Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

No pocket knives on this flight, only rifles, pistols and shotguns

When 280 soldiers flew from Savannah to Kuwait a week and a half ago, they carted on board all of their fighting equipment, including all of their standard-issue M-16s, shotguns, sidearms, etc. What they couldn't bring on board, due to FAA regulations, were pocket knives, nail clippers, and the like. What do you bet that that flight, packed as it was with armed people who knew how to handle their weapons, was in no danger of being hijacked?

Of course, it's not exactly a perfect comparison between this charter flight that had nothing but U.S. soldiers on it and a standard Delta flight from LA to Orlando, but the principles are the same: 1) regulations banning pocket knives and nail clippers are so silly as to be laughable, and in no way guarantee a flight's safety, and 2) knowing that a flight just might be peopled with armed (open or concealed) individuals trained in the use of their arms is by far the best deterrent for a hijacking.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Slippery Slope

The New York Times and the BBC are reporting an editorial in the British Medical Journal that's calling for... get this... banning the sale of long, pointed kitchen knives. That's right - not only are British citizens unable to own firearms to protect themselves (though criminals can get them easily enough), but in these doctors' opinions, they shouldn't even be able to own the kinds of kitchen knives they want! Yikes.

As if that's not enough, another story from Britain tells the story of an overzealous airport security guard who took a recording artist aside at Heathrow security because he had a shirt printed with the image of a gun - he was told it was "unsuitable for flying in" and that "if the T-shirt was embossed it could be used as something". Double yikes.

How do people come to these asinine conclusions? I intend to find out Sunday, when 60 Minutes' feature story is about the .50 cal rifle. I'm very interested to see what kind of spin they're going to put on it, especially after seeing the commercial spot for it, which went something like this: "Due to terrorist fears, the .50 caliber rifle has been banned in California, but it can still be purchased in every other state, blah blah blah." I'll post back after the show with comments and fact-checking.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

SCOTUS issues bad omen for property rights

A Register editorial today gave us the bad news that the Supreme Court has unanimously overturned an appeals court decision, and allowed the state of Hawaii to impose rent-control restrictions on gas stations (and, I imagine, through the power of precedent, just about anything else). This suit was about the state of Hawaii making an uncompensated taking of private property - in this case regulating what a property owner could charge in rent, thereby reducing the value of that property to the owner - which for those paying attention at home, is what the final clause of the 5th Amendment was written to guard against.
Writing for the Supreme Court majority, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor ruled that supporting Chevron's position would 'require courts to scrutinize the efficacy of a vast array of state and federal regulations.' That echoed the view of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which worried that upholding the Ninth Circuit would deem it appropriate 'for a court to second-guess the wisdom of a state policy decision.'
So let me get this straight: the SCOTUS can't uphold a private property owner's 5th Amendment right against uncompensated takings because it would be too much trouble for the government to perhaps revisit such a "vast array of state and federal regulations"? They just can't be troubled with it? It would just take too much time and effort? Is she serious? Maybe there should be less regulations in the first place, that way the government busybodies who enacted them could actually keep track of them. But no, since there's already too many to keep track of, let's let another brand new one stand - what could it hurt?

That's what really stinks about the political discourse in this country: the answer to every dilemma - offered by both mainstream parties, mind you - always seems to be more government, more regulation, more laws. When a situation is being debated, you almost never hear about solutions that would solve the problem with less government. Three examples just off the top of my head:
- Outsourcing: the first thing you hear is, "Take away the tax breaks for companies who send work overseas!" - never do you hear, "Remove the tax burdens from the companies who employ Americans!"
- Same-sex Marriage: the first thing you hear is, "Make a law against gay marriage!" or "Make a law that forces states to recognize gay marriage!" - never do you hear, "Remove the regulations that make being married any different in the eyes of the law than being single!"
- Fuel and fuel economy: the first thing you hear is, "Force car companies to make cleaner cars!" or "Subsidize ethanol research and manufacturing!" - never do you hear, "Let people buy the cars they want and the fuel they want, and as gas prices go up they'll buy cleaner-burning fuels!"

