More Fallout from Kelo v. New London

So What is Causing the String of Unanimous Supreme Court Decisions?

I saw the individual pieces here, but I didn't see the whole picture. Terry Eastland points out how Chief Justice John Roberts started having conferences that actually started talking about the issues and not simply having the Justices tell each other how they are going to vote. At the same time and not unrelatedly, Eastland points to the remarkable string of unanimous decisions that the court has made.

More evidence that the Canadian gun registry may be contributing to crime

You know that the gun registry is in trouble when even Toronto based newspapers are giving it a hard time.

we note two fine columns published yesterday -- one in the Sun, and one by one of our competitors -- that once again shot the rightly discredited registry full of holes.

Our own Mark Bonokoski, who has diligently covered a disturbing number of recent stories involving legitimate gun owners having their legally stored weapons stolen, offered a devastating argument that the nearly $2-billion registry itself could actually be contributing to these crimes.

Citing numerous examples of breaches of the federal government's other (supposedly) secure databases -- the RCMP-administered CPIC system; even top secret defence department security computers -- Bono argued that the bungle-plagued gun registry is just as vulnerable.

Proving the point, he quoted former firearms registry webmaster John Hicks, who says he reported flaws in the system to his superiors: "It took some $15 million to develop it, and I broke into it in about 30 minutes," said Hicks. "A 16-year-old kid could have broken into that system in a heartbeat."

Sophisticated computer hacking aside, Bono has also reported how would-be thieves can track gun owners through ammunition sales records kept by retail stores, or other means. But most registry proponents prefer to ignore these troubles and blame the victim -- gun owners who've been burgled -- while demanding laws to ban all innocent people from owning guns. . . .

Gunter skewered claims that the registry is oh-so-useful because police computers check it thousands of times a week -- explaining that such checks are built into the system. The fact remains, all the registry can do is tell police if someone is, or isn't, a legally registered gun owner. It can't tell them if a suspect has an illegal gun, and it has done absolutely nothing to stop them flooding our streets.. . . .

From Lorne Gunter's column:

The CFRO (Canadian Firearms Registry Online) may indeed process thousands of police-generated information requests each day, but the vast majority of these "hits" are not deliberate. As many as 80% are likely generated automatically when officers call up records from the nation police computer system. That system reflexively searches the firearms computers, a statistic that Ottawa then counts as police use of its registry.

Hundreds more of these daily police hits are merely officers checking to see whether someone seeking to register a new gun is already a licensed owner. Hardly a crime-fighting tool; more like a bureaucratic file check.

It is true, as the Star asserts, that "since 1998, the registry has assisted ... in revoking or turning down" 16,000 licence applications. But it is also true that this is a lower rate of refusals -- less than 1% -- than were rejected under the pre-registry screening system run by the RCMP.

It's difficult to fathom what the Star means when it says "the registry is at last working as it was originally intended," unless the system's original goal was to become a money-devouring, bureaucratic cock-up with no tangible effects for making Canadians safer.

SF approves tough penalties for violations of new gun ban

Despite all the Democratic politicians who have said that the SF gun ban violates California's pre-emption law, there is the concern among some that court still rule the law valid because it only applies to SF residents and not anyone else. This is apparently a very weak claim, but if the judge wants to find a way for this law, it is likely what he will do. Anyway, just in case the law is approved, the San Franciscos Board of Supervisors set penalties this past week.

Last November, 58 percent of San Francisco voters passed Proposition H, a city ordinance that makes it illegal for residents to possess handguns and prohibits the manufacture, distribution, sale and transfer of firearms in the city.

As required by the proposition, the supervisors Wednesday approved a set of penalties for violating the law that include imposition of a $1,000 penalty and a jail term of between 90 days and six months. . . .

Superior Court Judge James Warren, who is overseeing the case, expects to rule on the case before the mid-June deadline. If Warren deems the proposition unlawful, the city will likely appeal the decision.

Democrats and guns

I think that too much is being read into the quote below. The presence of more gun stores is a proxy for other values and views of the world than just the valuing guns. In other words, my guess is that the presence of gun stores and gun ownership is correlated with cultural problems that the Dems have rather than guns being the major reason that Dems have a problem in those areas.

Political Analyst Charlie Cook wrote in the March 11 issue of National Journal that the Democrats' "inability to consistently win elections in places where gun shops outnumber Starbucks is a big reason the party controls neither the House nor the Senate."


Former webmaster: "A 13-year-old kid could hack into the federal government’s online gun registry"

I am always a little dubious of these types of claims, but this is hardly comforting and given all the other problems with the registry, this seems more plausible than most claims.

