Pennsylvania County Latest Local Government To Tell Feds ‘Don’t Touch Our Guns’

The three-member, bipartisan County Commission of Susquehanna County, Pa., passed a resolution last week to abrogate any future “Federal act, bill, law, rule or executive order that in any way infringes on our Second Amendment rights by attempting to reduce the private ownership of any firearm, magazine or ammunition,” according to a Times-Tribune report.

Commissioners said the measure was intended to send a message that any potential Federal gun ban or restrictions being pushed by the Administration of President Barack Obama won’t be taken as law in their county.

“The Constitution is in place to protect us from the government,” said Republican County Commissioner Michael Giangrieco, who proposed the resolution after neighboring New York passed unConstitutional gun control legislation. “They’ve got it backwards.”

As in other instances, such ceremonial resolutions lack legal teeth. But the Susquehanna County Commission’s vote is just the latest gesture upholding citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights, adding another link to the growing chain of similar acts by local governments across the Nation.

Some States are also getting in on the game, taking up legislation this year that, if passed, will essentially reaffirm powers already enumerated in the 2nd Amendment.

In areas where unrestricted gun ownership enjoys avid support, such moves certainly serve the self-interest of politicians. The recent cavalcade of gun-rights resolutions are easy political scores for State legislators and local elected officials where gun owners dominate the political culture.

Then again, what else would constituents ask of their leaders but for their interests to be mirrored in those whom they’ve elected and their rights represented fairly?

And, while the passing of so many laws and resolutions — as well as defiant pre-emptive strikes from other local officials — may be legally redundant, it does send a signal that there are plenty of individuals throughout the Nation ready to stand in defense of the liberties guaranteed them by the Bill of Rights, even if the threat carries the force of a State or Federal law.

Kerry’s public rebuke of Turkish PM backfires as two meet face to face

After John Kerry used the press as a diplomatic middleman, publicly chiding Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a Feb. 27 U.N. speech allegedly portraying Zionism as a “crime against humanity,” he arrived in Turkey Friday for an already-scheduled face-to-face with the man himself.

It didn’t go well, according to this report in the Washington Post.

Kerry arrived in Turkey, but tarried a little long with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu before sitting down with a perturbed Erdogan. Primed with news reports that Kerry wasn’t pleased with his remarks fanning anti-Israeli sentiment, the Prime Minister greeted him by snipping, “You [and Davutoglu] must have spoken about everything, so there is nothing left for us to talk about.”

The report states Kerry wasn’t able to joke his way through Erdogan’s stony reception as the talks continued.

In context, Erdogan’s earlier comments lack the stridency American media outlets had singled out for emphasis. He hadn’t simply lambasted Zionism, as reports like this one imply.

Taken altogether, what Erdogan actually had said comes across a little differently.

Relations between Muslim Turkey and Israel have been in decline, and Erdogan used his U.N. speech to point out that “Islamophobia”  and Zionism are essentially two sides of the same coin.

The BBC provided a detached western perspective Friday on how the U.S. is wooing Turkey, a NATO ally, into a bridge-building role to resolve the ongoing civil crisis in neighboring Syria. Al Jazeera also offered this report.

Colbert Campaigning, Kerry Slapping Turkish Wrists, Harvard’s Liberal Problem And The Sequestration Apocalypse: TGIF Morning News Roundup 3-1-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” served as the main draw last week at a South Carolina fundraising dinner for his Democratic sister, who’s staging a run at a Congressional seat.
  • The Administration of President Barack Obama is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down California’s 2008 same-sex marriage ban.
  • Austerity means spending more than you ever have in your life, but not as much as you want: The Sequestration clock winds down! To get a taste of how badly it’s gonna hurt, think back to last year’s Mayan apocalypse.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC Has NRA In Its Crosshairs

Since its formation last October, the ironically named Independence USA, the super PAC (political action committee) started by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has pledged to support the campaigns of gun-control candidates nationwide as a redress to what it describes as America’s “scourge of gun violence.”

Now that the PAC has actually helped a gun control candidate win an election in Illinois, Bloomberg has ramped up the anti-gun part of the fund’s message with a warning to the National Rifle Association that it won’t win a spending contest when the 2014 congressional and gubernatorial election season heats up.

According to a report from The Hill, Independence USA has plans to aggressively promote candidates who run on a strong gun control platform.

Perhaps taking a bit too much credit for the national implications of Robin Kelly’s victory over Debbie Halvorson in a special Democratic primary election to fill a vacant congressional seat in Illinois this week, Independence USA spokesman Stefan Friedman pointed to the win as an indicator that Bloomberg’s gun control PAC is just getting warmed up.

“If this election proved anything, it is that the NRA is no longer alone in being able to educate voters and have their positions taken seriously,” Friedman said.

Bloomberg himself said after the election that voting in a gun control advocate to represent Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District marked “the latest sign that voters across the country are demanding change” from Washington to place heavier restrictions on access to guns.

