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[David Kopel, September 26, 2008 at 12:22pm] Trackbacks

The Obama Supreme Court and the Second Amendment:

In a new article for America's 1st Freedom (a NRA member magazine), I examine some of President Obama's potential Supreme Court picks. (Based on a list of potential nominees in an article by Stuart Taylor in the National Journal.) Justices Cass Sunstein, Merrick Garland, Sonia Sotomayor, and Eric Holder would be terrible for Second Amendment rights, I suggest. Attorney General Deval Patrick and Secretary of the Interior Tom Daschle would be pretty bad in that regard, too, I argue. The article also summarizes Obama's record on Second Amendment issues.
[David Kopel, September 23, 2008 at 4:32pm] Trackbacks

FactCheck flubs Obama gun fact check:

FactCheck.org is an excellent project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. It a non-partisan organization which provides factual evaluations of the claims of and about political figures. I have cited it in my own writing, and will continue to do so. However, that FactCheck has a well-deserved reputation for accuracy and good judgment does not mean that its work is infallible, as the VC has pointed out previously. The Encyclopedia Britannica also has a well-deserved reputation for accuracy and impartiality, but the Britannica sometimes contains errors or overstatements.

FactCheck's September 22, 2008, report on the National Rifle Association's advertising critical claims that the NRA "distorts Obama's position on gun control beyond recognition." FactCheck itself, though, has overstated its claims, and made several errors.

Related Posts (on one page):
Doing My Patriotic Duty:
Obama Campaign Challenges NRA Ad:
FactCheck flubs Obama gun fact check:
[David Kopel, September 9, 2008 at 7:20pm] Trackbacks
The Calvinist Roots of the American Revolution and the Second Amendment:

That's the topic of a new article I've written for Liberty magazine. First year law students may be interested in observing the importance of contract law in the right of revolution against tyranny.

Also, the latest version of my draft article, Pacifist-Aggressives vs. the Second Amendment: An Analysis of Modern Philosophies of Compulsory Non-violence is now on-line. (3 Charleston Law Review, no. 1, forthcoming). VC readers first saw this article, as a working paper, last fall. It's been significantly revised, in part thanks to helpful comments from VC readers.

[David Kopel, September 6, 2008 at 2:45pm] Trackbacks

Media's treatment of Palin:

The "media's treatment of Palin and her family this week has been the quintessence of hypocrisy, the vilest form of the politics of personal destruction." So I argue in my Rocky Mountain News media column today.

Based on e-mail I've gotten from some readers, it's clear that some people have so much emotional investment in their hatred of Palin that they can't read very well. So to be clear, and to amplify a point I explicitly made in the last paragraph of the column, it's legitimate and necessary for the media to ask questions about her public policy positions (including those on sex education), her record in public office, her political philosophy, whether her experience makes her well-qualified to be VP or President, and so on.

And BTW, astute readers will spot a typo: "Ronald Reagan's daughter Nancy Davis" should be "Ronald Reagan's daughter with Nancy Davis."

UPDATE. An excerpt from a reader e-mail:
I do not always agree with your stance on the issues of the day, but I am with you 150% on this issue. I wonder if you saw the op-ed page political cartoon in the Denver Post on Thurs. Sept. 9th? As the father of an adult special needs individual, slightly older than Bristol Palin, but just as pregnant and just as unwed at this time, I was incensed at the sleaze demonstrated by this portrayal of a McCain/Palin "shotgun wedding" along with the caption underneath the cartoon. What sent me completely over the edge however was the hand at the left of the frame holding a sign announcing that Bristol Palin is five months pregnant along with two elephant heads whispering and giggling. How low will the media go and is there anything that ordinary people like myself can do to put a stop to such behavior? I know firsthand the emotional toll that an unexpected pregnancy is exerting on our family, (she and her boyfriend have our unyielding support) but more importantly on our daughter. Here in the Palin family's case, the entire world is hearing all the details. How sad to put a confused and frightened seventeen year old through this additional stress. My disappointment with the Denver paper is such that I plan to cancel my subscription next week. After I saw this lowdown smear at this innocent minor, I drove down to McCain headquarters and offered my services to the campaign and made a donation to the McCain 2008 campaign. As you can see, I have been touched both emotionally and personally by what is passing for journalism in this election year.

[David Kopel, September 5, 2008 at 4:30pm] Trackbacks

Obama, Heterosexism, and Capitalism:

Yesterday's Investors Business Daily reports on the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, a group with trains and pays stipends to community organizers and other youthful volunteers. According to IBD, "Barack Obama was a founding member of the board of Public Allies in 1992, resigning before his wife became executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies in 1993." IBD also describes the diversity training in Chicago; it is not clear from the article whether this particular training took place while either Obama was involved in the group. IBD states that in the Chicago training, "heterosexism" is explained as "a negative byproduct of 'capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and male-dominated privilege.'"

