2008 letters to the editor

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If there was ever any doubt about the federal government’s propensity to usurp powers not authorized by the US Constitution, President Bush’s State Of The Union (SOTU) address on Monday (1/28/2008) answered that question. The Constitution is the document by which “We The People” confer powers to the federal government, not vice versa; and as a reminder, the Tenth Amendment, the final provision of the Bill of Rights, reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or the people.” Mr. Bush stood this principle on its head by announcing various ways he expected the government to invest the people with power. For example, he mentioned the need to empower homeowners; to empower patients and doctors; to empower parents; to empower American workers; to empower American researchers and entrepreneurs (this one even brought him a round of applause!); to empower scientists and engineers; and to empower medical researchers. The word “empower” means to invest with power, and in the republic designed by our Founding Fathers, “empowering” was supposed to be the prerogative of the people, not the federal government. Unfortunately, by our apathy over the years, we have allowed the tables to be turned. As Thomas Jefferson warned us, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and for government to gain ground.” Until we shake off our apathy, we can expect more usurpations.

FINALLY (2/1/08)

It has been almost a year since Cho Seung-Hui massacred 32 innocent people on the Virginia Tech campus, following which many elected and appointed officials, talking heads, and ordinary citizens, threw in their two cents worth on how such a tragedy could have happened, and what could be done to preclude a recurrence in the future. Most of what filled the air was hand wringing and limp-wristed suggestions such as “centralize the campus police and fire departments into one building … upgrade the cellular and phone systems on campus … increase the number of case workers on campus …” A few brave souls suggested the only solution that has a chance of working: in the words of a popular gun-owners bumper sticker, “Fight Crime – Shoot Back.” At the time, shooting back was not an option for law abiding citizens because even those who were CCW holders (a CCW is a permit to Carry a Concealed Weapon – which can easily be obtained by any mature, responsible, competent, law-abiding citizen in VA ), were prohibited from (legally) carrying a gun on campus – a prohibition which, obviously did not affect Cho. But there are changes afoot. Two bills are currently making their way through the Virginia General Assembly, either one of which, if it had been the law at the time of the massacre, could have allowed a law-abiding gun-toting CCW holder to cut short Cho’s mad rampage. Delegate Todd Gilbert has proposed a bill which would allow anyone (including students) with a CCW to carry a gun on state property, including the campuses of state universities. Delegate Bob Marshall has proposed a bill which would allow only college faculty members with CCWs to carry guns on campus. Better late than never.


It was about a generation ago that Senator Ted (“The Swimmer”) Kennedy tried to stop the manufacture and sale of new handguns, and to mandate the transfer of existing handguns from private owners to the state. Since then he has been one of the most rabid anti-gun members of the Senate, and as evidenced by his most recent hair-brained scheme, he is still at it. Earlier this month he introduced legislation (S.2605) to, essentially, ban the manufacture, importation, sale, or transfer of any semi-automatic pistol that does not stamp the make, model, and serial number of the pistol into the cartridge case of a round of ammunition, when the round is fired. The theory of this "micro-stamping" is that a firearm's firing pin or other internal parts could be etched with microscopic codes unique to the firearm, which would be imprinted on cartridge cases as rounds are fired. The codes could be entered into a computerized database before the firearm leaves the factory, and then, the theory continues, if such a gun were used in a crime, police investigators could pick up a cartridge case left at the crime scene, identify the markings on the case, and thereby identify the criminal involved. There are plenty of problems with micro-stamping, not the least of which is that micro-stamped evidence can be made worthless in seconds or minutes, with household tools, by removing firing pins or obliterating serial numbers. And while it might not have occurred to Senator Kennedy, the fact is that most guns do not automatically eject fired cartridge cases: revolvers can typically fire five to seven rounds (some, as many as 10 or 12 rounds) without any fired cases being ejected; and pump-action, bolt-action, lever-action and other types of guns eject fired cases only if the user manually operates the gun's unloading mechanism. Something else the Senator might not have realized, is that even before he penned his legislation, micro-stamping failed to prove effective in a study conducted by forensic experts and researchers at the University of California (Davis), and in tests conducted by the Association of Firearms and Toolmarks Examiners, and by the Suffolk County, N.Y., crime lab. Finally, criminals could obtain imprinted spent cartridge cases from practice ranges (including police firing ranges), and deposit them at crime scenes, to confuse investigators. It seems to me that the Senator did not think through what he was doing here, any more than he thought through what he was doing at Chappaquiddick.

