common denominator among the most fervent pro-gun advocates.
“The only thing I know that’s for sure different between the GSS and other polls is that the GSS is an in-home, face-to-face survey,” said Gary Kleck, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida State University [and the nation's leading expert on guns, gun crime, etc.]. “What that does is make it a non-anonymous survey. You may say gun owners are paranoid for thinking it, but they think governments – and in particular the federal government – are out to get their guns.” Further, according the the G&M:

"Does everyone agree that it's declining?

Not entirely. “The big challenge for me looking at these numbers is that you have to be confident that people are going to report their gun ownership accurately,” said Samuel Bieler, research associate at the independent and non-partisan think tank Urban Institute in Washington. “And I think it’s an open question as to whether if a gun owner is already suspicious of someone’s motive for collecting firearm information, whether they’d be willing to do that,” he added. There are also Gallup surveys that point to spikes in gun ownership in recent years. “There’s enough noise and enough countervailing explanations that to me, the jury is really still in some ways out on the full amount of gun ownership,” said Mr. Bieler."

The rate of guns in the home is not declining.  What many suggest, including the G&M, is that the "gun culture" in the U.S. is becoming less of a sporting, hunting and collecting culture and more of a "self-defense culture".

Two police officers shot in Ferguson, MO

Just when many were beginning to hope that things would cool down in Ferguson MO, and the work of reform would avoid distractions, two police officers were shot there yesterday.  The U.S. Department of Justice, headed by a black Attorney General, had found  no cause to charge the officer accused of the unjustified killing of an unarmed black man. They also demanded reforms or a lawsuit would be filed.   Five top Ferguson officials resigned, including the police chief and municipal court judge. Apparently this was not enough for some.   The officers, who survived the shooting, were monitoring a demonstration at the police station.  However, it appears that the shots were fired from a greater distance than the demonstrators. No arrests yet.  Motive:  Could it be that the shooters were trying to provoke the officers into firing into the demonstrators?  If that was the motive, it  failed. 

Book Review: Hannan's Inventing Freedom

Like many, I am concerned about threats to freedom, excessive government power, how to strengthen democracy, etc.  However, where do the concepts of “freedom,” “limited government,” “representative government”, etc. come from, at least in the :West.  This is the topic of Daniel Hannan’s Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World.  I have no desire to re-invent the wheel, talk about the “Whigs, ”English history, etc ..  You can read a lengthy, excellent review here. ( This “review” will discuss only a few issues.
First, according to Hannan,  a group often ignored by scholars,  the English Levellers, were “proto-libertarians” (p. 149).   With regard to American history, Hannan reminds us the oft-ignored role that religion played in setting the stage for the American Revolution (“bellicose” Protestantsism and hostility toward the Catholic Church and Church of England).
 Hannan, is a member of the British Parliament  and gives insight into how an Englishman sees many of the issues that face America. He laments the growing power of the European Union on freedom, and  its toll on British Democracy.  He also criticizes the weakening of federalism in the U.S.   He also has written The New Road to Serfdom which is a take-off on Hayek’s classic, The Road to Serfdom. Hannan’s book is going on my “to read,” list.
Hannan gives some insight into how an Englishman sees many of these issues that trouble Americans. Although I strongly recommend this book, the lack of chapter notes or footnotes is disturbing.  I have checked a few of the quotes, and they are accurate.  I have no specific qualms about accuracy, but, like many, I prefer to check the author’s sources, even though I may agree with the author.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Utah considering bringing back execution by firing squad.

As their supplies of the usual drug execution drugs dwindles and they become hard to get, a bill awaits Utah's governor to permit execution by firing squad. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of public opposition to the death penalty, at least as it now exists. The abolition movement is strong and growing.   In a number of states there  have been mass commutations, clemencies, and moratoriums.  A few have abolished the penalty.  I think this  whole area of the law needs wholesale revision to limit the number of offenses that are deemed "capital," and to assure that all capital defendants get qualified attorneys, and protections against police and prosecutorial misconduct that taints trials. Further, some methods of execution may violate the 8th Amend ban on cruel and unusual punishment. 

