Filed under: Law, National Security, Pop Culture | Tags: No Common Sense, Public Paranoia, The Do-Something Disease
When there is a horrendous incident, such as the terrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT., the do-something disease strikes with devastating effect. A boy, described as odd, or disturbed?— did anyone describe him as disturbed or only in retrospect? — shot his mother in the face and proceeding to the elementary school, shot teachers and many little children and then himself. Devastating.
The immediate assumption is that we must do something to prevent a repetition, any repetition anywhere, any time. But going back over other shootings, the perpetrators were not singled out, no one recognized their delusions or their danger. None cold have been prevented by any of the new laws being proposed. If we are unable to recognize mental illness in any of these people prior to their act, new laws about not selling guns to the mentally disturbed are not going to help. None of them purchased their guns at gun dealers. We have tried a ban on “assault weapons” to little effect because the banners have no understanding of what an assault weapon is. So you end up with all sorts of incidents like this one, that Reason headlined this way:
“Boy, Not Making Bombs, Arrested for Having Things Cops Think Could Blow Up (And For Drawings That Spooked a Teacher).”
When a 16-year-old New Jersey boy doodled in his notebook on Tuesday, December 18, he probably didn’t expect to be arrested by the end of the day. However, when school officials saw the sketches, which they state appeared to be of weapons, and the boy “demonstrated behavior that caused them to be concerned,” the police were called. ( The drawing was apparently of a glove spouting flames).
The school is a magnet school with programs focusing on engineering and environmental science and specializing in hands-on learning.
A subsequent search of the boy’s home led to his arrest because they found several electronic parts and chemicals. He was charged with the possession of an explosive device and put in juvenile detention. His mother said her son had “a passion for collecting old stuff, taking it apart and rebuilding thing.”
No threats to anyone, no bomb, no making a bomb, no using a bomb, no detonating a bomb. Only a drawing of a flaming glove. No indication that there was any danger to anyone or any school property. Hope the kid got out of the Juvenile Detention facility in time for Christmas.
Filed under: Freedom, History, National Security, Politics, The Constitution, The United States | Tags: No Self-Defense in England, Obama Forgets His Oath, The Second Amendment
In 1953, British law banned carrying anything for the purpose of self-defense.
In England, self-defense is not considered a “good reason” to carry a knife, much less a gun, as an “offensive weapon” is “defined as any weapon designed or adapted to cause injury, or intended by the person possessing them to do so.”
The BBC offers this advice for anyone in Britain who is attacked on the street: “You are permitted to protect yourself with a briefcase, a handbag, or keys. You should shout “call the Police’ rather than ‘Help.’ Bystanders are not to help. They have been taught to leave such matters to the professionals. If you manage to knock your attacker down, you must not hit him again or you risk being charged with assault.“
A report from the Cato Institute points out that self-defense is an endangered right.
The withdrawal of a basic right of Englishmen is having dire consequences in Great Britain, and should serve as an object lesson for Americans. Today, in the name of public safety, the British government has practically eliminated the citizens’ right to self-defense. That did not happen all at once. The people were weaned from their fundamental right to protect themselves through a series of policies implemented over some 80 years. Those include the strictest gun regulations of any democracy, legislation that makes it illegal for individuals to carry any article that could be used for personal protection, and restrictive limits on the use of force in self-defense. Britons have been taught, in the words of a 1992 Economist article, that such policies are “a restraint on personal liberty that seems, in most civilized countries, essential to the happiness of others.” The author contrasted those policies with “America’s vigilante values.”
The result of that tradeoff of rights for security has been disastrous for both. Many Americans, either unaware of, or unconcerned with, the perverse impact of British policy, insist that our public safety demands a similar sacrifice. But an examination of the experience of the British people offers a cautionary tale. A few examples underscore the situation in Britain today.
A homeowner discovered two robbers in his home, and held them at bay with a toy gun, while he telephoned the police. When the police arrived, they arrested the two burglars and also the homeowner, who was charged with putting someone in fear with a toy gun.
An elderly woman who scared off a gang of youths by firing a cap pistol was charged with the same offense. The government is now planning to make toy guns illegal.
In 1999, a 55-year-old farmer, Tony Martin, living alone in a dilapidated house, was awakened by the sound of breaking glass as two burglars broke in. Martin had been robbed six times previously. Like 70 percent of rural villages, his had no police presence. He crept downstairs in the dark, shot at the burglars, killing one and wounding the second. Both had many prior convictions. Martin was sentenced to life in prison for killing one burglar, 10 years for wounding the second, and 12 months for owning an unregistered shotgun. The prosecutor claimed that Martin had lain in wait, and caught the burglars “like rats in a trap.”
