Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 7 Comments

Next City: In a war, anything can be a weapon. In a particularly ruthless war, such as the conflict that has been raging in Syria for more than three years, those weapons are often turned against civilians, making any semblance of normal life impossible. Such is the case, experts say, with the way the nation’s water supply is being manipulated to inflict suffering on the population. According to an article posted by Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, water…… [read more]

Lesson in Hypocrisy: the Left Condemns Hungary’s Center-Right Government

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 7 months ago

Normally I would not bother to read an article with “Hungary” in the headline, but any country that has a “widening rift” with the uber-Left European Union is worth a look.   My curiosity was rewarded.

Although I do not pretend to know anything about the internal politics of Hungary or the particular policies being implemented there, I am not offering this post as a substantive critique of policies but, rather, as an example of how the Left condemns the very practices that the Left uses to agglomerate power and demonizes a conservative government.

First, the headline itself is misleading:  “Hungary poised to widen rift with the west.”  This title gives the impression that Hungary must be embarking on some kind of anti-Western program of fascism or authoritarianism that threatens its relationship with the West.  When you read the article, however, it is clear that the conflict is entirely with the E.U. and the International Monetary Fund (with the typical self-righteous finger-pointing from the Obama Administration).   Furthermore, the policies pursued by Budapest involve such horrible policies as— prepare yourself— a… flat… tax!  Controls on the Hungarian central bank!  Reduction in the overall number of members in parliament together with the redrawing of electoral districts that favor the party in power!  Clearly, in the view of the Left, the dark night of oppression and economic insanity is descending.

Here is the lede:

Hungary is poised to drive another wedge into a rift with the European Union and international lenders when its parliament on Friday passes a controversial law limiting the independence of the country’s central bank.

The law is one of a package being rushed through before the end of the year that is prompting international concern about Hungary’s economic policies and a perceived erosion of democracy in this EU member state.

If you follow the link to the “economic policies” that are causing such concern in the EU and the IMF, you will find that it is a flat tax that the article claims is ruining government revenues.

The article continues to list the sins of the Hungarian government:

Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, wrote last week to Viktor Orban, prime minister, expressing concerns.

As well as the central bank law and a new flat tax rate that have been sharply criticised by the EU and the International Monetary Fund, other measures include reforms that critics warn will subject the judiciary to political interference and electoral changes that opponents say would entrench Mr Orban’s power for years to come.

“A number of constituencies have been reduced and redrawn in a way that, based on past voting patterns, clearly favours [Mr Orban’s centre-right party] Fidesz in future elections,” said Robert Laszlo, election specialist at Political Capital, a Budapest think-tank. Fidesz already enjoys a two-thirds majority in parliament.

“Mr Orban is trying to build up a new system completely in line with his power interests. It will be extremely difficult to change these laws,” said Andras Biro Nagy of Policy Solutions, a Budapest consultancy.

The slew of legislation has provoked modest protests in Budapest, including one last week where Ferenc Gyurcsány, former prime minister, was briefly arrested.

Imagine, a law that makes the judiciary accountable to elected officials.   In the U.S., we have a judiciary that increasingly sees itself as completely unaccountable to the people and the final arbiter of every law, regulation and even personal behaviors of the people.  This was never intended by the U.S. Constitution and it is creating havoc in our society and political system.   Maybe Hungary is on to something.

Notice, too, that the EU, IMF and Hillary Clinton criticize the redrawing of election districts that favor the party in power.   Lord knows that the Democrats in the U.S. would never try anything as sleazy as that.   Here in Maryland, the overwhelmingly Democrat legislature and Democrat governor are putting the finishing touches on new congressional districts that intentionally dilute conservative voters with reliable Democrat voters.  I am not shocked at the practice– it is part of the spoils that go along with elections and demographics, but the posturing of the Left in calling such practices a threat to democracy in Hungary when they practice those very things themselves is disgusting.

It is worth noting that this “slew of legislation” that has the Left up in arms has not resulted in mass riots or social upheaval.  No, the legislation has “provoked modest protests.”   When the Left calls a left-leaning protest “modest” you can be sure that less than 50 people showed up.   Any more than that and the Left trumpets it as “broad-based” or “masses.”

This next example is hilarious:

Mrs Clinton also criticised use of a new media law to prevent broadcasts by Klubradio, a popular talk-radio station that is frequently critical of the government.

Hungary’s media council, which took the decision, said the Klubradio affair had become “a consciously planned, premeditated, sheer political provocation” supported by prominent leftwing and liberal public figures, along with “members of foreign diplomatic corps”.

