Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reformation: Then and Now

As I attended my niece's confirmation into the Lutheran Church (yes, they had confirmation in October) the minister spoke about the Protestant Reformation, which celebrates its anniversary this month. It was a good history review, as my own confirmation classes were many moons ago.

In the middle ages the Catholic Church had grown bloated and corrupt. (This is not an indictment of my many friends and family who are members of the modern Catholic Church, just a review.) In 1517 a German monk named Martin Luther challenged the church's systemic corruption by posting his "95 Theses." Chief among the grievances listed was the church's sale of indulgences, the forgiveness of sin based upon monetary payments to the church.

Luther's protest sparked a backlash against the Church that spread across Northern Europe. Many religious reformers followed in Luther's footsteps: such as Zwingli in Switzerland and Calvin in France (before he partnered with Hobbes). The message of these men was aided immensely by a new invention, the movable type printing press.

The printing press was invented in Europe (the Asians invented it first) by Johannes Gutenberg around 1450. Just as significant as the mass production aspects was the fact that Gutenberg began printing the Bible in German. Prior to this the Bible was only available in Latin, which could be read only by the well-educated minority of priests and scholars. No longer did the people have to rely on the learned few to interpret the word of God. The people could now do it themselves.

Fast forward 500 years and we can see similarities with the tremors of change that the "Information Age" (or the "Third Wave" of human progress as Alvin Toffler calls it) is promising to bring to the entrenched power structure. In their book "The Sovereign Individual" authors James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg posit the theory that, just as the printing press was the wrecking ball to the all-powerful medieval church, the internet promises to be a wrecking ball to the big government nation-state (also bloated and corrupt).

In addition to allowing the rapid transfer of money between nations, keeping it one step ahead of the tax collector, the internet allows the people unfiltered access to all kinds of information (and plenty of crap too, as readers of this blog are no doubt aware). Just as early Protestants could suddenly read the Bible in their own language, we no longer require any "learned few" to interpret our news and information for us.

I remember when the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill was being debated, many people declared it to be an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment right to political speech. I recall a letter in the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette stating that the bill should be passed, because it was up to the Supreme Court, not the people or even Congress, to decide what is and what is not constitutional. Imagine: only nine philosopher kings (or queens) in black robes being allowed to interpret the framework for a government supposedly of the people, by the people, and for the people. Probably not an uncommon belief these days.

I encourage everyone to read the Constitution for themselves and make up your own minds about what it means. Don't rely upon the interpretation of people who want to control you. (That goes for everything else too, not just the Constitution.)

Here are a few links:
[These links will now also be located in the "Important Documents" section at the right of the page.]

And you thought this post was going to be about my niece's confirmation!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Global Warming

Lorne Gunter had a good article today about global warming at the National Post website. The article is titled "Thirty years of warmer temperatures go poof." It contains several of the latest studies that are casting doubt on the whole theory of man made global warming. Among them:

"[I]n September, American Craig Loehle, a scientist who conducts computer modelling on global climate change, confirmed his earlier findings that the so-called Medieval Warm Period (MWP) of about 1,000 years ago did in fact exist and was even warmer than 20th-century temperatures.

"Prior to the past decade of climate hysteria and Kyoto hype, the MWP was a given in the scientific community. Several hundred studies of tree rings, lake and ocean floor sediment, ice cores and early written records of weather -- even harvest totals and censuses --confirmed that the period from 800 AD to 1300 AD was unusually warm, particularly in Northern Europe.

"But in order to prove the climate scaremongers' claim that 20th-century warming had been dangerous and unprecedented -- a result of human, not natural factors -- the MWP had to be made to disappear. So studies such as Michael Mann's "hockey stick," in which there is no MWP and global temperatures rise gradually until they jump up in the industrial age, have been adopted by the UN as proof that recent climate change necessitates a reordering of human economies and societies.

"Dr. Loehle's work helps end this deception."

I'm no scientist, so I won't say for certain whether or not man made global warming is a serious threat. But given that just about every "fix" for it involves a heavy dose of socialism, loss of individual liberty and abandonment of the capitalist system that led to some of the greatest standards of living in human history, we better be darned sure about it before we start down that road.

Read Gunter's full article here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

NRA Endorses McCain- Part II

[For a more complete analysis of the NRA's endorsement of presidential candidate John McCain, read the original post- Strange Bedfellows: NRA Endorses Its Enemy, directly below this post.]

