Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

The weblog companion of, dedicated to pondering, "If Patrick Henry could see us now..."

Friday, December 31, 2004

Brady Campaign to gun owners: "You're stupid!"

Apparently the nation's pre-eminent victim disarmament (excuse me, gun control) organization thinks gun owners are too stupid to understand gravity:
In dozens of American communities this New Year's Eve, overexcited and under-intelligent individuals will welcome 2005 with an act of stupidity. They may kill an innocent in the bargain, too.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Million Mom March are joining with America's police departments to urge Americans not to engage in what police call "celebratory gunfire" - the indiscriminate unloading of weapons into the air. On New Year's Eve and Independence Day each year, scores of people place others at risk of injury or death as a result of celebratory gunfire. When a bullet is fired into the air, the bullet has to come down somewhere.
No kidding! I sure am glad the Brady folks are here to tell us these things. I personally find their mission statement the most interesting:

As the nation's largest national, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence united with the Million Mom March is dedicated to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in their communities.
Considering the rampant skyrocketing of gun crime in areas where private gun ownership is outright prohibited (England, Australia, and Washington, D.C. to name a few) and the considerably safer areas where gun ownership is legal and concealed carry is available to all (Arlington, VA, just across the river from D.C.), I would think that an organization dedicated to preventing gun violence (or at least reducing, since 100% prevention will never be feasible) would be dedicating its significant resources and advocate an increase in responsible gun ownership. Maybe even encourage legislation like that of Kennesaw, GA which, during the time where there was a law that every homeowner was required to own and keep a firearm in their home, had one of the nation's lowest violent crime rates.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

John Lott responds to National Academy's study

Here is John Lott's response to the recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that all the research done to date shows neither an increase or reduction in gun crime following either gun control laws or right-to-carry laws.
While more research is always helpful, the notion that we have learned nothing flies in the face of common sense. The NAS panel should have concluded as the existing research has: Gun control doesn’t help.

Instead, the panel has left us with two choices: Either academia and the government have wasted tens of millions of dollars and countless man-hours on useless research (and the panel would like us to spend more in the same worthless pursuit), or the National Academy is so completely unable to separate politics from its analyses that it simply can’t accept the results for what they are.
Think what you will about John Lott and his research and his methods, but I'm with him on this one. I think the NAS is wrong, and that liberal gun ownership does decrease crime ("An armed society is a polite society"). But ignore my belief that they're wrong, and consider this: isn't more freedom always better, especially in situations that even the pro-big government-types and gun control (AKA victim disarmament) advocates admit that they're not sure which policy is "better"?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

LttE - Error-correction

Submitted Monday 12/27/2004 to the Orange County Register:
Has fact-checking gone the way of the dodo these days? Monday’s letters had two glaring errors that just can’t go without correction.

Abby Winston states specifically that a 40- to 50-year investment in stocks have yielded a 6% return, and questions the intelligence of taking the risks inherent in the stock market when Social Security is 100% guaranteed. She’d have a point except that the overall stock market has, year-over-year since before the Great Depression, returned an average of 11% per year – with index funds like the S&P 500 and Russell 2000, considered some of the safest investments possible, more often than not outperforming the overall market.

Michael Friedman questions Walter Williams and supporters of HR 25’s national sales tax, asserting that a 30% sales tax would hit low- and middle-income families the hardest. What he’s missing is that this has already been addressed: HR 25 provides a prepaid monthly rebate to cover the sales tax spent on necessities up to the federal poverty level – in 2004 that would have been $471/month for a family of four. That adds up to low-income families retaining more purchasing power than under the income tax.

Social Security - the real solution

Among all the proposals, assertions (with or without supporting data), commentary, and yes, personal attacks (check here, here, here, here, and here for a few examples), where is the real solution being discussed? Not the kinda-sorta free-market quasi-privatization that may or may not be put forth by the Bush administration and/or the GOP in Congress next year. And not the save-it-at-all-costs, pander to the AARP voting bloc, tax-raising (oh, but only on the top 2% of earners, a la California's recent Prop. 63 tax on millionaires), just-enough-to-keep-it-afloat-for-now tactics of the Democrats. I'm talking about the real, actual, freedom-enhancing, ownership-increasing, liberty-supporting solution.