Take this in.  Hillary Clinton is criticizing a new law in Hungary that would prevent broadcasts by what the Hungarian government called a left-wing, political provocation– essentially subversive broadcasting.    This is the same Hillary Clinton that supported, while in the U.S. Senate, efforts by the left wing of the Democrat Party to try to force the likes of Rush Limbaugh off the air by reinstating the “Fairness Doctrine” in American media laws.

This is always the way it is with the Left whenever they are confronted with a government anywhere that attempts to take a conservative direction.   The flat tax is a dangerous fiscal policy.   Electoral districts that favor conservative candidates is a threat to democracy while gerrymandering for Leftist candidates is perfectly alright.

The article further complains that this “slew of legislation” was rushed through at the last minute before Hungary’s new Constitution takes effect on January 1, 2012.    Hmmmm… does this seem like a familiar tactic?   Obamacare?  Frank-Dodd financial reform?  TARP?  The 2009 Stimulus?   When the Left has a majority they have no qualms about using unprecedented or even extra-constitutional methods to ram through their unpopular laws, but they condemn a center-right government that passes laws prior to the effective date of a new constitution, even though there is no evidence that the people of Hungary did not support these measures (unlike the Stimulus and Obamacare).

Here is the typical way the Left likes to portray those who implement policies that the Left dislikes:

But western countries and international bodies have become concerned over moves by his government seen as removing democratic checks and balances.

“It now seems all too clear that Viktor Orban’s government is determined to take the country in a direction that is far from the core values on which the European Union is built,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit and other leaders of a Green-liberal bloc in the European parliament in a letter to José Barroso, European Commission president, last week.

That’s it, then: “the core values.”   Expect to hear this from the Left in the 2012 U.S. elections, regardless of the GOP candidate.   The GOP will be trying to implement policies that threaten America’s “core values,” which, translated, means dependency upon Big Government, Big Spending, voter fraud among Democrat constituencies and Government Health Care.   The first step in demonizing an opponent is to question their commitment to “core values,” as you, of course, define them.   Expect to hear from the Left such catcalls as “authoritarian policies” or hints of Nazi sympathies with regard to Viktor Orban.   Classic Saul Alinsky.

As I said before, I do not know whether the actual policies pursued by Hungary are truly good policies or not.  On the surface, control of the central bank, a flat tax and redrawing electoral districts seem to be good policies.   But the fact that the Left (in the form of the EU, IMF and the Obama Administration) has bothered to condemn these policies is strong evidence that Hungary is on the Right track.

Christmas 2011

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

“And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.  Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “Behold the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, “God with us.”  [Matthew 1:21-23]

To all my readers, please enjoy this Christmas season and remember and be thankful for the greatest gift of all, God’s only son, eternal, without beginning and without end, without whom we would truly perish.

If you haven’t heard enough good Christmas music, enjoy the King’s Brass below.  All three videos are well worth the time.  I had the opportunity to play a few charts with this group when they came through my city, when original member Doug Warner was with them (the greatest trombone player I have ever known, and with whom I had the chance to play).

Retiring California Officers Want To Keep Assault Weapons

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

From The San Francisco Chronicle:

Peace officers throughout California have bought more than 7,600 assault weapons that are outlawed for civilians in the decade since state lawmakers allowed the practice, according to data obtained by the Associated Press after it was revealed that federal authorities are investigating illegal gun sales by law enforcement.

Investigators have not said what kinds of weapons were involved, but did say they were ones that officers can buy but civilians cannot. That category also can include certain types of handguns and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

The AP’s findings and the federal probe have prompted one state lawmaker to revisit the law to ensure that the guns can be bought only for police purposes.

“I think it’s much more questionable whether we should allow peace officers to have access to weapons or firearms that a private citizen wouldn’t have access to if the use is strictly personal,” said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento.

The information was obtained through a California Public Records Act request filed after federal authorities served search warrants in November as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of illegal weapons sales by several Sacramento-area law enforcement officers.

The investigation has raised questions about the kinds of restricted weapons that the more than 87,000 peace officers in the state are entitled to purchase and about a 2001 law that allows them to buy assault weapons “for law enforcement purposes, whether on or off duty.”

The AP found that some departments allow officers to use the weapons in their off time while others require that the weapons be used only on-duty, although an opinion by the state attorney general issued last year says officers can acquire the guns for any purpose but must relinquish them when they retire.

A department-by-department breakdown of purchases made this year, released as part of the AP’s records request, shows that Los Angeles Police Department officers bought 146 guns, the most in the state. The department’s policy says the guns are to be used only for police purposes.

