Archive for September, 2010

Federal law leashes pit bull restrictions

Municipal governments from New York City to Miami, and from Council Bluffs, Iowa to Denver, have responded to fear of pit bulls and similar breeds of dogs, by severely restricting their ownership or banning them entirely from their jurisdictions.  Now, thanks to a rule issued recently by the U.S. Department of Justice, such actions are subject to being struck down.  Jurisdictions now considering such overreactions, such as Douglasville, Georgia, would be well-advised to review the Justice Department’s opinion before proceeding.

Dog owners and humane societies have long-opposed such arbitrary and overly broad laws that penalize thousands of pit bull owners who maintain their canine companions properly and without incident, because of a small number who fail to properly train and control the dogs.  Courts generally have permitted such ordinances to stand, based on deference to the so-called “police power” of local governments to protect the public “safety and welfare.” 

The …

Continue reading Federal law leashes pit bull restrictions »

GOP’s “Pledge” is no game changer

Exactly 16 years ago today, I stood on the steps of the Capitol with then-minority leader Newt Gingrich, and hundreds of other incumbent Republican Members of Congress and fellow challengers.  It was a sweltering hot day as we listened to several mercifully short speeches.  Then, one-by-one, we stepped forward and signed our names to a document titled simply, the “Contract With America.”

The Contract With America was unique in American politics.  It was a short and simple listing of 11 action items that followed two explicit promises.  We promised that — if rewarded with a majority in the House for the first time in more than four decades — on the very first day in office, we would adopt a series of procedural reforms to dramatically open the processes under which that institution operated. 

We also promised that, in the ensuing 99 days, we would bring to the floor of the House for open debate and vote, 10 specific measures that would – if passed by both houses and …

Continue reading GOP’s “Pledge” is no game changer »

Time is ripe for Cuba overtures

Cuba’s economy remains a basket case; a fact recognized publicly, if only indirectly, earlier this month when President Raul Castro authorized the country’s official labor union to lay off more than 500,000 state workers between now and next March.  Cuba is the only overtly communist country in the western hemisphere; and its leaders — Raul and his older brother Fidel — have ruled the country with an iron fist since the 1959 revolution ensconced them in power.  The country always has prided itself on standing up to the “evil” capitalist system personified by the United States.  For either of the Castro brothers to make even a tacit admission that their beloved communism has failed, is a major concession. 

Whether this move to even slightly reduce the massive government employment sector (85% of the island’s 5.5 million workers, according to the Wall Street Journal) turns out to be a serious move toward a true, open economy — one that actually allows and fosters …

Continue reading Time is ripe for Cuba overtures »

Pro-landlord immigration ruling should be welcomed by conservatives (but probably won’t be)

The topic of illegal immigration remains a front-burner issue heading into the final weeks of this year’s congressional elections.  Many voters, spurred at least in part by the Tea Party movement, are demanding that candidates openly support strict — even Draconian — federal and state laws aimed at identifying and  punishing illegal aliens and those who are seen as “harboring” them, including employers and even landlords.  This zeal to attack the problem of illegal immigration (and it is a problem) in recent years has prompted a number of local governments to enact ordinances that seriously undermine fundamental liberties intended to be enjoyed by all of us.  Thankfully, a federal Court of Appeals earlier this month struck down one such measure in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

The Hazleton law, enacted in 2006, attacked the problem of illegal immigrants within its jurisdiction in a number of ways.  For example, landlords were prohibited from renting homes, apartments or …

Continue reading Pro-landlord immigration ruling should be welcomed by conservatives (but probably won’t be) »

Calif. marijuana initiative irks Washington

California voters will have the chance November 2nd to decide whether to legalize the use of marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older.  The measure, known as “Proposition 19,” will not even be voted on for another six weeks; but already there are those urging the federal government to take action against it. 

 If voters in the Golden State decide to thus liberalize their state’s laws, the United States Supreme Court will almost certainly be called upon to decide whether the so-called “commerce clause” in the Constitution has any limits at all to reach even purely personal behavior that has no effect whatsoever outside the boundaries of a single state.  Ironically, this would be the second time since 2005 the Court has used a liberalized California marijuana law to extend federal power to criminalize personal behavior. 