The ability to opt out.

I'm serious - I'll sign an affadavit affirming that I promise, even on pain of starvation at 70, to never, ever ask the Social Security Administration for one single dime of benefits, if I can just remove myself from this tired excuse for a retirement program and never have to pay one single dime more into it. Seriously, they can even keep the tens of thousands I've already "contributed", I won't even ask for it back. Just let me live my life, do my job, and keep what I earn to manage the best way I know how, and I believe enough in myself that I'll be fine in my retirement years. Why isn't anybody talking about that option - doesn't anybody believe in freedom anymore?

Monday, December 27, 2004

9/11 seen as a reason federalism works...

and why abandoning it doesn't. This article highlights the unintented consequences that abound when the federal government is doing things that should be left to the states, like, oh I don't know, investigating and prosecuting crimes!
Moreover, a federal government focused on everything from cockfighting to steroid use is a federal government that's not focused on truly national issues. Case in point: In the months leading up to the September 11 attacks the FBI was engaged in an 18-month-long sting operation at a brothel in New Orleans that netted 12 prostitutes. September 11 should have concentrated the mind wonderfully as to proper federal priorities, yet federal law enforcement to this day continues to behave like the local vice squad.
18 months. They caught 12 prostitutes but ignored the 12 hijackers that ended up killing over 3000 people. Excellent priority-setting!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Ahhh, gotta love the public schools

Great article about how horribly educated even soon-to-be college graduates are:
The vast majority of these soon-to-be college grads were not aware of even the most basic facts concerning their nation's history. Most, for example, could not identify the decade of any of America's wars. Any! Most couldn't identify the century. A mere 16 percent were able to date the beginning of the Revolutionary War to the 1770s, and only 12 percent chose the 1860s as the time of the Civil War. Two-thirds were unable to date the War of 1812. The mind boggles.

America's enemies in these wars? Fewer than one in three knew Great Britain was their country's foe in the American Revolution. Most weren't even able to work out who the United States fought in the 'Korean' or 'Vietnam' wars. When asked where the words 'Four score and seven years ago' came from, only 17 percent were able to identify the Gettysburg Address. And just 17 percent (presumably the same students) knew what those six words meant.

To test simple arithmetic skills, I asked what 70 percent of 240 was. This is middle school stuff. But most had no idea how to figure it out. When asked to make change for a $5 bill when a purchase came to $1.37, one-quarter of California's future bachelors of science weren't able to figure it out.

Perhaps the problem is they're too busy studying current events. Perhaps, but only 16 percent could name California's two senators, and only 29 percent knew the Senate was composed of 100 members, though one soon-to-be grad said, 'Fifty, two from each state.'

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Arson at Wal-Mart?

This happened yesterday at the Wal-Mart in Brea, CA, just a mile or two from my home in Fullerton. I may be jumping the gun here, but I wouldn't be surprised if this turns out to be some kind of unionist wacko of the "Wal-Mart is the antichrist" set. I sure hope they can identify the perpretrator from the video and catch the coulda-been-a-murderer. I'm already having visions of a Law & Order- or CSI-type interrogation room confession where the arsonist tearfully says, "I never meant to hurt anyone, I just wanted to teach them a lesson!"

Things the critics of the "outsourcing" bogeyman won't tell you

Two things to remember about the horror that some pundits call "outsourcing":
The Information Technology Association of America has estimated that outsourcing to countries such as India and China created a net 90,000 new jobs in IT in the US in 2003, and this is expected to rise to 317,000 new US jobs by 2008. Workers displaced by outsourcing can, with appropriate training, be moved to more lucrative and productive jobs. For example, between 1999 and 2003 some 70,000 computer programmers lost their jobs, but 115,000 higher paid jobs were created in other parts of the IT industry.
What? You mean different and better jobs are created when existing jobs are given to other, more cost-efficient companies, whether here in the US or offshore? Naaahhh, come on, that's just crazy talk.