Here is my bleg: do VC readers know of any serious research about a link between heterosexism and capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and male-dominated privilege? My initial impression is the cause and effect theory of heterosexism is quite wrong. Communist dictatorships, for example, are often quite hostile to homosexuals; yet Communist states are not capitalist, generally have legal equality of men and women, and (outside Europe) are run by non-whites. Conversely, ancient Greece was relatively tolerant of some forms of homosexuality, and yet was patriarchal, dominated by whites, and had a primitive free market.

So, is there a serious intellectual argument for the Public Allies theory of the causes of heterosexism?
[David Kopel, August 28, 2008 at 12:20pm] Trackbacks
William Henry Harrison, Barack H. Obama, and Social Networking

"O, what has caused this great commotion, -motion, -motion, Our country through? It is the ball that's rolling on for Tippecanoe and Tyler too." Like the William Henry Harrison campaign of 1840, the Barack Obama campaign has been at the cutting edge of using social networking media. My column for today's Rocky Mountain News, "Twitter and Text Your Way to Victory," looks at innovative use of media in 2008, and in the past. It's mostly based on an interview with Chris Hughes, the 24-year-old wunderkind who is Obama's Director of Online Organizing. I suggest that Obama's brilliant use of social networking was a sine qua non of his victory.
[David Kopel, August 27, 2008 at 10:59am] Trackbacks

Obama biographies:

Lots of Obama biographical pieces in the media this week, including the Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, The New Republic, and National Review. My column in today's Rocky Mountain News examines them all, pointing out the most thorough (WaPo) and the most sanitized (Newsweek). I point out that the coverage neglects the radical socialist and racialist views of Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.

The column also examines the faulty reasoning in Jacob Weisberg's claim in a Newsweek column that older Jews who are hesitant about voting for Obama because of Israel are really closet racists. And the column points to some of the best Colorado-related articles from the Washington political insider publications.
[David Kopel, August 26, 2008 at 4:57pm] Trackbacks

Kopel on the DNC

Recent articles in the Rocky Mountain News: Al Jazeera makes a blatantly false claim against Joe Biden, and gets other facts wrong, too. Plus: Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion--the story from the 19th century shows that some things haven't changed. (Both stories in same link).

Just posted: Democratic prayer celebration with Sister Helen Prejean and the head of the Islamic Society of North America should have spurred media queries.

Coming soon: The Obama biographies recently published in the Washington Post, Newsweek, and Time.

Personal note: I was in the convention hall for Senator Kennedy's speech, almost certainly his last to a Democratic National Convention. Back at the 1956 Democratic Convention, Adlai Stevenson threw open the Vice-Presidential nomination, and let the delegates pick. Young Senator John F. Kennedy tried, but was defeated by Estes Kefauver. For over half a century since then, the Kennedys have been a major part of every Democratic National Convention. All three of the brothers had successes and failures, good ideas and not-so-good ones. The mass of delegates at the Denver Convention waving their white-on-blue "Kennedy" signs were remembering the many positive parts of the Kennedy record. Senator Edward Kennedy's final speech to a Convention was dignified, gracious, beautiful, and exemplified the Kennedy family at its best.
[David Kopel, August 25, 2008 at 1:52pm] Trackbacks

Kopel coverage of the DNC:

This week I will be part of a team of 150 journalists covering the Democratic National Convention for the Rocky Mountain News. The News' coverage will be 24/7, with very frequent web updates. You can find a link to my material from the Opinion page for DNC commentary. Topics already in the pipeline are: Al Jazeera's terrible coverage of Joe Biden; the connections between late 19th century politics (including "rum, Romanism, and rebellion") and the present; Joe Biden and the RAVE Act; and the press missing the story about some of the controversial speakers at Sunday's interfaith prayer meeting.
[David Kopel, August 22, 2008 at 5:55pm] Trackbacks

Trade and Sovereignty bleg:

I am starting work on a paper on Taiwan/China trade issues. Do readers have suggestions for good books or articles on ways in which trade does/doesn't affect political sovereignty?

I'm not looking for stuff about globalization in general (e.g., the issue raised by much of the French Left that global trade shifts power away from the national government, and towards various multinationals). Rather, I'm looking for material (historical, or present) about bi-lateral trade--especially in the context of bi-lateral situations where one trade partner is much larger, or otherwise more powerful, than the other.

For example, Danish trade with rising, powerful Germany in 1880-1939 does not appear to have harmed Denmark's sovereignty; then when the Nazis did invade in 1940, Denmark's numerous business contacts with Germany helped convince the Germans to allow a limited degree of Danish autonomy during the first years after the conquest. On the other hand, threats to U.S. business interests in Haiti led to a U.S. invasion in 1915 that, arguably, might not have taken place if Haiti had fewer business ties to the U.S. in the first place.

