Monthly Archives: April 2007

Welfare For Harems

In England, polygamous husbands can claim extra state benefits for their harem, even though bigamy is illegal:

Polygamous husbands settling in Britain with multiple wives can claim extra benefits for their “harems” even though bigamy is a crime in the UK, it has emerged.

Opposition MPs are demanding an urgent change in the law, claiming that the Government is recognising and rewarding a custom which has no legal status and which is “alien” to this country’s cultural traditions.

Officials said yesterday a review was now under way into whether the state should continue to pay out income support, jobseeker’s allowance and housing and council tax benefits to ‘extra’ spouses.

Islamic law allows a man to take up to four wives, providing he can provide for them fairly and equally. But British law only ever recognises one spouse, while bigamy is punishable by up to seven years in jail.

However, if a husband and his wives arrive and settle in Britain having wed in a country where polygamy is legal, then the UK benefits system recognises his extra wives as dependents and pays them accordingly.

Now, personally, I don’t care if a man has one wife, twenty wives, or no wives. As long as it’s a consensual relationship, it’s none of my business. There is, though, a certain level of absurdity in the idea that a polygamist can claim extra benefits for his additional wives even when the practice itself is illegal.

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Ron Paul’s Uphill Battle

I’ve written before, here and here, about the massive challenge that Ron Paul faces in running for the Republican Presidential nomination. The extent of the challenge is made emphatically clear in this graphic from the Washington Post detailing the fundraising status of each of the Presidential campaigns.

It’s not pretty. On one end of the spectrum you have Mitt Romney, who’s raised more than $ 20 million. On the other side, you have Ron Paul, who’s raised about $ 600,000 and whose most notable contributor is the head of the Marijuana Policy Project.

Yes, it’s early in the campaign. And, yes, the debates haven’t started and nobody’s voted yet. But there’s an old saying — money in the mother’s milk of politics — and Ron Paul’s bottle is very empty right now.

H/T: Cato@Liberty

People Who Enjoy Paying Taxes?!

Really? Really?! I mean really, are you kidding me?

I just paid my taxes, and I have to say, I always take pride when I do so. I don’t like having less money to spend, of course, and the complexity of the process is really upsetting. But I am proud to pay for democracy, and I feel when I do send money to the DC Treasurer and the US Treasury that that is what I am doing. The right-wing likes to pretend as if taxes are a burden instead of the price of democracy. And I suppose, if you hate democracy, as the right-wing does, then taxes are the price for paying for something you really don’t want. Personally, I find banking fees, high cable and internet charges, health care costs, and credit card hidden charges much more abrasive than taxes, because with those I’m just being ripped off to pay for someone’s summer home.

You like it that much, huh? Want to pay mine? If you love democracy that much, you should certainly give it extra voluntary contributions, to offset those of us who don’t love democracy.

Yep… You heard me. I don’t love democracy. Democracy is a horrible form of government. Democracy has its place, but unless you restrain its scope, you’re looking for trouble. Of course, I don’t expect Mr. Stoller to understand that. After all, he’s interested in socialism, not liberty. And if you’re interested in socialism, democracy is a wonderful tool to chain those above you on the economic ladder into the machine. Democracy is an incredibly effective tool of authoritarians, and socialism cannot exist without authoritarianism.

But I’m not interested in socialism, I’m interested in liberty. I like democracy when compared to, say, monarchy or oligarchy, as a method to decide who will control a tightly constitutionally-limited government. But the key isn’t democracy, the key is limited government. Because when government grows, liberty shrinks. I don’t ask much from government, only to leave me the hell alone. And when they’re taking 50% of my income, that’s not leaving me alone.

But I have another question for Mr. Stoller… Are you getting your money’s worth?

I am proud to pay taxes because I take pride in America, and paying some tiny burden to keep our society running is an extremely small price to pay for being able to call myself an American citizen. The old expression ‘you get what you pay for’ is apt for all sorts of situations.

Now, if you’re paying a “tiny burden”, you’re poor and probably getting a pretty good deal. Government is probably giving you a good deal of “stuff” in order for your “tiny” burden. But, as we pointed out here, many of us aren’t getting what we pay for. After all, my burden isn’t “tiny”. I’m getting screwed, and you’re telling me to lie back with a smile and enjoy it. The only way I could be getting what I pay for from “our” government is if I were a masochist, but I’m not one to willingly pay for pain.