OU racist fraternity song protected by First Amendment


The OU racist fraternity song is a disgrace to say the least.  The leaders of the song were two young men from excellent high schools and relatively affluent families.  With all the problems and threats our nation faces, we really need to get it together and start working together.  These types of incidents do not help one bit.  Having said that, the song was probably protected by the First Amendment and OU probably violated it.  The Supreme Court has made it perfectly clear that “hate,” "racist"or “offensive” speech is protected speech.  The mention of “lynching” was not a specific, imminent threat that can be punished.  Remember, however, that Bill of Rights provisions apply only to governments and their agencies (e.g. universities).  Private citizens and private schools are not covered by the First Amendment.  To some this seems like a strange or bad idea. However, one of the reasons we remain the freest nation on earth is that we draw lines between civil society and private individuals on the one hand, and government on the other.  If everything were deemed a government matter, there would be very little freedom. 
FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, agrees.  This is an extremely valuable organization which fights both left- and right-wing political correctness in Education.  See their article on campus freedoms.  Although the First Amendment does not apply on private school campuses they fight it also with other tools.  I strongly recommend you subscribe to their e-mail newsletter.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Ferguson Officer Cleared, City Lambasted by DOJ

Although the Department of Justice decided not to charge the officer involved in the Ferguson, MO killing of an unarmed black male, the DOJ lambasted the entire criminal justice system in the town.

With regard to the officer, the DOJ, like the grand jury and D.A. concluded that versions  "of
events that sharply conflicted with Mr. Wilson’s were largely inconsistent with forensic evidence or with the witnesses’ previous statements, the report said. And in some cases, witnesses whose accounts supported Mr. Wilson said they had been afraid to come forth or tell the truth because they feared reprisals from the enraged community." The last sentence is extremely disturbing.  The presumption of guilt that often attaches to some officers seems to be encouraged by members of the community.  I wonder if in the past, large numbers of whites refused to speak up on behalf of a black suspect, because they feared community retribution.

With regard to the city, the "Justice Department on Wednesday called on Ferguson, Mo., to overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight.

In one example after another, the report described a city that used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures, a place where officers stopped and handcuffed people without probable cause, hurled racial slurs, used stun guns without provocation, and treated anyone as suspicious merely for questioning police tactics."

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Our National Hypocrisy on Rights and Liberty


For those with libertarian leanings, support for liberty goes beyond political partisanship.  There are no “politically correct” or “politically incorrect” basic freedoms.  However, unfortunately, overall the people and politicians of this country lack a broad-based commitment to constitutional rights, natural law rights, etc.  Thus, freedom is always under attack by someone somewhere in America.  It is as true now, as it ever was. "Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty."
The current trend toward political polarization and knee-jerk reactions only makes this situation worse.  The Right (generally Republicans) favors the Second Amendment, property rights, freedom of religion.  The Left (generally Democrats) hates the Second Amendment, shows little respect for property rights and is atheistic/agnostic and unsympathetic to organized religion.  They favor rights to abortion, LGBT rights, equal protection of the law, and defendant and prisoners’ rights.  The Right is not supportive of any of these.  For many on both the Left and Right, ideology, party loyalty and their view of policy considerations, trump the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.  The threat to the rule of law is patent.

Our current situation highlights our split personality and hypocrisy.  We are undergoing at least 3 rights revolutions in this country at the present time.  They are in different phases, but they mirror the ideological split.

First is the gay marriage, LGBT, movement.  Strongly supported by the Left, opposed by many of the Right.  Second is the movement toward legalizing recreational use of marijuana.  Three states and D.C. have already adopted such laws.  More states are considering it. The Left generally supports it, the Right is opposed.  Finally, is the gun rights movement.  The Left hates and demonizes it.  The Right is very supportive.  One of the best examples of this is D.C.   D.C. is very anti-Second Amendment but has jumped on the Left’s marijuana bandwagon.

