Archive | Politics

Evolving Christian Attitudes Towards Personal and National Self-Defense

Issue number 5 of this year’s Connecticut Law Review is an excellent symposium on firearms law, policy, and culture. The lead article is from Nicholas Johnson, of Fordham: Firearms Policy and the Black Community: An Assessment of the Modern OrthodoxyJohnson (who is my co-author on the Second Amendment textbook Firearms Law and the Second Amendment) details the long and honorable history of Black Americans’ use of arms for lawful self-defense, especially against white racists. Johnson observes that in the late 1960s, Black political leadership abruptly shifted from the community’s traditional support for armed self-defense into being quite hostile to gun ownership.

The Johnson article is a short version of his forthcoming (Jan. 14, 2014) book Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms by Nicholas Johnson (Jan 14, 2014). I very highly recommend the book. It goes far beyond the Connecticut article. The subject of race control and gun control has been a subject of increasing scholarly attention ever since Robert J. Cottrol and Raymond T. Diamond’s 1991 Georgetown LJ article, The Second Amendment: Toward an Afro-Americanist Reconsideration. Having followed the subject carefully for the past two decades, I am amazed by how much original research that Johnson brought to the book, and by the rigorous analysis he provided for the most difficult questions.

In the Connecticut symposium, response essays are offered from leading “pro-gun” scholars (Cottrol & Diamond, Don Kates & Alice Marie Beard) and from leading “anti-gun” scholars (Michael DeLeeuw, David Kairys, Andrew McClurg [my co-author on another gun textbook], and William Merkel).

My own contribution to the symposium is an article titled Evolving Christian Attitudes Towards Personal and National Self-Defense. (SSRN link here; Conn. L. Rev. link here.) My article observes that the Black political leaderships’ sharp turn against self-defense […]

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“Tyrone” Cowen on a Republican Victory in the Standoff

I had been considering posting something contrarian and cynical about the radical Republican strategy during the recent appropriation and debt standoff. But I now see that Tyler Cowen has published a post by “Tyrone,” his “evil twin brother,” that makes a provocative claim:

I read what a strategic disaster the fracas has been for the Republican Party and for the Tea Party movement in particular, but I don’t see it. Where I grew up, this counts as a successful stare-down. Most of the time, the pit bull does not in fact lunge for your throat, but it is hardly a mistake for him to snarl, even if that raises his borrowing rates.

Look where we stand. In real terms government spending has been falling. Sequestration appears to be permanent, or it will be negotiated away by Republicans in return for preferred changes in tax and spending policy. Leading Democratic intellectuals are talking about future fiscal bargains with no new taxes. The American public polls as increasingly conservative.

With this sequence of events, combined with 2011, the Republicans convinced some of their opponents that they are crazy and irresponsible, without actually being crazy (though they were irresponsible, but that is the whole point).

I’m not sure if I agree with this, and if it is true I am not sure whether it is actually a good thing for the country, but it’s worth reading the whole post. By the way, I think that “Tyrone” should have his own blog — or at least a Twitter account. […]

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Public Ignorance About Crime Rates

CNN recently published an interesting article about how most of the public believes that violent crime is rising, despite the fact that it has actually fallen dramatically over the last twenty years:

You can’t escape the headlines. An Australian going to college in the United States is gunned down by teens who police say killed him out of boredom. A few days later, a World War II veteran is beaten to death for reasons still unknown….

Although the cases have struck a nerve with their disturbing randomness and apparent cruelty, the reality is that living in the United States may never have been safer, and you’re much more likely to be the victim of a crime committed by someone you know than you are to be assaulted by a stranger.

Nearly eight of every 10 murders in the United States between 1993 and 2008 were committed by someone the victim knew, according a 2010 report by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics….

Pair that with figures on overall crime: According to the FBI, the violent crime rate in the United States is about half what it was in 1992.

And between 1992 and 2011, the annual number of murders in the United States fell from 23,760 to 14,612 despite a growing population.

Rape, robbery, assault, even property crimes also fell in a well-documented decline that has gone on for years….

But perceptions of crime haven’t always followed the reality.

In May, a Pew Research Center study found that 56% of Americans believe that gun violence is higher than it was 20 year ago, even though it has fallen precipitously since the 1990s.

And in 2011, Gallup found that 68% of Americans believed crime was getting worse, despite the reality of declining crime rates nationwide.

Public overestimation of the crime rate […]

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Colorado Inside-Out 1973 Time Machine

This Friday, July 6, at 8 p.m. Mountain Time, is Colorado Inside-Out’s annual Time Machine episode, on Colorado Public Television, channel 12. These episodes have won three regional Emmy Awards. This year’s episode takes us to 1973, with discussions of Equal Rights Amendment ratification, political violence, the energy crisis, and Watergate.