Never mind the fact that voters in the district already lean heavily in favor of gun control or that Halvorson, who nominally supports 2nd Amendment rights, was playing from behind. The Bloomberg money clearly mattered in helping Kelly to victory, and it will matter in future races. But some districts’ voters, particularly in the rural South, won’t budge anytime soon on gun control for any liberal candidate, no matter how well-funded.

Perhaps the greatest impact Independence USA can have on forthcoming elections is its potential coercive power — that is, the power to seduce candidates who are either on the fence about gun control or would rather keep quiet on the topic — with campaign dollars.

Bloomberg’s PAC spent more than $2 million on the Chicagoland primary. And there’s a lot more where that came from.

NY Governor Exempts Hollywood From State’s Tough Gun Law

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo isn’t intent on letting the NY SAFE Act, his State’s extremely restrictive and reactionary new gun law, hamstring police and the film industry from access to weapons that are now illegal for residents.

After rushing to pass one of the Nation’s toughest gun laws on Jan. 15 (without public hearings or the three-day waiting period required by the State constitution for any new bill), Cuomo is now telling reporters the Legislature needs to revise its language to accommodate screen productions filmed in New York so they can portray assault weapons.

Also under the “corrections,” as Cuomo describes the revisions, cops would be allowed to continue wielding high-capacity guns now off-limits for regular New Yorkers. They also would be allowed to bring their firearms onto a school campus without clearance from school personnel.

The NY SAFE Act has already banned all kinds of scary-looking guns, forced residents into passing a background check before buying ammunition and dropped magazine capacity from 10 rounds to seven. It requires doctors and mental health specialists to report gun-owning patients whom they consider to be a threat. It permits police — the ones with the high-capacity guns no one else can have — to begin disarming subjects based on probable cause instead of obtaining a warrant.

As for the Hollywood exemption, Cuomo offered this:

“I don’t know that it’s a real issue because they don’t use real guns,” he said. “Apparently, they have blanks or phony magazines or something. So I don’t know that, legally, it would even be classified as an assault weapon if it’s a phony gun. But people want certainty, and there’s no reason not to make a change like that — to give an industry comfort — especially when it’s an industry that we want doing business in the state.”

Well, shoot. In their symbolism, how do phony guns, realistically portrayed on the screen, get a cultural pass not granted the obviously phony cowboy pistols kids get in trouble for bringing out to the playground?

If grown-ups can’t defend themselves to the extent the police can and if kids can’t have some harmless fun with crude toy copies of what the film industry depicts with such realism, the upshot of Cuomo’s message is that institutions and companies are more important than people — that free people, in fact, are the threat.

Oakland Neighborhoods Tire Of Police; Turn Vigilante

If you want something done right, do it yourself.

That DIY maxim is apparently fueling some Oakland, Calif., civilians’ community-minded vigilantism. A CBS San Francisco report Tuesday featured a number of residents living in San Francisco’s less-affluent inland neighbor, all of whom revealed crime has become so commonplace that they’ve written off the cops and instead begun patrolling the streets and posting “wanted” signs for bad guys.

The majority of the ongoing lawlessness involved property crimes, and the report didn’t mention whether residents are packing guns. Some of the residents said they had been robbed at gunpoint or had witnessed armed robberies firsthand. Violence is definitely a problem in Oakland, and residents have little faith in the city’s police department to respond.

That lack of faith in law enforcement has been earned through many years of abuses, lawsuits, leadership changes and even a judge’s consent order either to reform the department or face a Federal takeover. It also doesn’t help that nearly all of the city’s police officers don’t even live there.

In neighborhoods that can afford it, residents have already begun pooling their funds to hire private security forces that patrol defined areas. The city’s police force, decimated by layoffs and scandalous resignations, simply doesn’t have sufficient manpower. The Oakmore neighborhood, home to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, may soon deploy one such company.

But private security services aren’t comprised of sworn officers, and they can only disrupt crime as they see it happening. Thankfully, they’re not permitted by law to perform general searches or to detain suspects on a warrant. They aren’t connected to the criminal justice system except in the handing over of suspects they’ve been able to detain under the same legal authority any citizen has to make an arrest.

Oakland’s residents are used to vigilantism of many kinds in recent history, both within the police department and from the community. That activity has typically been marginal, thuggish or just plain corrupt.

Time will tell if Oakland’s neighborhoods can successfully arm themselves against armed criminals.

Should Paramedics Carry Guns Deep In The Heart Of Texas?

Paramedics who act as first responders to emergency calls can tell some pretty incredible stories about the violence they’ve seen.

Gunshot wounds, stabbings, domestic beatings — there are times when those events are still in progress when paramedics arrive. There are times when paramedics and EMTs beat police to a scene by several minutes. There are times when they know only what their dispatchers have been able to glean, over the phone, about the security of an unfamiliar location and the intent of its occupants.

