Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Want to follow Colorado's great pot experiment?

If you want more detail about Colorado's experiment with legalizing recreational pot smoking, check out this site.  It's a lot more complex than you might think.  For instance, employers can prohibit their employees from using both both on and off the job. 

Law enforcment deaths by guns lowest in many years

As is the case with homicide in general, more guns in society, more licensed concealed carriers, recognition of individual Second Amendment rights, etc.  have NOT resulted in more homicides of law enforcement.  This is not data from the NRA, it is from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

More on Arapahoe High Murder

The student who entered Arapahoe H.S. openly carrying a shotgun entered through a double door that should have been locked.  Instead, it was propped open for easier access for students and staff.   Tragedy often brings irrational responses.  The Sheriff said because the murder was intent on killing "he would have found a way to enter that school."  Arguably if a serious security system was in place the killer might not have been able to enter and might have been intercepted by armed personnel OUTSIDE the school.  The DA said there wasn't anything "that could have been done differently."  Really?  How about a proactive, target-hardening security system?  Where do they find these people?  Perhaps he was talking about he response of law enforcement and personnel. How about some kind of surveillance system, warning system, and more armed personnel (including trained licenses educational personnel) in the school.  Quick action by a janitor and armed school resource office prevented more casualties.  Some have argued that gun control laws kept the shooter from buying an "assault rifle" with a large capacity magazine.  This may be true, but misses the point.  No matter how the intruder is armed, if he or she can't get in the building it doesn't matter what they are carrying to kill inside the building.  Weaponry could be relevant to the results of a confrontation OUTSIDE the school.  However, trained personnel should be armed with weaponry adequate to match whatever the intruder has.  If the system gives these personnel a warning, their chances of a successful, low casualty intervention increases.    Hindsight is always 20/20, but there is no excuse for not being pro-active and using surveillance and communication expertise.   As I have stated before, think "target hardening."  For those who say all these efforts will hurt the learning atmosphere I say:  Would you rather have them dead in warm, relaxed, friendly atmosphere of denial, or alive in a security-conscious one?  Get real!  It can happen any place any time. We have got to face the reality of the existence of  violent people who will kill senselessly.  More importantly, let's not forget about Claire Davis, the innocent victim, and the tragedy of a young life ended senselessly.  Let's not forget about the pain of her friends and family.  RIP.  Don't forget about the pain for the family and friends of the suicidal killer.  Two young people died senselessly.  Keep them all in your prayers.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Federal judge upholds NSA security program

In a decision contrary to one reached by another federal judge not long ago, this federal court upheld the NSA program that collect huge batches of telephone records.  Congress and/or the Supreme Court need to step and get this monster under control.

TIH: Massacre at Wounded Knee: Disarming the Lakota: 1890

According to Wikipedia,The incident started when troops" went into the camp to disarm the Lakota"  More specifically:

"At daybreak on December 29, 1890, Col. Forsyth ordered the surrender of weapons and the immediate removal and transportation of the Indians from the "zone of military operations" to awaiting trains. "A search of the camp confiscated 38 rifles and more rifles were taken as the soldiers searched the Indians. None of the old men were found to be armed. "On the morning of December 29, the troops went into the camp to disarm the Lakota. One version of events claims that during the process of disarming the Lakota, a deaf tribesman named Black Coyote was reluctant to give up his rifle, claiming he had paid a lot for it.[6] A scuffle over Black Coyote's rifle escalated and a shot was fired which resulted in the 7th Cavalry's opening fire indiscriminately from all sides, killing men, women, and children, as well as some of their own fellow soldiers. Those few Lakota warriors who still had weapons began shooting back at the attacking soldiers, who quickly suppressed the Lakota fire. The surviving Lakota fled, but U.S. cavalrymen pursued and killed many who were unarmed."

Later, "Former Pine Ridge Indian agent Valentine T. McGillycuddy was asked his opinion of the 'hostilities' surrounding the Ghost Dance movement by General Leonard W. Colby commander of the Nebraska National Guard (portion of letter dated Jan. 15, 1891):[14]
"As for the "Ghost Dance" too much attention has been paid to it. It was only the symptom or surface indication of a deep rooted, long existing difficulty; as well treat the eruption of small pox as the disease and ignore the constitutional disease."
"As regards disarming the Sioux, however desirable it may appear, I consider it neither advisable, nor practicable. I fear it will result as the theoretical enforcement of prohibition in Kansas, Iowa and Dakota; you will succeed in disarming and keeping disarmed the friendly Indians because you can, and you will not succeed with the mob element because you cannot."