A 13-year-old kid could hack into the federal government’s online gun registry and have access to millions of gun-owner addresses, says a former webmaster for the Canadian Firearms Centre.

But the real concern is what a criminal mind would do with a shopping list of guns in Canada, John Hicks, an information technology consultant in Orillia, told The Packet & Times yesterday. . . .

Besides leaving the guns open for theft, there is another problem, though the gun lock requirements in Canada reduce the size. Criminals will know what homes are unlikely to have guns. Criminals will have less to worry about in terms of would be victims who are able to defend themselves.


Charlie Cook on the odds that Democrats will win control of the U.S. House of Representatives

"[F]or Democrats to have any shot of taking back control of the House, they need to expand the narrow playing field of obviously vulnerable Republican seats, perhaps putting as many as 50 GOP seats in play. Of the 86 Republican-held districts that we consider to be the most potentially vulnerable, based on the district's Partisan Voting Index, there are 37 where Democrats have a candidate who meets at least a minimum standard of credibility. Still, we consider just 17 to be top-caliber challengers... Even though the political environment suggests Democrats should have little trouble lining up top candidates, the fact that Democrats have lost seats in the last two election cycles has certainly diminished the optimism of some ambitious candidates. Plus, many state parties have essentially abandoned any effort to build a farm team of up-and-coming candidates... [I]t is likely Democrats will pick up seats, but won't have enough top-tier candidates in vulnerable GOP districts to get the 15 they need to win the majority" -- Charlie Cook, publisher of the Cook Political Report, writing at NationalJournal.com.

Thanks to the OpinionJournal's Political Diary for spotting this quote.


Another serious flaw in Campaign Finance Rules

Haven't we seen this before? In 2004, Soros couldn't give money directly to Howard Dean, so he gave the money to MoveOn.org and let them raise money for Dean. Soros again can't give the money directly to Hillary, so he is giving the money to someone this time who will raise money for Hillary and others. Wasn't Soros the big funder of the new campaign finance laws? How can anyone defend these rules?

A group of well-connected Democrats led by a former top aide to Bill Clinton is raising millions of dollars to start a private firm that plans to compile huge amounts of data on Americans to identify Democratic voters and blunt what has been a clear Republican lead in using technology for political advantage.

The effort by Harold Ickes, a deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House and an adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), is prompting intense behind-the-scenes debate in Democratic circles. Officials at the Democratic National Committee think that creating a modern database is their job, and they say that a competing for-profit entity could divert energy and money that should instead be invested with the national party.

Ickes and others involved in the effort acknowledge that their activities are in part a vote of no confidence that the DNC under Chairman Howard Dean is ready to compete with Republicans on the technological front. "The Republicans have developed a cadre of people who appreciate databases and know how to use them, and we are way behind the march," said Ickes, whose political technology venture is being backed by financier George Soros.

"It's unclear what the DNC is doing. Is it going to be kept up to date?" Ickes asked, adding that out-of-date voter information is "worse than having no database at all." . . .

Gun control "stalled" worldwide

From the January 13, 2006 issue of Foreign Policy magazine that discussed the recent referendum to ban guns in Brazil (the referendum was defeated by a two-to-one vote):

Gunning for the World
David Morton

". . . John Lott Jr., an American economist who caused a furor in the United States when he argued that the more guns there were in a society, the lower the crime rate. When his 1998 book, More Guns, Less Crime appeared in Portuguese, Brazilian gun rights activists adopted it as a sort of anti-gun control bible. One enthusiastic gun rights activist in São Paulo bought 1,500 copies and distributed one to each member of the Brazilian congress. Denis Mizne, executive director of Sou da Paz, a São Paulo-based gun control organization, says he has seen many Brazilian pro-gun materials translated directly from the NRA’s promoted materials. 'To adopt the line and the concepts, it’s easy,' he says. 'You just go to the [NRA’s] Web site.' . . ."

". . . the momentum for gun control has stalled . . ."

My comment: Sorry for the bit of self promotion. I think that this article gets much wrong, but it is still interesting. If there was some sense of balance, the author would mention that the gun control advocates are also copying what gun control advocates have done in the US. I would also mention that much of the ability to stop UN action stems from President Bush, specifically his appointment of Bolton to various positions over the last five years. All this could change radically if there is a change in government in the US. But the author seems more intent on demonizing the NRA than giving a full picture here.

Should states allow gun, ammo sales during state emergencies?

The National Rifle Association is pushing a measure at the state Legislature that would keep the governor from confiscating or placing restrictions on firearms and ammunition -- including sales -- during a state of emergency.