When the penalty for not paying is a stint in a jail cell, government doesn’t have to give you services commensurate with your contribution. They don’t have to give you what you pay for. Because if you don’t pay, they put the screws to you. It’s called extortion and theft, and the only reason I still pay taxes is because I’d rather be a slave for 50% of my time than in a cage for 100%.

Hat Tip: QandO

Europeans On The Virginia Tech Tragedy: It’s Charlton Heston’s Fault

Proving that it’s not just American political pundits who are capable of saying incredibly stupid things in reaction to a tragedy, newspapers all over Europe are blaming America’s gun laws for the murder of 32 innocent people:

With a view to Monday’s deadly shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, European newspapers are blaming the lack of gun control measures in the United States and implying that Charlton Heston is indirectly responsible for the scope of the killings.

Across the continent on Tuesday, European media rubber-neck at Monday’s massacre in the United States. Most seem to agree about one thing: The shooting at Virginia Tech is the result of America’s woeful lack of serious gun control laws. In the strongest editorialized image of the day, German cable news broadcaster NTV flashed an image of the former head of the National Rifle Association, the US gun lobby: In other words, blame rifle-wielding Charlton Heston for the 33 dead.

Papers reserve their sharpest criticism for the 2004 expiration of a 10-year ban on semi-automatic weapons under the then Republican-controlled Congress. Others comment on the pro-gun lobbying activities of Heston’s NRA. Some papers also draw analogies between school shootings and Muslim fundamentalist suicide bombers.

The last time I checked, the man who was pulling the triggers yesterday morning was Cho Seung-Hui, a 23 year old Korean immigrant, not the 82 year-old former star of Planet of the Apes. It was Cho who made the choice to pull the triggers, to chain the doors of the lecture hall so nobody could escape, and to shoot them at point blank range. He, and only he, is ultimately responsible for what happened yesterday. Blaming this tragedy on the gun laws, or even more absurdly on an actor/political activist is, quite simply, absurd.

Of course, this is Europe we’re talking about.

Quote Of The Day: Tax Day Edition

Courtesy of George Harrison:

Let me tell you how it will be;
There’s one for you, nineteen for me.
‘Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

Should five per cent appear too small,
Be thankful I don’t take it all.
‘Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

(if you drive a car, car;) – I’ll tax the street;
(if you try to sit, sit;) – I’ll tax your seat;
(if you get too cold, cold;) – I’ll tax the heat;
(if you take a walk, walk;) – I’ll tax your feet.

Taxman!

‘Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

Don’t ask me what I want it for, (ah-ah, mister Wilson)
If you don’t want to pay some more. (ah-ah, mister heath)
‘Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

Now my advice for those who die, (taxman)
Declare the pennies on your eyes. (taxman)
‘Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

And you’re working for no one but me.

Taxman!

Interestingly enough, Harrison was apparently inspired to write the song after he discovered how much of the money he was earning as part of The Beatles went to taxes:

Harrison was inspired to write “Taxman” when he discovered how much he was earning after accounting for taxes. Apparently each Beatle kept only 5% of what they earned. As Harrison said, “‘Taxman’ was when I first realised that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes. It was and still is typical.” The reason for this was that due to how much The Beatles were earning, they were in one of the top tax brackets in the United Kingdom. In a 1984 interview with Playboy magazine, fellow Beatle Paul McCartney agreed with Harrison’s depiction of the circumstances surrounding the writing of “Taxman”: “George wrote that and I played guitar on it. He wrote it in anger at finding out what the taxman did. He had never known before then what he’ll do with your money.”

Fightin’ For Liberty Rock & Roll style.

Point-Counterpoint

No, not the soon-to-be regular feature of this site, where one of us debates another one; this one is in response to some of the responses to yesterdays events.

Yesterday, a horrendous attack was carried out by a lone, crazed individual at Virgina Tech. 33 people (including the mass murderer) are dead, with dozens more wounded.

Though reports are conflicting, it seems the murderer did this with one hand gun, and a few spare magazines. No “assault” weapons were involved, and there were no “super high capacity” magazines… just the standard capacity magazines for the gun. Even if he were limited to 10 round magazines for the gun, he’d only need one, or at most two more, at $30 a piece, to achieve the same result.