The characters are, from left to right: KHOW radio host Charlie Martin (Dominic Dezutti), folksinger Judy Collins (Patty Calhoun), Colorado State Rep. Gerald Kopel (me), an obscure actress with a couple Broadway cast appearances (Dani Newsum), and Rocky Mountain News police reporter Al Nakkula (Kevin Flynn). If you don’t live in Colorado, you can watch it on the cpt12.org website, starting sometime next week.

Also on the cpt12.org website, by Friday, will be a bonus segment, set in the year 2025. There we discuss the challenges facing President Chelsea Clinton, as she faces a hostile Congress dominated by the fusionist Green Tea Party.

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We’ve Apparently Come to Admire the Petty Corruption of the Political Class

I noticed two anecdotes about the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, both of which were meant to be complimentary but in fact speak volumes about the petty corruption of our political class and how inured to it we’ve become. The first was told by a friend of his who was at a conference of Jewish philanthropists in Israel with Lautenberg on 9/11. Lautenberg “used his pull as a former senator” to get everyone an early flight back to the U.S. so they could rejoin their families. The second, told by Vice-President Biden at Lautenberg’s funeral, related how Biden was once hustling to make an Amtrak train to Delaware, but was told by Amtrak staff, “don’t worry we’re holding the train for Sen. Lautenberg” (who was a big political supporter of Amtrak).

Now, as corruption goes, this is minor stuff. But I’m more disturbed that rather than the rich and powerful (Lautenberg’s friends in Israel and Biden) being embarrassed that Lautenberg (mis)used his influence to inconvenience others on behalf of himself and his friends, they tout these stories in eulogizing them, as if we should all be glad that a (former!) Senator has the “clout” to help his friends at the expense of those less connected. Bleh!

UPDATE: How much more I would have admired Lautenberg if his friends could relate that “we begged him to use his clout as a former Senator to get us back to our families, but Frank was adamant that his friends and acquaintances were no more important than anyone else trying to get back home, and that he wouldn’t abuse his status as former senator on our behalf.” […]

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Penalties for Underperforming Politicians

Law professor Glenn Reynolds (AKA Instapundit) has an interesting column in USA Today advocating that we increase penalties for politicians who do a poor job in office:

As scandals explode across Washington… one thing that I’ve noticed is that the people involved don’t seem to suffer much….

Government officials are happy making and executing plans that affect the lives of millions, but when things go wrong, well … they’re willing to accept the responsibility, but they’re not willing to take the blame. What’s the difference? People who are to blame lose their jobs. People who are “responsible,” do not…

Given the low penalties for failure it faces, our political class is one for whom falling down is usually painless and even — given the surprisingly common tendency of people who have presided over debacles to be given promotions rather than the boot — actually pleasurable….

The problem is that they don’t have, in President Obama’s words, “skin in the game.” When it comes to actual wrongdoing, they’re shielded by doctrines of “absolute immunity” (for the president) and “qualified immunity” (for lesser officials). This means that the president can’t be sued for anything he does as president, while lower-ranking officials can’t be sued so long as they can show that they were acting in a “good faith” belief that they were following the law.

Such defenses aren’t available to the rest of us. And they’re not even the product of legislation passed by Congress after considered judgment — they’re judicially created….

Reynolds proposes that we eliminate judicially created immunity doctrines and impose tougher penalties on failed political leaders:

I’d favor some changes that put accountability back in. First, I’d get rid of judicially created immunities….

I’d also cut all payments to members of Congress whenever they haven’t passed a budget. If

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IRS Admits Targeting “Tea Party” Groups

Some conservative and libertarian groups have long suspected that the Internal Revenue Service has targeted right-leaning non-profits for extra scrutiny, but such allegations were always difficult to prove (and often sounded a bit conspiratorial).  Now, however, the head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations has admitted her division targeted “tea party” and “patriot” groups — and apologized for it.  In addition, the IRS apparently asked some groups for donor lists, even though such requests are usually contrary to IRS policy.  (Hat tip: Rick Hasen, whose first comment was”Wow.”)  As they say, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.

UPDATE: The New York Times offers a decidedly different view. [To be fair, this editorial is from last year.]

SECOND UPDATE: Hasen has posted the IRS statement. “Mistakes were made.”  Hasen comments: “This is not one of the best days for the IRS.  Conservatives are absolutely right to call for a congressional investigation of this one, even if it turns out to be an isolated problem.”

