Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Calls for gun control after Colorado shooting are not justified

Following the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado the predictable calls for gun control have surfaced once again. These emotional reactions are understandable in the face of evil, horrific events like this one. However, some objectivity on this subject is needed, so the following information may help establish some needed context. Some of the data in the following categories is not very recent, but is the most recent data that is available.

According to the Website, in 2009 the population of the United States was 307 million, and there were approximately 300 million firearms owned by civilians.

Nearly 45 percent of households, about 53 million, possessed a firearm, and one in three adults, nearly 80 million, owned a firearm. Among gun owners 67 percent said they owned a firearm for protection against crime, 66 percent for target shooting, and 41 percent for hunting.

 U.S. Department of Justice data reveals that roughly 5,340,000 violent crimes (assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders) were committed in the United States during 2008, and that about 436,000 or 8 percent were committed by offenders visibly armed with a gun.

A paper published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology discussed a 1993 nationwide survey of nearly 5,000 households that showed that over a five-year period “at least 3.5 percent of households had members who had used a gun ‘for self-protection or for the protection of property at home, work, or elsewhere,’" and that totaled more than one million incidents per year.

The Website for the Bureau of Justice Standards (BJS) at the U.S. Department of Justice contains the following relevant points:
  • As of 2008, data showed that firearm-related crime had plummeted since 1993.
  • The 1997 Survey of State Prison Inmates, showed that among those possessing a gun, the source of the gun was from a flea market or gun show less than 2 percent of the time; a retail store or pawnshop about 12 percent of the time; and from family, friends, a street buy, or an illegal source about 80 percent of the time.
  • Two sources, an article in the journal Society and in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology reported in 1993 and 1995 respectively that gun-related violence is most common in poor urban areas and in conjunction with gang violence, often involving juveniles or young adults.
So, firearm-related crimes were substantially down in 2008; earlier surveys showed prison inmates admitted getting guns primarily from family, friends, a street buy or an illegal source; and only 8 percent of crimes were committed by criminals who definitely had a gun. Couple that with the fact that some cities with high rates of gun crimes – Chicago, Washington, DC, New York and Detroit, to name four – have some of the strongest gun control laws. Those data argue against, not for, more stringent gun control laws.

Colorado’s Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper acknowledged that stricter gun control laws would not have prevented the carnage in Aurora during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “This person, if there were no assault weapons available, if there were no this or no that, this guy’s going to find something, right? He’s going to know how to create a bomb. Who knows where his mind would have gone. Clearly a very intelligent individual however twisted.”

Gov. Hickenlooper understands what so many people do not understand: that what is at the root of horrific events like this one, and the Columbine High School shooting, the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Virginia Tech shooting, the Fort Hood shooting, and every other such incident, is what is in the mind and heart of the perpetrators.

Someone offered the idea that if at least one person with a concealed-carry permit had been allowed to carry a firearm into that theater, the killer might have been stopped. Unfortunately, it is against the law for anyone to carry a concealed weapon in Aurora, so the only one with a weapon in that theater was the perpetrator. All of the gun owners there that morning were law abiding citizens, except the shooter. Odd, isn’t it: murderers and other criminals do not obey laws. And even though police were nearby for crowd and traffic control for the midnight movie, they didn’t stop this miscreant.

Some will counter that if some movie-goers were armed their efforts to stop the murderer would have produced even more carnage. We’ll never know for sure, but it’s hard to imagine that more than 70 people would have been injured or killed. However, it is possible that if the murderer knew that people in that theater were armed, he might not have gone there.

Most ideas for new gun laws are simplistic and won’t work, and they won’t work because they focus on the wrong thing. It isn’t guns that kill people; it is the people misusing the guns.

Fortunately, the sentiment to pass more gun control laws is not strong, although the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty and proposed amendments to the Cybersecurity Act still represent back-door efforts to subvert the constitutional protections contained in the Second Amendment.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The American media’s fraud and corruption are at an all-time high

Recent dishonesty demonstrates why the mainstream media is largely no longer worthy of the trust of the American people.