No “assault weapons ban” would have stopped this mass murder.

He apparently purchased his gun legally, several months before.

No background check or waiting period would have stopped this mass murder.

It was initially thought that the murderer was a chinese national, who had acquired his guns illegally. This was plausible, because it is easier to buy a gun illegally in many areas, than it is legally.

No ban on handguns, or even all guns, would have stopped this mass murder.

The murderer apparently took his time, sought out specific locations, and blended in with the hysterical crowds when he wasn’t actively shooting. He waited three hours while the police and security searched for him; and when the students started moving again, he started shooting again.

No Police presence short of an armed and trained officer in every room, and at every intersection would have stopped this mass murder

Dozens of police spread out throughout the campus couldn’t find him, and couldn’t stop him when he got up and started shooting again. The police COULD NOT STOP HIM.

One prospective “victim”; a student, a teacher, an administrator; armed with a gun; could have stopped this mass murder.

Why could one student do it when the police couldn’t? Because the students were there all the time. They were there when the murderer stood up, took out his gun, and started shooting at the (disarmed by law, and university policy) victims.

In Virginia, about 150,000 people have CCW permits; and though there are no accurate statistics, it is estimated that out of a population of 7.5 million, at least 3 million are gun owners. Out of the almost 30,000 students and faculty at Virgina tech, there are at least several dozen, perhaps as many as several hundred CCW holders (I’ve known more than a couple personally) and several thousand gun owners.

If just one of the students, faculty, or staff there that day were carrying a gun; they could have stopped this mass murder. It isn’t assured that they would have, but it’s damn well sure that without arms, they were nothing more than cowering victims.

Yesterday, in this post “Blue Girl” called this notion ridiculous, saying that private citizens who are not sworn law enforcement officers are the equivalent of Barney Pfife with his one bullet in his shirt… yosemite sam, backyard rambo, whatever ridiculous insult you want to pile on.

Essentially she (and some of her commenters) are saying “you are all incompetent, and mentally ill for thinking you could stop this. You are a danger to yourself and others, leave it to the professionals”. She (and some of her commenters); and in fact anti-gun sites and organizations around the world; went on to blame guns in general, the NRA, and gun owners for all “gun violence”; and to suggest that effective gun control could stop things like this from happening.

She is of course not isolated in this view; many people share it, in fact millions.

In this case, millions of people CAN be wrong. This view is patently ridiculous; and indicates a fundamental lack of maturity, and understanding about criminals, the insane, violence, and the effectiveness of both weapons, and weapons laws.

First, there is no such thing as “gun violence”, there is only “people violence” or “natural violence”. Guns are inanimate objects, that have no capability to act on their own. They are tools that individuals use, for good or ill; and have no inherent morality.

Second, and what I want to specifically address in this post however; is the idea that private gun owners are somehow incompetent and dangerous, and that police and other law enforcement officers are somehow more qualified, and better trained in firearms and their use.

This view is shared by MANY people, even many people who are otherwise not anti-gun. They believe that police officers are for the most part firearms experts, and highly trained in shooting.

Sadly, in most cases, this is not true. I don’t mean to denigrate the many fine law enforcement officers in this country; but most cops are not very good with guns; and most are sadly ignorant about them, both legally and technically.

Let’s do a little point-counterpoint here:

Point: I carry every day, all day.

Counterpoint: Most cops carry 8 hours a day (it amazes me that most cops don’t carry off duty).

Point: I carry a $2000 pistol, custom made for me, specifically to be incredibly accurate and reliable. I have several other pistols jsut as reliable (though perhaps not quite as accurate), and I can choose the appropriate pistol for the appropriate situation. I choose my supporting gear to specifically suit my personal, and situational needs.

Counterpoint: Most cops have one gun, often not well suited to their body, or shooting style. It is often maintained only in a basic fashion, and often worn or “loose” to the point of questionable accuracy. Because they are fired infrequently, it is difficult to judge reliability. Most cops are limited in their supporting equipment choices to that which the department issues.

Point: I extensively test all my ammunition options, select those that perform best, and then test those again to come up with an appropriate load which shoots accurately and reliably from my weapon, along with two backup loads.

