Fox News Ticker

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Court upholds the right of free people to stay free

Three years ago the Supreme Court of the United States in the case Heller v. District of Columbia held for the first time the second amendment protected an individual right to keep and bear arms.

Monday, they extended that right to the entire country.

Despite the decision in Heller, the right to keep and bear arms had not passed the 14th amendment test which would extend that protection to the states.

That all changed Monday when in another 5-4 ruling with the liberal wing of the court predictably voting against the plain language of the constitution, the court struck down Chicago’s gun ban, noting they had already determined that citizens have a constitutional right to possess a firearm for purposes of self defense — and further noting Chicago‘s murder rate went up after the ban was enacted.

Moreover, Chicago’s arguments in the McDonald v. Chicago case were essentially, “if other countries don’t think they need this we shouldn’t either.”

“Municipal respondents’ ... arguments are at war with our central holding in Heller: that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home. Municipal respondents, in effect, ask us to treat the right recognized in Heller as a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees that we have incorporated into the Due Process Clause,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. “Municipal respondents’ main argument is nothing less than a plea to disregard 50 years of incorporation precedent and return (presumably for this case only) to a bygone era. Municipal respondents submit that the Due Process Clause protects only those rights “‘recognized by all temperate and civilized governments, from a deep and universal sense of [their] justice.’

“According to municipal respondents, if it is possible to imagine any civilized legal system that does not recognize a particular right, then the Due Process Clause does not make that right binding on the States.”

Alito goes on to point out that our bill of rights guarantees rights to criminal defendants which are all but unique to the United States.

By that standard, Alito says, the United States would be “the only civilized Nation in the world.”

Moreover, Alito points out “several of the countries that municipal respondents recognize as civilized have established state churches. If we were to adopt municipal respondents’ theory, all of this Court’s Establishment Clause precedents involving actions taken by state and local governments would go by the boards.”

Justice Antonin Scalia took it a step further, disparaging Justice John Paul Steven’s dissent directly.

“Justice Stevens has a different distinction in mind: Even though he does ‘not doubt for a moment that many Americans . . . see [firearms] as critical to their way of life as well as to their security,’ he pronounces that owning a handgun is not ‘critical to leading a life of autonomy, dignity, or political equality.’ Who says?” Scalia asked in his concurring opinion. “Deciding what is essential to an enlightened, liberty-filled life is an inherently political, moral judgment — the antithesis of an objective approach that reaches conclusions by applying neutral rules to verifiable evidence.”

We should all applaud this decision.

Finally the argument of whether or not the second amendment protects an individual right or a collective one has not only been settled but the question of if it applies to the states has been answered as well.

I look with interest at the fact the court, or at least the majority, notes that fewer firearms in the hands of law abiding citizens, does not a safer city make.

Again and again it has been shown, the best way to reduce crime is to make the criminals afraid of the average citizen.

Criminals are largely cowards. The look for the weak and undefended to prey upon. They will not willingly attack someone capable of defending themselves.

The police cannot protect us from home invasions or muggings on the street. Moreover, it’s not their job to do so. Their job is to investigate crime and arrest the perpetrators. It is only a happy accident when they are able to prevent a crime from happening.

Again and again we have heard “an armed society is a polite society.”

It seems the Supreme Court has finally acknowledged this basic fact.

This decision is particularly timely when we have a government which seems largely to be out of control.

Again and again the administration and the federal government ignores the constitution and it’s own laws. The second amendment was intended, and still serves as a final check on the government.

This is it’s most important and primary purpose — to prevent tyranny by reminding would-be tyrants the people have the power to reject them.

Do not misunderstand, the time when “the tree of liberty must be refreshed ... with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” has not yet come. I still hope for a renaissance in America which will return this nation to the greatness it so richly deserves — but the second amendment must stand as the final bulwark between the American people and a runaway government.

All IMHO of course.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

No-go area highlights border problems

On June 17, Fox News reported approximately 3,500 acres of federal land in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona remains closed to taxpayers — four years after it was originally closed.