Following the massacre of movie-goers in an Aurora, Colorado theater early last Friday morning, ABC’s Brian Ross twisted himself into knots to connect the violence with the Tea Party on “Good Morning America” with George Stephanopoulos. Here is the text.
Stephanopoulos: I’m going to go to Brian Ross. You’ve been investigating the background of Jim Holmes here. You found something that might be significant.
Ross: There’s a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last year. Now, we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes. But it’s Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado.

So, Mr. Ross, if you don’t know “if this is the same Jim Holmes,” why even mention this? It’s not like “Jim Holmes” is so unusual a name that it couldn’t be shared by multiple individuals. Is wild speculation your idea of responsible journalism? Or, are you just taking advantage of a horrible crime and the pain it caused to score cheap political points for your own ideology?

Even if it was the same Jim Holmes, there was no indication that the shooting had any connection whatsoever with the Tea Party. Like the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords last year, this is another pitiful and failed media attempt to tie the Tea Party to violent acts.

ABC issued a correction, and then an apology, and that likely will be the extent of its efforts at contrition. However, the family of the man Mr. Ross falsely connected to the shooting was still getting death threats days later.

Question: How can anyone trust Brian Ross’ reporting hereafter, or that of ABC?

The cable network MSNBC got caught manipulating a comment by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, totally changing the context of a statement he made in order to ridicule and demean him.

The fraud that MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell palmed off on her viewers painted Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch elitist who doesn’t understand how retail commerce works.

Ms. Mitchell introduced a video clip, saying “I get the feeling – take a look at this – that Mitt Romney has not been to too many Wawa’s [convenience stores] along the roadside in Pennsylvania.” In the clip, Mr. Romney comments: “I was at Wawa’s, I wanted to order a sandwich.  You press the little touch tone keypad, alright, you just touch that, and you know, the sandwich comes at you, touch this, touch this, touch this, go pay the cashier, there’s your sandwich.  It’s amazing.”

Ms. Mitchell and her accomplice yuck it up at the candidate’s obvious ignorance of this common method of selling food: “It’s amazing,” she smirks.

But she pulled a fast one on viewers who trust her to honestly tell them what is going on the in the world. What actually happened was that Mr. Romney, prior to relating the Wawa’s anecdote, commented on how a friend had a simple procedure badly mangled by incompetent government bureaucracy that required him to fill out a 33-page form to notify the government of his change of address. Twice.

He was contrasting government inefficiency with the efficiency and innovative nature of the private sector. But that’s not the message Ms. Mitchell wanted her viewers to get, apparently.

Question: Is Andrea Mitchell’s reporting trustworthy?

After the shooting death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida, a large number of people, aided by media reports, rushed to judgment accusing Mr. Zimmerman of a racially motivated killing of the young man we all came to know from the photo of an angelic-looking youngster taken when he was 12 years-old.

Whether Mr. Zimmerman committed a crime, or merely defended himself will be determined at trial, which every American – even those knee-jerks who jumped to the conclusion that the shooting was racially motivated – needs to understand is the proper setting for such determinations.

News organizations are expected to accurately report to the public what is known about events. A well-informed public is less likely to react emotionally and inappropriately, as so many did in the Trayvon Martin shooting. These days it seems the mainstream media frequently ignores ethical standards.

Supporting that point is the way NBC News edited the recording of Mr. Zimmerman talking with a police dispatcher, and creating the impression that Mr. Zimmerman had a racial prejudice against Trayvon Martin. It then broadcast this deception on the “Today Show”: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good.  He looks black,” George Zimmerman tells police in NBC’s edited version.

Here, however, is original text of the call:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.