Counterpoint: Most cops are limited to ammunition issued by their department, generally chosen based on cost; and may be limited to relatively ineffective chambering and loadings, because of cost, and political considerations.

Point: I have hundreds of hours of classroom training in small arms usage, and thousands of hours of range training. I have also delivered hundreds of hours of training to others. I try and take a training class at least every other year (more often if I can afford it), and up until recently was REQUIRED to do so every 4 years.

Counterpoint
: Most cops get 8-16 hours or so of classroom training at the beginning of their career, and if they are lucky 24 hours of range training. They then generally get no continuing classroom training with firearms throughout their careers, and at most 8 hours of range training per year (this is starting to improve in some departments).

Point: I shoot 500rds a week in a good month; every other week in a bad one.

Counterpoint: Most cops shoot less than 500 rounds per year… in fact many shoot less than 100 rounds a year. There are some law enforcement organizations which only require a 25 round qualification every other year.

Point
: I train to a standard of combat accuracy that requires the ability to put 5 shots into a 4” circle on a moving target at 10 yards (and I don’t always make it, but it’s always close).

Counterpoint: Most cops train to get 70% hits in a 16” x 18” oval

Point
: I train with a moving shooter, moving target, and both paper and reactive targets of varying sizes, at varying ranges, indoors and out; in varying weather conditions; strong and weak handed; and I include rapid reloading and malfunction drills in my training

Counterpoint
: Most cops “train” at a fixed range, with fixed lighting and weather conditions, a fixed target; and with little emphasis on reloads or malfunction clearance, using only “stock” shooting positions (though this is improving somewhat).

Point: I am not unusual in the community of shooters, in seeking and achieving this level of training and performance. There are 60,000 nationally ranked competitive practical pistol shooters, and many more non ranked shooters, across the various pistol shooting disciplines. There are several times that many competitive rifle shooters. Most of those people also carry concealed on a daily basis. Then there are the many thousands of students taking advanced pistol instruction every year.

Counterpoint: Of the 800,000 full time sworn law enforcement officers in the united states, not 1 in 100 is a “gun guy”; and most of those, are counted among the people I list above. They universally describe their competitive and other non-law enforcement training as many times better than that of their law enforcement agencies, and fellow officers.

So, really, who is Barney Pfife here?

What’s worse is, when anti-gun types ask me why I train so much (if they even bother); I tell them that I train because of people like this mass murderer. I tell them that I train, not because I want trouble, but because if trouble comes I don’t want to be unprepared for it. I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

When presented with this perfectly valid justification, they say things like “you’re paranoid” or “you’re a wannabe hero”, “you can’t protect yourself”, “you’re more of a danger to the people around you” etc…

WHY?

… Because they don’t trust themselves, and project that distrust onto others. Because they are afraid. Because they want to believe that they don’t HAVE to have the responsibility of doing the same themselves, they don’t have to protect themselves, they don’t have to protect others around them. Because they want to believe that the cops can protect them.

Anything that threatens this view creates a violent emotional response in them.

In fact I can guarantee you that when the anti-gun, anti-responsiblity, anti-liberty types find this post; there will be violent emotional responses all over the place in comments

Oh… and one more thing.

Point
: It takes a large man an average of 1.7 seconds from a standing, apparently non threatening start, to cross 7 yards (21 feet), and execute a knife slash on another person (a trained shooter can draw and fire in 1.5 seconds – though it is difficult).

Counterpoint: The average 911 response time in this country is 8 minutes

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Sex Education: Another Government Program That Doesn’t Work

A new study shows that the abstinence-based sex education programs championed by the Bush Administration and social conservatives don’t work after all:

A long-awaited national study has concluded that abstinence-only sex education, a cornerstone of the Bush administration’s social agenda, does not keep teenagers from having sex. Neither does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom.

Authorized by Congress in 1997, the study followed 2000 children from elementary or middle school into high school. The children lived in four communities — two urban, two rural. All of the children received the family life services available in their community, in addition, slightly more than half of them also received abstinence-only education.

By the end of the study, when the average child was just shy of 17, half of both groups had remained abstinent. The sexually active teenagers had sex the first time at about age 15. Less than a quarter of them, in both groups, reported using a condom every time they had sex. More than a third of both groups had two or more partners.