Here's McCain speaking about the NRA. This is the guy that the NRA endorsed?

Here's a commercial McCain did for "Americans For Gun Safety"(AGS) seeking to close a non-existent "gun show loophole" using bogus statistics. AGS was founded by Andrew McKelvey, a former member of the board of directors of Handgun Control Inc. and the primary founder of the Million Mom March (against gun rights). AGS received funding from anti-gun nuts George Soros and Teresa Heinz Kerry via the Tides Center.

Here's a fact check for the senator: A 1997 study by the National Institute of Justice said only 2% of criminal guns came from gun shows. Hardly an epidemic. Of these few crime guns procured at gun shows, many were purchased by "straw buyers" who could pass a criminal background check (a practice that is already illegal), so additional background checks would do no good. All gun sales at gun shows are governed by the SAME legal requirements as they are anywhere else. There is no "loophole" specific to gun shows.

Gun owners should disregard the NRA sellout and support Bob Barr, who serves on the NRA's board of directors and has an excellent Second Amendment record. (Bob's NRA rating: A+, McCain's NRA rating: C+, McCain's Gun Owners of America rating: F-)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Strange Bedfellows: NRA Endorses Its Enemy

It’s official: the National Rifle Association (NRA) has endorsed Senator John McCain for President. That’s somewhat surprising considering that the NRA once labeled McCain as “one of the premier flag carriers for the enemies of the Second Amendment” [right to keep and bear arms], which the NRA supposedly defends. So, how did McCain gain the NRA’s ire, then, ultimately its endorsement?

How McCain got a bad name with gun owners is easy. He co-sponsored the McCain-Lieberman Gun Show Bill to close the supposed “gun show loophole.” While the bill didn’t technically outlaw gun shows, it did open gun show organizers up to so much potential legal trouble as to not make it worth the risk. It was a backdoor ban on gun shows. Thankfully this bill failed.

Later, the McCain-Feingold Act specifically sought to muzzle groups like the NRA from criticizing anti-gun candidates. NRA Executive V.P. Wayne LaPierre called it "the most significant change in the First Amendment since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which tried to make it a crime to criticize a member of Congress." The NRA was literally first in line at the courthouse doors to file a lawsuit to stop McCain’s law after President Bush signed it. (The lawsuit failed and McCain-Feingold is still the law of the land.)

McCain did commercials for the moderate sounding, yet anti-Second Amendment, group Americans for Gun Safety. McCain voted in favor of both of Bill Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees who voted against the Second Amendment in DC vs Heller. These are just some of McCain’s transgressions against gun owners. For a complete reading check out “John McCain: Conservative or Gun-Grabber?”

Why did the NRA endorse candidate McCain? Because his challenger, Barack Obama, is worse. (For a complete rundown of Obama’s anti-gun record, click here.) But why they would endorse someone who is a proven enemy of the Second Amendment rather than just not endorsing either candidate (as they've done several times before) is puzzling. This is just the most recent example of the NRA placing political expediency above principle.

NRA Board Member Russ Howard resigned because the NRA kept giving A grades to anti-gun legislators in his home state of California.

The NRA brags about the recent victory for gun owners in the Supreme Court case of DC vs. Heller, but the group played a negligible role in the win and, fearing a lose, tried to squash the case. Robert A. Levy, the lawyer who helped create and personally financed the case that reaffirmed the Second Amendment as an individual right, said “The N.R.A.’s interference in this process set us back and almost killed the case. It was a very acrimonious relationship.”

In 2007 NRA actively supported the “NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007’’ which was dubbed “the Veteran’s Disarmament Act” by pro-gun critics. Written by Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), arguably the most anti-gun member of Congress, the bill mandated that states turn over all types of personal information about their citizens, potentially including medical records, to the federal government to use in it’s “National Instant Criminal Background Check System” (NICS) for approving gun buyers. Wholly unnecessary, the bill could prevent veterans who have ever sought professional help for post traumatic stress disorder or depression from ever owning guns, even if they present no threat to themselves or others. (How's that for a disincentive to get the help that some may need?) In addition to hurting gun owners, this bill is a nightmare for advocates of personal privacy rights and state rights.