In these examples, people were deliberately trying to manipulate you with fraudulent reporting, or they are incompetent. When news organizations slant the news, or manufacture the news, whatever the cause, it is unethical, underhanded and unforgiveable.

Comments are welcome

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Smart economic policies push states to top of business-friendly list

 “Regulation and litigation are the bane of business,” according to CNBC in its 2012 America’s Top State for Business survey. “Sure, some of each is inevitable. But we graded the states on the perceived ‘friendliness’ of their legal and regulatory frameworks to business.”

While some states, counties and municipalities are friendly to businesses, others employ policies that drive them away. Among states, Texas and California epitomize these two extremes. With its free-market economic reforms of the last several years Texas has created more than 410,000 jobs since the recession began in 2007, while California has lost nearly 900,000 over that same period. Once again, Texas tops the CNBC list, the third time in five years, besting last year’s winner, Virginia, which dropped to third place.

If a state wants to create jobs, what should its governor and legislature do? Well, they could seek the wisdom of a professor of sociology, a police officer, or a pathologist, an NBA star, or a Nobel Laureate in physics, all knowledgeable people in their field. But to find out how to encourage job creation, you might get the most useful information from employers about what they look for in choosing a suitable environment in which to operate, and then make the state’s environment as close to what they told you as possible.

This common sense prescription desperately needs to be applied at the federal level, where anti-business policies that have kept the United States in recession-like conditions for the last 41 months thrive. Perhaps someone in a position of power in Washington will take notice of how states work to attract or repel business and it will serve as a wake-up call, although recent history argues strongly against that happening.

In answer to the question of how to create jobs, one CEO told Chief Executive Magazine the following: “Do not overtax business. Make sure your tax scheme does not drive business to another state,” he said. “Have a regulatory environment and regulators that encourage good business—not one that punishes businesses for minor infractions. Good employment laws help too. Let companies decide what benefits and terms will attract and keep the quality of employee they need. Rules that make it hard, if not impossible, to separate from a non-productive employee make companies fearful to hire or locate in a state.”

Businesses also seek an environment with consistent policies and regulations that allow them to plan for a significant period into the future, as well as an overall positive attitude toward business and a productive work ethic among its population.

None of that seems particularly radical, and in fact seems very logical. It just makes sense to keep taxes and regulations from impeding job creation, and during times of high unemployment to at least relax those that get in the way. Destructive federal policies have been in effect and stifling job creation throughout President Barack Obama’s term. In February 2009 the unemployment rate shot through the 8.0 percent barrier that the president assured us would never be breached, and it remains above that mark today.

The top five business friendly states in the CNBC survey are: Texas, Utah, Virginia, North Carolina, and North Dakota, while the bottom five are: Mississippi, Alaska, West Virginia, Hawaii, and finishing last, Rhode Island.

Most of the highest ranking states share features like lower tax burdens, governments more amenable to allowing economic growth, little or no union labor, and, as it turns out, state governments dominated by Republicans.

Of the top 10 states in the survey, seven have both Republican governors and legislatures, and of the bottom 10 states, six have Democrat governors and legislatures. Of the top ten states, only two have Democrat governors and in the top 20 there are only five Democrat governors.

It is also worth noting that Republican leaders in the high ranking states support economic policies that mirror the national Republican platform.

Obviously, facts illustrating which political party has policies that generally foster a better job creating environment will not please Democrats, but it is what it is. Of course, policies that promote a positive business environment are not necessarily restricted to Republicans, and Colorado’s business-friendly Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper proves the point: His state sits eighth among CNBC’s top states. It just happens that Republicans generally promote policies that encourage job creation, economic growth, and wealth creation, whereas Democrats, who adhere to liberal, or so-called “progressive,” values generally promote policies that obstruct these things.

It is not difficult to find the answer to the question, “in times of high unemployment and economic stress, which political party will be most likely to create an atmosphere that will allow the private sector to correct these problems?”