Five years ago, in a 6-3 opinion, in which only Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas dissented, the Court …

Continue reading Calif. marijuana initiative irks Washington »

Tea Party baffles leaders in both major parties

The inconsistent — bordering on chaotic — response by the Republican leadership to last Tuesday’s defeat of veteran Washington insider Mike Castle in the Delaware Senate primary, demonstrates clearly that the GOP leaders still have no idea how to respond to the Tea Party movement sweeping the land.  The Democrats, for their part, are either hunkering down in defensive mode — a la Nancy Pelosi — or flailing about trying to out-maneuver the Tea Partiers, as witnessed by President Obama’s ridiculous effort to convince voters his move to repeal the so-called “Bush tax cuts” is really a tax cut itself because he is “allowing” some lucky taxpayers to retain the current tax rates.

Trying to ridicule the Tea Party movement, which many of the Democrats and even some Republican insiders have tried to do, obviously did not and will not work.  The movement simply is too broad-based and lacks clearly defined targets to shoot at.  Even where Tea Party-backed candidates who have won …

Continue reading Tea Party baffles leaders in both major parties »

Lawsuit challenges abusive government laptop searches

Conservatives love to hate the ACLU; but whether you’re conservative, liberal, libertarian, or “none of the above,” if you want to protect the privacy of your laptop computer and your Blackberry or i-phone  against unlimited and unwarranted government snooping, you ought to write the ACLU a thank you note, if not a check.

The ACLU last week teamed up with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) in filing a lawsuit against the federal government, to stop the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component agencies (Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement) from demanding that people (including United States citizens) entering the U.S., turn over their laptops and other electronic devices so that agents can peruse the devices and gather whatever information they wish.  The government asserts that since the searches are taking place at border crossings and other ports of entry, it has an absolute right to engage in such …

Continue reading Lawsuit challenges abusive government laptop searches »

GOP may win big despite itself

Two months before the November 1994 off-year elections, I and several dozen other Republican candidates were scrambling to raise funds necessary to have a chance of unseating our Democratic incumbent opponents.  Although we hoped to prevail, few if any of us really grasped what was about to happen.  The gathering tsunami that would sweep the GOP to a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in four decades on November 8th of that year, was a secret known only by then-Minority Leader Newt Gingrich and a tight-knit fraternity of associates and consultants. 

President Clinton’s unpopularity in the fall of 1994 was palpable; but few prognosticators or media pundits understood the depth of the disdain with which large segments of the voting population viewed the chief executive.  The economy was in far better shape than now, and although Clinton’s embrace of gun control that year, and of a large tax increase the year before, clearly had sapped his …

Continue reading GOP may win big despite itself »

NY man arrested for using rifle to defend family from gang

George Grier — a family man whose home in Uniondale, on Long Island just east of New York City, was threatened last weekend by two dozen gang members – thought he as doing the right thing protecting his family by confronting the gang bangers with a rifle he lawfully kept in his home.  Instead, he found out that in Nassau County, home to an estimated 2,000 members of the ultra-violent “MS-13″ gang, brandishing a firearm, even in defense of one’s home and family, is a criminal offense.  He was arrested and charged with felony reckless endangerment.

What landed Grier in legal hot water was not that he fired the rifle (a semi-automatic AK-47) at any of the gang members gathered on his lawn who were taunting him with threats to kill him, his wife and his children; but that he fired a few warning shots into his lawn in an obvious attempt to scare the thugs away, not to kill or even wound anyone. 

As explained by Nassau County’s finest – who were alerted to the incident by …

Continue reading NY man arrested for using rifle to defend family from gang »

Quran-burning preacher defines “idiot”

A few years back, I hosted a weekly radio program, “Bob Barr’s Laws of the Universe.”  In recognition of the fact that the first Law of the Universe is, ”The World is Full of Idiots,” each week we would identify one or more members of that large class of persons as rising above the rest, as “Idiot of the Week.”  At the final show each year, we would announce the idiots par excellence as “Idiots of the Year” awardees.  Given the plethora of idiots from which to choose over the course of the year, identifying those truly outstanding idiots worthy of annual recognition was a difficult task; but one we somehow managed to accomplish.

Were I still hosting the show, I have no doubt that for the final show of 2010, one of the finalists for “Idiot of the Year” would be the Rev. Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida.  Jones is the so-called preacher who is hosting and calling for a Quran-burning party this coming Saturday, September 11th.  Unlike pastors of bona fide churches, …

Continue reading Quran-burning preacher defines “idiot” »