Those times make for some crazy stories. But there are a few emergency responders who aren’t around to share them anymore, because they were shot dead while on a call, doing a job fraught with nearly as many dangers as firefighting and police work.

In rural Texas, paramedics could soon be allowed to carry firearms for on-the-job protection, if a bill introduced this year by Representative Ken King (R-Canadian) succeeds before the State Legislature. The bill would also allow firefighters and “other individuals,” both paid and volunteer, to carry weapons if they’re engaged in an emergency response operation.

CBS 11 News in Dallas/Fort Worth heard both opposition and support for the idea Tuesday from people in the local Emergency Response business.

Whether residents support arming emergency responders is another matter.

On one hand, first responders certainly face exposure to agitated, excited and dangerous people more frequently than does the general population.

On the other, arming paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and “other individuals” would undoubtedly alter the fundamental public perception of what it means to be an emergency responder and could inadvertently lend medical and fire personnel the aura of enforcers. Citizens may balk at the idea that special legislation can extend gun-carrying protections to a new category of uniformed public service workers at a time when the general population’s 2nd Amendment rights are under fire.

Given the right cocktail of bad circumstances, it might even force well-intentioned emergency workers to make choices about whether to use their firearms in “shoot first” scenarios. And in America’s tort-drunk legal environment, that could be disastrous for the private companies and public agencies that employ them.

The Texas bill isn’t sweeping in its ambitions; it’s aimed only at emergency workers in counties of 50,000 or fewer people. It wouldn’t affect densely populated areas — where violent crime is typically more frequent – and, therefore, won’t “protect” many of the very paramedics and firefighters likely to face self-defense situations.

But the bill does raise the question of whether arming public servants engaged in non-defense and non-enforcement work exceeds the 2nd Amendment powers afforded regular civilians.

Iran’s Game Of Musical Nuclear Reactors, Hagel Confirmed In ‘Bipartisan’ Senate Vote, Fed-Backed Green Energy Company Cited For Pollution, Bloomberg-Backed Gun Control Candidate Wins In Illinois, Is It A Crime To Fantasize About Doing Very Bad Things?: Wednesday Morning News Roundup 2-27-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Satellite images show Iran operating, and guarding, a nuclear facility that’s been off-limits to international inspectors since 2011.
  • Four Republican Senators’ support makes Chuck Hagel’s confirmation “bipartisan,” according to the President.
  • A solar energy company that borrowed nearly half a billion dollars from the Federal government was fined in Colorado apparently for building pollution right into its Earth-friendly product.
  • The Chicago Democrat who ran on a gun control platform — and campaigned with $2 million of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s money — won Tuesday’s special election to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress.
  • A former cop in New York is on trial for wanting “to taste some girl meat” — although he isn’t accused of indulging.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

 

 

BP Suit Dangles New-But-Familiar Windfall Carrot Before States

The long-simmering civil suit to assay the extent of British Petroleum’s negligence leading up to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast disaster began Monday.

But whether the case ever makes it through a trial — or ends up in a settlement — is almost irrelevant for the States certain to get a payout.

Think about it: There is almost no chance that Alabama and Louisiana — the two States formally attached to the suit — as well as Florida, Mississippi, Texas and the U.S. Department of Justice won’t see BP money before it’s all over. And it will probably be a lot of money, especially for the three less-populous tax base States between Florida and Texas.

Those States’ poorer general fund and education budgets get a little tingly when they smell free money. And the custodians of public funds, regardless of their day-to-day fiscal rhetoric, get positively giddy.

The belt-tightening lip service State leaders pay to the handling of public funds has a reliable tendency to dissipate utterly when the opportunity to aggrandize public coffers at the expense of the private sector appears.

Want examples? Just Google “State general fund windfalls” and order a pizza.

Lotteries, lawsuits, revenue-raising referenda, “found” money, tax projections that turn out to have been pessimistic: all these, and more, provide States — not only in the South, but across the Fruited Plain — the year-by-year deus ex machina their Governors and legislatures need to keep constituents grateful for the last-minute budgets they manage to pass.

Now there’s talk of a settlement in the Deepwater case. Leaving aside BP’s culpability (or its absence) in the ordeal, you can bet State heads in the South are imploring their attorneys general to go for the surest play. In all likelihood, that’s a settlement of the civil lawsuit.

The boilerplate fiscal values of Governors, legislators, cabinet appointees and public service commissions — ultimately, of any State-level official who inherits his little slice of the labyrinthine and pervasive administrative structure supported by each State’s general fund — are ephemeral when the prospect of a quick score rears its head. Due process — yes, even for an international megacorporation loathed both by environmentalists and people who put gas in their cars — doesn’t get a lot of spotlight from State Houses.

