Monday, January 31, 2011

Can Imagine the Uproar if Palin Said This:

"We have three branches of government. We have a House. We have a Senate. We have a President. And all three of us will have to come together ..."

Senator Charles Schumer
CNN’s State of the Union
January 30, 2011

I disagree with Senator Schumer on just about everything. I don't doubt that, in the proper context, Senator Schumer would list the three branches of government correctly. However just imagine the late night jokes if George Bush or Sarah Palin had said this.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Data Privacy and the 4th Amendment

Piggybacking off the previous post (the need for data privacy) the way we conceive of the 4th Amendment needs to be reviewed. In the 18th Century your papers and other vital information were stored in your house and government officials would have to enter your house and physically seize the papers.

Today your vital papers are stored at your bank(s), your credit card companies, your employer, doctor's offices, internet service providers and numerous others. The government having access to this information should be as difficult to get as the permission to enter your house and take the information from your office.

Amendment 28 to the US Constitution

I just saw something terrific on slashdot. In a response to the US government creating an internet "kill switch" (similar to what's happening in Egypt) one person proposed that we augment the 1st Amendment with the following:


"The right of the people to receive and provide information services without tracking, interception, or interruption thereof shall not be violated by the Government or agent thereof except by judicial warrant naming persons, data, and services to affected."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guns Equal Death Therefore We Ought to Ban Them

While the gun crazies are telling us that ever more Americans need to be walking around armed, we should keep in mind that more than a million people have died from gun violence — in murders, accidents and suicides — since Dr. King was shot to death in 1968.

We need fewer homicides, fewer accidental deaths and fewer suicides. That means fewer guns. That means stricter licensing and registration, more vigorous background checks and a ban on assault weapons. Start with that. Don’t tell me it’s too hard to achieve. Just get started.
How Many Deaths Are Enough? by Bob Herbert

Wow. What a horror! One million people have died from gun violence in 40+ years: that's approximately 25,000 a year. More American civilians have died since Martin Luther King was assassinated than American soldiers in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Iraq War and Afghanistan combined! Bob, you're so right - we need to stop this epidemic of violence.

Or is Bob Herbert mistaken? Certainly we need fewer homicides but clearly if all guns were illegal (or magically removed) we would still have homicides wouldn't we? Therefore we can't blame ALL homicides on guns. Let's say that all accidental gun deaths would be eliminated if guns were illegal. That's not entirely true as professionals still make mistakes as well as illegal gun owners. Finally, is it just to blame guns for suicides? Certainly that ought to be removed from the equation as drugs, cars, windows and bridges would remain giving people intent on suicide numerous alternatives.

A quick look at the US Statistical Abstract shows that, on average, about 650 Americans die by accidental gun deaths. At the same time approximately 3,200 Americans drown; 19,000 die from falls and 48,000 from car, boat, airplane and other "transport" accidents. Since safety is the primary concern perhaps we ought to ban swimming, driving, flying and other dangerous activities as well.

Clearly as tragic as the 650 deaths are it is not a reason to outlaw guns. First of all not all these deaths are children accidently playing with their parents guns, some are gun-owner accidents; others are hunting accidents. We don't stop skiing because approximately 40 people die per year skiing; or sky diving because about 30 people a year die from them; or scuba diving, hiking, mountain climbing or other such activities.

Regarding suicides: approximately 34,000 people per year commit suicide in this country and about half (a little bit more than half) use guns. Certainly we cannot blame guns, in any way, for the suicides. The suicide rate in Japan is more than twice ours and they have some of the most stringent gun control laws in the world.

Let's review Bob Herbert's contribution to the debate:

We need fewer homicides, fewer accidental deaths and fewer suicides. That means fewer guns.

That means stricter licensing and registration, more vigorous background checks and a ban on assault weapons. Start with that. Don’t tell me it’s too hard to achieve. Just get started.

Bob Herbert is correct. There would probably be less homicides if we had stricter gun laws as about 2/3rds of the homicides are by guns. Still, if Mr. Herbert was interested in fewer gun homicides he would support increased penalties for using guns in crimes and doubling down on these increased penalties when it comes to gang crime. This would decrease gang violence and make poor neighborhoods safer. How about this: rather than banning the "assault" weapons for everyone (true assault weapons are outlawed) how about increasing the penalties for using these "assault" weapons in a criminal manner. Let's start penalizing criminal behavior and not gun ownership. Let's start with that. It's not too hard to achieve.