In 2001 NRA pushed for and got “Project Safe Neighborhoods,” a national initiative supposedly aimed at reducing gun violence. As the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute explains it, “Project Safe Neighborhoods is the public-policy embodiment of the National Rifle Association sound bite ‘we don’t need any new gun control laws; we need to enforce the gun laws on the books.’ The program funds more than 800 new prosecutors (around 200 federal, 600 state level) who will do nothing but pursue gun-law violations full time.” It essentially makes every petty street crime involving a firearm into a federal crime, Tenth Amendment be damned. It is a program of zero-tolerance enforcement of the very gun laws that NRA often argues are unconstitutional and ineffective. Otherwise law-abiding gun owners who get caught in this web for regulatory infractions or accidental violations are acceptable “collateral damages” to the NRA.

The website NRAwol has volumes of examples of the NRA selling out the Second Amendment and America’s gun owners in the name of political expediency dating back to the National Firearms Act of 1934. [A link to this site will now be located in the "National Links" Section to the right.]

Despite all this, I’m not going to cancel my life-membership in the NRA. (I already paid for it after all.) They still do some good too. Their work with match shooting and firearms training is second to none. Politically I believe that they may still fight against the most egregious gun bans. I will just have to bear in mind that their endorsement of candidates and some legislation is meaningless. For all things political I will pay attention to what Gun Owners of America has to say, and continue to roll my eyes when the NRA sends me its usual panhandling fundraiser letters every other week.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ron Paul & Senator Coburn On Economic "Bailout"

I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't write about the massive economic "bailout" that just passed through Congress. However, when I heard Senator Tom Coburn's (R-OK) speech I knew that he had put it more elequantly than I could. Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, here is Senator Coburn's speech:

Here is U.S. Representative Ron Paul's (R-TX) comments in the House:

October 3, 2008

"Madame Speaker, only in Washington could a bill demonstrably worse than its predecessor be brought back for another vote and actually expect to gain votes. That this bailout was initially defeated was a welcome surprise, but the power-brokers in Washington and on Wall Street could not allow that defeat to be permanent. It was most unfortunate that this monstrosity of a bill, loaded up with even more pork, was able to pass.

"The Federal Reserve has already injected hundreds of billions of dollars into US and world credit markets. The adjusted monetary base is up sharply, bank reserves have exploded, and the national debt is up almost half a trillion dollars over the past two weeks. Yet, we are still told that after all this intervention, all this inflation, that we still need an additional $700 billion bailout, otherwise the credit markets will seize and the economy will collapse. This is the same excuse that preceded previous bailouts, and undoubtedly we will hear it again in the future after this bailout fails.

"One of the most dangerous effects of this bailout is the incredibly elevated risk of moral hazard in the future. The worst performing financial services firms, even those who have been taken over by the government or have filed for bankruptcy, will find all of their poor decision-making rewarded. What incentive do Wall Street firms or any other large concerns have to make sound financial decisions, now that they see the federal government bailing out private companies to the tune of trillions of dollars? As Congress did with the legislation authorizing the Fannie and Freddie bailout, it proposes a solution that exacerbates and encourages the problematic behavior that led to this crisis in the first place.

"With deposit insurance increasing to $250,000 and banks able to set their reserves to zero, we will undoubtedly see future increases in unsound lending. No one in our society seems to understand that wealth is not created by government fiat, is not created by banks, and is not created through the manipulation of interest rates and provision of easy credit. A debt-based society cannot prosper and is doomed to fail, as debts must either be defaulted on or repaid, neither resolution of which presents this country with a pleasant view of the future. True wealth can only come about through savings, the deferral of present consumption in order to provide for a higher level of future consumption. Instead, our government through its own behavior and through its policies encourages us to live beyond our means, reducing existing capital and mortgaging our future to pay for present consumption.

"The money for this bailout does not just materialize out of thin air. The entire burden will be borne by the taxpayers, not now, because that is politically unacceptable, but in the future. This bailout will be paid for through the issuance of debt which we can only hope will be purchased by foreign creditors. The interest payments on that debt, which already take up a sizeable portion of federal expenditures, will rise, and our children and grandchildren will be burdened with increased taxes in order to pay that increased debt.

"As usual, Congress has show itself to be reactive rather than proactive. For years, many people have been warning about the housing bubble and the inevitable bust. Congress ignored the impending storm, and responded to this crisis with a poorly thought-out piece of legislation that will only further harm the economy. We ought to be ashamed."

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