Archive for January, 2009

Rights, privileges and the licencing of gun owners

January 31, 2009

If anyone was wondering when the first anti-gun legislation would hit the floor in the U.S., the wait is over.

From the NRA:

U.S. Representative Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) recently sponsored H.R. 45, also known as “Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act.” The bill is, at its core and as its name implies, a licensing and registration scheme.

The measure calls for all handgun owners to submit to the federal government an application that shall include, among many other things: a photo; an address; a thumbprint; a completed, written firearm safety test; private mental health records; and a fee. And those are only some of the requirements to be licensed!

The bill would further require the attorney general to establish a database of every handgun sale, transfer, and owner’s address in America. Moreover, the bill would make it illegal to own or possess a “qualifying firearm” — defined as “any handgun; or any semiautomatic firearm that can accept any detachable ammunition feeding device…” [emphasis added] without one of the proposed licenses.

Additionally, the bill would make it illegal to transfer ownership of a “qualifying firearm” to anyone who is not a licensed gun dealer or collector (with very few exceptions), and would require “qualifying firearm” owners to report all transfers to the attorney general’s database. It would also be illegal for a licensed gun owner to fail to record a gun loss or theft within 72 hours, or fail to report a change of address within 60 days. Further, if a minor obtains a firearm and injures someone with it, the owner of the firearm may face a multiple-year jail sentence.

H.R. 45 is essentially a reintroduction of H.R. 2666, which Rush introduced in 2007. H.R. 2666 contained much of the same language as H.R. 45, and was co-sponsored by several well-known anti-gun legislators–including Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. H.R. 45 currently has no co-sponsors.

With the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. constitution being confirmed by their Supreme Court, I look at what this legislation is trying to accomplish and I wonder if it passes the test.

In Canada we learned the difference between rights and privileges a number of years ago when our Federal Firearms Act came into being. We had always talked about our “rights” to own firearms. But they weren’t constitutionally protected as in the U.S. and when licencing came into effect we found to our dismay that our perceived “right” had overnight been converted to a “privilege”. Ergo, you don’t have a right if you have to apply and pay for it.

With that in mind, it seems to my layman thinking that Rep. Rush’s bill, when it talks about licencing to say nothing of all the compliance conditions, is in direct conflict with the constitutional right embodied in the 2nd Amendment.

Hopefully this bill – so far with no co-sponsors – will be nipped in the bud and save a whole lot of legal wrangling.

Time for the revolution

January 31, 2009

Nevada is looking at the possibility of taxing drivers based on the number of miles they drive. Just when you think you’ve seen stupid you realize that the people that you elect and the bureaucrats who advise them have the ability to take stupid to new heights.

Motorists could someday be taxed based on the number of miles they drive, not the gallons of gas they consume.

Increased fuel efficiency reduces gas tax revenue, the primary funding source for road construction and maintenance. Meanwhile, those infrastructure costs are rising.

Susan Martinovich, director of the Nevada Transportation Department, said this week that a study is under way in Washoe County to see how taxing miles driven might work.

Martinovich said vehicles would be equipped with a mechanism tracking when the car is driven, where it’s driven and how far.

“It would provide a formula to charge them when they go to the gas station” or a bill based on this formula could be sent to car owners, Martinovich said at a hearing of Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees.

So the auto makers, by improving gas efficiency in their product, have not been doing us (or more to the point, the Nevada State government) a favour.  They have cut into government’s inalienable right to suck as much money out of your pocket as possible.

There may be some problems that the tax grabbers haven’t thought out.

1. The program would work to reduce the incentive to buy fuel efficient cars which I don’t think is the national plan. (Don’t think for a moment that this will replace gas taxes: It will be an additional charge).

2. It would charge more to those driving during heavy traffic times, which would penalize those poor working stiffs who have no choice if they want to get to work in the morning or back home at night.

3. People, not being stupid, may aggressively change their driving habits and car pool more or take public transport. This would serve the agenda of those who want to reduce automobile use, but would leave the State tax department back where they started.

4. The whole scheme smells like “big brother” politics with government looking over your shoulder every minute that you are in your car and is sure to offend a large number of voters.

My advice would be to throw the whole lot of them out of office. Stay out of my house, stay out of my car, stay out of my life.

Obama’s dilemma

January 31, 2009

It appears that what we are seeing in Washington right now is the tap dance about who is in charge and who is making policy in government. If the “buy in America only” provision in the stimulus bill proceeds as written, it will tell us one of two things. Either newly inaugurated President Obama buys into the protectionist argument which would leave his judgment and policies seriously in doubt or, regardless of the pre-election Democratic love fest, he will be bullied and controlled by his congress.