Extra credit for Volokh Law School students who suggest factors, backed by examples, which make extensive bi-lateral trade more/less likely to impair the sovereignty of the smaller partner.
[David Kopel, August 22, 2008 at 2:41pm] Trackbacks

Computer purchase bleg:

I am thinking of buying a new desktop computer for my office, or a new portable computer. Both of my current models are Dells, and I've been happy with them, except that they are five years old, and getting slow. The portable (a subnotebook with an 11 inch screen) is slow on booting, and on opening programs. The desktop gets slow whenever it's required to do something CPU-intensive in the background--e.g., an antivirus scan, playing an episode of bloggingheads.tv, etc.

I've been happy with Dell, but the customer comments I see on CNET.com and on Amazon.com about Dell's current quality control and customer service are horrific.

My plan is to buy a fairly powerful machine, so that I don't need to upgrade in a couple years. My home computer is a one-year old Gateway, which has worked great. Unfortunately, Gateway no longer sells directly, and only offers pre-configured machines from selected vendors. Its most powerful desktops appear to be available only from TigerDirect, with which some of my friends have had customer service problems.

I certainly don't want to buy from HP. I bought a multifunction printer from them a few years ago. When it broke (bad circuit board), they refused to sell me a replacement circuit board; instead they offered me a "discount" on a new printer; the "discounted" price was actually higher than the regular price available from several retail vendors.

I don't want to buy from Apple. Too many compatibility issues with the Windows-based systems in my office and home.

So...should I go back to Dell? Or buy from somebody else? Who makes high-quality, reliable computers these days? I don't need a system with superfast video for gaming, nor do I expect that I need something with strong video editing powers. (But who knows what will be important in 3-4 years?) I do want something with a fast CPU, and lots of RAM. So what should I do?
[David Kopel, August 18, 2008 at 11:10pm] Trackbacks

McCain Campaign Attacks Key VC Demographic:

From today's JohnMcCain.com blog: "It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement..."

The McCain campaign is correct in wanting to rebut an ugly smear from the Daily Kos. But why drag "the Dungeons and Dragons crowd" into it?

Will present and former D&D players--of whom there are probably millions--consider voting Libertarian? A LP Convention probably has the highest percentage of past/present D&D players of any gathering in the world, other than a science fiction convention. And within the LP, the word "dungeonmaster" is never used as an epithet.

[David Kopel, July 23, 2008 at 5:18pm] Trackbacks

The Natural Right of Self-Defense: Heller's Lesson to the World

The Syracuse Law Review is putting together a symposium issue on the Heller decision. My article for the symposium examines the implications of Heller's constitutionalization of the natural law right of self-defense.

The article has benefitted from the VC discussion of self-defense in Heller by Orin Kerr, Eugene Volokh, and Jim Lindgren. Due to the symposium's desire for short articles, I was not able to explore all the interesting issues raised by the discussion.

Jim had suggested that the topic would make a good subject for student Notes, and I certainly agree. My Article doesn't come close to exhausting the topic. For example, in the course of research, I found the 1874 treatise "Select American Cases on the Law of Self-Defence." (Available on Google Books.) There is a vast amount of material therein that is worth exploring. Moreover, my string cite (note 15) on American cases describing self-defense as a "natural right" does not even include cases using the term "inherent right" instead.

BTW, I did not steal the title from Jim's suggestion. I already had it in my draft, as a sequel to my BYU J. Pub. L. article "The Human Right of Self-Defense."

In footnote 15, you will find a 1832 Kentucky case which I did find thanks to Jim. As you'll see, I still haven't solved the mystery of how the Kentucky court attributed to Matthew Hale a quote which actually appears to come from Michael Foster. I'll send a free copy of the forthcoming book Supreme Court Gun Cases, vol. 2, to the first person who can provide a definitive solution.
All Related Posts (on one page) | Some Related Posts:
The Natural Right of Self-Defense: Heller's Lesson to the World
Three Difficulties With Using State Constitutional Rights to Infer Federal Constitutional Rights:
The Natural Right of Self Defense.--...
State Constitutional Rights of Self-Defense and Defense of Property:
A Constitutional Right to Self-Defense?
Heller and Self-Defense:
[David Kopel, July 23, 2008 at 12:00pm] Trackbacks

D.C. City Council's False "Findings" of Facts on Firearms:

D.C. City Councilman Harry Thomas has introduced a resolution titled "Sense of the Council of Future Handgun Resolution of 2008." The resolution makes the following findings:
(1) Accidental deaths by firearms rank in the top 10 of accidental deaths in our country.