Rather than turning this into a debate on condoms vs. abstinence, here’s a thought.

Why is the government involved in this at all ? Shouldn’t social conservatives, who at least in their rhetoric place the integrity of the family unit above all else but God himself, be arguing against the government teaching children about sex and morality at all ?

While that would seem to be the logical thing for them to do, they obviously find it easier to try to seize the levers of state to shape children in their image, rather than allowing parents to raise their children as they see fit.

Instead of spending taxpayer dollars to teach children about a subject on which there is clearly much cultural conflict, why not leave it up to parents to decide what to teach their children ?

Here’s how Andrew Sullivan puts it:

My own somewhat fuzzy view of the issue (developed at greater length here and here and here) is that except in areas where pervasive family breakdown requires educators to act in loco parentis more than one would like them to, public schools should take an, ah, stripped-down an approach to teaching sex, and mainly leave the whole “condoms or abstinence” issue to parents and kids to sort out on their own.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Virginia Tech Fund

For those of you who would like to contribute and help out the people whose lives were devastated yesterday, please head over to find donation info here.

While many of us want to abstract this situation into something political, as a way to not have to deal with the human cost of such a tragedy, we must remember that these were real people who were affected. Nothing that we do will replace what was lost yesterday, but if you can spare anything to help, please do so.
» Read more

Tax Compliance Is Easier When Everyone Gets A Refund

Well, this is one way to improve compliance. I should point out that it’s not, not, NOT a way that I would like to see, of course:

Other experts are considering more creative ways to improve tax compliance. One idea is to take advantage of people’s desire to get a refund at the end of the year.

“What some people do when they are doing their taxes is they do a first draft and see how much they are getting back,” said Richard Thaler, a University of Chicago economist who studies how people think about money. “If they owe money, then they do a second draft. They keep finding deductions until the refund is positive.”

Thaler said mandatorily increasing withholding levels so more people get refunds could increase compliance because taxpayers would no longer have to go to great lengths to get a refund.

I think that quite possibly the most insidious thing the government has ever done is to create the withholding nightmare. How in the world did we allow them to make tax day a happy occurrence for most Americans?

Let’s Make Something Clear

I realize that the news today will be all about the Virginia Tech shooting. And gun laws. And so forth. But, I think it is valuable, given much of the recent conversation (past 3 months, give or take), to put a stake in the ground on what The Liberty Papers stands for around the war in Iraq, Islamo-Fascism and how to best defend our country.

Let’s start with this statement. We are individuals. We do not require that any contributor adhere to some specific position on anything. The contributors hold a wide range of individual beliefs. From near Anarcho-Capitalist, like Brad and myself, to Minarchists, like Mike and Chris. We also have a fairly divergent range of beliefs on the war in Iraq. Doug is probably the most vocal supporter of ending the war now and Chris the most vocal win the war proponent.

That said, we do have some areas where we all agree.

First, about Iraq. Not one of us would leave our military “in the lurch”, we do not agree with the Democrats approach. Whether we want to withdraw and leave Iraq to deal with its issues on their own, or we want to stay and try to help them through. Every one of us began this saga as supporters of the war in 2003. Most of us still are. I think every one of us would also agree that the Bush Administration has done a bad job of prosecuting this war, both militarily and politically.

Islamo-Fascism. A threat to freedom and liberty, the anti-thesis of everything we believe in. We diverge in how best to deal with the problem. Personally, I say we get rid of our dependence on oil as quickly as possible and leave ‘em to rot in the sand.

How best to defend ourselves against enemies that use terrorism as a tactic. Here we are in strong agreement that giving up liberty to gain false security is the worst possible choice. We all agree that government never gives back power once gained. Government never uses that power for just the narrow purpose defined. And, even if we did think some loss of liberty was necessary, Bush has not shown that he is a wise custodian of such power.

We have clashed with people that some classify as “left libertarians” quite often. Libertarian Party types generally consider us to not be Libertarians. And we agree. Why? Because we disagree with the non initiation of force principle, we disagree, generally, with the isolationist position they take. For the first time that I can recall, we are actually accused of being Libertarians in the Lew Rockwell tradition. We, in fact, are not.