GREEK LESSON (2/23/08)

At first it might seem a stretch to talk about the recently popular movie “300,” and the “No Child Left Behind” act, in the same sentence, but bear with me. The movie (and a History Channel presentation on the same theme) tells the story of how the noble sacrifice of three hundred Spartans under King Leonidas at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. gave the Greeks the courage to go on to the sea battle of Salamis, and the infantry battle on the plains of Plataea, and to eventually destroy the Persian invaders. The Greek victory is generally cited as a moral and cultural example of how a small number of free men, willing to die rather than submit to tyranny, can prevail against a huge number of servile men fighting at the command of a despotic monarch. But the Greeks themselves (e.g., historian Herodotus, playwright Aeschylus) list this as one of two reason for victory: the second reason is that the Persians leaders in general, and King Xerxes in particular, committed the sin of hybris, which was defined as outrageous arrogance and the abuse of power. Today we spell it “hubris.” Which brings me to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act, originally passed in 1991, and now up for reauthorization. NCLB was supposed to improve math and reading and narrow the gaps between rich and poor, and black/Hispanic and white. In fact, according to data from PISA (the Program for International Student Assessment) and PIRLS (the Program on International Reading Literacy Survey), NCLB has been a failure: since 1991, U.S. students have demonstrated general stagnation or decline in math, reading, and science; and there is no conclusive evidence of racial and ethnic achievement. Yet, during the period, we have spent about $100B on NCLB. Worse, American kids, especially the lowest performing students, have lost an opportunity for a better education because the feds, like Xerxes, have committed the sin of hybris - outrageous arrogance in thinking that their increased intrusion in the classroom would promote academic excellence; and abuse of power by usurping control of education. It’s time for Washington to admit that their efforts have failed, and it’s time for them to honor the US Constitution by giving control of education back to the states and the people, which is where the Founding Fathers left it. The NCLB should not be reauthorized.


Earlier this week the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC), attended by some 500 scientists, economists, and other experts on global warming from at least 11 countries, finished up with Joseph L. Bast, president of The Heartland Institute (host of the event), reporting that the “ message was deceptively simple: Global warming is not a crisis.” As he put it, “ History may well note that the long and largely unimpeded march of error, exaggeration, and even lies in the campaign to turn climate change into a global ‘crisis’ hit a bump in March 2008, when the advocates of sound science and common sense finally came together to expose and confront it.” This may come as a surprise to many, especially those who have succumbed to the mainstream media’s biased and alarmist coverage of the global warming issue. To them, and to those who have been beguiled by Al Gore’s documentary, “The Inconvenient Truth,” (this includes such noted climatologists as Barbara Streisand, Brad Pitt, Joanne Woodward, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Leonardo DiCaprio), an antidote is available. In his book titled, “Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media,” climatologist Patrick J. Michaels describes how we have been led astray by falsehood, exaggeration and misstatement, and he dismantles the claim that catastrophic climate change is upon us. Michaels holds a Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the U of WI at Madison, is research professor of environmental sciences at the University of VIA and visiting scientist with the Marshall Institute in DC, is past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, was program chair for the Committee on Applied Climatology of the American Meteorological Society …there’s more, but you get the point. Michaels was the keynote speaker on the evening of the first day of the of the ICCC where he confuted the claims of “unprecedented” sea ice melting in the Arctic and warming in the Antarctic, citing evidence that temperatures were warmer in the Artic during the 1930s, and the vast majority of Antarctica is cooling. Contrary to charges against him, Michaels does not deny warming (according to him, “almost every scientist I know acknowledges that the planet is warmer than it was a few decades ago and that the burning of fossil fuel has contributed to the warming of recent decades”). What he does deny, is that the rate of warming is cause for alarm, or that any policy will do anything to alter the warming trajectory we are on enough to measure its effect in a lifetime. During his presentation Michaels demonstrated that the most realistic forecast for future warming is a linear increase of about 0.17 degrees F per decade, well below the most conservative estimates of global warming alarmists, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And this is right in line with the closing remark of Joseph L. Bast on the ICCC, that “Global warming is not a crisis.” In plain language, we can relax, because it ain’t gonna get that warm.


GAS AT $9.61 PER GALLON (6/17/2008)

I guess it’s all relative, folks. A friend of mine in London (England, not Ohio) just reported to me that he is paying “£1.30 Per litre” for premium gasoline. Check my arithmetic, if you wish, but I calculate that to be $9.61 per gallon, which is more than twice what I paid this week.



WELL DONE, SUPREMES! (6/26/2008)

This morning (Thursday, June 26, 2008) the Supreme Court announced its decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller case in which they held, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” And, they held that “the city’s ban on all functional firearms in the home is unconstitutional.” This decision puts countless anti-gun laws across the country in serious jeopardy, and we can look forward to a brighter future for law-abiding gun owners.


FOURH OF JULY, 1837 (7/4/2008)

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this poem, which was sung as a hymn at a July 4, 1837 ceremony to mark the completion of the Concord Monument, to immortalize the resistance of American Minutemen to British forces on April 19, 1775. The poem's phrase "shot heard round the world" is now internationally famous for its description of the philosophical importance of the American revolution.

Concord Hymn

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Of course, the “shot heard round the world” was fired at Lexington Green, not at Concord Bridge; but then, Emerson was a poet, not a historian, so we give him a pass!

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