State leaders send a message to their citizen bosses and benefactors when they spend the months before a tough legislative session talking about steep budget cuts, reductions in staffing for courts, law enforcement, state-run mental hospitals and pretty much everything else. (Roads and teachers are sacred cows of the political cycle and are usually safe from devastating harm.)

The South’s elected fiscal conservatives, such as they are, reached office in part on the strength of tough talk about bloated government, redundancies in State services, welfare-state public employees (except for teachers!) and getting back to the business of carrying out no more and no less than the tasks of office as ordained in each State’s constitution.

When those same leaders ramp up the rhetoric for each year’s budget fight, the talk is always about tough decisions, too many “needs” and not enough dollars, and how proud they are that the people who elected them share their austere approach to fiscal policy and will “please bear with us” as they feebly shore up — but never, ever eliminate — all the big-government programs, entitlements and agencies they were elected to trim or to end outright.

When Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas get their BP dole, you can expect it to be absorbed into their State budgets to the maximum extent the settlement agreement will allow. There will be earmarks for environmental reparation, as well as other qualifiers regarding where a portion of the money goes, but every discretionary cent likely will be padded in to each State’s business-as-usual operating budget next year.

With few exceptions, State programs don’t die. Their near-miss budgeting survival, year in and year out, leaves the public with the vague impression that they’re absolutely crucial and, probably, mandated by that State’s Constitution or the Constitution of the United States.

For politicians of any stripe holding the public purse strings, that’s a pleasant lie. Along with State taxes and fees that either stay level or increase, erratic windfall money keeps State leaders everywhere addicted to the superfluity of big government.

 

Another One Bites The Obamacare

Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey accepted the yoke of expanded Medicaid funding under the terms of President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to a Star-Ledger report Tuesday.

Christie’s decision to embrace Obamacare this year appears to stem from overall fiscal exigencies in the 2013 State budget he presented in an annual speech before the Legislature. The budget details a disparity in the State’s real-versus-projected revenues for the year, a $473 million shortfall he’s pushing to defer until next year and a sense that accepting the inevitable expansion of Medicaid can benefit the State now, while the Federal government is paying 100 percent of the cost (a percentage that will drop to 90 percent in three years).

Christie becomes the eighth Republican Governor to cave to Obamacare. Even though he’s been an outspoken critic of the plan from the start, it’s likely he’ll negotiate the backlash of reversing his stance with far less political damage than has GOP casualty No. 7, Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has been trashed by conservatives since flip-flopping on Feb. 20.

Scott’s dour, insolent language did his image no favors last week when he relented. Taking a lesson from Scott’s public relations nightmare, Christie at least spoke directly and with more conviction when he addressed the New Jersey Legislature Tuesday:

Let me be clear, I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America. I fought against it and believe, in the long run, it will not achieve what it promises. However, it is now the law of the land. I will make all my judgments as governor based on what is best for New Jerseyans. That is why I twice vetoed saddling our taxpayers with the untold burden of establishing health exchanges.

But in this instance, expanding Medicaid by 104,000 citizens in a program that already serves 1.4 million is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health. If that ever changes because of adverse actions by the Obama administration, I will end it as quickly as it started.

No, he won’t.

Considering the servile position States now occupy with respect to the Federal government and its grip on taxation and appropriations, it isn’t difficult to understand what Governors, Republican or Democrat, are hoping to gain. It’s money — money for the State that’s controlled by the Feds and, in varying degrees of generosity, rewarded to States that accept all the contingencies that attend qualifying for those cherished funds.

That’s why Christie’s plain and tough talk about where he’s drawing his next line in the sand — “If that ever changes because of adverse actions by the Obama administration, I will end it as quickly as it started” — has the same hollow ring as all the words slung in most other GOP-donkey fights. They’re misplaced. In its implementation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act isn’t a matter of Republican-Democrat; it’s a matter of Federal-State.

With the Act’s major initiatives now becoming reality, the conservative Republican Governors who opposed Obamacare for so long are starting to realize that in a tangible way. And even though not every State will accept Obamacare, the few Governors still holding out for the right time to capitulate are really only waiting for one thing: the right, face-saving moment.

Atheists Feel Persecuted, NYC Mayor Funds Chicago Gun Grabber, C. Everett Koop’s AIDS Letters, Veep Keeps Getting 2016 Love, (Accidentally) Underestimating The Taliban: Tuesday Morning News Roundup 2-26-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Who knew? Evidently, it’s still hard to be a devout atheist under theocratic regimes.
  • Michael Bloomberg is funding the legislative campaign of a gun grabber running for the Chicago-area seat formerly held by Jessie Jackson Jr. Way to serve your “constituents” in Illinois, Mayor. That New York gig must leave a lot of gaps in your schedule.
  • Memorable Ronald Reagan-era Surgeon General C. Everett Koop died Monday. Browse his correspondence to see politics and policy, in the early AIDS years, pushing against each other.
  • Joe Biden might as well enjoy all the POTUS love now. He’ll be 74 in 2016.
  • Oopsie! Last month’s big reveal that the Taliban was hobbled in 2012 — thanks to stats supplied by the U.S. military in Kabul, Afghanistan — can now be quietly corrected. Turns out, they’re attacking as frequently as ever. But it’s still a win for America!