Then there's this:
It should also be remembered that outsourcing is not a one-way street. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs outsourced from the US increased from 6.5 million in 1983 to 10 million, but in the same period the number of jobs outsourced from other countries to the United States increased from 2.5 million to 6.5 million.
What? You mean companies in other countries actually might prefer to use workers in the United States to do certain jobs? I thought we needed protectionism to make sure our people had jobs, why would other countries be hiring our people?

The inescapable fact of the free market is this: either the United States has very capable people who should be able to find gainful employment (from firms here or abroad) due to their skillsets and work ethics, or they don't. Perhaps it's somewhere inbetween - and those that have the skills (or the work ethic to develop new skills when required) will work; those that don't, won't. Period and point-blank.

See, this is what I don't like about politics and the two-party monopoly

Glenn Reynolds, a law professor, blog pioneer (Instapundit) and ardent conservative/Republican, had this to say regarding the lack of success the RIAA and MPAA had in all its abundance of litigation in 2004:
And if the courts don't do the job, perhaps politics will. Republicans are beginning to notice that the chief beneficiaries of this intellectual property explosion are entertainment industries that support Democrats. Legislation to limit their power would deprive the opposition of funding, while winning the affection of the tens of millions of voters - especially younger, technology-savvy voters - whose slogan is 'Keep your grubby laws off my computer.' Will Republicans take advantage of this opportunity? That depends on whether they want to be a majority party - or history.
With solid control of both Congress and the Executive, the Republicans have it within their power to get rid of the DMCA and related laws that restrict free speech in the name of intellectual property, and to deal a blow to the industries and people who have been their most determined, well-funded, and vitriolic opponents. Extend Michael Moore's copyrights? The politics of this situation ought the favor free speech.
As a vociferous supporter of free markets, capitalism, technological innovation, and basically anything that will (legally) give the RIAA a black eye, what could I possibly have against this little diatribe? I'll tell you since you asked. Is it just me, or is something as important as freedom turning into nothing more than another political pawn, a gamepiece to be used when it will advance a particular party's agenda - hopefully at the expense of that of the other party? Why can't Republicans embrace freedom not because it'll put a thorn in Michael Moore's side or because it might win a big voting block (the above-mentioned "tech-savvy") - but because it's the right thing to do? Why must everything devolve to partisan politics for the sake of partisan politics?

Entirely too many Democrats and Republicans are way too fixated on the labels of their friends and enemies and not giving enough mindshare to the principles that they believe in and should be encouraging in their representatives. That's one of the things that a breaking of the two-party monopoly would, I believe, bring to the country. Each party would have to vigorously defend their platforms and issues with reasoned and principled analysis rather than just being able to say, "What we're offering may be slightly off-putting to you, but you better vote for us so you don't get stuck with the repugnant stuff that other guy is offering!" Talk about free exchange in the marketplace of ideas.

LttE - San Francisco = England & D.C.?

Submitted Wednesday 12/22/2004 to the Orange County Register and the San Francisco Chronicle:
So San Francisco wants to go the way of Washington, D.C. and England in the complete and total ban of private handgun ownership. There are two things San Francisco residents should be aware of before they go to the voting booth next year.

Number 1: In 2001 when the murder rate in gun-free zone Washington, D.C. was 43.7 per 100K (that’s directly out of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports – I wonder where the AP got that 9.4 number), the murder rate just across the river in Arlington, VA (where handgun ownership is legal and concealed-carry permits are available to law-abiding citizens) was a paltry by comparison 2.1 per 100K.

Number 2: The percentage of home burglaries in England (where all firearm ownership is illegal nationwide) that are “hot” – as in “home invasion”, with the residents at home – is 53%, while the percentage of “hot” burglaries in the U.S. is 13%.