(2) Approximately 1,500 deaths per year result from the accidental use of a fire-arm. Of the 1500, 75% are young males between the age of 14 and 25, who unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else.
These finding are clearly false. According to the 2005 data (National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 56, Number 10, April 24, 2008, Table 18), the total number of accidental firearms deaths, for all ages combined, was 789--about half the figure that Thomas claims. Firearms are not in the top 10 causes of accidental death, but are outranked by the following specified categories: Drowning, Fall, Fire/flame, Motor vehicle traffic, Pedestrian (not including from motor vehicles), Other land transport, Other transport, Natural/environmental, Poisoning, Struck by or against, Suffocation.

According to the "findings," there are about 1,125 accidental firearms deaths annually, involving males aged 14 to 25. Using the excellent on-line query tool from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, you can find the 2005 total number of fatal gun accidents for males aged 14-25 was 219.

The Thomas "finding" claimed that males aged 14-25 were the victims OR the perpetrators of 3/4 of total fatal gun accidents. I have no idea where Thomas gets this figure from. For the figure to be correct, that males 14-25, who are the victims of about one-quarter of all fatal gun accidents, would also have to be the non-victim perpetrators of about nearly 2/3 of accidents involving all other groups. (2/3 x 3/4 [fraction of accident victims who are not males 14-25] = 1/2. We add the 1/2 to the 1/4 of accidents in which males 14-25 are the victim, to get males aged 14-25 as perpetrators or victims in 3/4 of total accidents.) This seems implausible, although not formally impossible.

The incorrect "findings" about accidents are then followed by two more findings, which are really policy statements apparently based on the findings:

(3)There must be strict standards to regulate the sale of handguns in the District of Columbia, including stringent waiting periods for the purchase of hand guns, as well as the implementation of comprehensive training and education programs on the dangers of handguns through the DC Department of Parks and Recreation partnering with other agencies.

(4) There must be rigorous restrictions where gun stores can be located, a possible ban on private sales of handguns, and require gun shop operators to enter into voluntary agreements with community residents through their Advisory Neighborhood Commissions before such establishments can be issued a Certificate of Occupancy.
The finds are then followed the statement:
Sec. 3. It is the sense of the Council that strict and rigorous handgun regulations must be in place to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of District of Columbia residents.
Back in 1976, when the District's City Council enacted the handgun ban, it made the finding that "Most murders are committed by previously law-abiding citizens." This too is indisputably false, as detailed in the Heller amicus brief I wrote with Chuck Michel. (Pages 24-29.) The current City Council would have a better chance of passing gun laws which do not violate the Constitution if the Council were rigorous in its own factual investigations of the purported needs for extremely restrictive laws.
[David Kopel, July 22, 2008 at 3:29pm] Trackbacks

Post-Heller blog debate over at Cato Unbound:

Bob Levy (mastermind of Heller), Dennis Henigan (Brady Campaign), and I are blog-debating Heller and its ramifications over at Cato Unbound. Erwin Chemerinsky should join us later in the week.
[David Kopel, July 21, 2008 at 7:11pm] Trackbacks
The United Nations vs. the Second Amendment:

Over at Opinio Juris, Kenneth Anderson has an interesting post about last week's gun control conference at the United Nations, and a New York Times puff piece thereon, written by C.J. Chivers.

After noting U.S. concerns about the U.N. becoming a venue attacks on American gun ownership, the Times explains:
The United Nations and advocates of gun control have said that such fears are unfounded, and that there is no effort to impose standards on nations with traditions of civilian ownership, or to restrict hunting. The programs, they said, apply largely to areas suffering from insurgencies or war.

"States remain free to have their own national legislation," said Daniel Prins, chief of the Conventional Arms Branch of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. "This document does not try to regulate gun ownership in the whole world. This is an instrument that allows states to focus on regions in conflict and the weapons that illicitly get there."
But Anderson was present at the beginning of the U.N.'s campaign against gun ownership:
I recall sitting in meetings of landmines advocates talking about where things should go next; I was director of the Human Rights Watch Arms Division, with a mandate to address the transfer of weapons into conflicts where they would be used in the violation of the laws of war, and small arms were the main concern. I was astonished at how quickly the entire question morphed from concern about the flood of weapons into African civil wars into how to use international law to do an end run around supposedly permissive gun ownership regimes in the US.

I dropped any personal support for the movement when it became clear, a long time ago, that it is about controlling domestic weapons equally in the US (or, today, even more so) as in Somalia or Congo.
Despite protestations to the contrary, the U.N. remains quite interested in constricting lawful gun ownership. Consider, for example, the United Nations Disarmament Programme's publication, How to Guide: Small Arms and Light Weapons Legislation. The publication touts the importance of international "harmonisation" of gun laws. According to the United Nations:

Citizens should only be allowed to own guns if they are given a government permit, and the permit should only be issued if there is a "good reason" for possession or "genuine need." In particular, permits to own guns for self defense should not be issued unless the applicant proves that he is in immediate danger.

The law require "safe storage", which means that firearms should be disassembled and the ammunition ammo stored separately.

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