THIRD UPDATE: Here are excerpts from some of the relevant  document requests, and a Congressional inquiry about some of these requests from last year. […]

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I Think Jeffrey Goldberg is Trying to Defend President Obama

when he says, “Like many liberal American Jews, when he looks at Netanyahu he sees a conservative Republican and he fails to understand how a Jew can be a conservative Republican. I think he looks at Netanyahu in much the same way he contemplates Eric Cantor, the Republican ‏(and Jewish‏) house majority leader. Like many liberal-leaning Jews, he might simply not understand how a Jew could be a Republican.”

But if Obama truly understands so little about Israel that he reduces things to “Netanyahu = conservative Republican” (something the Washington Post actually did quote an administration official as saying), as if Israeli politics somehow map on to an incredibly different American political scene, and truly has been so cloistered on the left that the idea of a Jewish Republican is somewhere between anathema and beyond his comprehension, Goldberg is not doing Obama any favors in pointing these things out. I actually doubt that Obama actually thinks these things, but I don’t doubt that a significant number of “liberal American Jews,” some of whom are or have been Obama advisors, do, and that there views filter down to journalists like Goldberg as Obama’s.

UPDATE: Put another way, there are some liberal Jews who are strong partisan Democrats who are both appalled by the notion of conservative Republican Jews and extremely resentful that (a) an influential group like AIPAC maintains strict partisan neutrality, which has the effect, given the baseline, of pushing the Jewish community and its donors effectively to the right; (b) there is a group of wealthy Republican Jews, exemplified by Sheldon Adelson, working for “the other side.”

There is little that can be done about “a” (JStreet is the attempt to do so) and nothing that can be done about “b” (though liberal Jewish groups did launch […]

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Republican Party Doing Surprisingly Well, from at Least One Perspective

Imagine in 1983, if you had told a Republican political operative that in 30 years:

(1) Crime will no longer be an important political issue;

(2) The USSR will have dissolved, and a Republican president will so botch a foreign war that the Democrats will have a clear public opinion advantage on foreign policy;

(3) That same Republican president will have presided over the beginning of the worst recession since the Great Depression;

(4) The Republican Party will favor cutting Medicare and privatizing Social Security, with Democrats almost  uniformly opposed, while there has never been as many senior citizen voters;

(5) African Americans will vote even more Democratic than they do today, and the Asian American and Hispanic populations will be much larger and will also vote overwhelmingly Democratic;

(6) The evangelical wave of the 80s will have waned, and the number of non-religious, non-church-going voters will have tripled.

He would likely think the GOP would be virtually extinct.  Instead, you tell him that the GOP controls 30 governorships, the House of Representatives, has a chance at taking the Senate in the next election, and, though it lost the last two presidential elections, surely can’t be written off for 2016.  He stares at you in disbelief, no?

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The Trillion Dollar Heist

Whatever else one might say about the Trillion Dollar Coin, it would certainly set the stage for the ultimate heist movie.

Maybe an “American Buffalo” needs Mamet, but this would write itself. In my version, a disgruntled Treasury worker swallows the coin, then goes on a hunger strike, holding the economy hostage until his demands are satisfied.

Also, it better be pretty big. Otherwise all hell would break loose if someone accidentally dropped it somewhere…. […]

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Homage to Catalonia

Voters in the Spanish province of Catalonia yesterday gave a large majority to pro-independence parties, who now command 2/3 of the seats in the regional parliament. The practical impact may be attenuated, because the secessionist movement is weakened by being spread across four parties: separatists can’t unite.

Madrid vows to resist any split. Spain apparently only likes two-state solutions when they involve other people’s states. And they are not alone in that. [UPDATE: More on this in the comments.]

Secession in the U.S. has historical baggage that leads it to be associated with reactionary and regressive tendencies. Interestingly, the historical valence of Catalonian separatism is progressive and Communist. The region was a hotbed of Anarcho-Syndicalism in the early 20th century. It was one of the last Republican strongholds in the Civil War (yes, the other one, and the other Republicans). Separatis movements through Spain were suppressed after the war. Orwell’s memoir that provides the title for this post criticized the Soviet domination of the anti-Fascist forces. So if opponents of secession in the U.S. may be the legatees of Lincoln, are the unionists in Spain followers of Franco?

UPDATE: The E.U. has been coy about whether it would accept a Catalan state, and as readers noted, EU rejection would put the kibosh on independence. The EU’s reaction is predictable: it is a country cartel, many of whose members face similar separatist drives. It wants to discourage this kind of thing, and I expect its threats of exclusion will mount as independence seems more likely.

On the other hand, part of the ideology of the Union is its continental nature, its scope – thus the persistent expansion to include even unlikely or remote members. Another part is its inevitability – that is why minor retrogression, like Greece dropping the Euro, is […]

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Second Amendment Results, Final

Only reporting results which represent a change.