Those two statistics put together should convince any honest person that the availability of handgun ownership contributes to keep citizens safe – whether they choose to own a gun or not. After all, if criminals don’t know who’s armed and who’s not, it makes their decision of whom to attack a lot tougher. Imagine how easy it is for them to choose which house to rob when there’s a “gun-free zone” sign at the city limits.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Effort to arm pilots still dragging, due to TSA not lack of interest

Mineta, Bureaucrats Stall Effort to Arm Pilots:
Three years later [after Congress passed legislation requiring the TSA to provide pilots the opportunity to carry firearms on commercial flights - JT], only an estimated 4,000 of the more than 95,000 commercial pilots have participated in the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program. But this lack of participation does not indicate a lack of pilot interest, proponents say. They claim the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has intentionally stymied the program.

A soon-to-be-released poll from the pro-gun Airline Pilots Security Alliance indicates upwards of 50,000 commercial pilots would like to become FFDOs, but are reluctant to participate because, as the program has been implemented by TSA, they can only train at a remote desert facility in Artesia, N.M., and they aren't allowed to carry their firearm in a holster outside the cockpit of their plane. Instead, they must carry it around in a bulky 6-pound lockbox.
In September I sent a LttE to the LA Times on this topic (not that I expected to breach that publication's editorial armor). If there's a simple solution to the problem of terrorists gaining control of airlines, and carrying by CCW-permitted members of the public is just too horrible to consider, then arming pilots is it. We already trust them with our lives - not just every time we board a flight, but every time any flight takes off and flies over our heads - why can't we trust these intensely trained, incredibly skilled and professional, vastly experienced men and women with the means to ensure our safety while we're 30,000 feet up?

Speech/dress codes: 1 Student-sponsored free speech: 0

A high-school senior who was barred from her prom because she showed up wearing a self-designed sequined dress patterned after the Confederate flag has filed suit, claiming her First Amendment rights were violated.
School officials had gotten wind that she would wear the gown and, her lawyers say, wouldn't even let her leave her vehicle.
I remember at the beginning of the whole "outlaw prayer in schools" frenzy that the bone of contention was only school-sponsored prayer or other shows of religious expression initiated by the school administration. It was understood that "student-sponsored" prayer would still be allowed. Only, soon after, Christian students were being punished for merely displaying a hand-drawn cross on a notebook or wearing a cross pendant (their own personal property, thank you!). Then sports team names couldn't refer to American Indians, even if the names were meant to be proud and strong, like the Braves or the Cherokees (and who would take on a team name that is meant to be self-deriding anyway?)

So now a female student can't even wear a dress she designed and made herself to an after-hours extracurricular event like a prom. I wonder if administrators would have stopped her from attending a football game in the dress? There is no way that simple logic and common respect for other people should give more credence to the accusation of Confederate flag-haters that it represents hate and slavery than it gives to those who actively display it and vociferously say differently - namely, that it represents a proud heritage of Southern descent. If Wisconsin residents can choose their own symbol (cheese, perhaps?) with which to express pride in their lineage, why can't Kentucky residents do the same?

Bush presses for reform on border policy

The Washington Times ran this story detailing some of the president's comments regarding his "guest worker"/amnesty proposal, as well as some remarks made by opponents such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Another blog linked to this Reason story from 1995 (Reason being very much open-borders in its immigration views) which makes several points in agreement with the president's assertion that illegals "do jobs Americans won't do".

What is lost in all the immigration debate - amid all the talk about which Americans won't do what jobs for what pay, and what horrible back-breaking labor immigrants will put up with - is the undeniable fact that an open-borders immigration policy cannot coexist with a welfare state. Me personally, I support a free labor market and would support more open immigration (subject to strict anti-terror controls of course) if all the current welfare programs were scrapped. Just think of how many of those immigrant-filled jobs would suddenly be filled by "lazy" Americans if their welfare checks suddenly stopped coming and they were forced to work for a living like the rest of us. That's what's scaring me about the proposals being put forth by the Bush administration and the Republican party as a whole - I'll give you a piece of this thing you want (privatization of Social Security, maybe if we're lucky real tax reform) but you have to swallow this other thing you don't want (Medicare prescription entitlement, amnesty for illegals) if you don't want to be forced to swallow something even worse (like what the Democrats are offering). This is what the two-party system has brought us, and frankly it's frightening. I've had this conversation with a friend before, and I still haven't heard a good answer from the two-party believers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

LttE - Get government out of the schools!