Setting aside the massarcre, is there some insight to be gained regarding today's obsessive gun controllers and gun control efforts aimed at law-abiding citizens?  What's your take?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Colorado's new pot laws

Colorado made headlines by partially legalizing pot recently.  If you are curious about how the laws will work,  see this website for information on the law as it will operate in Denver.  My libertarian and federalism sides applaud the move.  It's the laboratory of federalism on display.  The feds have caved. The "cautious" side of my philosophy says it will ultimately turn out to be a mistake.  Illegal pot use among youth and driving and accidents while stoned will probably go up.  Accidents in general will probably go up. The state will tax it and drive up the price to a point where the black market will flourish.  The law prohibits public pot smoking but police will give up or not even bother to enforce it.    It will become a chaotic pot free-for-all.    Is this a massive experiment with public health?  Overall, I favor the move. I follow this "Kesslerism;" When in  doubt, freedom should win out."  Good luck Colorado!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

FIRE's Top 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech

FIRE released its newest list of the top 10 worst colleges/universities for free speech.  Not surprisingly, Harvard made the list.  Although technically not educational institutions, Obamas Departments of Justice and Education made the list because of their support of a "national speech code."  According to FIRE:
"While not a college or university, back in May the Departments of Education and Justice mandated an unconstitutional speech code for all colleges receiving federal funding in what was arguably the biggest free-speech-on-campus story of the year. The speech code came as a result of an end to the agencies’ year-long joint investigation into the University of Montana’s (UM’s) practices and policies regarding sexual misconduct. The investigation was certainly warranted—UM had failed to respond to reports of sexual assault by football players—but the agreement the federal agencies reached with the university presented a serious threat to freedom of expression. Specifically, the agreement defined sexual harassment in a shockingly broad way, prohibiting “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including speech. Making matters worse, the agreement was labeled a “blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country,” meaning that if schools didn’t adopt the new definition, they risked losing their federal funding. As free speech advocates know, overly broad harassment codes have long been the tool used on campus to censor all sorts of unpopular speech. Only after FIRE organized a group of civil liberties advocates, like the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others, to sound the alarm over the summer did the agencies back away from the “blueprint.” But the fight isn’t over. The agencies backed away from the blueprint only in a letter to FIRE and have yet to notify colleges across the country of their position. Until they do, the blueprint still remains a threat to free speech on virtually every campus in the country."

Welcome to Obama's world of civil liberties and national security.  I strongly urge everyone who loves liberty to check out FIRE.

Unfortunately, academe shelters too many civil liberties hypocrites who refuse to grant equal rights to critics and their ideological enemies. 

Anit-bigamy statute partly unconstitutional (the "Sister Wives" case)

In a long  opinion  (Brown v. Buhman),  U.S. District  Court judge Clark Waddoups ruled that Utah's criminal anti-bigamy statute is partially unconstitutional.  The suit involves people from the controversial "Sister Wives" reality show and book. This is just a logical extension of the U.S. Supreme Court's rationale in Lawrence v. Texas.     See the excellent analysis by Ruthann Robinson.  I agree with the result.  As long as there is no  coercion, abuse or fraud, competent adults are involved, and the interests of children are protected, my libertarian side says bigamy should be lawful.

School violence threat hotline, etc.

In a post below I suggested proactive strategies to prevent school violence.  This link is a follow-up.  Colorado has a non-government threat hotline and  Michigan passed legislation to create one.  Another issue discussed is the suicidal motivation of many shooters and suicide prevention.  Colorado also has a "Youth Mental Health First Aid" program. There's a lot that can be done.  Why isn't more being done? Worthwhile read if you want more on this topic.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Utah federal judge strikes down state's ban on same-sex marrage.

"A federal judge struck down Utah's same-sex marriage ban Friday in a decision that brings a growing shift toward allowing gay marriage to a conservative state where the Mormon church has long been against it."  Folks, the handwriting is on the wall.  Prohibitions on gay marriage are dinosaurs.  Gay marriage is here to stay, socially and legally.

The NSA monster

On Monday,  D.C. federal District Judge Richard J. Leon stated that the NSA's treatment of phone records is "Orwellian" and inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment.  In spite of all the highly questionable things about  the NSA that have come to light, the President's promise to review the situation, the empty government reassurances, etc., etc., etc., the Obama administration continues to show its true, anti-civil liberties, colors by arguing that 2 current  spying/snooping cases against the government should be  stopped because they will damage national security. OUTRAGEOUS!  If there was any doubt, it is now clear that the Obama administration is creating a national security state.  It's time for the Supreme Court and Congress to step in and corral this monster.  Say what you will about Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden,  Wikileaks, Julian Assange etc., but without them how long would it have taken to discover the existence of this monster?