Today, about 1,300 of the nearly 10,000 LAPD officers have assault rifles, more than 500 of them purchased by the officers themselves.

“We’re not interested in loading up people’s gun closets with assault weapons,” said Cmdr. Andrew Smith, who spent $1,200 on his gun. “The idea is that these guys would be able to have these in the trunks of their police cars if they’re needed.”

Officers in the San Diego Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Long Beach Police Department also registered large numbers of assault weapons so far this year.

Skirting the law, they are.  So the LEOs purchase the weapons, and then don’t turn them in when they retire.  But the LEOs want to keep their weapons.

“We think that an officer that extends himself and buys this for his department and his community is being unduly punished as they go out the door,” said Ron Cottingham, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California.

City police officers, county sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol officers, state game wardens, school police officers and other law enforcement personnel can buy assault weapons with their own money, at a cost often exceeding $1,200.

The proposed legislation is still being written but likely would allow officers to re-register their weapons once they retire, similar to the registrations required for those who owned assault rifles before California’s ban became law in 1999.

The peace officers group is a federation of more than 900 local, state and federal law enforcement associations representing 62,000 public safety employees in California. It bills itself as the state’s largest law enforcement organization.

No, no, and a thousand times no!  It doesn’t work this way.  So there is some utility in so-called assault weapons having nothing whatsoever to do with the official duties of being a law enforcement officer (such as home defense), or the retired LEOs wouldn’t want to keep them.

But if retired LEOs can be deemed to be stable, crime-free and reliable enough to own a weapon with a high capacity magazine and a forend grip, then so can citizens who weren’t employed as LEOs.  There is no basis – logical, moral or legal – on which to exempt retired LEOs from the same law under which everyone else must live in California.

I must strongly encourage the state legislature of California to do the right thing and reject this subversion of the rule of law.  On the other hand, if they may be persuaded that so-called assault weapons aren’t really used to perpetrate mass killings like the propaganda says, and that the AR may be considered a legitimate home defense weapon, and if the sensibilities of the retired LEOs in California are correct and there is some utility to so-called assault weapons in defense of the home, then perhaps they may also be persuaded to undo the assault weapons ban for all citizens of California.  Either way, consistency isn’t the hobgoblin of little minds as claimed by the idiot Ralph Waldo Emerson.  It is the stuff of life.  It’s the way we all live.

Lessons Learned In The War with Militant Islam, Part One: Naming the Enemy

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 8 months ago

December in Western Culture is always an appropriate time of year for reflection– remembering that all-important point in history when God invaded our world in human form.   This particular December, however, is especially appropriate for reflection on what has variously been termed “The Long War” or, “World War IV,” or, by this Administration as, “Overseas Contingency Operations” as the President has unilaterally declared that the Iraq War is over and the books are closed.

It is my intention, then, to offer up over the next weeks what I consider to be the lessons we have learned in the 30-plus years since the re-birth and rise of Militant Islam in 1979.   I wish I could preface this series with optimism and confidence of victory.   I wish I could write that the West is winning, however slowly, the great struggle against this latest fascist incarnation, but reality will not permit.

It is time to face this awful situation squarely, not with fatalism or despair but with determination.   It is impossible to ignore the steady drumbeat of politically correct programs that hamstrings our efforts, or another miserable candidate who garners applause with 1920′s style isolationist rhetoric.  American leaders seem all too adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and mistaking our friends and enemies.

Barring the advent of national leadership which is nowhere evident, or a miracle of some kind– of which history is not replete— we must bravely conclude that, for now, the American public at large will not rouse itself to effective action.   We are caught in yet another national whirlpool of apathy, denial, distraction and delusion— just as we were in the 1930′s and the 1990′s– from which the only escape is a national trauma on the scale of a Pearl Harbor or September 11th calamity.  We have pushed our luck far too many times and refuse to get serious about taking the fight to the enemy– indeed, a president is applauded when he promises to “bring the troops home” without regard for consequences.   Ear-pleasing platitudes are what the Public demands, so it is no wonder that the politicians serve it up by the plateful.

If there is any ground for optimism in this Long War, it may be found in the capacity of our enemy to bouts of incredible stupidity.  To be sure, the U.S. is no less prone to such lapses, so in this respect the Long War is like a game of football in which the side committing the fewer mistakes will win.   I take from this a grim hope that the inevitable attack against the U.S. by the Islamists will be limited to a similar scope and scale of the 9-11 attacks.   Is it too ironic to pray that the Islamists be so stupid again?