Somehow I don't think Bob Herbert would go for that.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Civility in Public Discourse and the Arizona Shooting

Obama is asking that we return civility to the public discourse. "We" are all to blame for the heated rhetoric that led to the Arizona shooting. There are two things wrong in the media reaction to Obama's speech. One: "we" are not responsible for the shooting, nor is any of the political speech from either the left or right. Second, Obama and the left are willing participants in the politics of destruction. Look at the civil way the left and the media has handled their disagreements with George Bush and Sarah Palin.

The heated rhetoric is from both sides, and I dare say, that if - and hopefully when - Obama care is defunded, declared unconstitutional, and repealled in every way that we will see even more violent rhetoric from the left than we do now. I wouldn't be surprised by violence similar to that in the anti-World Bank / G7 riots we see the world over. By the way those riots you've seen on your TV screens are coming from the left not the free-market right.

The frauds at MSNBC and the NYTs choose not to cover or sensationalize activities that don't promote their narrative. Example an anti-illegal immigration sherrif in Arizona was hung in effigy; pinata with his name was beaten until the head fell off and then the head held up to the jeering crowd. Now, I have little problem with this display, but imagine if the person beaten in effigy was on the left? That video, with its accompaniment of head-shaking actors pretending to be objective newscasters, would be played for days on end; with these same objective newscasters tut-tuting sadly; bemoaning the "extremism" on the right; and "fearing" for the future of our great republic.

Back to Obama: some of Obama's speech is very, very good:

As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.
Obama Urges Civility at Tucson Memorial

So, Obama, does anything in the above paragraph apply to you in how you view the world and your political adversaries? Will you criticize your staff and the media when they simply point fingers and irrationally assign blame? Will you review your rhetoric and your allies rhetoric regarding the Arizona immigration law? Or healthcare? Or gay rights?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Krugman and the Arizona Shooting

What is it about small, constitutionally limited government which terrifies so many people? What is it that scares them so much that they equate the love of individual freedom with tyranny, oppression and collectivist evils of all sorts (racism, fascism)?

When Major Hasan killed 13 people at Fort Hood commentators said not to rush to judgement. Even after it became clear that he had communication with "radicalized" imans the media still refused to make a connection between the shooting and islamo-fascists.

Now a deranged man whose belief systems have nothing in common with the Tea Party becomes a poster boy representating those who are in favor of limited government. What happened to not rushing to judgment? Read Krugman's blog post. The connections Krugman draws are not based in reality. It is one big smear. He writes: "We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was." Sure, as was the Time Square bombing attempt and the lunatic who flew his plane into that building in Austin earlier last year. In both those earlier incidents blame the Tea Party accusations were building up until it became clear that no possible connection could be made.

There is no connection this time either. What this is, what Krugman and others are doing, is stiffling debate. After all, they are insinuating that only kooks could possibly want a backwards, anti-progressive agenda such as a constitutionally limited government. By portraying the Tea Party in such a way they are saying to people: "You aren't a kook are you? Therefore you can't be for these wacko Tea Party types." This method, I hate to say it, works. I held off from tying myself to the Tea Party for months as I wasn't sure who, or what they were. Maybe they were the small-town, 3-tooth, inbred, brain-dead, racist fools that the media made them out to be.

The racist meme was tried and that didn't work for long. Now we have the climate-of-hate meme coming from people wearing Che t-shirts. Oh, the irony of it all. But now we see how scared and insignificant Krugman and his cronies are. Look at this update by Krugman:

Update: I see that Sarah Palin has called the shooting “tragic”. OK, a bit of history: right-wingers went wild over anyone who called 9/11 a tragedy, insisting that it wasn’t a tragedy, it was an atrocity.

9/11 was not a tragedy. It was a calculated act of war executed by 19 individuals who had material, financial, technological, and logistical help from dozens if not hundreds more. A tragedy is an act of nature or the random act of a madman. The shooting of John Lennon was a tragedy. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was not. The assassination of William McKinley was a tragedy. The firing of Washington by the British in 1814 was not.

Krugman and other small-minded people are going to call Palin a hypocrite for describing the shooting as "tragic." What's tragic is the left's refusal to consider any dissent from the party line. I'm pro-choice and respect the pro-life position. But to many on the left one cannot be pro-life and be rational at the same time. I'm pro gay-marriage and yet too many on the left cannot realize that WE (the pro-gay rights crowd) are attempting to change centuries of tradition in less than a life time. The animosity coming from the "multi-cultural" left to those with a different belief system, to those from another culture, is nothing short of, dare-I-say-it: reactionary.