I urge everyone who shares these concerns to consider libertarian philosophy.  If you already have, urge others to do so.  Consider the Libertarian Party.  Personally, I believe the National Libertarian Party is, in it’s current posture, too obsessed with Ayn Rand, too ideologically driven,  too  utopian and not appealing to mainstream America.  It needs to start thinking pragmatically and incrementally. Half a loaf is better than none.

Retired General and ex-CIA Director to Plead guilty

David Petraeus, retired 4-star general and former CIA Director, has agree to a plea deal for charges he shared classified information with his mistress.  As usual, he initially denied criminal activity.  The prosecution will recommend probation rather than prison time.   While one can perhaps excuse adultery, lead
king classified material is a serious matter.  One has to question the quality of leadership that rises to the top in our government.  Further, do we have a multi-tiered system of Justice in this country?  One lenient system for the elite and multiple levels for those below?

DOJ Report finds racial bias in Ferguson, MO Police Dept.

A federal Department of Justice report concludes that police in Ferguson, MO were routinely discriminating against blacks.  The town will have to agree to make changes or face a lawsuit.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Concealed carry up, violent crime down in Florida

In Florida, as in many other states, as the number of concealed carry licensees has gone up, the violent crime rates have gone down.  There may or may not be causal connection between these two, but it certainly suggests that concealed carry does not make crime worse.

6th Amendment Confrontation Clause case coming up

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case on the 6th Amendment right to confront adverse witnesses at a criminal trial.  Although putting children who may have been abused on the stand can be traumatic for the child, I think the courts should find a way to do this that minimizes the trauma yet preserves constitutional rights. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

No federal charges against Zimmerman for slaying of Trayvon Martin

The hysteria after the acquittal of  George Zimmerman on the grounds of self-defense for the murder of Trayvon Martin was appalling.   It was a toned-down version of the presumption-of-guilt hysteria that used to lead to the lynching of black suspects.   Now, Obama's left-leaning DOJ will shortly announce that after an extensive investigation they will not file criminal charges against Zimmerman. If they can't find a basis for charges, no one can.  Let's all try to remember the larger principles at work here that transcend our national racial issues.

Concealed Carry Reciprocity Back on the Table.

New proposals for interstate reciprocity on licensed concealed carry have been introduced in Congress.  “Our fundamental right to self-defense does not stop at a state's borders. Law abiding citizens should be able to exercise this right while traveling across state lines, . . .”  This certainly makes sense, but I feel uncomfortable about reciprocity for the few states that allow a person to get the license completely online without showing firearms proficiency.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

OTAppeasement, current sanctions and negotiations alone will not work with Putin and Iran


If you are into the history of diplomacy and WWII you are undoubtedly familiar with the tragedy of "appeasement" which only encouraged Hitler to become more aggressive and eventually led to his invasion of Poland which led to the start of WWII in Europe.  Failure of the League of Nations to take a tough stand other concessions/acquiescence in Nazi violations of the Treaty of Versailles also added to the problem. This is obviously not the sole cause, but it was an important part of the development of the tragedy.

Although I am wary of international military involvement, like many I worry that our policies toward Russia and Iran are going to backfire. 

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is a bully. As a dictator he worries little about the effect of sanctions and can blamed the West for Russia's crumbling economy.  The Russians have violated two ceasefires and and the likely outcome is de facto Russian annexation of Eastern Ukraine.  According to the Economist:

"Look at the world from his perspective, and Mr Putin is winning. For all his enemies’ machinations, he remains the Kremlin’s undisputed master. He has a throttlehold on Ukraine, a grip this week’s brittle agreement in Minsk has not eased. Domesticating Ukraine through his routine tactics of threats and bribery was his first preference, but the invasion has had side benefits. It has demonstrated the costs of insubordination to Russians; and, since he thinks Ukraine’s government is merely a puppet of the West (the supposed will of its people being, to his ultracynical mind, merely a cover for Western intrigues), the conflict has usefully shown who is boss in Russia’s backyard. Best of all, it has sown discord among Mr Putin’s adversaries: among Europeans, and between them and America. . . the contest he insists on can no longer be dodged. It did not begin in poor Ukraine and will not end there. Prevailing will require far more resolve than Western leaders have so far mustered."