The wounded burglar was released after serving 18 months of a three-year sentence. He then sued Martin for the injury to his leg, claiming it prevented him from working and interfered with his martial arts training and sex life. He was awarded £5,000 of taxpayer money to prosecute the suit. Martin’s sentence was reduced on a finding that he had an abusive childhood, but he was denied parole because he had expressed no remorse for killing one so young, and posed a danger to other burglars.
A trend of 500 years of declining interpersonal violence reversed abruptly in 1954 as violence began to increase dramatically. In 2001 England ranked highest in the level of homicides in Western Europe, and violent crimes were three times worse than the next worst country, and climbing. It is far higher than the United States.
The safety of the public has taken second place behind the government’s political preference for order and power. It is an alarming lesson for us.
In the meantime, President Obama on Sunday pledged to put his “full weight” behind a legislative package next year aimed at containing gun violence. He voiced skepticism about armed guards at schools. He said he intended to press the issue with the public. “Will there be resistance? Absolutely there will be resistance.”
In California, the number of guns sold in the state has risen sharply, doubling since 2002. Oddly enough, gun injuries and deaths have fallen. Across the country many teachers are signing up for firearms training on their own.
Filed under: Europe, Freedom, Heartwarming, History | Tags: European Bison, Free to Roam in the Woods, Wisent
Walter Russell Mead always has interesting essays at The American Interest and today’s was no exception.”For the first time since 1746, a herd of wild European bison, close cousins of the American variety, will be roaming free in a German forest owned by Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg.” Now how could you resist an introductory sentence like that?
Since he hit upon the idea almost a decade ago, Prince Richard has been at the center of Germany’s most interesting experiment in species conservation. Now the project, which receives about €1.5 million ($2 million) in government subsidies, is about to enter its critical phase.
The state Environment Ministry in Düsseldorf issued its approval shortly before Christmas, and over the next few days several men will drive into the forest and remove the fence around an acclimation enclosure in place since 2010. When that happens, a herd of eight European bison, or wisent, will be free to roam in the woods. It consists of an enormous bull, five cows and two calves.
The last wild European bison was killed in 1927 in the Caucasus, but the few specimens that lived on in zoos now have 3,000 descendants. Some Europeans are nervous worrying about dangers to hikers or the environment. Others worry about the wild West nature of the animals. Goodness, they’re talking about one bull, five cows and two calves. Hardly the thundering stampede of Western history. It is interesting that these bison are woodland creatures, unlike American bison who roamed free on the Great Plains. The picture above is a bigger herd than the one now free in the forest. It is encouraging to see a species preserved in zoos, once again being released to thrive in the wild. A nice story for the New Year.
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Law, Taxes | Tags: Taxes and Debt, The Fiscal Cliff, The Unserious President
Twenty-Six Years Ago: President Ronald Reagan passed significant tax reforms that lowered the individual income tax rate, limited deductions, and brought equality to tax rates at all levels. Previously, there had been 15 different marginal rates that reached as high as 50 percent for those in the top brackets. By the time Reagan left office, the number of tax brackets had been reduced to two: 15 percent and 28 percent.
In 1993: President William J. Clinton raised the top two income rates to 36 percent and 39.6 percent while also raising the corporate tax rate, increasing the taxable portion of Social Security benefits and increasing the amount of income taxable for Medicare. This has become known as the “Clinton tax rates.”
In 2001: President George W. Bush reduced the tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, lowered the capital gains rate and the dividend income rates and expanded credits and deductions such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Smoke, mirrors and time and energy is being spent advancing the myth that raising taxes is the best way to avoid falling off the “fiscal-cliff.”
If you raise taxes as President Obama wants, you would generate maybe $1 trillion over a period of ten years. President Obama’s spending has resulted in trillion-dollar deficits in each of the previous four years. At this rate in ten years we would be looking at $10 trillion in new debt. Under no proposed scenario does raising taxes limit or eliminate the deficit and return us to a balanced budget. The problem is government spending.
The Democrat-run Senate under Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has refused to produce a budget since April 27, 2009. Refused. They are required by law to produce a budget each year.