As terrible as such an attack would be, American history suggests that we are only roused to great and decisive action by such, limited attacks.    If the Japanese had not attacked Pearl Harbor, it is difficult to say when the U.S. would have openly entered World War II against the Nazis.   Without an American entry in December 1941, it is doubtful that Normandy is invaded in 1944.    Without an invasion of Normandy in 1944, it is possible that Hitler’s scientists finish development of an atomic bomb.

To reference more recent history, it is clear that the U.S. would not have invaded Afghanistan nor deposed Saddam Hussein without the September 11 attacks.  It is perhaps a sign of our timidity and half-hearted approach that we have failed to achieve any, definitive victory in the War even 10 years later.   Nonetheless, it is clear that the September 11th attacks stirred America to a unity of action and purpose (albeit squandered and now cooled) that has not been seen since 1945.

To be clear: I do not wish any, such attack against the homeland.   I do believe, however, that such an attack is increasingly inevitable.   It is only right, therefore, that we consider all of the lessons learned in the 10-plus years since September 11, 2001 in the hopes that we not repeat those mistakes.   With the frightening prospect of an attack lingering on the horizon, I offer the first of at least nine lessons from this Long War:

Lesson #1:  Clearly identify those responsible and what they represent.

Regular readers will know that I detest the moniker, “War on Terror.”

As many pundits and writers have pointed out, “terror” is a tactic.   It is not something we can fight and defeat.   And to the extent that we refuse or avoid recognizing the Enemy and calling it by the proper name, we splinter our efforts, lessening the odds of prevailing.   In this season of presidential campaigns, Americans should insist that the Republican candidates at the very least make a clean break from political correctness and honestly name the enemy.   Militant Islam, Radical Islam, Islamofascism.   The point is that all Americans and the world must understand that these attacks originate from an ideology and not simply from a criminal enterprise or a fringe group of shadowy “terrorists.”

The 9-11 attackers were trained and motivated, at the very least, by an interpretation of the Koran and Islam that joyfully and obediently embraces a violent and decisive confrontation with anyone, muslim or not, who does not adhere to their doctrine.  It is a seething belief that the entire world must be conquered and subdued to the will of their god, Allah.  It is not an ideology that can be appeased or reasoned with any more than other, authoritarian doctrines.    The West should have learned from its experiences with the Nazis and Communists that an ideology embraced with religious fanaticism cannot be appeased or mollified but must be defeated and discredited.

Militant Islam may very well prove to be the most virulent of the authoritarian ideologies to manifest itself since the rise of the Ottoman Empire.   We are fighting against a body of believers numbered in the tens of millions, even if they only consist of a minority of muslims.  This is not a fringe group.  Islamists are spread across continents and ethnicities.   Compounding this danger is the apparent surge of power and influence of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East.

Since 9-11, the U.S. has been rightly pursuing the militants, not only in Afghanistan but literally across the globe.   But while the U.S. military has worked wonders in places like Fallujah, Ramadi, Marjah and the Philippines, the larger U.S. government has acted like an adolescent who cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.  Too often the focus on military operations has resulted in a complete failure to engage in the larger war of ideas in places that are not hot zones but are no less critical.   Worse still, the U.S. State Department has often worked at cross-purposes with the military.

Consider Lebanon.  The U.S. invasion of Iraq, despite all the hand-wringing and wailing of the Left Wing Media, created a powerful opportunity for the rise of a non-Islamist coalition.  We forget that the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon came on the heels of the capture of Saddam Hussein and even anti-U.S. figures such as Walid Jumblatt were reluctantly praising the elections in Iraq:

The January 2005 vote in Iraq also appeared to play a role since it supported the notion that Arabs craved democracy. (Lebanese Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt gave credence to the importance of these developments when he said, “It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. . . . When I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.”)

But the U.S. simply could not summon the will to support democratic groups in any, meaningful fashion.  The U.S. foreign policy establishment preferred to coddle and reach out to thugs like Bashir Assad in Syria.   And so Lebanon has slipped ever more deeply into the control of Hezbollah, funded and controlled by Iran through Syria.

Recently we have seen Egypt, Tunisia and Libya sliding into the Islamists’ camp.   The U.S. seems not only oblivious to this developing disaster but actively supportive.  Whether this folly is generated by a fear of offending muslim sensibilities or an arrogance that the U.S. can co-opt or mold the Islamists once they are in power, the net result is the same.   Ironically, the Obama Administration does not want to be seen as meddling in the internal affairs of Egypt or Iran, but has no such qualms with interfering with formerly pro-American allies like Honduras and Colombia.