Submitted Monday 12/20/2004 to the Orange County Register:
This past week saw an interesting sequence of topics in the Register. Heather McRea authored a Wednesday story about a Fullerton School District meeting discussing the possible future use of the International Baccalaureate curriculum – already in use at Fullerton’s high schools.

Four of Saturday’s nine letters decried the efforts of public schools to remove the Christian nature of Christmas while including celebrations of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. Another four letters applauded those same efforts.

On Sunday columnist Steven Greeenhut called into question the motives of the authors and supporters of the International Baccalaureate curriculum, which includes material as objectionable to some parents as that contained in the Earth Charter.

With such diverse opinions on schooling, why don’t we get the government completely out of the business of educating our kids? That way, parents can use the holidays a school celebrates and the concepts they teach students (wealth-redistributive socialism vs. property-rights capitalism) as two more differentiating factors that enable them to make their own decisions about where their children will be best

Monday, December 20, 2004

US DOJ comments on the 2nd Amendment

The US Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel has issued a memorandum:
The Second Amendment secures a right of individuals generally, not a right of States or a right restricted to persons serving in militias.
August 24, 2004
For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that the Second Amendment secures an individual right to keep and to bear arms. Current case law leaves open and unsettled the question of whose right is secured by the Amendment. Although we do not address the scope of the right, our examination of the original meaning of the Amendment provides extensive reasons to conclude that the Second Amendment secures an individual right, and no persuasive basis for either the collective-right or quasi-collective-right views. The text of the Amendment's operative clause, setting out a "right of the people to keep and bear Arms," is clear and is reinforced by the Constitution's structure. The Amendment's prefatory clause, properly understood, is fully consistent with this interpretation. The broader history of the Anglo-American right of individuals to have and use arms, from England's Revolution of 1688-1689 to the ratification of the Second Amendment a hundred years later, leads to the same conclusion. Finally, the first hundred years of interpretations of the Amendment, and especially the commentaries and case law in the pre-Civil War period closest to the Amendment's ratification, confirm what the text and history of the Second Amendment require.
In this blogger's opinion, this is a very welcome statement of the esteem in which the DOJ holds the inalienable right of free people to be able to provide for their own defense - both from the tyranny of criminals, and that of governments. It's been said before, and by those sharper and wiser than I, but I'll say it again: an armed society is a polite society.

Missing baby reunited with father

Reuters press release:
The father of a baby girl snatched from the womb of her strangled mother greeted the infant as a miracle as the two were united after a grisly murder that gripped the United States, a Kansas hospital said on Saturday.
It's nothing short of a miracle that the baby has survived and been reunited with her father. It's encouraging that pre-born babies are being accorded the rights and respect they deserve (Amber alerts, separate murder counts, etc.).

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Riley's mommy at 26 weeks

New photo online at

Money quote from Vox Day

Vox Popoli: Sovereign immunity:
So fewer than three percent of federal indictments against federal, state and local government employees ever make it to trial... the very term 'sovereign immunity' betrays the way that these so called public servants think of themselves. The 'sovereign' cannot commit a crime against himself, therefore any government official breaking the law in performance of his duties cannot be found guilty of a crime.

I've repeatedly written that America, the idea made reality, is no more. The United States is no longer the most free nation in the world; its wealth and apparent freedom are the lingering, but fading blessings that remain from a place that is now gone.
Ruminate on that for a while!

NRC disagrees with Lott's data

The Volokh Conspiracy - Bad news for John Lott:

Perhaps he was waiting/hoping for vindication from the closest thing to a gold standard in academic review -- a report on the issue from the National Research Council. That report has been years in the making, and features some of the top researchers in the country. Well, the report has been issued, it contains bad news for Lott: It concludes that 'There is no credible evidence that 'right-to-carry' laws, which allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns, either decrease or increase violent crime.' They discuss Lott's research at some length and find it wanting. Note that they do not say that right-to-carry laws increase crime.