There is nothing in any proposal that will satisfy President Obama’s obsessive desire to spend. He’s still talking about “roads and bridges”— the same roads and bridges that he’s been promising to fix since 2008, that turned out not to be “shovel ready.” He wants a new batch of offshore wind farms all along the East Coast. He wants more solar arrays, wind farms, Solyndras, in the name of green energy though even the IPCC has determined that global warming is not anthropogenic, not caused by CO2 or greenhouse gasses, but caused by the action of the sun and cloud formation. The globe has been cooling for 16 years, not warming. And to top it all off, Obama wants another stimulus. The previous stimulus was wasted— all $825 billion of it, and another one would be similarly wasted.
The money is not going to come from raising the rates on the rich. They don’t have enough money, and there aren’t enough of them. So it boils down to this. Either he cuts way back on spending, or he raises taxes big time on the middle class. There are solutions, but no real interest.
Or ask yourself this: Why would a president who has any sense of the American people, the American economy as it is, the 24 million people who are out of work, feel that this is the right time to end the pay freeze on federal employees who are already vastly overpaid compared to their counterparts in the private sector, and do vastly less work? And why would he choose this moment in time to give Vice President Joe Biden a $6,370 raise? Members of Congress only got $900 bucks a year raise.
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Europe, Humor, Taxes | Tags: Tax the Rich, The Rich Have Choices, The Rich Move Elsewhere
This year France elected a new socialist president, Francois Hollande, who immediately announced his intention to undo whatever Sarkozy and Merkel dreamed up. He also announced an intention to raise taxes on millionaires, as he seeks to cut France’s public deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year from a projected 4.5 percent deficit this year. Mon Dieu! But this sounds somehow somewhat familiar.
Ooops! President Francois Hollande’s 75% tax rate on the rich, France’s top court just ruled is unconstitutional. The tax was a focal point of discontent among entrepreneurs and wealth creators, many of whom have moved to Britain or other more friendly climes. Noted French actor Gerard Depardieu moved across the border to Belgium.
Politically, this has an impact because it was a symbol for French public opinion, and was considered abroad as the emblem of French tax excess, of “French tax hell,” said Dominique Barbet, senior economist at BNP Paribas SA in Paris. “In deficit terms, it’s truly negligible.
The decision could be positive for France’s bond market because it show there is a limit to the government’s ability to raise taxes on the wealthy and may decrease the flight risk of more rich French citizens.
Hollande’s 2013 budget relies on 20 billion euros in additional taxes: 10 billion euros from companies and 10 billion euros from individuals. There were also new taxes on capital gains, an increased tax on wealth, higher inheritance taxes and an exit tax for entrepreneurs who sell their companies. There is also a new 45% tax bracket for incomes exceeding 150,000 euros per year.
The Laffer Curve applies in France as well as here. The taxes would not bring in the amount expected. But the whole thing does sound familiar.
Filed under: Art, Capitalism, Cool Site of the Day, Freedom | Tags: American Entrepreneurs, Skilled Craftsmen, Work of the Hands
I love these videos that show how things are made, because there are so many things and I am so ignorant about how it is done. Skilled craftsmen are a joy to watch.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, History, Politics, Taxes | Tags: Compulsive Spending, Economic Incomprehension, Income Mobility
Will Obama’s wrongheaded policies destroy American Income Mobility? You cannot take enough money from the rich to make the poor not poor. There simply aren’t enough people in the top 1%, and they don’t have to sit around and pay those increased taxes. They can rearrange their finances. They can pack up and move. Sounds like it would work, you demonize the rich, claim that they are not paying their fair share. But don’t stop to ask what their fair share is, for the top 1% of taxpayers already pay almost as much in federal taxes as the entire bottom 95%, and half of that group paid no taxes at all in 2010.
Have you noticed that the Democrats keep talking about “tax cuts for the rich” when there are no tax cuts for anyone even under discussion. If the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire (the fiscal cliff) then everybody’s taxes go up. Republicans would like to see tax cuts for everyone, for that would help the economy to grow and more jobs to be created, but that is not on the table, because Barack Obama will not cut back on his spending. He doesn’t think he has to, and he wants to do a lot more spending.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Taxes | Tags: A Class Society?, Attacking the Rich, Economic Mobility
The federal government, for its own convenience, divides the American people into five classes by income. One poor, three middle, and one rich — or perhaps now it’s two middle and two rich. The Occupy people, an unfortunate distraction, divided Americans up into the 1% and the 99%, the filthy rich and the rest of us. I always assumed it was the 1% of Occupy layabouts and the rest of us, for I certainly didn’t care to be associated with that mess.