This author, like most has not stomach for direct western intervention.  He even has doubts about arming the Ukraine


"The current version of this quandary is whether, if the latest ceasefire fails, to arm Ukraine. Proponents think defensive weapons would inflict a cost on Mr Putin for fighting on. But anyone who doubts his tolerance of mass casualties should recall his war in Chechnya. If arms really are to deter him, the West must be united and ready to match his inevitable escalation with still more powerful weapons (along, eventually, with personnel to operate them). Yet the alliance is split over the idea. Mr Putin portrays the war as a Western provocation: arming Ukraine would turn that from fantasy to something like fact, while letting him expose the limits of Western unity and its lack of resolve—prizes he cherishes. If fresh Russian aggression galvanises the alliance, arming Ukraine will become a more potent threat. Until that point, it would backfire."

A better strategy is to eschew his methods and rely on an asset that he, in turn, cannot match: a way of life that people covet. If that seems wishy-washy beside his tanks, remember that the crisis began with Ukrainians’ desire to tilt towards the EU—and Mr Putin’s determination to stop them. Better ensure the cash is not misspent or stolen). The IMF deal announced on February 12th should be only a start. Mr Putin wants Ukraine to be a lesson in the perils of leaning West. It should instead be an exemplar of the rewards.

Just as urgently, those former Soviet countries that have joined Western institutions must be buttressed and reassured. If the case for sending arms to the Donbas is doubtful, that for basing NATO troops in the Baltics is overwhelming, however loudly Mr Putin squeals. Western leaders must make it clear, to him and their own people, that they will defend their allies, and the alliance—even if the struggle is covert and murky."

Further, although it is not a formal treaty, doesn't the U.S. have some obligation to the Ukraine.

"Much attention has focused on the so-called Budapest Memorandum. As part of the process to get Ukraine to give up Soviet nuclear weapons and other components it had inherited after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a long and complicated set of negotiations took place. Some in Ukraine wanted to keep nuclear weapons as a hedge against the possibility that Russia, in the future, would use its superior power to pressure Ukraine or even reincorporate it into a new union. The government of Leonid Kravchuk was persuaded to part with the weapons, in part by promises of massive Western foreign aid, and guarantees that Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity would be protected. The Budapest Memorandum, signed in December 1994, was a promise and pledge of the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia to secure Ukraine’s borders and to protect Ukraine against attack particularly by a nuclear power.
The problem, however, is that like many other “understandings” reached during the late Cold War and early post Cold War period, this was not set up as a formal treaty. So,
This promise was an important incentive in getting Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons. However, it is not akin to the treaty which created Belgium and which guaranteed its security–the stated reason for Britain to declare war on Germany in 1914 after the German army violated the Belgian frontier. It is, as the title suggests, a memorandum. It was never ratified by the Senate and it offers no security guarantees whatsoever to Ukraine."
There are no easy answers to Putin, but the current approach is not going to work.

Next Iran.  The West has been negotiating for years with the Iranians to give up the technology and materials that can be used to build a nuclear weapon.  There has been lots of stalling and half-hearted claims of wanting to negotiate by the Iranians.  Some of the talks are in their 12th round. Sanctions do not seem to be working.  The current round of negotiations looks like it will fall through.  If some workable diplomatic solution is not found soon, will the Isreaeli's take military action.  This could result in a new explosion in the Middle East.  The Obama administrations indecision and wishy-washy approach here, as with the Ukraine, only encourages our opponents.   Again there are no easy answers, but something more needs to be done.  The Obama administration's head-in-the-sand approach, which we saw initially with ISIS, is not going to work.