U.S.  Senate. Gains: Indiana (Donnelly replaces Lugar). NM  (Heinrich replaces Bingaman). ND (Heitkamp replaces Conrad).

Senate losses: Mass., Warren defeats Brown (-.5 with NRA C-rated Senator replaced by an F). Virginia, Kaine replaces Webb.

Senate net: +1.5. Ted Cruz’s win in Texas won’t change Senate voting patterns, but the former Texas Solicitor General will be an outstanding and very well-informed leader on Second Amendment issues.

House losses: AZ 9. CA 7 (C-rated Lungren ousted), 26, 36 (Mary Bono Mack), 41, 52. FL 18 (Alan West), 22 (Bloomberg-funded extremist wins), 26. Il  8, 18. MD 6. MN 8. NH 1 & 2. NY 18, 24.

House gains: AZ 2. IA 3 (incumbent vs. incumbent). NC 13 (F-rated incumbent retired). OH 16 (incumbent vs. incumbent).

House net: -12.5.

Governor Loss: Montana (although not officially called yet; winner Steve Bullock has a B- rating). Waiting for results in WA, a possible gain.

Ballot issues. Strengthen Louisiana state right to keep and bear arms, to require strict scrutiny. Win, very important reform, that will be a model in other states. Constitutional right to hunt  and fish passes overwhelmingly in Kentucky, Nebraska, and Idaho.

In short, as Barack Hussein Obama, the Juan Domingo Peron of the 21st century, leads America to fiscal collapse, you can at least keep your guns. […]

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Gary Johnson Gets about 1% of the Vote

From the little information available out there, it looks like Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is getting about 1% of the vote, and doing so pretty consistently nationwide. This constitutes the Libertarians’ best showing since 1980, when they had a well-funded campaign (unlike this year) thanks to self-funded VP candidate David Koch, and also received 1% of the vote. Ron Paul, when he ran as the Libertarian candidate in 1988, only managed to pull in about .5% of the vote.

What this shows, I think, is that Johnson is a talented politician–something that should have already been apparent from his two terms as a Republican governor in blue-state New Mexico. Instead of ignoring him, scheming to ban him from the debates, and so on, the GOP should have embraced Johnson and used his energy and talents to their advantage once he was inevitably eliminated from the GOP primaries. Instead, they drove him to the LP. It’s too bad on both accounts. For the GOP, I could see Johnson being a Rand Paul type figure, but more popular among the secular, urban types that normally get turned off by the GOP. Meanwhile, Johnson ha doomed himself to marginality by hitching his star to the LP.

Like Ilya and Randy, I wish the LP would close up shop, and its activists devote themselves to libertarian causes in other ways. Unfortunately, Johnson’s reasonably good showing is likely to delay that day. […]

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Second Amendment election results

As the results come in tonight, I will blog here about the results as they affect the Second Amendment. In an article last week for National Review Online, I previewed all the Senate and Governor races, and all the competitive House races. Election night starts with a net +3 for the Second Amendment in the Senate, regardless of which party wins the Senate races in New Mexico, North Dakota, and Indiana. In all these states, both major party candidates are strong on Second Amendment issues, so the winner will replace retiring anti-gun Senators (Bingaman in N.M., Conrad in N.D.) or an anti-gun Senator who lost in the primary (Lugar in Ind.).  To summarize the rest:

The three gubernatorial races that are close and that feature major differences between the candidates on Second Amendment issues are Washington, Montana, and New Hampshire.

. . . In four states — Arizona, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Virginia — there are serious risks that Senate seats could be taken by new senators hostile to gun rights. Plausible opportunities to gain seats for the Second Amendment exist in Maine, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. In these eight swing Senate states considered together, the possibility of a net loss probably exceeds the possibility of a net gain.

As for the U.S. House, a rough estimate would be that if the net gain for Democrats is x, then the net loss for gun owners will be about one-half or two-thirds of x. In swing districts, most candidates are unwilling to forgo the 5 percent of the vote that can be lost by opposing Second Amendment rights. So, in these districts, candidates of both parties tend to support the Second Amendment. Thus, the net change in House composition on the gun issue tends to be smaller than the net party change

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Trende on the Election: A Nailbiter

For those who can’t get enough election speculation, Sean Trende, whose work I think highly of, examines the relevant information and concludes that the national polls are more likely to be correct than the state polls (he was ambivalent on this before). He concludes that it’s going to be a very tight race, decided by slim margins in a handful of states, but estimates a 60% chance of an Obama victory. Even before I read his column, I gave my one and only real prediction of the election: the final national popular vote will be closer to the Real Clear Politics National Polling average of a .7% Obama margin than to Nate Silver’s estimate of a 2.5% Obama margin. I feel better about my prediction knowing that Trende seems to agree. […]

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