There are reasonable ideas behind these divisions, for Americans believe there should be a safety net, and the poor and disabled should have the help they need. But then everybody starts using the “classes,” and drawing sharp lines and becoming obsessed by inequality, and the “growing gap” between the rich and the middle class. They do not understand the economy as a living, changing entity.
They see the economy as a pie, and if the rich get richer, then the rest will have to subsist on less. The rich make the poor poorer. But that is nonsense. The amount of money in the economy grows to accommodate increased economic activity. In theory, when the economy needs more money, the treasury prints some. In our current situation, we borrow more and sign more promissory notes.
The current battle over “The Fiscal Cliff” is all about “the rich.” President Obama wants to tax “the rich” significantly more because he has decided that they aren’t paying their “fair share” even though we have the most progressive taxes among industrialized countries (until France elected a socialist president who raised taxes on the rich and the rich moved out of the country). This has long been a fixed idea among liberals.
According to Timothy Noah, a senior editor at the New Republic, the inequality dates from the Reagan tax cuts. The present gap between rich and middle class is intolerable. Noah declared it indisputable that income inequality is bad not only for people on the losing end but also for society at large.
There has always been enormous mobility in the American population. Young people start out poor, find jobs, get promoted or find a better job, and with hard work some even get rich.The rich are not the same people over time, nor are the poor. Obama hasn’t managed to make people richer, though he’s tried with his subsidies for political cronies; but he has succeeded beyond anyone’s dreams at enormously enlarging the numbers of those considered poor. Over 540,000 people have dropped out of the labor force. More than 24 million Americans who want jobs don’t have them, driving labor force participation down to 63,6%. That is his accomplishment, not, as he so often claims, Bush’s fault.
There will be another big drop in the ranks of the employed in January as company after company lays off workers as a result of ObamaCare, and the threat of sequestration hits military defense contractors. Increasing taxes on “the rich” will only add to the unemployed as small businesses, who are the usual engine of prosperity, are deprived of the funds they might have used to hire or expand. New regulations being streamed out of the EPA will do more damage to the economy. The EPA has announced that consideration of costs or job losses are not a matter that they consider. They are only protecting the environment.
To make the economy prosper, we do not need to extract more taxes from the rich, we need to add a minimum of 200,000 new jobs every month. It is not happening, and because we are determinedly pursuing the wrong policies, there is no relief in sight. Obama created this mess, his policies have cost millions of jobs and money he has extracted from taxpayers has been wasted in endless, useless green schemes. If the president wants to know why the economy isn’t recovering, he only has to look in the mirror.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Economy, Energy, Environment, News | Tags: Administrator Lisa Jackson, Freedom of Information Act, The Environmental Protection Agency
Splendid news from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is administrator Lisa Jackson’s forthcoming departure. It is a major victory for transparency and accountability in Washington.
There have been whispers for years and rumors that EPA officials used private email addresses, fake names and coded messages to avoid the strictures of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Jackson’s use of “Richard Windsor” as her chosen email address has recently become public, and Jackson admitted to using “Richard Windsor”as her nom de plume on a government email account.
The EPA inspector general opened an investigation into the matter because it is against federal law to use nonofficial or secret email addresses to conduct official business. The use of private or false flag emails enables government officials to hide things that they would prefer we do not know about. And hiding things from FOIA requests is illegal. But the EPA has been hiding things for a very long time.
During the Clinton years, Carol Browner (a former senatorial aide to Vice President Gore) headed the EPA. She ordered the hard drive on her government computer to be reformatted and all backup tapes destroyed, just hours after a federal judge ordered her agency to preserve all agency email records. Only hopelessly naive or blindly partisan folks took seriously Browner’s doe-eyed claim that it was all just a big mistake and she certainly wasn’t trying to cover up anything. Nothing to see here, so move along, folks.
And nothing was done.
Christopher Horner, a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and FOIA expert turned up an internal memo from the EPA’s IT department, which described the process for establishing and using secret email accounts.
That particular revelation engendered real warfare among Jackson’s EPA, a federal court, at least two Congressional committees, Horner and the CEI over thousands of other internal emails and documents that are likely to shed light on the illegalities going on at the environmental agency. The EPA has authored hundreds of regulations that damage business, cost jobs, and involve huge costs to innocent bystanders for highly questionable reasons dependent on unusually questionable evidence.