I still think more freedom is better than less freedom.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The new Stavesacre EP, "Bull Takes Fighter"

One word: unbelievable.

My favorite verse so far, from a track titled "Next Age":
Save us both the waste of a conversation
We've had too many times
Hope deferred makes the heart sink with desperation
Man, we've had enough for a lifetime!
Get it - and get it now, before the first pressing runs out.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

So much for letting high school students be free

From Toledo, OH:

"Rossford High School officials were considering letting a Christian rock band play during an anti-drug assembly next week, but decided yesterday to cancel the performance because of concerns over having religious music played in a public school.

'We are just shutting the whole thing down,' Rossford Superintendent Luci Gernot said. 'There is some controversy, and I'd rather err on this side.'

Pawn's songs regularly make reference to Jesus and God, said David Kleeberger, the band's manager who is also a member of the Rossford school board.

Mr. Kleeberger is the father of band member Kyle Kleeberger, a senior at Rossford High.

'I'm between a rock and a hard place because I represent the schools,' Mr. Kleeberger said. 'I don't want anyone suing the schools over this.'

Students would have had the option of whether or not to attend the band's performance, which was going to be held during school hours.

Students who chose not to attend the performance would either go to a study hall or view an anti-drug-themed movie in the school auditorium.

Donna Chiarelott, whose son is a senior at the school, objected to the band's performance.

'I think there is a place for Christian bands, and schools aren't where they belong,' Ms. Chiarelott said. 'Maybe most people don't really see anything wrong with it, but there is a line and this is crossing it. I'm amazed they even considered it.'"
Just another reason to avoid the public schools.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Check out what Ben said

From time to time here on Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty I'll comment on the book I'm reading; sometimes to recount a particularly sound concept or profound idea, sometimes to relay a specific quote that's right on the money, sometimes just to say, "Check out how cool this is!" Right now I'm reading The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates together with The Federalist Papers - they complement each other perfectly and together weave a more complete timeline than they do separate, so I'm bending my rule of concentrating on one book at a time (see this page to see how I'm approaching it).

So here's today's snippet, on the occasion of my 30th birthday:
And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable pre-eminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate, the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your Government and be your rulers - and these too will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their situation: For their vanquished competitors of the same spirit, and from the same motives will perpetually be endeavouring to distress their administration, thwart their measures and render them odious to the people.

- Benjamin Franklin, 2 June 1787 speaking to the Constitutional Congress in opposition to the idea of making the presidency a salaried position
Anybody else think maybe Franklin was the most prescient of all the Founders? He was the Grandfather among the Fathers of our country, after all.

The funniest thing I've seen in a long time

This has yet to fail to send me into fits of laughter, and I've read through it several times now.
Enjoy the hilarity that is Rock, Paper, Saddam.

Monday, December 13, 2004

LttE - There is hope yet for federalism

Submitted Thursday 12/9/2004 to the Orange County Register and the Palm Springs Desert-Sun:
In 1964 Barry Goldwater said, "Remember that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have." Now that Republicans have retained the executive branch and increased its control of both houses of Congress, perhaps Democrats - who for a century have worked to centralize government power at the federal level - are finally catching on to what he meant.

There is talk among Democrats about the possibility of the two clusters of states that went for John Kerry (the Northeast and the West Coast) seceding from the United States. Many conservatives are amused at this, but for some it is reason for hope. Hope for the revival of federalism - strong states and a weak central government that has specific, and few, duties.

I for one am encouraged by the Democratic Party's re-evaluation of the states' rights position that is their nineteenth-century heritage. Perhaps, if limited-government believers can keep the GOP on task, the two parties can finally agree on something: that a return to federalism and a Constitutionally-limited national government (beholden to the states rather than their master) is a good thing for all Americans.