The bill was approved by the state Senate on Monday and has the backing of some leading Republican lawmakers, including state Senate President Ken Bennett and Senate Majority Leader Tim Bee. The measure prohibits the governor from curtailing the legal use, sale or transfer of firearms and ammo during a state of emergency. The measure now moves to the state House of Representatives.

The NRA is pushing similar measures in other states in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when civil disorder and rioting plagued New Orleans and some police officials sought to confiscate firearms and bullets in order to help restore order.

Arizona and a number of others states give their governors the ability to invoke emergency powers including additional police powers during natural disasters, riots, times of war and terrorist attacks . . .


Parental notification and Abortion

The New York Times has an article today arguing that parental notification has no statistically significant impact on the number of abortions. There is a paper by Jon Klick and Thomas Stratmann that argues that parental notification has a significant impact on sexual activity. They test this by looking at how the gonorrhea rate for teenage females varies relative to that rate for adult women before and after the adoption of these laws. To find their paper, click on the spring 2006 folder and then the paper entitled "Abortion Access and Risky Sex Among Teens: Parental Involvement Laws and Sexually Transmitted Diseases." They claim that "We estimate reductions in gonorrhea rates of 20 percent for Hispanics and 12 percent for whites. While we find a relatively small reduction in rates for black girls, it is not statistically significant."

I have read the Klick and Stratmann paper, and overall it is solid. I suspect that the paper the New York Times discusses is not anywhere nearly as well done.

Law Professors Must be Regretting Even Bringing this Case

I have a feeling that the law profs who brought this case are regretting doing so. The law profs were upset about the ''mere presence of military recruiters" and now the court has gone on record that congress could require that the military be allowed to interview recruits even if there was no funding attached.

The Constitution grants Congress the power to “provide for the common Defence,” “[t]o raise and support Armies,” and “[t]o provide and maintain a Navy.” Art. I, §8, cls. 1, 12–13. Congress’ power in this area “is broad and sweeping,” O’Brien, 391 U. S., at 377, and there is no dispute in this case that it includes the authority to require campus access for military recruiters. That is, of course, unless Congress exceeds constitutional limitations on its power in enacting such legislation. See Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U. S. 57, 67 (1981) . But the fact that legislation that raises armies is subject to First Amendment constraints does not mean that we ignore the purpose of this legislation when determining its constitutionality; as we recognized in Rostker, “judicial deference … is at its apogee” when Congress legislates under its authority to raise and support armies. Id., at 70. . . .

This case does not require us to determine when a condition placed on university funding goes beyond the “reasonable” choice offered in Grove City and becomes an unconstitutional condition. It is clear that a funding condition cannot be unconstitutional if it could be constitutionally imposed directly. See Speiser v. Randall, 357 U. S. 513, 526 (1958) . Because the First Amendment would not prevent Congress from directly imposing the Solomon Amendment’s access requirement, the statute does not place an unconstitutional condition on the receipt of federal funds.

Now I am sympathetic to one argument that the law professors made, but I would be a lot more sympathetic if they recognized that it applies whenever government funding has strings attached:

For the Faculty now to surrender to the Government's coercion--even to protect the University's finances--would inevitably erode all students' faith in the Faculty Members' commitment to treat them with equal respect and dignity.

The point that I would make is that if the government takes your money from you and then gives it back if you only use that money the way the government wants, that is coercion.


Possibly we won't run out of oil for a long time

This is sure to drive some environmentalists nuts:

Thomas Gold was not your typical radical. Far from being a mad scientist, he was a brilliant professor of astronomy at Cornell University, but he succeeded in driving many others mad with theories that flew in the face of conventional wisdom.

His most controversial idea was among his last, and geologists and petroleum experts around the world still rage against Gold for suggesting they were dead wrong in their understanding of how oil and gas are formed in the Earth's crust.

Now, a couple of decades after Gold first suggested that hydrocarbons are formed deep underground by geological processes and not just below the surface by biological decay, there is increasing evidence that he may have been on to something.

If he was wrong, he may have erred only in taking his idea too far. Gold argued that all hydrocarbons are formed in the intense pressure and high heat near the Earth's mantle, around 100 miles under the ground. If he was right, it means the finite limits of the resources that power our cities and our factories and our vehicles have been vastly overstated. . . .

The article goes on and discusses some experiments at Lawrence Livermore that have produced methane under conditions found 100 miles below the earth's crust. Livermore produced a news release that read: "These reserves could be a virtually inexhaustible source of energy for future generations."