And once that answer is found, everyone who cares about creating jobs and improving the economy must vote for candidates that support policies like those adopted by the states at the top of the CNBC survey that will make it possible to improve the economy and create jobs, and finally turn Mr. Obama’s stagnated economy into a recovering economy.

Comments are invited

Monday, July 09, 2012

My country tis of thee; land of dependency; what’s happening?

CNN Money reported in April that “more than one in three Americans lived in households that received Medicaid, food stamps or other means-based government assistance in mid-2010,” citing a study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

“Some 26 percent of Americans lived in households where someone received Medicaid, while the figure was 15 percent for food stamps,” the report continued. “Those programs were by far the largest of the safety net.”

And, when Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits are included, nearly half of the nation -- more than 148 million Americans – lived in a household that received a government check, the CNN Money report continued.

It is shocking enough that so many of us get some form of government support – although Social Security and Medicare recipients are receiving money they paid into the system – but most stunning is that the price tag for all of that support hit the $2 trillion mark for fiscal 2010 and that the 2010 figure is nearly 75 percent higher than ten years ago.

Government Gone Wild reports that 41 percent of all births and 60 percent of all elderly long-term care is paid for by government, and that one out of three Americans lives in a household that receives food stamps, subsidized housing, cash welfare or Medicaid.

The food stamp program has been given the stigma-free title “SNAP” (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and the government now spends our tax money advertising food stamps to attract even more takers.

And, according to Judicial Watch, as part of the administrations’ campaign to eradicate “food insecure households,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded what the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) called a $5 million “performance bonus” for ensuring that Oregonians eligible for food benefits receive them and for its “swift processing of applications.”

It is the fifth consecutive year that Oregon has been recognized by the federal government for “exceptional administration” of the entitlement program, according to the DHS new release. One of every five Oregon residents receives food stamps, 780,000 in all, and that is 60 percent higher than in 2008.

And then there are unemployment benefits, at one point lasting up to 99 weeks – nearly two years. Even in times of high unemployment there are jobs available, but generous benefits provided for an extended period dulls the incentive for people to look for work, or even to start up their own business to earn a living.

The owner of a temporary staffing agency told a Florida newspaper that some prospects just aren't interested in working; they'd rather pick up unemployment checks. Other sources say many of those out of work feel it would be silly to take a job that pays less than the unemployment benefit, while some are comfortable waiting until the “right” job comes along to go back to work or wait until benefits have almost run out to look for work.

Programs that are supposed to provide temporary assistance for people in poverty or out of work have turned into long-term welfare programs that are so generous that they remove the incentive to earn one’s own way from those they are intended to help and turn them into dependents.

President Barack Obama reminded a campaign audience recently, “We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad [yes, that’s what he said], the Interstate Highway System. We built the Hoover Dam. We built the Grand Central Station.” He’s correct about that. Well, not about the Intercontinental Railroad. But America accomplished those great things through self-reliance and positive ambition; it wasn’t done with only about half of us paying taxes to support the federal government while one-third received support from the federal government.

Tax payers are the ones who fund these federal support programs, but Government Gone Wild reports that while the number receiving these benefits is on the rise, the number of tax payers is falling. During Ronald Reagan’s administration only 19 percent of households didn’t pay any federal income tax, under Bill Clinton it jumped to 25 percent, it rose to 30 percent under George W. Bush, and under Barack Obama it has jumped to 47 percent.

A warning about what results from providing too much help to people is making the rounds on the social medium Facebook. It appears in the form of a photo of a newspaper clipping that reads: “The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud be distributing the greatest amount of free meals and food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to ‘Please Do Not Feed the Animals.’ Their stated reason is because the animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.”