This refusal to acknowledge the enemy will forever cripple our war efforts and will enable the enemy.   A muslim who does not subscribe to the Wahhabist version and rejects militant Islam should be no more offended when we target the Islamists than a 1940′s German would be offended by our targeting of Nazis.   In fact, our refusal to clearly identify the enemy in this case creates a dangerous confusion in the minds of non-muslims and muslims alike.   Muslims need to clearly and unequivocally choose sides in this War.   Are they with us or with the Islamists?

The current taboo allows and encourages a shadowy world where loyalties remain unknown and ambiguous.  It is no interference with freedom of religion to ask whether a mosque is preaching Militant Islam.   No one has ever asserted that freedom of religion includes a right to advocate for the subversion and overthrow of our Constitution and nation.   It is incumbent on members of any congregation, muslim, christian, jewish, or mormon, to report and, if necessary, testify against leadership that advocates violence against others in society.   Personal knowledge of violent plots combined with a refusal to report them constitutes at least passive participation in a criminal conspiracy.    In time of war, however, the failure to expose the efforts of the enemy to recruit for and advance attacks is treasonous.

For some mysterious reason, however, no Administration has ever dared to clearly identify militant Islam as the enemy.  Instead, we have tried to fight Islamists as a criminal enterprise  (Reagan, Bush I and Clinton); as nameless, religionless “terrorists” (Bush II); and now as a “specific network” consisting only of Al-Qaeda (Obama).  We cannot defeat an enemy we dare not name.

It’s Time To Engage the Caucasus Part III

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

From The Times of India:

The US is now less dependent on Pakistan for supply of cargo for its troops fighting al-Qaida and Taliban  militants in Afghanistan, a Congressional report said today, amid a standoff between Washington and Islamabad over supplies through the country.

The Senate committee report said that only 29% of the total Afghan cargo supply now goes through Pakistan; which about an year ago was nearly 50%.

Islamabad has closed the crucial Nato supply route from Pakistan after the November 26th airstrikes that killed 24 of its soldiers.

“An estimated 40% of all cargo transits the NDN (Northern Distribution Network), 31% is shipped by air, and the remaining 29% goes through Pakistan. An estimated 70% of cargo transiting the NDN enters Afghanistan via Uzbekistan’s Hairaton Gate,” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said.

Since 2009, the US has steadily increased traffic on the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a major logistical accomplishment.

According to US Transportation Command, close to 75 per cent of ground sustainment cargo is now shipped via the NDN, it said.

As a result of increasing dependence on NDN for supply of logistics and cargo to its troops in Afghanistan, Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee emphasized that there was a need to build relationship with the Central Asia countries.

“Central Asia matters. Its countries are critical to the outcome in Afghanistan and play a vital role in regional stability. As we reassure our partners that our relationships and engagement in Afghanistan will continue after the military transition in 2014, we should underscore that we have long-term strategic interests in the broader region,” Kerry said.

And of course, you heard about the need for this transition here before you heard about it anywhere else.  But there is a catch.  Kerry is right – Central Asia matters, but our lines of logistics now rely exclusively on routes through Central Asia and Russia (whereas I had recommended a logistics line from the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosporus Strait in Turkey, and from there into the Black Sea.  From the Black Sea the supplies would go through Georgia to neighboring Azerbaijan.  From here the supplies would transit across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan, and from there South to Afghanistan).  The added benefit of such a logistics line would be increased spending, influence and authority in the region, a region heavy in oil and natural gas.

The Caucasus region matters too.  From The Jamestown Foundation:

The “disbalance of interests” (see EDM, December 15), favoring Russia over the United States in the South Caucasus, used to be offset by superior US resources, attractiveness and credibility. But that offset has diminished as US policy turned toward de-prioritizing this region (compared with the earlier level of Washington’s engagement). Lacking a strategy for the South Caucasus, the US has taken a back seat to Russia at least since 2008 in the negotiations on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.

Washington had reduced its profile and role on this issue (and on South Caucasus regional security writ large) already during the second term of the Bush administration. It folded the Karabakh conflict portfolio into other portfolios within the State Department; it handled this issue through medium-level diplomats versus Russia’s top leaders; and it separated this issue from US regional strategy, which was itself fading out. Under the Obama administration, the policy drift grew more pronounced, with domestic politics distorting US diplomacy on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.

Takeaway point: “Lacking a Strategy.”  Read the whole report.  What other administration could pull off such a feat?  We have transitioned our logistics lines to the North (as I recommended almost three years ago), all the while alienating the Caucasus region in favor of Russian routes.  Meanwhile, while every other nation is preparing to cut and run from Afghanistan, including the U.K., Georgia is literally doubling down on its troop levels in Afghanistan.