The toxic “buy American” provisions in the economic stimulus package currently before the Senate pose a crucial test for Barack Obama’s young administration.

To prevent a cascade of tariff protection that would ultimately hurt his own workers and his own country’s economy, Mr. Obama must find some way to strip the protectionist clauses that infect the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Yet, politically, that might be impossible. Mr. Obama owes his presidency to the votes of blue-collar workers in the industrial Midwest, many of whom are out of work as a result of the slowdown.

“Buy American” violates the North American free-trade agreement, but Mr. Obama has vowed to renegotiate or, failing that, rip up NAFTA, so has little stake in coming to its defence.

And he would be overriding protectionist provisions put in the bill by his own Democratic Party.

The President has said the time has come to make “difficult decisions.” This is one of them.

Even economists who strongly support the stimulus package are dismayed by the protectionist measures contained within it.

“It looks like a very bad thing in the bill,” said economist Brad DeLong, who worked on trade issues in the Clinton administration and teaches at University of California, Berkeley.

……..

The White House could try to convince the Democratic leadership to strip the anti-trade measures from the bill, both before it is voted on by the Senate and during the conference to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill.

If that fails, then Mr. Obama could issue what is called a signing statement saying the “buy American” provisions of the bill violate treaty obligations. That might effectively veto the measures, though Daniel Ikenson, associate director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, believes the measures would go ahead regardless.

Mr. Ikenson, who calls the “buy American” provisions “stunningly ridiculous” and bound to incite trade wars, believes Mr. Obama must either convince Congress to drop the provisions or acquiesce.

“He has to strip it or sign it,” he said yesterday in an interview.

So that’s the Obama dilemma; strip it or sign it. It is going to be interesting to see if he take a stand.

Unfortunately it seems that the mindset in the new government goes beyond protectionism and that they won’t be satisfied until the fence built on the Mexican border is extended completely around the country.

Days after she was sworn in, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered an urgent review of the Canada-U.S. border.

“Members of Congress and homeland-security experts have called for increased attention to the Canadian border,” the directive reads.

“What are the current vulnerabilities, the overall strategy for reducing those vulnerabilities, the requirements, the programs, the budget, and the time frame for improving security along this border and what level of risk will remain once the programs are completed?”

Various agencies, including Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard have until Feb. 10 to prepare an oral report, with the final report due Feb. 17. Any recommendations, once implemented, could further impede the free flow of goods and people across what used to be the world’s longest undefended border.

It sounds as thought the friendly Canada/U.S. border may be a thing of the past. Not a nice way to treat your largest trading partner.

Trusting the Mainstream Media

January 31, 2009

Whenever you slip back into the comfortable mode of accepting as truth everything you read and hear in the MSM, give your head a hard shake and watch this video and read the commentary to return to reality.

It’s not history, it’s an ongoing story.

U.S. protectionism raises it ugly head

January 30, 2009

It didn’t take long into the new U.S. administration for the trade protectionists to jam in an amendment to the bail-out stimulus bill.

The stimulus bill passed by the House last night contains a controversial provision that would mostly bar foreign steel and iron from the infrastructure projects laid out by the $819 billion economic package.

A Senate version, yet to be acted upon, goes further, requiring, with few exceptions, that all stimulus-funded projects use only American-made equipment and goods.

Proponents of expanding the “Buy American” provisions enacted during the Great Depression, including steel and iron manufacturers and labor unions, argue that it is the only way to ensure that the stimulus creates jobs at home and not overseas.

Opponents, including some of the biggest blue-chip names in American industry, say it amounts to a declaration of war against free trade. That, they say, could spark retaliation from abroad against U.S. companies and exacerbate the global financial crisis.

The provisions also confront President Obama with his first test on trade policy. He must weigh the potential consequences of U.S. protectionism against the appealing slogan of “Buy American” and the jobs argument.

It would appear that the U.S. is prepared to back away from the global economy and build a wall to keep out the rest of the world.

This could set the tone for the Obama presidency and the bloom could be off the rose earlier than anyone anticipated.

The politics of puppy mills

January 26, 2009

Over the past few years I have seen a lot of material come through on my emails about the evils of puppy mills, the abuses of puppy mills and the demands for legislation to put them out of business.

It all kind of came into focus for me after the U.S. election and the manufactured uproar over then Vice President Elect Joe Biden buying a purebred pup and not getting it from a shelter and the hoopla over what kind of a dog then President Elect Barack Obama would get for his daughters and his expectation that it would come from a shelter and not from a breeder.

