Monday, June 28, 2010

Supreme Court Strikes Down Chicago Handgun Ban

CNN: High Court Strikes Down Chicago Handgun Ban

In another dramatic victory for firearm owners, the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional Chicago, Illinois', 28-year-old strict ban on handgun ownership, a potentially far-reaching case over the ability of state and local governments to enforce limits on weapons.

A 5-4 conservative majority of justices on Monday reiterated its 2-year-old conclusion that the Constitution gives individuals equal or greater power than states on the issue of possession of certain firearms for self-protection.

"It cannot be doubted that the right to bear arms was regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as states legislated in an evenhanded manner," wrote Justice Samuel Alito.

While encouraging, it isn't a complete victory. The standard used to reach this decision was not taken from the Privileges and Immunities clause of the constitution, which would have made state governments as beholden to the second amendment as the federal government, but from the Due Process clause, which simply means that the states cannot presumptively declare that a person cannot own a handgun, with no due process given.

The difference between the two standards is apparent if we use an analogy and change the amendment in question from the second to the first. Imagine Chicago had a law saying that you couldn't criticize any elected city official at any time. Also imagine, that when you went to the supreme court and challenged this law under the first amendment, they said "The first amendment really only applies to the federal government, and not to state and local government. However, we will limit them and say they can only restrict the speech of people through due process instead."

Sure, it's nice that they slapped down an obviously unconstitutional law, but at the same time they left the path wide open for other "lesser" restrictions of free speech. Instead of the "no one can ever criticize an elected city official" law, you get laws like "No convicted felon can ever criticize an elected city official" or "No one is permitted to criticize a city official in public" or "No one is permitted to use the following words when discussing a city official" and so on.

Better? yes. Fixed? Not by a long shot.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More "Heroic" Police Videos

Police gun down a chained, subdued dog, then cite and fine the owner for failure to muzzle the "vicious animal" that "attacked" them:

Police tell grandma to put her dog in the bathroom while they search her house, then open the bathroom door and gun the dog down anyway:

Quiz time: Which of the following are vicious attack dogs, requiring police officers, when confronting the dog, to use immediate deadly force?




D. All of the above.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Tax On Being Financially Responsible

We live in a world of taxes. Everything you or I buy is subject to taxation, either specifically (as in gas and cigarette taxes) or in general (sales tax). We are taxed on our salaries (payroll tax), on our investments (capital gains tax), and even on death (the estate tax). Each of these taxes hits different segments of the population more-so than others, depending on things such as income, net worth, and even personal habits.

But there is another tax, relatively unknown but extremely insidious, that targets only the financially responsible. Before we get into the specifics of that tax, however, I should define exactly what I mean by financially responsibility, since the tax affects each category differently. In my opinion, there are three types of people when it comes to finances:

The first type of people are what I will call the "financially irresponsible". These are the people that spend more than they make, have a chronic lack of cash in the bank, and rack up a large amount of unsecured debt.

The second type of people are what I will call "financially on-the-fence". These are the people that spend exactly as much as they earn. No more, no less. When the first unexpected bill arrives (e.g. car repair, medical deductible, etc.), they will often fall, if only temporarily, into the first category,.

The third type of people, as you might have guessed, are the "financially responsible". They not only refrain from going into debt, but also consistently put money away into a "rainy day" fund, either for emergency situations or retirement.

The financially responsible are the bedrock of banking industry, being the least likely to default on any loans they do take on (e.g. mortgages), so it may surprise you to learn that this mysterious tax not only targets the financially responsible, but actually works to the advantage of the financially irresponsible! What is this tax, you ask?

I'll call it the "Fed Tax".

Monday, June 14, 2010

SWAT Raids Revisited

The second "Related Reading" link on a previous post (SWAT Teams: Non-Proportional Response) about the increasing militarization of our nation's SWAT teams contained a situation where a SWAT team on a "drug raid" showed up in force at a family's house in the dark, went in guns first, shot the family's two dogs (one of which was caged, and the other was a Corgi) in front of the couple's children, found only a small amount of marijuana, and still had the gall to charge the parents with child endangerment when all was said and done.

A video of the raid is now available on YouTube:

I have to say that if I had the choice between having either the potheads or the SWAT team members as my next door neighbors, I'd take the potheads. They're much less likely to break into my house in the middle of the night to discharge automatic weapons into my harmless family pets in full view of my children. What heroes.

(And then there's Detroit, where a SWAT team set a 7-year old on fire with a flashbang grenade, then fatally shot her in front of her grandmother. A video crew was with the police there too, but given how protective law enforcement is of video evidence showing off their colossal screwups, I have my doubts as to whether or not it will ever see the light of day.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Senate Primary Hilarity

He's unemployed, he lives with his parents, he's under investigation for federal pornography charges, and he just won the Democratic primary for the South Carolina Senate seat with 59% of the vote. He's Alvin Greene.

He has no website, he held no campaign events, and despite being unemployed mysteriously ponied up the $10k required for a filing fee to run. His interviews with the press after this startling upset have been terrificly bad.

James Clyburn (D-SC) for the House has gone as far as to call him a Republican plant (South Carolina has open primaries), and has demanded an investigation by the U.S. attorney and the FEC.

God bless America . . .

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Land of the Mostly Free

Some interesting charts from the Center for Economic and Policy Research on the incarceration rate in the US compared to other countries:

And lest you think that perhaps we imprison so many people out of necessity, the following chart should shock you:

Sure, we're killing and stealing less, but little things like that won't stop the government from finding reasons to lock people up.