It’s Not About The Guns

With not even twenty-four hours passed since the tragedy at Virginia Tech, and already the New York Times has taken the lead in turning it into a political issue:

Yesterday’s mass shooting at Virginia Tech — the worst in American history — is another horrifying reminder that some of the gravest dangers Americans face come from killers at home armed with guns that are frighteningly easy to obtain.

Not much is known about the gunman, who killed himself, or about his motives or how he got his weapons, so it is premature to draw too many lessons from this tragedy. But it seems a safe bet that in one way or another, this will turn out to be another instance in which an unstable or criminally minded individual had no trouble arming himself and harming defenseless people.

Here’s a memo to the editors at the Times. Guns have been widely available for a long time. Fifty years ago, they were more widely available than they are now and gun control laws were unheard of. And yet things like this did not happen, at least not as frequently as they seem to now.

This isn’t about the guns, it’s about people. It’s about the failure of law enforcement to protect citizens. And it’s about laws that prevent people from even having the opportunity to defend themselves. And, most importantly, it’s about one man who was on a mission to kill. Gun control laws won’t stop a person like that, as events in Europe have confirmed more than once.

No, this isn’t about the guns at all.

Could CCW Have Stopped Virginia Tech?

Obviously, such a question doesn’t have a definite answer. After all, the fact that people might be free to carry a firearm doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone in the building would have (although, with a 2 hour lag between the two shootings, I think quite a few people with CCW might have decided to carry that day). But at Virginia Tech, such an action is prohibited:

The university’s employees, students, and volunteers, or any visitor or other third party attending a sporting, entertainment, or educational event, or visiting an academic or administrative office building or residence hall, are further prohibited from carrying, maintaining, or storing a firearm or weapon on any university facility, even if the owner has a valid permit, when it is not required by the individual’s job, or in accordance with the relevant University Student Life Policies.

Now, I’m not a gun guy. I don’t own any, and haven’t ever fired one [a situation I plan to remedy in short order]. But I understand one thing: when criminals fear individual citizens who might be carrying, it makes them more wary to commit crimes. I’m not going to say that a different policy at Virginia Tech would have stopped this attack from occurring, or would have definitively made it less deadly. But it easily could have.

The shooter knew that he was attacking an unarmed group of victims, because VT’s policies demand it. He knew he was largely safe, even though, as Billy Beck points out, a classroom shooting situation is not tactically advantageous to a shooter, but is quite advantageous to a defender in that classroom. In an armed society, he would have been a sitting duck.

To a lot of Americans, gun control sounds good. But it doesn’t live up to its promises, for two very simple reasons. First, gun control doesn’t actually disarm criminals, who (as Britain is pointing out) are still able to get guns. Second, gun control disarms the populace, leading people who are well endowed physically to have a natural advantage if they choose to engage in violence, because the “great equalizer” no longer exists.

What happened at Virginia Tech yesterday was a tragedy that will rock the very core of our country, much like Columbine, much like 9/11. I can’t state definitively that allowing Tech students and faculty to carry would have stopped the attack which happened. But I can state that the policy of banning all guns made them into defenseless targets, and nothing more. I don’t want this debate to have to start just yet, when people are still mourning a loss. But dare we ask students and faculty to sit idly by, defenseless, as a gunman mows down one after another? I think not.

Hat Tip: Jace, at Jason Pye’s blog

Did Virginia Tech’s Policies Contribute To A Disaster ?

There is a back story to the horrible tragedy at Virginia Tech that hasn’t made its way into the public domain yet.

Virginia, as you may or may not know, allows it’s citizens to carry concealed weapons after obtaining a permit. However, Virginia Tech, along with many other college campuses, forbids anyone other than law enforcement from carrying a weapon on campus.

During the course of this year’s Virginia General Assembly session, bills were introduced which would have allowed citizens who have a valid CCW permit to carry their weapon on campus. As this story from the Roanoke Times, which was ironically published only one week ago, those bills went down to defeat:

A bill that would have given college students and employees the right to carry handguns on campus died with nary a shot being fired in the General Assembly.

House Bill 1572 didn’t get through the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety. It died Monday in the subcommittee stage, the first of several hurdles bills must overcome before becoming laws.

The bill was proposed by Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, on behalf of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Gilbert was unavailable Monday and spokesman Gary Frink would not comment on the bill’s defeat other than to say the issue was dead for this General Assembly session.

Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. “I’m sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly’s actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus.”

Yea, right, safe.

First of all a few caveats, almost none of the students at Virginia Tech would have been legally able to carry a weapon yesterday to begin with. Under Virginia law, you have to be 21 to obtain a concealed carry permit. Nonetheless……the question remains, would things have been different yesterday if someone had been carrying a weapon ?

Frankly, I don’t know the answer to that question. From the information we’ve seen so far, it seems like the killer was both methodical and without fear. He sounds like a man on a suicide mission. Such a person probably would not have been deterred by one or two people with a gun, or by the thought that he might face someone who was armed.

Nonetheless, one shot might have made all the difference.

Remembering Another Horrible Massacre

There is no point in engaging in comparisons. Today’s tragedy at Virginia Tech will make it’s own mark on history (although I can’t help but wonder what the future might have been like if those 32 innocent people had not been murdered today).

Nonetheless, today is also Israel’s official acknowledgment of an act that will live in infamy as long as the human race exists:

JERUSALEM — Sirens sounded across Israel on Monday morning, bringing life to a standstill as millions of Israelis observed a moment of silence to honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

The two-minute siren at 10 a.m. is an annual tradition marking Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day, which began Sunday evening and ends at sundown Monday. Pedestrians froze in their tracks, buses stopped on busy streets, and cars on major highways pulled over as the country paused to pay respect to the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis.

Yes, there have been other genocides in human history worth remembering. But there is something especially brutal, methodical, even scientific, about the Nazi’s attempted extermination of every Jew in Europe that deserves special contempt.

Do Californians Feel Like Slim Pickens In Dr. Strangelove?

Because they’re riding this housing armageddon all the way down…

Mortgage defaults in California near decade high

The number of mortgage default notices sent to California homeowners last quarter rose to its highest in nearly 10 years as home prices stagnated and rates on adjustable loans pushed higher, a report released on Monday said.

Mortgage lenders filed 46,760 notices of default from January through March, marking an increase of 23.1 percent from the previous quarter and 148 percent from the year-earlier period, according to a report by DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate information service.

The first quarter’s default level was the highest for the most populous U.S. state since the second quarter of 1997. It came amid a sharp rise in defaults on mortgages held by subprime borrowers, or borrowers with blemished credit, across the United States.

The low introductory interest rates on the their mortgages have been expiring, replaced by much higher rates that have made monthly mortgage payments too expensive for many households to maintain. Additionally, their options for refinancing their mortgages have been limited because home prices in many markets have been largely flat or slipping.

California has been a white-hot market for the last 5-6 years, and now the time has come for a correction. I can’t say that I haven’t seen this coming, and in fact, a portion of it is playing out exactly like I expected.

I used to live in Irvine, which is dead smack in the middle of Orange County. I noticed prices in Irvine skyrocketing, but what was really surprising was the prices in the Inland Empire (Riverside & San Bernardino counties) going up, while builders were putting homes up as quickly as they could do it. At the time, I said that when the downturn came, places like Irvine, most of LA, San Diego, and similar towns wouldn’t get slammed too hard. After all, people have been fleeing those locales to head inland where they could afford to buy, and people looking to head back to where the jobs are will move back out if prices appear to level off or decline slightly, keeping pressure up. But for those folks inland, it’s getting very ugly, very fast:

According to DataQuick, mortgages were least likely to go into default in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties, three affluent coastal markets with a tight supply of housing that has helped prevent home prices from slipping.

The likelihood of default was highest in inland Sacramento, Riverside and San Joaquin counties, where prospective first-time home buyers rushed in during the housing boom in search of relatively affordable housing.

Squeezed from pricey coastal markets, many Californians moved to such interior areas and used adjustable-rate mortgages to purchase houses in scores of new-home developments. They now are facing higher interest rates on their loans and rising mortgage payments while home values in those markets decline.

Now, you need to watch for the next shoe to drop. We’ll enter a recession later this year, as the tight credit market and the downturn in the housing/construction trades push unemployment up, coupled with light consumer spending as interest rates rise. Irvine, particularly, will be very hard hit due to the high number of subprime lenders located there, much like Silicon Valley was hard hit in the wake of the tech implosion 5 years ago. When that happens, the pain might spread to those nice beach communities. It’s unclear how heavily it will be felt, but it will be felt.