The conflict is ongoing, and there are sure to be more ugly revelations. Those who defend Jackson will claim that her departure has nothing to do with such matters. Chris Horner makes an obvious point: “It is not only implausible that Lisa Jackson’s resignation was unrelated to her false identity, which we revealed, given how the obvious outcome and apparent objective of such transparency laws was intolerable. But it became an inevitability when, last week, the Department of Justice agreed (as a result of our lawsuit) to begin producing 12,000 of her “Richard Windsor” alias accounts related to the war on coal Jackson was orchestrating on behalf of President Obama outside of the appropriate democratic process.”
Along with all the other things the Obama administration hid until ‘after the election’ there are dozens of Jackson’s most costly and controversial proposed regulations, which the administration is now releasing. These regulations are especially damaging to the coal industry which supplies the major portion of our electric power.
President Obama has long made clear that he wants to bankrupt the coal industry, which seems to be part of his desire to save the planet from a global warming that is proving to be non-existent. There are lots of legal battles to come.
It has become obvious that many of the numbers put forth by the agency are fraudulent, environmental damage is invented, and harm to humanity is exaggerated hooey. That’s what transparency and accountability are all about.
If you believe that the government’s business should be conducted in public, this is a significant beginning. Nobody in government has ever gone to jail for violating a FOIA request, and Jackson won’t go to jail either. But the agency is now an object of attention by the IG office as well as Congressional committees. That can only help.
Filed under: Freedom, History, Law, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: National Rifle Association, Newtown Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary
Reflecting on the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, have you ever noticed how very brief the period is when the murder is blamed on the perpetrator, and how quickly the blame shifts to society in general? It’s not the perpetrator — it’s us. We are too violent as a society. We have a love affair with guns. We allow assault weapons in our society. We play violent video games. We allow and enjoy violent movies. We are bad parents. We don’t put our mentally ill people away. And so it goes. We must all understand that it is not the fault of the perpetrator, it is our fault.
Blame immediately shifts to guns, and not just any guns, but “assault weapons,” which seem to be any kind of guns that look scary. Assault weapons have been banned before, which didn’t do much good, and Congress twisted itself into pretzels trying to describe what constituted an “assault weapon.” It is not a descriptive term. An assault weapon is one used to assault someone, and could be a baseball bat or a kitchen knife. Semi-automatic simply means not automatic. So naturally, a large group of people marched on the National Rifle Association headquarters, which perhaps made them feel good.
The questions about mental health are more difficult. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has lobbied for laws that prevent people from being committed in most circumstances, and account for much of the mentally ill homeless being on the street instead of being treated. It is very difficult to get anyone committed or restrained. Mental health professionals are the first to point out that those who most need help are often not amenable to treatment of any kind, and that it is not really possible to correctly designate those who are most likely to commit mass murder.
The New York Times headline said “N.R.A. Envisions ‘a Good Guy With a Gun’ in Every School.”
The N.R.A.’s plan for countering school shootings, coming a week after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was met with widespread derision from school administrators, law enforcement officials and politicians, with some critics calling it “delusional” and “paranoid.” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, said arming schools would not make them safer.
National Review correctly and quietly pointed out that 1/3 of public schools already have armed security on staff, as of the 2009-20010 school year, the most recent data, and a number of states and districts that do not use them are discussing the idea.
In the wake of a dreadful shooting, particularly of helpless schoolchildren, it is natural to want to do something to prevent such happenings.
When Major Nidal Hassan, an Army Psychiatrist, supervised by other Psychiatrists, shot 13 people and wounded 29 others,at Fort Hood Texas Nov. 5, 2009, there was, in retrospect, all sorts of evidence that should have warned his superiors that he was a danger. Three years later, he has not yet been tried. The incident is described by Homeland Security as ‘workplace violence’ and those wounded are not allowed purple hearts nor any of the benefits that those wounded in combat are entitled to.
Looking back at other mass murders should make us a little more cautious about our rush to do something. There are no easy answers. New laws need slow and careful consideration, not dramatic action when emotions are high. We do need an ability to restrain or commit those who really need help, but past history shows that those who badly need help are only identified after they have committed some horror.
Filed under: Entertainment, Heartwarming, Music, Russia | Tags: Kremlin Capella, Russian Winter, Tradtional Folk Song
The Kremlin Capella sings a beautiful Russian Folk Song, with chilly pictures of Moscow in winter. The song is popularly called “The Little Bell.” In Russian Однозвучно гремит колокольчик. We posted this last year, and now it’s winter again. Enjoy.