What a strange world in which we live.  Georgia is begging to be our ally, assisting us in Afghanistan at their own peril, and we have the chance to increase U.S. authority and presence in the Caucasus, and choose instead to empower Russia.  Again, what other administration could pull off something like this?

It’s Time To Engage the Caucasus

It’s Time To Engage the Caucasus Part II

Rick Perry on the Supreme Court Justices on Guns

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

From the Desmoines Register:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry vowed today that if he is elected president he will only appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices who support the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.

Asked his stance on the issue during a town hall meeting with about 60 people at a Pizza Ranch in Manchester, Perry said he has a “real clear” position in favor of gun owners, and he used the occasion to attack President Barack Obama. The man who asked the question was wearing a National Rifle Association baseball cap.

“When I look at some of the issues that this administration is dealing with, it’s clearly in conflict with what most Americans believe in from the standpoint of what our Founding Fathers meant when they wrote the Constitution,” Perry said. “This isn’t about a militia. This is about the private citizens of this country.

“I happen to believe it’s our constitutional right and I will put Americans on the Supreme Court who will understand the strict construction that says Americans have the right to bear arms, and may it always be so,” Perry said.

This is a very basic expression of his view of the second amendment, and it dovetails with his previous sentiments.  However, I prefer basic and solid to pedantic and vacillating.  See Mitt Romney’s views on the second amendment in Mitt Romney on Gun Control.

Mitt Romney on Gun Control

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

As an editorial remark before beginning our journey through Mitt Romney’s views on the second amendment and gun control, I cannot promise the reader that this article will be easy to read, nor that the various videos and sources won’t be more time consuming than you would otherwise wish.  However, I can promise you that after studying the sources I cite, you will understand enough about Mitt Romney’s views to categorize and understand what he believes and see how his record matches what he believes.

To begin our journey, take a moment and view Romney’s position on the federal assault weapons ban that had a sunset provision at 0001 hours on September 13, 2004.

Take careful note.  Romney is referring to the federal assault weapons ban, not the assault weapons ban he signed into law in Massachusetts.  Along with Obama, he would have signed an extension of this ban.  But this is only the beginning of the maneuvering concerning the portrayal of his views.  The Gun Owners Action League attempts to defend Romney’s having signed the pertinent bill banning assault weapons.

The bill was the greatest victory for gun owners since the passage of the gun control laws in 1998 (Chapter 180 of the Acts of 1998). It was a reform bill totally supported by GOAL. Press and media stories around the country got it completely wrong when claimed the bill was an extension of the “assault weapon” ban that had sunset at the federal level. They could not have been more wrong … [the bill]

Permanently attached the federal language concerning assault weapon exemptions in 18 USC 922 Appendix A to the Massachusetts assault weapons laws. This is the part that the media misrepresented.

In 1998 the Massachusetts legislature passed its own assault weapons ban (MGL Chapter 140, Section 131M). This ban did not rely on the federal language and contained no sunset clause. Knowing that we did not have the votes in 2004 to get rid of the state law, we did not want to loose all of the federal exemptions that were not in the state law so this new bill was amended to include them.

GOAL is dancing on the head of a pin.  For those people who claimed that the particular bill was an “extension of the federal assault weapons ban,” that’s a bit of a misnomer.  I have never made that claim.  Romney signed an assault weapons ban in Massachusetts, and that’s the long and short of it, whether it was precisely an extension of the federal ban or not.  The other crumbs that “fell from the master’s table,” as it were, included a reversal of prior Massachusetts law that banned certain versions of certain pistols that were considered competition weapons (“bull” barrels, modified trigger pull force, etc.).  The concessions given by the Democrats were not very significant, and the assault weapons ban was continued into the foreseeable future for Massachusetts.

What is more troubling, however, is Romney’s defense of the bill.  Assessing a DNC ad criticizing Romney’s flip-flop on assault weapons, Politifact.com weighs in with this citation from 2004.

“It very well may be. In our state what we did is we got both sides of this issue to come together, because we relaxed a number of things, allowing people who hadn’t been able to get weapons in the past to be able to purchase those. … There are hunters in the NRA and the gun owners’ action league (who) backed the legislation that said, ‘Look, let’s protect our citizens from dangerous assault weapons, but let’s also make … regular weapons more available to our citizens.’ And we made a compromise that works.”

Our takeaway is that Romney, at that moment, was arguing that ordinary Americans have the right to bear some types of arms but not assault weapons. He said it “very well may be necessary” to extend the federal assault-weapons ban, while adding that he acted on the state ban because it also included expansions on other types of gun ownership rules.

And then in 2008 they have this from Romney.