OT: Insight into individual and cultural factors in Islamic terrorism, the role of sexual repression

What drives  many conservative Muslims into unspeakably brutal terrorism? What drives even some westernized Muslims into this horror? This NYT story is about a relatively educated and affluent young conservative Muslim male who felt guilty about his "western lifestyle" and joined ISIS.  Unlike many other analyses,  it offers some relatively unexplored insights on both the individual and group level.
"There is no single path that leads to jihad, but in exploring Mr. Yaken’s life, signposts emerge. There are influences familiar and easy to discuss, like a lack of economic opportunity and a renewed sense of political alienation, especially among youths. But there are also more delicate subjects — less often publicly debated, let alone dissected — like the increasingly conservative thinking that defines the faith for many Muslims today, or sexual repression among young people who are taught that their physical and emotional desires can bring them eternal damnation."

"This conundrum, often presented as a choice between a modern Western lifestyle and living a pious life, is central to understanding how Mr. Yaken transformed from an ambitious bodybuilder who tried to cast his charm on women to a jihadist violently imposing the strictest social code."

Conservative Islam with its strict rules on sex causes both sexual repression and sexual guilt. Going to the repressive extreme seems to be one possible way to deal with these feeling.  On the group level, the permissiveness about sex, nudity and pornography of western culture which is a message available to all on the internet, is a serious threat to conservative Islam.  Many have the unpleasant emotion of both being tempted and hated by the temptations of western culture.  Violent reactions are one way to deal with these uncomfortable, conflicting emotions.   Perhaps it offers a distraction that is strong enough to overcome the issues. They secretly envy the West, but hate it.  Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the theory of cognitive dissonance.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book on ATF's Scandalous Operation Fast and Furious

This book is written by a licensed firearms dealer who cooperated with the feds.  The book has a Foreword by Sheryll Atkisson the network reporter who broke was among the first to blow the whistle on the outrageous cross-border gun scheme pursued by BATF.  Most of the national media ignored the story.

Federal Court strikes Down Obamas Executive Order on Delaying Deportation of 4-5 million

In a victory for the separation of powers doctrine in the U.S. Constitution, a U.S. District Court invalidated the Obama administration's executive order regarding delayed deportation of around 5 million aliens.  Yes, the President has discretion in how to enforce the law, and can fill in small gaps until Congress acts, but this is an act of national policy-making which by Art I of the Constitution is granted only to Congress.  The President's duty, under Article II is to enforce the law, not make it.  See portions of the Constitution below:

"Article. I.

Section. 1.
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States

 

Article. II.

Section. 1.
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America."





Unfortunately, the court rested its ruling on a federal statute, the Administrative Procedure Act.  The administration obviously violated the Act:  According to the excellent S.Ct. website SCOTUDBLOG:

"The states, in suing over both the new program and the expansion of the 2012 arrangements, had made two broad claims: a constitutional claim, that the president and other officials had failed to “faithfully execute” the laws, as Article II requires, and a claim that government officials put the changes into effect without approval by Congress and without following the proper procedures.
Judge Hanen ruled only on the procedural point, finding that the new policy was implemented in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires the government to seek public reaction before implementing a new policy or program.  He rejected the government’s argument that the program was solely a result of the exercise of enforcement discretion that was not subject to review by the courts and did not have to go through the APA procedures."

The feds will appeal. Stay tuned.  Some court along the line needs to rule on the constitutionality of such actions.

Hand-held Drug Identification Device being developed


Scientists are working on a hand-held drug identification device.  If it works with reasonable accuracy, this should help those who are found in possession of something that merely looks like an illegal drug.  Might help reduce the jail population a little.  Of course, trying to sell a legal product by falsely claiming it is a controlled substance is a crime ("counterfeit drug").

2nd Amend does not protect open carry (?)


"In what judges described as a first-of-its-kind case, an appeals court Wednesday upheld a Florida law that prevents people from openly carrying firearms, finding that the restriction does not violate the constitutional rights to bear arms." . .  ."The ruling described the case as presenting a question of "first impression" about whether the Second Amendment forbids the state from banning the open carrying of firearms while allowing people to carry concealed weapons under a permitting system". 

Does the word "bear" in the Second Amendment mean that guns can be "borne" only when concealed?  I don't think so.  That construction would certainly surprise the Founding Fathers.  This is an intermediate state court of appeal opinion.  Stay tuned.