Update: here's another, courtesy of the Heritage Foundation:
- Digital TVs: first you've got the FCC mandating that all TV signals be digital by 2008 (I think that's the date); and now, to make sure average people who can only afford to purchase analog TVs can still watch TV after all the signals are digital, we've got a senator proposing (ok, the report says "toying with the idea") to mandate that analog TV sellers bundle a digital converter box ("for free" of course, as if the cost of it won't be passed to the consumer in the form of a higher price). "What's that? A federal regulation is causing a problem? I've got it! We'll fix it with yet another federal regulation!" How about letting broadcasters decide whether to broadcast in analog or digital and letting manufacturers decide whether to sell analog or digital? One side of the supply chain can't very well live without the other, so I'd be willing to bet they'd match their efforts all by themselves without the feddies grandstanding about it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Quotes on filibuster compromise

The Register quoted some prominent people in its coverage of yesterday's 14-senator compromise - here are the (IMO) choicest ones, along with a few comments of my own.

Nancy Keenan, president NARAL Pro-Choice America:
We're heartened that the crisis has been averted and the right to filibuster preserved for upcoming Supreme Court nominations. We are confident that a Supreme Court nominee who won't even state a position on Roe v. Wade is the kind of 'extraordinary circumstance' this deal envisions.
And the proponents of nationwide legal abortion-on-demand worry about what kind of "litmus test" nominees would be put through by their Republican appointers? What's even worse is that the kind of position she wants a nominee to state is "does abortion = murder or not", rather than the far more defensible and Constitutionally sound "the definition of murder belongs to the states or it belongs to the feds".

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:
This is a victory for the American people. It is a defeat for the abuse of power known as the nuclear option. I will continue to defend the independence of the judiciary by doing all I can to ensure that we confirm mainstream judicial nominees who will protect the rights and freedoms of the American people.
Interesting how in her mind the judiciary acheives independence through their mainstream worldviews. One might be justified in thinking that the independence (or lack thereof) of a branch of government would be established (or specifically not established according to some founding document or some such thing, rather than according to whether or not the principles of the members of said branch sway with the slightest breeze of popular opinion. However, the judiciary is not independent from the other two branches, any more than the executive or the legislative is independent. Individual justices are subject to impeachment by Congress and their jurisdiction over specific areas of legislation is subject to limitation by Congress. Honestly interpreting the meaning of the words in laws and the Constitution as they relate to each other, and not making up rights out of whole cloth from emanations of penumbras - not their mainstream views or lack thereof such as whether they personally believe abortion is murder or not - is what will make the judiciary as independent as it can ever be under those two limitations.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.:
We have reached an agreement to try to avert a crisis in the United States Senate and pull the institution back from a precipice.' The deal was based on 'trust, respect and mutual desire to .... protect the rights of the minority.'
Johnny boy, that institution was pushed over the precipice long, long ago - 1913 to be precise. A little something called the Seventeenth Amendment was passed that effectively silenced from national discourse the political entities we know as "states" - which until that time actually had a voice in federal policy, as the state legislatures (representatives of the people thereof) actually took great pride in literally and precisely instructing their senators how to vote. Making the Senate just a smaller, more aristocratic House (and you wonder why they call it the "upper" chamber) only moved us further away from a republic and closer to a direct democracy (which, for those watching at home, is the wrong direction).

LttE - Bureaucracy and unions

Submitted to the OC Register on 5/24/2005
Letter-writer Christian P. Milord (from whom we last heard a week ago Sunday crying foul over what he calls “union trashing”) praised the Register’s “Part-time work, big-time pay” article and exhorted the governor to assail these bureaucratic leeches rather than (of course) “ranting against hardworking public servants”.

Did he forget that one of the governor’s first and most ambitious reform proposals was to “blow up the boxes” of government, dismantling or shrinking some 118 boards and commissions? Or that the proposal was pummeled into submission by liberal legislators, the media, and union bosses?