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

Legal Pot Creates Quandary For State Agencies Addicted To Federal Money

In light of its ongoing status as a Drug Enforcement Administration Schedule 1 controlled substance, the decriminalizing and legalization of recreational marijuana is creating some secondary complications in States where voters have recently approved the change.

In Washington and Colorado, State-funded agricultural extension services have had to turn away amateur marijuana gardeners interested in getting some expert tips to help them grow their crops.

That’s because there’s Federal money on the line for the public universities that deploy the cooperative extension programs in the States. Federal student aid, research appropriations and technological initiatives, among other programs, all rely predominantly on the reliable flow of U.S. taxpayer money that emanates with regularity from Congress.

And so long as consuming, possessing, growing or transacting marijuana is against Federal law, State universities have a lot to lose if they elect to tell residents how to grow it — no matter how benign the circumstances.

Just as conservative States have claimed sovereignty over the regulation of healthcare, Western States struggling to protect their pot legislation from the Feds are in for a rough trip.

Recreational weed growing remains illegal in Washington but is legal in Colorado (just don’t grow more than six plants at a time). But both States face the same uncertain future when it comes to long-term marijuana law. Court challenges and shifting U.S. drug policy have a tendency to discourage States from expanding sanctioned services even tangentially related to pot.

Until Congress takes the target off marijuana at the Federal level, no State that receives Federal carrot-and-stick contingency funding is likely to cultivate a robust support infrastructure for marijuana growers — not even gardeners and hobbyists. County extension services that provide local farmers and gardeners with research, documentation and instruction on raising other crops and specialty plants simply can’t afford to risk losing the Federal dollars their agencies have become addicted to.

Marijuana policy reform group NORML compares the contemporary Federal policy on pot to Prohibition, noting the absurdity, in both cases, of enjoining States to enforce laws that had no popular support and of vastly insufficient Federal funding. Responding last year to the Colorado and Washington referenda, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano noted:

Like alcohol prohibition before it, marijuana prohibition is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. Alcohol prohibition fell when a sufficient number of states enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws. With state police and prosecutors no longer engaging in the federal government’s bidding to enforce an unpopular law, the federal government had little choice but to abandon the policy altogether. Today, history begins to repeat itself.

A bill before Congress, HR 499, would end the Federal prohibition on marijuana and leave the matter for each State to decide. The passing of such a bill wouldn’t exactly be a victory for States’ rights advocates — we went through this charade in the 1920s with the Volstead Act — but it could perhaps serve as a starting point for States whose leaders are eager to recover some of the sovereignty eroded by Federal aggression (and, in recent decades, State leaders’ own lazy deference).

Farrakhan, Gangsters And A New Black State

Louis Farrakhan may be nearly 80, but age isn’t softening his politics.

In a bizarre address in Chicago Sunday, the Nation of Islam leader laid out a vision for the future of black Americans that, if realized, would elevate urban thuggery to a sort of secessionist, collectivist, isolationist, militant statecraft.

Telling gangsters they already possess the martial character necessary to defend turf (discipline? judgment? self-sacrifice?), Farrakhan urged leaders of gangs to become protectors of lands the Nation of Islam aims to acquire through incremental buying.

Calling gang leaders in Chicago “natural warriors,” minister Farrakhan posited a future scenario in which gangsters and recruited gang members could physically protect domestic lands the Nation of Islam is amassing — evidently with the buying power of poor black people’s pocket change — in rural Georgia and, perhaps soon, the Midwest.

“You are the natural warriors to defend. And the science of war must be taught to us, so that we will protect whatever God allows us to buy or build,” he said, speaking at his organization’s annual Savior’s Day event.

In a remarkable generalization, he encouraged black Americans to stop spending their discretionary income on cigarettes, liquor and cellphones and urged them instead to contribute “pennies, nickels and dimes” — presumably to some fund tended by the Nation of Islam — to help achieve common goals he said have been systematically denied them by the U.S. political and economic spheres.

Farrakhan did manage to nail one truth concerning gun violence among black Americans, asserting that 2nd Amendment rights will continue to have little meaning for those blacks who carry — and use — guns off the legal grid.

“The Second Amendment has no relevance to the black community in this sense,” he said. “All your weapons are illegal and you’re using them like a savage people.”

In keeping with the notion that recruited gangsters could one day need to hold a firearm while they patrol the borders of Nation of Islam-owned lands, he defended the self-protective spirit of the 2nd Amendment, saying that only by maintaining arms can citizens ensure their rights against a tyrannical government.

It would be interesting to learn how the National Rifle Association feels about Farrakhan’s 2nd Amendment remarks.