Common sense and school shootings

School shootings have tended to dominate the news in recent years. Here’s one man’s view based on some of the incidents and the research.  First, over the long haul, school shootings, like violent crime in general, has been going down (in spite of more guns and more licensed gun carriers).  More young people die in swimming pools than in schools.  Roughly 50 times as many young people are murdered AWAY from school than are murdered in school.  This is not to downplay the tragedy of school shootings, but to provide some perspective.  Secondly it’s time to get serious about target-hardening and becoming proactive.  These young people tend to send out hints of their plan.  A planned school shooting in Trinidad, CO was arguably thwarted by a tip to a school resource officer.  Everyone has got to pitch in and start sharing information.   Given young folks’ obsession with social media, that should be an obvious place to start watching.  In the Arapahoe High School shooting the killer approached the school with his shotgun in open sight.  How/why did he get into the school? The presence of an armed deputy who intervened relatively quickly arguably  saved lives. Security cameras, door locking systems, metal detectors and armed police or trained security guards and/or armed, trained staff seem like a good investment.  Hasn’t anyone heard of the concept of “target-hardening?”    The la-la-landers will whine that such actions will harm the “learning atmosphere.” It seems to me that a feeling of security would help that atmosphere.  Young people are flexible and will adjust.   How long does it take to restore that atmosphere AFTER a shooting?  After a while, no one at the school will notice the changes anymore. The wackos and pathological gun haters and fearers will continue to argue against  armed, trained protective  people in school. Get over it and get real about solutions!  It would seem that security needs to be priority one.  Perhaps schools need more counselling and more cracking down on bullying to help the potential shooters before they let loose.  Perhaps parents need more awareness and need to check on their kids more.  Schools and others have got to get proactive.  Parent are required by law to send their children to school.  School boards and administrators have a responsibility to these students.  When obvious safety mechanisms are not in place, boards and administrators should be held accountable.  Let’s top wasting time arguing about gun control, guns and get some things done that might actually work.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Nelson Mandela

As most everyone knows by now, one of the giant figures of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela passed away yesterday.  He was a towering figure in the fight for legal equality and justice in his homeland and a great inspiration to others.  He was not perfect, and has been criticized, rightly or wrongly for leaning Left too far and for advocating violence.  However, for me, a figure does not have to be perfect to be honored.   He had tremendous patience, perseverance, organizational skills and charisma.  Fortunately, these were used primarily for ends anyone who values liberty and justice can appreciate.  Perhaps even more impressive were his efforts to bring white South Africans into the mix rather than taking a reverse apartheid approach.  I have added him to my Hall of Fame. 

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Insurance company settles police excessive force case. Effect of such practices?

Many hope that money damages under federal civil rights statutes (e.g. 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983) will deter officers and agencies from future violations.  The presence of insurance clouds that picture.  In a case from Florence, CO, the company on it's own decided to settle for a $32,500 payment to a woman who alleged that a city police officer used excessive force when he used a stun-gun on her while she was handcuffed in a patrol car.  The insurer felt that a trial alone would cost more than the settlement figure.  Does this discretion by the insurer hurt the deterrent effect and/or encourage frivolous claims?  If course, the insurance company can always raise its rates and take the risk that they will be dropped.  This is a complex, but important issue.  I don't claim to know what the answer is. How about you?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Murder of family in 2010 remains unsolved

The mass murder of 4 members of the McStay family who disappeared in 2010 and whose bodies were discovered in 2013 remains an unsolved mystery.  California authorities have little evidence to go on.

Congress enacting fewer laws

Congress has enacted only 52 laws by the end of this Nov. This is the lowest number since at least 1947 when such data collection was started.  Congressional polarization and wrangling are blamed for this lack of "productivity."  Depending upon your personal approach, this is either a good or bad thing.  If you long for the creation of a federal nanny state this is a bad idea.  If you are skeptical of government action, the lack of productivity may  be a good thing.  Certainly much Congressional output is or contains special interest laws which benefit neither the general public or the nation as a whole (e.g. farm subsidies Much of it threatens civil liberties (e.g., portions of national security laws), much of it is wasteful patronage in which taxpayers money is used to buy votes of certain segments of the population.  Of course some is essential, constitutional and beneficial to people in general and the nation as a whole.To  a large extent it depends on whose ox is being gored.