For those of you outside of California, keep your eyes open. If you’re in an area that’s seen both overbuilding and quickly rising prices, this storm is headed your way. Best get your cowboy hat ready.

Sick pricks to protest VT funerals

This pisses me off beyond belief:

“WBC will preach at the funerals of the Virginia Tech students killed on campus during a shooting rampage April 16, 2007. You describe this as monumental horror, but you know nothing of horror — yet. “They shall also gird themselves with sackloth, and horror shall cover them; and shame shall be upon all faces, and baldness upon all their heads” (Eze. 7:18).

Why did this happen, you ask? It’s simple. Your military chose to shoot at the servants of God today, and all they got for their effort was terror. Then, the LORD your God sent a crazed madman to shoot at your children. Was God asleep while this took place? Was He on vacation? Of course not. He willed this to happen to punish you for assailing His servants.

I fully recognize our protected rights under the Constitution, but…damn.

Other than these assholes, I’d say that we are all Hokies today.

A Monumental Tragedy At Virginia Tech

By now it’s all over the news, and the news just keeps getting worse:

Thirty-two people have reportedly been killed and more than two dozen others injured during a shooting rampage this morning at Virginia Tech, making it the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history, according to law enforcement sources.

This is all that will be talked about on the news tonight, and probably discussed here and elsewhere in the days to come I’m sure. There is an obvious gun control/right to keep and bear arms discussion that will probably develop out of this story, but, for now, I would like it if everyone just followed Radley Balko’s advice:

I guess all I have to say is that what happened at Virginia Tech today is horrible and heartbreaking. Now’s not the time for debates about gun control or campus access, or security. Now’s the time for sympathy and grieving. What a terrible story.

There will be enough grieving across Virginia, and across the nation, in the days to come. Let’s leave the political debate for another time.

For those interested, I’m updating when I can with information from Virginia bloggers over at Below The Beltway.

Update: Similar thoughts from Rick Moran:

In a perfect world, gun control laws would have kept the weapons out of the shooter’s hands. Also in a perfect world, one of his potential victims would have been armed and cut short his quest for glory. Despite the fact we don’t live in a perfect world and there’s no sign of one emerging any time soon, we can count on the idiots in Congress and the media to start the political posturing, dying to make speeches and write columns telling us about how wrong the opposition is and how this shooting proves this or that about America, or Americans with guns, or violence in America, or how our schools are screwed up, or even blame the victims for not dodging the bullet that killed them.

I’m not near a television right now, and don’t have access to CNN, Fox or MSNBC, I’m sure that’s what’s happening already and that, tonight, Anderson Cooper, Larry King, Nancy Grace, Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olberman, and Sean Hannity, will all be using this tragedy to advance their particular positions.

I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and a place for a gun control debate, I’m just saying that perhaps we should wait for more than a day to pass before it starts.

Is The Fight Against Big Government Doomed ?

It certainly seems like it might be when you read stuff like this:

Slightly over half of all Americans – 52.6 percent – now receive significant income from government programs, according to an analysis by Gary Shilling, an economist in Springfield, N.J. That’s up from 49.4 percent in 2000 and far above the 28.3 percent of Americans in 1950. If the trend continues, the percentage could rise within ten years to pass 55 percent, where it stood in 1980 on the eve of President’s Reagan’s move to scale back the size of government.

That two-decade shrink-the-government trend now appears over, if for no other reason than demographics. The aging baby-boomer generation is poised to receive big payments from Social Security and government healthcare programs.

“New Deal programs persist,” despite the Reagan revolution and its aftermath, says James Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas in Austin. “They persist because they are largely successful and highly popular.”

Mr. Shilling’s analysis found that about 1 in 5 Americans hold a government job or a job reliant on federal spending. A similar number receive Social Security or a government pension. About 19 million others get food stamps, 2 million get subsidized housing, and 5 million get education grants. For all these categories, Mr. Shilling counted dependents as well as the direct recipients of government income.

Thanks to these New Deal programs and the programs that followed during Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the Welfare State has a permanent constituency supporting made up of the people who receive the benefits and the workers who administer the program. Logically, neither group is going to vote against a candidate that seeks to maintain the status quo or expand it, or for one who wishes to shrink the government.

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