Historically, when racial politics and gun rights issues collide, strange things happen. When the Black Panthers staged a gun-toting march on the California Capitol building in 1967, the NRA helped shape gun control legislation that went on to be passed and signed by that State’s Governor, Ronald Reagan.

Employers Scale Back Insurance Contributions By Axing Family Plans

Most employer-supplemented health insurance plans have long given workers the option either of electing single-patient coverage for themselves or a family plan that includes spouses and children.

If you have a job with employer-sponsored insurance, you likely know the difference in cost between an individual coverage policy and a family policy. And that difference — for yourself and, often, for your employer — is vast.

If you aren’t a government employee and your employer is paying half your single-coverage premium (or more), the chances are good that they’ve made a very conscientious — perhaps even a financially painful — decision to assist you with your healthcare costs. Take offense, but call it charity.

Yet the exigencies of the changing healthcare business are gradually informing many employers’ decisions to scale back their contributions to employee premiums.

Most often, the self-imposed frugality is coming not in the form of business owners reducing their contributions to individual premiums. Rather, employers are eliminating sponsored family coverage policies altogether, while focusing on what they can do to keep individual coverage affordable.

A Marketwatch story attributes the change to employers who anticipate absorbing increased per-patient expenses as the timeline for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act slowly unfolds. Historically, many employers have offered subsidized coverage only to their own workers’ individual plans — if, that is, they have working spouses who’re eligible for single coverage at their own jobs.

But with Obamacare proffering health coverage even for those who don’t have jobs — and there are plenty of spouses who don’t — companies that once offered family coverage are, understandably, finding less incentive to go the extra mile.

Research and analysis released Friday by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index concludes it’s still difficult to predict how pervasive such changes could ultimately become or how Obamacare policies will affect employers’ decisions:

Beginning in 2014, under the Affordable Care Act, large employers will be required to pay a fee — called an “assessment” — if they do not provide adequate insurance coverage and their employees receive tax credits to buy their own insurance. Whether this creates an incentive for employers to provide affordable coverage, or whether they will simply pay the penalty remains unclear, thus the future direction of the employer-based insurance rates in the U.S. is yet to be determined.

But human nature is self-interested, and it’s reasonable to expect that many employers won’t voluntarily subsidize insurance policies for those spouses who soon may be covered by an expanded Medicaid program.

Much will depend on just how damaging the new law’s punitive “assessment” fees may wreak on small businesses’ bottom lines.

Advancing Drone Tech Could One Day End Up With Police

President Barack Obama sent military drones to Niger over the weekend to aid a reported counterterrorism mission, led by France, against Islamist rebels in Mali. Different news sources have conflicted in their reports over whether these drones are the kind that can kill you or just do aerial surveillance.

A December 2012 piece by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism looked back at the President’s first-term track record engaging enemies (and, on occasion, U.S. citizens overseas) with military drones. The authors concluded his drone policy has so far been… enthusiastic.

The American military drones now in use — so far as we know — have become a familiar sight. They’re small, stealthy, light. Most of them look like very cool model airplanes. But it’s only a matter of time before they’re completely outclassed.

While we’re talking enthusiasm, listen to this narrator’s zeal as he describes the tiny, deadly, pretty much undetectable new generation of MAVs — Micro Aerial Vehicles — under development by General Dynamics for the U.S. Department of Defense.

“Unobtrusive. Pervasive. Lethal.”

See where this is going?

National Geographic points out that current drones come with their share of problems, most of them related to safety issues that could mar their media image and hamper rapid development and deployment.

But those issues can, at most, only slow the inevitable. Tech improves; manufacturing processes tighten. Like any piece of emerging technology, drones will become smaller, quieter, more reliable, more conserving of energy, more consistent in performance. Their feature sets will expand with little to no downside.

That’s when the fun begins, because, at that point, research and development brains and military hawks will be able to sell their use to the public as “safe.”

What “safe” would mean in that context is “flawless in function.” What it would not mean is “absent the capacity to do harm.”

The civilian consumer tech most analogous, at present, to weaponized micro-drones comes in the form of those little, agile remote-control helicopters that seem to proliferate at Christmastime. Those things can be repurposed, up to a point, with the addition of cameras or incredibly tiny payloads, and it’s not hard to imagine an aspiring bad guy figuring out how to plot a relatively impressive amount of damage using so small a device.

But you can bet government agencies with access to drones will be playing with the expensive stuff, while the technology that trickles down to the public will be unmistakably consumer-grade.

Without question, modern nations long ago passed the point at which citizens had a legal means of acquiring weapon tech commensurate with that owned by their representative militaries. No one has an arsenal of nuclear weapons, Harriers or Virginia-class submarines.

All those weapons aim outward; they’re developed and deployed using citizen funds to guarantee American sovereignty against the aggression of other nations. Even if our leaders have debased that mission, improperly using weapons of war to give teeth to their foreign policies, those abuses have taken place on foreign soil.