The area has been closed since Oct. 6, 2006 because of “a marked increase in violence along the border due to human and drug trafficking,” according a statement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fox News reports there are signs posted which read, “Visitors may encounter armed criminals and smuggling vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed. Stay away from trash, clothing, backpacks and abandoned vehicles.”

In other words, the federal government has effectively ceded control of American soil to the Mexican drug cartels.

Our founders must be spinning in their graves.

Meanwhile on June 9 there was an armed standoff between American Border Patrol Agents and what were, depending upon who you talk to, either Mexican National Police or Mexican soldiers near El Paso, Texas, after the tragic shooting of a 15 year-old Mexican boy by the Border Patrol.

Then, of course, we have Phoenix, Ariz., which is the No. 1 place in America to go — provided you want to be kidnapped by the cartels. There were 366 people kidnapped by the cartels in Phoenix in 2008, the last year for which I was able to find complete numbers.

And it’s not just happening in Phoenix, other border states are finding the same problem, and it’s not just illegals which are being kidnapped. It’s American citizens as well.

So of course, the administration is responding to these outrageous violations of American sovereignty with dispatch.

Of course they are moving to secure the border and protect Americans.

Of course they are moving to punish the cartels which are operating with near impunity on American soil.

Or perhaps not.

Perhaps what the administration is actually doing is preparing to sue the state of Arizona over an immigration law which does nothing but insist the state enforce existing federal law.

Perhaps what the administration is actually doing is inviting Mexican President Felipe Calderon to speak to a joint session of Congress in order to chide us for immigration laws which are many times more liberal than Mexico’s.

To be fair Obama did send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border. Well, sort of to the border — the troops will be in mostly administrative positions — useful to be sure, but not boots on the ground securing the border.

Critics scream that sending the 6,000 troops senators John McCain and Jon Kyl have called for would set the border aflame.

The problem is the border is already aflame — on our side.

It’s time to take the gloves off. We need to take the cartels down and secure our border.

If that means sending special forces across the border to target and kill the cartels, so be it.

If that means sending combat troops to the border to interdict smuggling — again, so be it.

It is unbelievable to me that we have allowed this to continue for as long as we have. It is time it stopped.

All IMHO of course.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Risk not necessarily a bad thing

Recently 16-year-old Abby Sunderland’s attempt to solo sail around the world cake to it’s final end as she was picked up in the Indian Ocean by a French vessel after a storm carried away her mast and left her boat disabled.

Her father, a shipwright and sailing instructor from Los Angeles has come under heavy criticism for allowing her to attempt the voyage and both have been criticized for poor planning. This is winter in the Indian Ocean and apparently it’s a bad place to be this time of year.

Additionally, her father Laurence Sunderland has signed a contract to do a reality show about his family.

This was, obviously, a dangerous voyage, especially for a 16-year-old. However, her older brother briefly held the world record for the youngest solo sail around the world before an Australian girl, also 16, took the record earlier this year.

One can debate whether or not this was a good idea for a girl this young, or the wisdom of the route she chose or even if this was a publicity stunt or not.

However, it does point up a question worth reflecting on.

When, as a society did we become so risk averse?

More importantly, what does it say about us?

We are a nation which historically has been the haunt of bold adventurers. We sent pioneers across the continent when roughly 10 percent died on the way to Oregon. Lewis and Clark set out to explore the interior knowing there was a good chance they would never return.

In the 1960s astronauts strapped themselves atop missiles filled with high-explosives and built by the lowest bidder and blasted into space mostly because they could. Some of them didn’t come back.

Now?

The Space Shuttle, just as an example, has a remarkable safety record. There have been exactly two fatal accidents in over 100 flights. And yet in both instances we have shut the fleet down for years — and now there is no replacement on the horizon.

We took hundreds of thousands of casualties in World War II, but in Somalia the death of just a few soldiers forced us out — soldiers who knew and accepted the risks when they signed up.

We pass restrictive regulation after restrictive regulation, all in the name of safety.

“If it saves only one life,” the refrain goes.