After all, nobody – least of all the governor – is “ranting against hardworking public servants”. The problem exists not in the individual teachers, firefighters, and nurses, but in the untouchable union leaders who don’t walk a beat and whose only job is to peddle money and influence in aggrandizing power to themselves and to the state.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Interesting comments from a research scientist

Professor Richard Lewontin, a research professor at Harvard University, had this to say regarding the humanist/materialist approach to science:
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so-stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
Very frankly spoken, kudos to him for his forthrightness. It will certainly be interesting to keep an eye out for spin control from his colleagues.

Hat tip: Vox Popoli

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A vetoed spending bill at last?

Could this be it? The sign of a glimmer of the survival of actual fiscal conservatism in the White House? Through GWB's entire first term (and so far through his second), he hasn't met a spending bill he didn't like, and hasn't found the intestinal fortitude to veto a single one (for comparison, Reagan vetoed 22 in his first three years in office). But just two weeks after both houses of Congress agreed on a reasonable 2006 budget, provisions were added to the federal highway bill that would make it, in the words of actual fiscal conservative and Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, "unequivocally, unquestionably a budget buster." Gregg did the brave thing and forced a full-chamber vote to save the bill. It, along with all the added spending, passed by an overwhelming 76-22. So much for spending discipline in Congress.

So where's the veto thing come from? According to Michael Franc's weekly Legislative Lowdown, some of the forces arrayed against the budget-busting provisions were 1) a warning from Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta that the bill would lead to higher gas taxes or a bankrupt highway trust fund, 2) vocal opposition from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, 3) heated denunciations from conservative taxpayer groups, and 4) a firm veto threat from the White House. GWB, if you're listening, and that bill crosses your desk and you just can't find the pen that spells VETO, let me know and I'll send you mine.

UPDATE: Correction, that 76-22 vote was on whether or not the bill's being increased was in violation of Senate budget rules. The highway bill as a whole (all $295 billion of it) was passed by an 89-11 vote. What I find interesting about that is that somewhere there are 11 senators who think it was against Senate budget rules to increase a bill's spending past the just-agreed-upon budget, but who voted to pass the bill and send it to the president's desk anyway. Wow. Just -- wow.

Democrats vs. Seniors

The Democratic stonewall to Social Security reform is showing some cracks. Florida Congressman Wexler the other day made a comment the other day that shows just how far out of step the Democrats are from the actual needs of their constituents:
My allegiance to seniors is greater than my allegiance to the Democratic Party.
This (as well as Nancy Pelosi's [D-CA] virulent reaction to his plan being submitted) goes a long way towards showing that there is indeed something that absolutely needs to be done about Social Security (much like all the Democrats were saying years ago when Clinton was in office), and I expect Wexler's brave move to address it (even if his raising-taxes plan is completely wrong) will become just the first of many of its kind from his Democratic brethren. Finally, some small (infinitesimal, maybe, but not negligible) amount of progress at last.

(Hat tip: Heritage Foundation Policy Weblog)

Friday, May 13, 2005

LttE - Feinstein's defense of America

After giving the OC Register a week to print this, what might be one of my funniest letters, I figured it'd be a good thing to use to start up blogging again.
In reading the coverage of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Orange County speech Thursday, I found myself overjoyed! She charged the girth of the federal budget deficit and the massive foreign ownership of public debt with threatening our national security and stated that "We are capitulating our independence to other countries."

I am elated that our Honorable Senator from California is so jealously guarding the USA’s sovereignty and have nothing but support for her in that endeavor - I’ll cheer the loudest every time she seeks to defend our nation’s sovereignty.

I eagerly await the upcoming press conference in which she repudiates her oft-repeated goal of allowing the UN to dictate the firearm ownership rights of each and every American citizen. That is a threat to our national sovereignty even more dangerous than the trillions of dollars of foreign-owned debt she decried yesterday.