But it’s changing.

Through Federal initiatives like the Department of Defense 1033 excess property program, local police departments have begun acquiring the means to set their might far above that of the legally armed civilian. They’re gaining, essentially for free, equipment designed for military use and accessible — until recently — only to American fighting forces.

If the militarization of our Nation’s local police forces continues, the day will soon come when departments that resemble small, technologically privileged armies, will be commonplace. They’ll be better equipped than the law allows any civilian to be.

The Pentagon temporarily suspended the 1033 program last June — not because the line between soldier and cop was getting too blurry, but because of this Arizona Republic story that revealed what can happen when some police departments get their hands on the good stuff.

Florida Governor Says ‘Yes, We Can’ To Obamacare He Formerly Opposed

Will there ever be any true political winners in the Obamacare fight?

Republican Governor Rick Scott of Florida — one of the most recalcitrant opponents of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — came half-circle Wednesday, resignedly telling his constituents he will work with the Administration of President Barack Obama by asking the Legislature to expand the Medicaid program in his State.

He’s trying to look as Republican as he can about it. He credits his change of heart to a viscerally wrenching  event, one unassailable for all but the most callous of media (the death of his mother). His press conference remarks Wednesday were appropriately grumpy:

I believe in a different approach, but it doesn’t matter what I believe. It doesn’t matter what anybody believes. The Supreme Court has already made its decision. We had an election in the fall. OK. The public made its decision. Now the president’s health care law, the mandate, is the law.

Florida Tea Party conservatives who helped get Scott elected in an expensive, tight 2010 race are having none of that. One lucky Tea Party activist beat all others to the punch in calling Scott the “Benedict Arnold to the patriot and Tea Party movements in Florida,” according to McClatchy News Service.

Liberals are skeptical, too, but happy to step back and watch the political career of one of the President’s most galvanizing and vocal adversaries self-destruct. This is a man for whom there’s long existed a titanic motive to protect healthcare, as a business, from regulatory harm. He’s the founder of Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR), the nominal champion of a systemic alternative to Obamacare based on free-market principles. He led the 26-State legal charge to thwart the healthcare bill’s enforcement before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now he’s become the seventh Republican Governor to capitulate to the new reality of healthcare in the United States and accept Obama’s vision of an expanded Medicaid. He likely won’t be the last, but it’s hard to imagine anyone who’ll be more vilified for the change.

Comcast To Broadcast Tons Of Shows With Gun Violence While Banning Ads With Guns

The biggest cable company in the United States is all set and ready to sell you some quality entertainment. Whether it’s the self-described “sex-fueled, violent world” of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Walt White’s bloody survivalism on AMC’s “Breaking Bad” or anonymous crime victims’ gun-shattered lives on NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU,” you can sit for quite a spell while enjoying a fictitious world of prime time hack-‘n’-slash.

But don’t linger through the commercial breaks hoping to learn where you can buy the same kind of pistol Jesse Pinkman used to murder Gale Boetticher in the “Breaking Bad” Season 3 finale.

Bad example?

Fine: Don’t expect the ads to tell you what kind of sweet bird gun Uncle Si totes through the placid Louisiana wetlands on A&E’s “Duck Dynasty.” Because suddenly, Comcast sort of frowns on advertisements that have to do with guns, as well as other things that go “boom.”

When Comcast (finally) took control of NBC Universal last week, it decided — evidently without informing advertisers — to adopt NBC Universal’s policy of not selling advertising time to any company involved in the sale and promotion of firearms or fireworks.

CBS Detroit spoke with a Canadian advertising agency that had tried to renew an ad agreement with Comcast for Michigan-based Williams Gun Sight and Outfitters. The ad was rejected by Comcast, which informed the agency it had stopped accepting firearms ads earlier this month.

The company’s chief operating officer said Williams had spent “a good portion of their advertising” budget with Comcast in the past.

The big guns of outdoor retail – Wal-Mart, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s — have dropped decades’ worth of coin to advertise on specialty cable TV networks, like the Outdoor Channel and the Sportsman Channel. According to MSN, the Comcast ban applies only to “commercial time sold by Comcast Spotlight, the advertising-sales division of Comcast Cable that sells local spots on national cable channels.” Translation: some, but not all, hunting and fishing programming will be able to run with gun ads as before.

As in all cases of culture creep, other major entertainment companies have followed each other, in the wake of last December’s Sandy Hook murders, in pulling or limiting gun ads to run on television.

It sounds like now is a great time to be an ad rep for Field & Stream or Garden & Gun.

Supreme Court Throws Cop Dogs A Bone While Leashing People

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday gave a pass to law enforcement agencies employing trained drug-sniffing dogs used in vehicle searches.

The ruling overturns a 2011 Florida Supreme Court decision that rejected evidence cultivated when a Liberty County man was arrested following a dog’s alert outside his vehicle.