The problem with this is two fold.

First, of course, is the restrictions to our freedom from seatbelt laws to helmet laws which take away the right of people to asses the risks and make informed decisions of their own what risks they’re willing to accept.

Second, is a society which is increasingly afraid of it’s own shadow.

No one wore bicycle helmets when I was a kid. Most of us, like 99.9 percent or more, did just fine thank you, no major injuries. Not one of us died, or suffered brain damage.

At 15 I learned to ride a motorcycle. My mother was worried, but said so long as I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCourse to learn how to ride as safely as possible she’d back me.

About a year later, at 16, I was on my way to work when a car turned left in front of me and I went over it’s hood.

I broke my wrist, and as soon as it healed up I was back on a motorcycle.

Life is risk. You can die getting out of the shower. Statistically, your house is the most dangerous place you are all day.

We must stop trying to eliminate all risk from the world. We do ourselves and our children no favors by trying to keep them safe at all costs.

Some things are worth fighting and aye, dying for.

Some things cannot be achieved without putting it all on the line.

In 1988 I read an essay in Cycle World Magazine titled “A Sense of Drama.”

Near the end of the essay the author said it far better than I ever could, and more than 20 years later the words still ring in my head.

“A motorcyclist, or a mountain climber or a sky diver holds his life in his hands, and in that sweet grasp he learns to love who he is, and even the limits which define him.”

Indeed.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

FTC report direct assualt on journalism

In 2009 the Federal Trade Commission began a project to “consider the challenges faced by journalism in the Internet age.”
A year later they've come back with their “draft recommendations,” which are “only for the purposes of discussion.”
Color me concerned.
“Journalism is moving through a significant transition in which business models are crumbling, innovative new forms of journalism are emerging, and consumer news habits are changing rapidly.”
The document reads in part, and points out that newspaper advertising revenue, which pays the majority of the costs of producing the paper, have dropped some 45% in the last 10 years as new media, such as this blog, talk radio and 24 hour news networks have cut into their funding.
The upshot is of course, many newspapers are failing, newsroom staffs are cut and cut some more – interestingly enough upper management and often middle management don't seem to take those cuts, just the “non revenue producing” folks who actually gather the news, which is why subscribers read the thing in the
first place.
In fact, it's mostly the large metro dailies which find themselves in trouble. Along with the huge media conglomerates which own them. Most are leveraged to the hilt and it's not declining advertising revenue which is killing them but unmanageable debt.
But I digress.
It's no surprise to anyone that old bastions of the business are failing. The New York Times is a long way from profitable. Many other major market papers are failing, The Seattle Post-Inteligencer cut its print product entirely and is now web only – and doing quite well as an aside.
All this is a bit concerning for some one like me who has spent most of his adult life in the print newspaper business and considers himself a journalist of the old school. I got into this business because I loved it, and I stay in it, because I love it.
What the FTC is proposing however concerns me far more.
It is nothing less than a government takeover of the Fourth Estate in the name of “saving it.”
The report suggests things such as:
Changes in law such as additional intellectual property rights to support claims against news aggregators.
Changes in copyright law to protect “hot news,” to protect the “underlying facts” of a story from use by others for a limited period of time.
Industry-wide licensing arrangements such as are used by record companies and the movie industry.
Fox News reported several others:
The creation of a "journalism" division of AmeriCorps, the federal program that places 75,000 people with local and national nonprofit groups annually.
Providing grants to universities to conduct investigative journalism.
Tax credits to news organizations for every journalist employed.
A 5 percent tax on consumer electronics, which would generate roughly $4 billion annually, to pay for increased public funding.
I'm certain the bean counters in the corporate offices of the New York Times would love to see some of these proposals pass.
So would many of the progressives in the Administration.
A free and unfettered press is essential to our experiment in freedom.
The things the FTC proposes would see that end.
Worse they would set the stage, if not create outright, the sort of state controlled media we used to decry in the Soviet bloc.
I realize in many ways we have that now in all but name, but there remains at present at least some hope my colleagues will wake up and realize what's become of them.
Fox News reports Jeff Jarvis, an associate professor at the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism, saying; “The problem with this is that the FTC is trying to set an agenda here, that some sort of government intervention is necessary. It's a power grab by the FTC and it's also an example of one old power structure circling its wagons around another."
Should the recommendations in this “draft proposal” come to pass it will be the death knell of journalism in America.
For all the bias of the current mainstream media, they at least do not get their paychecks from the government. They can and sometimes do, still actually do their job.
The few honest journalists left, the guys in the trenches like me. Overworked, underpaid professionals who just want to get the story right will not accept the restrictions that would come with this. We want to report the news – it's hard to do that when a federal bureaucrat is telling you what to write.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Second Holocaust all too possible