The thrust of the rhetoric left the impression that there was somehow something wrong with buying a dog from a registered breeder and that got me to thinking about just what the definition of a puppy mill had become.

Twenty years ago, people knew that a “puppy mill” was a substandard kennel where unhealthy, overbred dogs were kept in horrendous conditions.

Today it’s not so easy. In the last decade of the 20th Century, activist groups began to broaden the term to cover just about any kennel that they didn’t like. As a result, commercial kennels and hobby breeders with more than an arbitrary number of dogs or litters have become targets for anti-breeding groups that lobby for laws to restrict these law-abiding operations. These organizations stir up public support for breeding restrictions and high license fees by deliberately blurring the lines between responsible breeding operations and real puppy mills. They use emotional rhetoric and pictures of dirty kennels and sickly dogs to imply that most or all breeders will subject their dogs to abusive lives unless they are regulated.

Shelter and rescue workers who receive dogs from raids on squalid kennels often lead the fight for laws restricting or regulating breeding in an effort to close kennels they label as puppy mills. Some responsible breeders are so incensed at the existence of substandard kennels that they are willing to accept these punitive licensing schemes even though the costs may limit or destroy their breeding programs.

Lawmakers who write bills aimed at preventing puppy mills leave the definitions up to those who lobby for the laws. As a result, publicity campaigns highlight kennels where dozens or hundreds of dogs are kept in poor conditions, but the bills themselves often target responsible hobby and commercial breeders with far fewer breeding dogs.

That being said, when you search the internet for puppy mill stories, or more correctly, bad breeder stories, it is pretty horrific. However the demands by animals rights groups for laws that will limit the number of breeding dogs a person keeps is not something that will solve the problem of dogs being kept under substandard conditions.

It would seem obvious that a bad breeder is just that; someone who abuses his animals through deplorable living conditions, poor medical care and just all around bad breeding practices. It would not make any difference whether he had 50 or 2 breeding animals in his kennels.

If legislators are going to pass laws to correct the problem of puppy mills (in the true context of the name) they need to deal with real abuses on site and the closing down of bad operators and not on the theoretical possibility of problems because a breeder has more animals than the arbitrary number set by statute.

But as noted, it is the activists that drive the wording of the legislation and what they want is to shut down commercial breeding operations or, at least, limit the practice as much as possible.

This is standard operating practice, a case in point being the attempt to re-write the federal animal cruelty Act, but the activists pushing the legislation insisted on wording that made user groups extremely wary of the intent. Their refusal to compromise ended up dooming the passing of the legislation.

I would normally point out that the same philosophy was implemented into the writing of the Federal Firearms Act, but it was suggested to me by someone who claims genetic linkage that I have a regrettable habit of letting my rants slide into the gun control area. So I won’t.

NRA approved Democrat appointed to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat

January 25, 2009

Some disagreement with the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand, who has a 100% positive rating from the NRA, to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacated Senate seat.

How the hell did that happen?

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy said Thursday Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand’s gun control views make her unacceptable for the U.S. Senate and threatened a primary challenge in 2010 if Gov. David A. Paterson selects the Hudson Democrat to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton.

McCarthy, who became a prominent gun-control advocate after her husband died and her son was injured in the 1993 massacre at the Long Island Rail Road‘s Merillon Avenue station that killed six people and injured 19 others, said she is “furious” about reports that Paterson today may select Gillibrand, who last year earned an “A” grade from the National Rifle Association.

“I’ve spent 15 years trying to prevent gun violence in this country, and if he does pick her and if no one goes and primaries her, I will primary her,” McCarthy said. “I will do that. I’m not going to give up on this. I’m not going to let New York State get represented by someone who gets a 100 percent rating from the NRA.”

A bit of division within the party?

Canada’s “Don’t Call List”: Another total screw-up

January 23, 2009

This in today’s Globe and Mail:

Listing your name on Canada’s new do-not-call registry could actually increase the likelihood that you will be targeted by unscrupulous telemarketers.

The Consumers’ Association of Canada says it has been inundated with complaints from people who have been called by scam artists after placing their telephone numbers on the registry, which went into effect last September.

The do-not-call list was created to prevent telemarketers from contacting people who do not want to be pestered with uninvited sales pitches. For companies to find out who they are not permitted to call, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission sells the list online for a fee.

“You can buy any list you want of people who subscribe to the do-not-call registry online. The whole of Toronto costs you 50 bucks for 600,000 names,” Bruce Cran, president of the CAC, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

“That’s just perfect for any telemarketer, because these are good names which they would otherwise have to pay money for to verify. In addition to that, there’s no index list of cell phone numbers that you can get. However, people were encouraged to put their cell phone numbers on there as well.”