The sniff alone, the State court found, didn’t provide sufficient probable cause to validate the search without supporting evidence that the dog and its handler had accurately executed similar searches throughout their law enforcement careers.

But the Supreme Court ruled that drug dogs’ noses don’t have to be infallible; they just have to be bona fide. An alert by a dog that has passed an approved certification program or has been recently trained is good enough to proceed with a legal search. There’s no need to document its accuracy or consistency in past searches.

Justice Elena Kagan, a 2010 Barack Obama nominee, blithely surmised the Court’s unanimous opinion:

In short, a probable-cause hearing focusing on a dog’s alert should proceed much like any other. The court should allow the parties to make their best case, con­sistent with the usual rules of criminal procedure. And the court should then evaluate the proffered evidence to decide what all the circumstances demonstrate…The question – similar to every inquiry into probable cause – is whether all the facts surrounding a dog’s alert, viewed through the lens of common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime. A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test.

And here, Aldo’s did.

Yes, Aldo is the dog from the Florida case; the one with the right “snuff.”

Retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter, a George H.W. Bush nominee, was much less admissive of police dogs’ reliability in 2005, when he wrote the dissenting opinion in a similar drug-search case. Souter wrote the “infallible dog” is “a creature of legal fiction” and referenced other cases in which the animals’ drug searches resulted in “alerting with less than perfect accuracy.”

Colorado Democrats Turn Backs On Homegrown Industry, 2nd Amendment With Gun Proposal

The mindless trudge toward neutering the Wild West — and the rest of the Nation with it — slogs on this month in Colorado, a State where recent, highly publicized moments of cultural failings that involved firearms has swept from public consciousness the deeper history of civil gun ownership the State has long enjoyed.

If Democrats in the State Legislature aren’t careful, they’ll do more than hobble residents’ 2nd Amendment powers. They may send a good corporate citizen packing (its bags).

Magpul, an Erie-based maker of high-capacity magazines, will be compelled to move its operations out of Colorado if Democrat-sponsored House Bill 1224 passes in this year’s State legislative session. The bill aims to outlaw licensed gun owners from keeping or using ammunition magazines that hold 15 or more rounds — something that’s always been perfectly legal.

Started in 1999 — yes, the same year as Columbine — by a former Marine Corps sergeant, Magpul’s corporate leadership is unequivocal about how the company would respond if the bill goes through.

“We will leave if it passes,” COO Doug Smith said in a Denver Post article last week.

“If we’re able to stay in Colorado and manufacture a product, but law-abiding citizens of the state were unable to purchase the product, customers around the state and the nation would boycott us for remaining here.”

The irony of legislation that essentially makes a firearm accessory illegal for citizens but perfectly fine for government agencies is profound. It edges Colorado closer to one of the very conditions most abhorrent to Constitutional framers: taking the powers of defense out of the hands of individuals, while enriching the state’s power to do, with more capable weapons, as it sees fit.

Colorado wouldn’t be the first State to succeed in eroding citizens’ rights in such a fashion. But the dominoes are falling. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the quixotic lobbying group, lauds California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Mexico for having banned magazines that hold more than 10 rounds; New Jersey’s ban — like the proposed Colorado legislation — limits the capacity to 15 rounds.

Bill Would Ban Smoking While Driving With Youngsters

If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, the southbound cars may have Connecticut plates — and their occupants may be wearing nicotine patches.

Well, that’s not an entirely fair generalization to make about motorists in the Constitution State. But if they’re parents who smoke, they may soon be able to thank the State Legislature for relieving them of the pesky task of having to exercise parental discretion for themselves.

Connecticut House Bill 5280 really does take all the headache out of a driver’s having to make the gut-wrenchingly tough decision not to hold “…a cigarette, cigar, pipe or similar device to, or in the immediate proximity of, his or her mouth while the vehicle is in motion or at rest” while children who are younger than 7 years old, weigh less than 60 pounds and are duly strapped into their child restraints are present in the car.

Admittedly, the bill doesn’t categorically target parents; it would apply equally to any adult vehicle occupant, be it a carjacker, the cab driver or sketchy Uncle Joe. And the bill’s only punitive provision is to issue violators a warning.

If it lacks teeth, then, what is it? Grandstanding? A red herring to preoccupy the media while the Connecticut House Committee on Transportation wades through ephemeral proposals? Well-intentioned proxy parenting?

The latter is most troublesome because it further advances the prevailing American culture of displaced responsibility, of law supplanting individual decision making, of policy encroaching on personal discretion.

Is any kind of smoking bad for kids?

Likely.

Do I have a child’s best interests at heart if I tootle down Interstate 91 with a pack of Camels on the burn and a pack of rug rats in the back?

Likely not.

Do I live in a Nation that endows me with a citizen’s measure of liberty — and a commensurate measure of responsibility — sufficient to make decisions like those on my own?

Well, do I?