“I do support the Second Amendment. And I believe that this is an individual right of citizens and not a right of government. And I hope the Supreme Court reaches that same conclusion.

“I also, like the president, would have signed the assault weapon ban that came to his desk. I said I would have supported that and signed a similar bill in our state. It was a bill worked out, by the way, between pro-gun lobby and anti-gun lobby individuals. Both sides of the issue came together and found a way to provide relaxation in licensing requirements and allow more people to have guns for their own legal purposes. And so we signed that in Massachusetts, and I said I would support that at the federal level, just as the president said he would. It did not pass at the federal level. I do not believe we need new legislation.

“I do not support any new legislation of an assault weapon ban nature, including that against semiautomatic weapons. I instead believe that we have laws in place that if they’re implemented and enforced, will provide the protection and the safety of the American people. But I do not support any new legislation, and I do support the right of individuals to bear arms, whether for hunting purposes or for protection purposes or any other reason. That’s the right that people have.”

[ ... ]

The reality is that Romney’s answer in the debate was unfocused, even self-contradictory. He said that he would have signed a federal assault ban extension — but he added that after it failed on the federal level, he felt he did not believe new legislation was necessary.

Romney is dancing on the head of the same pin that GOAL is on.  His position is logically incoherent because he is attempting to appeal to multiple (and diametrically opposed) constituencies.  In fact, the language he used to defend the bill is as troubling as his having signed it.

“These guns are not made for recreation or self-defense. They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.”

Of course, these guns are indeed used for home defense, and modern sporting rifles of the AR design are used for hunting, target shooting and competition in the .223 / 5.56 mm, .243, and .308 / 7.62 mm calibers.  Hear the same sentiments in the video below.

These same words could have been spoken by Dennis Henigan of the Brady Campaign.  If these sentiments seem conflicted between supporting the second amendment and finding room for gun control, Alex Kauffman writing for Conservative Daily News explains why as he analyzes similarities between Romney and his father on three different fronts.

Handgun Ownership: In order to understand Mitt Romney’s actions here, it is necessary to give a little background information about Massachusetts gun control laws: In 1998, Massachusetts established a list of “safety” criteria for handguns sold in the state. The criteria were designed to disqualify most handguns. The Roster is the list of those few makes and models which have passed the testing requirements.

Mitt Romney created two exemptions: One for handguns already licensed in the state prior to October 21, 1998, and one for “match-grade” pistols (high-dollar handguns purpose-built for shooting competitions).

The 1998 exemption is significant when one understand the “preban effect”: Some gun laws are written with an effective date, where firearms sold after the date are subject to the law, while those sold before the date are “grandfathered”. Since there is a limited supply of grandfathered items, the sale price of those items skyrockets.

The net effect of Mitt Romney’s exemptions was this: In Massachusetts, a person now has three options for legally owning a handgun: 1) an expensive pre-1998 handgun; 2) an expensive “safety-approved” handgun; 3) an expensive match-grade handgun.

Compare this to George Romney’s “safety” law- Public Acts 215 and 216 of 1964- which required all handguns to be submitted, within ten days of purchase, for inspection by a law enforcement officer in order to obtain a “safety certificate”. “Safety”, however, was undefined, and determining that a handgun was “safe” was left entirely to the discretion of the officer conducting the inspection. In effect, law enforcement could determine any handgun to be “unsafe”, and confiscate the handgun on the spot, without compensating the buyer for his loss. This provided a disincentive for unpopular persons and minorities to attempt to lawfully buy handguns, knowing their handguns would be confiscated. Likewise, a lower-income person would not want to take the risk of saving money to buy a handgun, only to have their investment confiscated in this manner.

Like father, like son: Both Romneys used the guise of “safety” to deny the right to own a handgun to lower-income persons and “undesireables“.

Next, Kauffman turns to carrying handguns.

Before George Romney became governor, Michigan had created a very restrictive licensing law for carrying a concealed handgun: License applicants had to prove an immediate physical risk to a county license board consisting of representatives of the county prosecuting attorney, county sheriff, and the commissioner of state police. Needless to say, many applications for a carry license were rejected (and this state of affairs led to concealed carry reforms decades later). A concealed carry license was also required if a person wanted to transport a loaded handgun in an automobile, whether or not the handgun was concealed. Open (visible) carry of a handgun was technically legal (outside of an automobile), but in practice, doing it would usually lead to arrest for a “disturbing the peace” type of charge.

So, what was one to do if they wanted to carry a handgun, but weren’t politically connected enough to get a concealed carry license? Answer: Get a private security guard license. Said license authorized a person to carry a handgun openly without fear of arrest, carry a loaded handgun in an automobile, and was issued to virtually anyone who applied.