It is hard to comprehend just how stupid the people who set this up must be.

I put my name on this list thinking (obviously not clearly enough) that our highly paid bureaucrats would have some logical plan in place to distribute the list of “no call” names to existing and legitimate call centres. But no – they put it out there on the internet, with no controls, for one and all to purchase.

Did it never occur to these idiots that someone other than the intended call centers – maybe even offshore operations that they have no control over – might find these lists of value to whatever schemes they might have in mind?

So much for the protection of personal privacy.

Just another lesson in life. Wherever and whenever, volunteer as little as possible about yourself to the fricking government.

I am enraged, disgusted and unfortunately resigned to the fact that some of my personal tax dollars are going to pay the salaries of these incompetents.

Early troubles in Paradise?

January 23, 2009

On only his second day in office, U.S. President Obama got a little touchy with the press corps.

President Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press corps Thursday night, but got agitated when he was faced with a substantive question.

Asked how he could reconcile a strict ban on lobbyists in his administration with a Deputy Defense Secretary nominee who lobbied for Raytheon, Obama interrupted with a knowing smile on his face.

“Ahh, see,” he said, “I came down here to visit. See this is what happens. I can’t end up visiting with you guys and shaking hands if I’m going to get grilled every time I come down here.”

I thought that was a bit early in the game for some edginess.

Then a little more infighting with the new White House staff:

News organizations that cover the White House sparred with the Obama administration on Thursday over access issues for photographers and rules for briefings.

Representatives from Obama’s press office held a conference call with photo editors, who are concerned that the administration prefers distributing photos taken by a White House photographer in cases where photojournalists have been permitted access in the past. It was unclear whether the two sides had reached any accommodation.

The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse refused to distribute photos taken by the White House of the new president on his first day in the Oval Office because of the dispute. Still photographers were also not given access to Obama’s do-over oath of office administered Wednesday night by Chief Justice John Roberts and an economics meeting on Thursday.

Then a little problem with transparency.

The Associated Press also questioned on Thursday why reporters were not allowed to use the names of administration officials giving a background briefing on issues regarding the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

Background briefings are hardly new in Washington, and were frequently conducted during the Bush and Clinton administrations. But the AP wanted to establish early with the administration that it’s important to get information on the record as often as possible, said Michael Oreskes, managing editor for U.S. news.

“Information is a lot more valuable to the public if you know where it’s coming from,” Oreskes said. “So we try very hard in all source situations to identify sources as fully as we can.”

In an attempt to deliver on pledges of a transparent government, Obama said he would change the way the federal government interprets the Freedom of Information Act. He said he was directing agencies that vet requests for information to err on the side of making information public — not to look for reasons to legally withhold it — an alteration to the traditional standard of evaluation.

Just because a government agency has the legal power to keep information private does not mean that it should, Obama said. Reporters and public-interest groups often make use of the law to explore how and why government decisions were made; they are often stymied as agencies claim legal exemptions to the law.

“For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city,” Obama said.

As I noted earlier, it is much easier for the President to talk  about transparency in government than to convince the bureaucracy to willingly buy into the policy.

Once again, thanks to Instapundit.

Obama issues first Executive orders

January 23, 2009

President Barack Obama started off his first day in office with a bang, freezing White House staff wages, at least for any staff member earning over $100,000 per annum.

He also stated the intention to put restrictions on lobbyists in Washington to the extent that any lobbyist coming to work for his administration would not work on any file that he or she had previously represented nor could anyone leaving his administration for the private sector work as a lobbyist as long as Obama was in office.

This is something that has been long overdue as current events in the U.S. have made it very clear that lobbyists in Washington are far too influential in the halls of power. It doesn’t go far enough, but there may be further checks and balances buried in the order.

Obama also made a pretty strong statement that the government was going to be far more open with its information to the public, saying that “transparency of the rule of law will be the norm”. That would be a good thing and might set the tone for other governments around the world. It will be very interesting to see if he can actually make this happen. Bureaucrats traditionally hate to tell anyone exactly what they are doing, working on the basis that what people don’t know can’t come back and bite them. I suspect that if Obama is serious about this transparency taking place that he will have to aggressively push that agenda in the government’s massive bureaucracies.

It is easy to be cynical when a politician talks about transparency, as we have heard that song from many politicians in the past. However that is usually during the election process and it is never spoken of again once they get into office. The positive aspect of Obama’s statement is that he has made the committment after being confirmed. Hopefully he can make it work.

All in all, a pretty good start for the first day at the podium.


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