Archive for June, 2009

Watch lists, guns and government

The secret government “Terrorist Watch List,” reportedly already swelled to more than 1.1 million names, will have an addendum, if gun control advocates in Congress have their way. This new addendum — also to be cloaked in secrecy — would empower the U.S. Attorney General to deny a person the ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights to purchase a firearm.

While it is not surprising that some members of Congress are again using fear of terrorism to implement a gun-control agenda, the openly unconstitutional legislative language proponents are employing is troubling.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) is leading the effort in the Senate, while another well-known gun control advocate — Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) — is directing the House initiative. They have introduced identical bills — the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2009.” This proposal would give the attorney general the power to unilaterally and in secret develop a watch list …

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Cigarette Smokers Beware of the “Revenooers”

State governments (and the District of Columbia) desperate for ways to increase revenues, recently have discovered a new target — smokers who puchase cigarettes in other states, or from Indian reservations, that have lower tobacco taxes.  In fact, some states are becoming so aggressive in their pursuit of these monies that they have begun levying liens against people’s homes in order to collect back taxes and fines.

With tobacco taxes in many states skyrocketing — Rhode Island is the highest at $3.46 per pack — heavy smokers who try and escape the burdensome taxes by purchasing their smokes elsewhere, are being hit with multi-thousand dollar bills.  One 82-year old lady in Pennsylvania, for example, had a $4,583 lien slapped on her house, as a result of her apparently extensive purchases of cigarettes from an Indian tribe in neighboring New York.  Although an official with Pennsylvania’s revenue department was quoted as saying the state’s primary focus in using liens …

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Gun Control Advocate Set for Senate Confirmation

Harold Koh, a former Clinton Administration official, who is a well-known anti-gun advocate and who supports international firearms control efforts, is scheduled for a vote Wednesday in the Senate.  If confirmed, Koh would become the State Department Legal Advisor.  He then would be in a position to significantly influence diplomatic efforts to strengthen the power of international organizations such as the United Nations to become involved in U.S. domestic matters, including Second Amendment-related issues.

For example, as the nation’s top international lawyer, Koh would be able to push for the United States to adopt the “Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials,” know by its shorthand, “CIFTA.”  This treaty, which President Obama supports, would among other troubling provisions, mandate the marking and tracking of all firearms.  It would require the U.S. to …

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Revolution by cell phone in Iran

In early 1968, North Vietnam launched a series of military offensives across South Vietnam that became known as the Tet Offensive. Military experts agree that by the end of the offensive in April, the United States and South Vietnamese had beaten the North, which suffered significant casualties. Paradoxically, however, the offensive was widely perceived as a defeat for the U.S., and in fact precipitated a protracted decline in popular support for our involvement in Vietnam. The reason for this anomaly lies in the fact that television was bringing real-time images of the street fighting directly into the living and bed rooms of millions of American viewers.

This was the first example of the manner in which commercial visual communication dramatically influenced the outcome of a military conflict; a nightmare scenario in which military victory was turned to political defeat.

The power of real-time television was apparent a generation later when, at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the …

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Federal regulatory burden hits $1.17 trillion

The cost of federal regulations to American citizens, businesses and state and local governments has reached $1.17 trillion, according to a report just published by the Washington, D.C.-based Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). This equates to some $3,849 for each man, woman and child in the country. The same report found that the “Federal Register,” the government publication that is the compendium for federal rules, now stands at a staggering 79,435 pages!

The alarming cost of federal regulation, which serves as a millstone around the neck of businesses and state and local governments, is in addition to the soaring direct cost of the federal government, as evidenced by the projected federal spending level of $4.004 trillion in the current fiscal year, with a deficit that will climb to $1.845 trillion this year, and a national debt that already is almost $11.5 trillion.

But not to worry. President Barack Obama admits he “loses sleep worrying about the deficit.” Sort of …

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Pocket knives now in feds’ gunsights

Temporarily stymied in its efforts to move a gun control agenda forward because of strong public backlash, the administration of President Barack Obama is shifting its regulatory focus to pocket knives. No kidding. In a little noted proposed regulatory decision issued in May by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (”CPB”), the administration is seeking to ban the import of any pocket knife that partially opens with a flick of the wrist.

The government is able to reach into the pockets of America’s millions of pocket knife users to limit the type of knife they can own, thanks to a novel and expansive interpretation of the 1958 “Switchblade Knife Act.” This half-century old law prohibited the importation into the U.S.of, or the interstate commerce in, automatic switchblade and stiletto knives. As recently as last August, the CPB interpreted the law with a common sense view, in approving requests by knife companies to import and market new products. Lawful, modern-day …

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Bureaucratic battles hurt CIA

Heads of state — from the time of Chinese military genius Sun Tzu in the fifth Century B.C., to our first commander-in-chief, George Washington, and many modern presidents — have understood the role good intelligence plays in achieving military and diplomatic success. Now, in this fast-moving and dangerous 21st Century, as the need for good intelligence becomes even more critical, bureaucratic battles in our nation’s capital threaten to cripple our capabilities.

Things started out well in the aftermath of WW II, when President Truman recognized that good foreign intelligence would be essential if the U.S. was to meet the challenges of the Cold War. In 1947, Truman signed the National Security Act, establishing the Central Intelligence Agency and the post of “DCI” or Director of Central Intelligence. The CIA director was to serve as both head of the CIA and as the DCI; in theory ensuring coordination of all foreign intelligence activities.

Unfortunately, recurrent …

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Analog TV Switch Is Yet Another Federal Mandate

Today, June 12, 2009, is the last day that full-power television broadcasters in the United States can broadcast in analog signals.  By the end of the day, all stations will be broadcasting in digital only.  This means that anyone who has an older-model, non-cable television, will no longer be able to watch TV.  After today, they will be able to do so only by purchasing a new TV able to receive cable channels, or by purchasing a special converter box and hooking it up to their older model TV.

Has this process occured because the market dictated such a change, based on cost-benefit analysis or consumer demand?  No.  This happened simply because the federal government mandated that it take place.  In the same way that the government now dictates such heretofore private matters as what kind of toilet to have in your home and what kind of light bulbs you can use, Uncle Sam has now told you what kind of TV you can have.

This all came about because a Republican-controlled …

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Chrysler Creditors Now Out of Luck

Well, my optimism was short-lived that the constitutionality of the forced bankruptcy of Chrysler (and, impliedly, GM), and of the use of taxpayer dollars to bail out the auto industry would finally be considered by the Supreme Court.  The high Court late yesterday lifted the temporary stay of the Chrysler proceedings that had been issued on Monday by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Now, all those bond holders and other creditors of Chrysler who stand to have their assets diminished because they are not among the creditors favored by the federal government, apparently have no recourse in the courts other than after the damage already has been done.

So much for the courts serving as an arena in which unconstitutional actions and spending by the federal government can be challenged and resolved.

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Kudos to Justice Ginsburg for Chrysler Stay

I drive a Dodge Magnum, manufactured by Chrysler, and I therefore have a very personal interst in seeing that Chrysler continues as a viable, operating manufacturer of automobiles and parts.  But I also believe in the rule of law and in the principle of limited, specified government powers enshrined in our Constitution.  I have been greatly distressed in the months since the administration of President George W. Bush pushed the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) through the Congress last fall.  I have become even further troubled by the current administration’s moves to greatly expand federal spending and power through the stimulus package, and by forcing the bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors.

The fact that these unprecedented federal power grabs and spending programs have been rushed through two congresses with almost no discussion about, or concern for their constitutionality, makes matters even worse.  Both the Obama Administration and Chrysler, of …

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