The year is 1945, and the allies have just liberated the German concentration camps, and found a horror of which the world had yet to even realize the scope.

Soon the world would realize the Nazis had systematically exterminated between 8 and 10 million people — 6 million of them Jews.

The cry rang out “Never again,” not just from Jews world wide but from the world.

By 1947 the Jews had their own state, in their ancestral homeland, and the saying “Next year in Jerusalem,” was finally possible.

Fast forward a bit more than 60 years and Israel is once again under siege — as it has been all too often in its history.

Terrorists within are trying to destroy the tiny nation. Surrounding countries from Syria to Iran are threatening to wipe them off the map, all for no better real reason than because they are Jews — the same reason Hitler, the Inquisition and numerous others have used over the centuries to try to destroy them.

So with the outrage of the Holocaust still within living memory the world has rallied to the defense of Israel, right?

Wrong.

Last week, the Turks, long an ally of Israel allowed a “relief convoy” to sail for Gaza. The Israelis declared a blockade of that port a couple of years ago to prevent weapons from getting to Hamas, which is a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

The blockade was completely legal under international law, and when the Israeli defense forces boarded one of those “relief” vessels their soldiers were attacked and forced to defend themselves — several of the crew died. Generally speaking, attacking armed men with boat hooks and pipes isn’t smart.

So did the world condemn the terrorists?

Of course not.

Israel has been roundly condemned every time they defend themselves.

Like the 1930s, anti-semitism is once again fashionable.

Of course, those who spout such garbage say they’re not anti semitic, just anti Israel. This is specious nonsense, you can’t be one without the other.

Helen Thomas, long considered the dean of the White House press corps, has gone into several anti-semitic rants in recent days calling the Israeli action a deliberate massacre, international crime, and called Israel a terrorist state, Bigjournalism.com reports.

In addition she’s been quoted as saying the Jews should go back to Germany and Poland.

Many called for her firing by Hearst Newspapers, and for her expulsion from the White House Press corps.

Yesterday she announced she would retire. But we also need to examine if it would really make any difference.

She’s not said anything that others haven’t said, or worse.

It’s sad to see our president snub and insult our only real ally in the region. The world turn a blind eye when nutjobs like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad scream for the destruction of the tiny state and Europe once again stands silent, or worse — they condemn Israel beside terrorists like Ahmadinejad.

Who can blame the Israelis for having a siege mentality?

Who can blame them if they are perhaps a little too willing to shoot first and ask questions later? Which by the way, they did not do in this case.

Given their history the Israelis do not and should not trust any outside group for their security.

Every time they’ve done so in more than 4,000 years of history they have paid with the lives of their people.

It is time to change that history. It is time to stand with them.

We must stand up and again say “never again.” Or a second Holocaust will become a sad reality, and this time the blood will be on our hands.