America is fast becoming a nation of dependents, and that is dangerous for two reasons. First, we simply can’t afford the cost of supporting so many people. But perhaps more important, continuing to rob people of the incentive to provide for themselves through over-generous government benefits is weakening the strong spirit of individualism that made this nation great. We need more, not less, of that.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Tortured reasoning transforms an unconstitutional mandate into law

Last week U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts joined Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy in correctly identifying the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional. That is what the Supreme Court is expected to do: follow the original intent of the authors, who created a document to protect America from over-reaching government actions like this one.

Writing for the Court’s majority, Chief Justice Roberts said: "The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce." He continued, correctly identifying the chaos that would result from finding the mandate constitutional: "Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority." Exactly. But the majority didn’t stop there.

Instead they decided the individual mandate is not really a mandate, it is a tax, essentially rewriting the statute and thereby making “Obamacare” the law of the land. But if, as Justice Roberts wrote, you cannot regulate individuals “because they are doing nothing,” how then can you tax individuals because they are doing nothing? This turns the definition of “taxation” on its head, taxes typically being levied on working, buying and owning, as opposed to levying taxes on not working, not buying, or not owning.

What exactly caused the Chief Justice, criticized by liberals for his judicial conservatism, to depart from his expected position? Many of those familiar with his thinking say the decision is in keeping with his values — conservative in his judicial views, but also considering the Court’s reputation. If the Court is seen as too conservative – adhering to the Constitution’s original intent too often – it may become unpopular with liberals.

Others believe he worked a brilliant bit of judicial magic by striking down the mandate, but upholding the statute’s constitutionality as a tax, preserving President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishment and allowing him to save face, but at the same time giving the law’s opponents a way to correct its many flaws.

Whatever the motivation, the ruling unfortunately opens the door for darn near any activity – or lack of activity – to be taxed by the federal government. As the legendary Chief Justice John Marshall famously said, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.”

Andrew P. Napolitano, former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, writing in The Washington Times, sees it this way: “If the feds can tax us for not doing as they have commanded, and if that which is commanded need not be grounded in the Constitution, then there is no constitutional limit to their power, and the ruling that the power to regulate commerce does not encompass the power to compel commerce is mere sophistry.”

This statute epitomizes dishonorable legislative methodology and bad law-making. Obamacare has been very unpopular with the public since it was first hatched, and it still is. Yet the Democrat majority in the House of Representatives lurched ahead, conceiving the bill behind locked doors, and the 2,700-page monstrosity was passed by the House before members even had time to read it. Remember then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrogantly telling American citizens that they couldn’t know what was in the bill until Congress passed it? Senate Democrats bought enough votes with pricey concessions to key states to eventually pass the bill.

The measure was advertised vociferously by President Obama and his fellow statists as a mandate, not a tax, and it would not cause any American “making less than $250,000 a year to pay one dime more in tax.” The Act has now been upheld by the highest court in the land because it is a tax, not a mandate, and among the 21 new taxes are seven affecting those making less than $250,000 a year, some already in effect, according to

They are: 1. The Individual Mandate Excise Tax, the higher of $1,360 or 2.5 percent of adjusted gross income; 2. The Over-The-Counter Drugs Trap denying use of pre-tax funds in special accounts to buy over-the-counter medicines for allergy relief and the like without a doctor’s prescription; 3. The Healthcare Flexible Spending Account Cap of $2,500; 4. The Medical Itemized Deduction Hurdle, increased from 7 to 10 percent of adjusted gross income; 5. The Health Savings Account Withdrawal Penalty of 20 percent, up from 10 percent; 6. The Indoor Tanning Services Tax of 10 percent; 7. The Cadillac Health Insurance Plan Tax of 40 percent.

The Democrats are celebrating their prize legislation’s Alice-in-Wonderland survival of judicial review, but now have to figure out how to explain to the American people that the bill they swore was not a tax on the poor and middle class really is a tax on the poor and middle class, in fact, the biggest tax hike in history.

You cannot sensibly praise the Supreme Court for upholding your flawed law, and then claim that the basis upon which it was upheld was incorrect. That twisted logic is beyond even the Obama administration.