All IMHO, of course.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Oil spill no more Obama's fault than Katrina was Bush's

As thousands of gallons of oil a day spill into the Gulf of Mexico, after the explosion and sinking of the Deep Water Horizon oil platform, the Obama Administration increasingly finds itself under fire for it's response, or lack thereof to the disaster.
Agence France-Presse reports “Officials have consistently rejected parallels between the ongoing oil spill and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the Bush administration was slow to respond to an evolving disaster.”
As the “slow response,” to an “evolving disaster” is largely a myth created by the media and critics of George W. Bush as a convenient stick with which to beat their favorite dog, I thought it might be useful to look at the actual response to Katrina, the Bush Administration response to the tornado that wiped out Greensburg, Kan. In 2007 and this current debacle in the Gulf.
It is accurate to say the then Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown was a bumbler and in over his head.
It is neither fair nor accurate to say the federal response was slow. In fact, FEMA's response was as near text-book as you can get in the real world. FEMA generally expects to have boots on the ground 72 hours after they are requested. And this is the important part. They must be requested before the agency can act. The reason for that 72 hour response time is quite simple. As Popular Mechanics pointed out in its article Debunking the Myths of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA is not a first responder organization. FEMA provides coordination between local, state, federal and private response teams. FEMA has relatively few full time employees, most are part timers who are called out when they are needed. It takes 72 hours to get those employees, mobilized, on planes and to the disaster area and then organized.
As the editors of Popular Mechanics note, “Bumbling by top disaster-management officials fueled a perception of general inaction, one that was compounded by impassioned news anchors. In fact, the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall.”
The delays were mostly due to local governments not moving quickly enough. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin waited until the day before the storm hit to issue a mandatory evacuation order, something in hindsight that should have been done days before when it was clear New Orleans was going to take a major hit. Most computer projections showed Louisiana losing 60,000 people to a storm like Katrina. The actual death toll? 1077-- still too many, but far less than it could have been.
Fast forward about two years, and an EF-5 tornado has struck a small Kansas town head on. Greensburg, Kan. is leveled – literally. Ninety-five percent of the town was destroyed and the remaining five percent was severely damaged. FEMA was on hand almost immediately.
A story on CNN.com quotes then-mayor Lonnie McCollum, “As I broke down my back door to go out, there's a fireman from Dodge City, Kansas," McCollum said. "He meets me as I'm digging out of the rubble to see if I'm OK. And almost the next person behind him is somebody from FEMA.”
Of course, our then-governor Kathleen Sebelius couldn't resist taking a shot at the Bush Administration saying the response was too slow because too much National Guard manpower and equipment was in Iraq.
Interestingly enough nobody else seemed to think so.
Fast forward three more years and we have the oil leak in the gulf. Eight days after the explosion Barak Obama had yet to even comment.
The administration is now claiming to have had boots on the ground from day one of the disaster. They are of course, claiming the search and rescue operations by the U.S. Coast Guard as part of the response. This is disingenuous at best.
By that metric the Bush Administration's response time to Katrina was – two hours as Coasties were on the scene conducting SAR operations shortly after the storm had passed.
At the time of the explosion there was no oil leak, no major disaster. Just a normal part of Coast Guard daily operations – finding and rescuing people lost at sea.
The administration started by roundly criticizing British Petroleum, the company which leased the rig.
He has said BP caused the leak and BP will be footing the bill. Fair enough so far as it goes.
We've had a relentless round of rhetoric from the Obama Administration.
The Huston Chronicle reports him as saying.
“I'm not going to rest … or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source (and) the oil on the Gulf is contained,” after a closed-door briefing on the recovery efforts in Venice, La.
We've even had attacks on the Bush Administration with current administration officials reportedly blaming the previous administration for the lack of oil booms to contain the spill.
The reality is, the administration is doing what politicos do – trying to capitalize on a crisis for whatever they can get out of it – in this case probably no more drilling in the Gulf.
It is also true that blaming Obama for the oil leak after a piece of equipment failed, 5,000 feet under water, is no more fair than blaming Bush for the failure of the levees in New Orleans.
In both cases man made structures failed, they do that.
What needs to happen is concentrated cleanup efforts, an investigation to find out A.) what part of the blowout preventer failed. B.) was it installed improperly and C.) if this was just an accident, what can we do to prevent it in the future.
Yes BP should pay for the cleanup, it was their rig, that's fair.
But using this to shut down an industry, which is where I fear this is headed, is political grandstanding of the worst sort – but we're used to that from this President.