George Romney, however, made that practice illegal. Public Act 100 of 1966 made it a misdemeanor for a licensed security guard to carry a handgun except during work; Public Act 49 of 1967 made it a felony.

Romney did, however, extend concealed carry privileges in Michigan to licensees from other states- understanding that, in the 1960s, almost all states had similarly-restrictive processes for issuing a license to carry concealed. Romney did little more than extend a privilege given to an “elite few” in his state, to the similar “elite few” of other states.

By comparison, Mitt Romney had little work to do in this regard: By the time he took office, Massachusetts already had a two-tiered carry law: Persons with a “Class B” license could “carry” (transport in a box) an unloaded firearm to and from hunting areas and target ranges; the “elite few” granted a “Class A” license (issued to those who could prove a “need” to local law enforcement, as in Michigan in the 1960s) were entitled to carry a concealed handgun for self-defense.

While running for Governor in 2002, Mitt Romney infamously said: “I won’t chip away at them; I believe they protect us and provide for our safety.” And he didn’t.

Like father, like son: Both Romneys supported restricting the carrying of handguns for self-defense to an “elite few” of police and politically-connected businessmen.

Kauffman’s discussion on Romney and assault weapons is a recapitulation of what we already know.  Summarizing his analysis, Kaufmann says:

It is fair to say that Mitt is an elitist on the subject of firearms. His record demonstrates a WASP-y, 1950′s view of gun ownership: “Decent” people own guns for hunting and sporting, and protecting their homes. “Decent” people don’t “need” to carry guns for self-defense. Preventing people who aren’t “decent” from owning guns is a good idea.

I have spent some time studying the firearms laws in Massachusetts, and find them to be some of the most draconian of any state.  There are also odd and inexplicable statutes such as this one:

Such club shall not permit shooting at targets that depict human figures, human effigies, human silhouettes or any human images thereof, except by public safety personnel performing in line with their official duties.

Presumably this is part of that elitist culture in Massachusetts, where LEOs can train on silhouettes but other shooters can’t.  My state, on the other hand, sees the common sense in requiring CHP holders to be qualified on their weapons.  I filled out paperwork for the County Sheriff attesting that I had been tested placing so many rounds on target at 7 yards using silhouettes.  It’s better, in the state’s opinion, if I am going to carry a weapon, to ensure to the extent possible that my rounds impact their intended target if I ever have to use my weapon.

As best as publicly contradictory views can be assessed and summarized, Romney wants firearms only in the hands of sportsmen who hunt, and then only transported to hunting lands in certain ways (I would point out that the second amendment has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with hunting).  Only LEOs have the right to carry, along with a certain small number of other “approved” people.  You have the right to own a handgun in your own home, but only under certain circumstances, and only if you can afford the high price.  If you want to carry that weapon outside the home, you’re a creepy person, perhaps even poorly bred, uncouth and ill mannered.  You’re even more creepy if you want one of those awful assault weapons.  You just want to kill lots of people.

In a nutshell, Romney is a consistent Northeastern elitist concerning his views on the second amendment, smokescreens notwithstanding.  He and the Brady campaign got along just fine while he was governor of Massachusetts.

Judges Siding with SWAT Tactics

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

From Columbia Daily Tribune:

A federal judge yesterday dismissed all 18 causes of action in a civil lawsuit filed against Columbia police officers involved in a February 2010 raid.

The suit filed by Jonathan Whitworth, his wife, Brittany Whitworth, and her son was scheduled for a Jan. 23 trial in federal court in Jefferson City. U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey granted the defendants’ request for a summary judgment, dismissing all counts alleged against the city of Columbia and the 12 police officers who were on the scene during the SWAT raid.

“We always knew this was a tough case, but that doesn’t mean we will shy away from tough cases,” said Jeff Hilbrenner, the Whitworths’ attorney. “The conduct of Columbia police was so extreme we thought it needed to be reviewed by a court. The Whitworths will evaluate whether they want to appeal the judge’s ruling.”

[ ... ]

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit stemmed from a Columbia police SWAT raid of the Whitworths’ home in southwest Columbia. Police believed Jonathan Whitworth was a major distributor of marijuana. Two of the family’s dogs were shot, one fatally, during the SWAT team’s entry, and a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia were found. Whitworth pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia in April 2010 and was issued a $300 fine.

His wife and her son, who was 7 at the time, were present during the raid. Bullet holes, a dead dog and another wounded dog allegedly amounted to thousands of dollars in damages, the suit claimed.

The lawsuit was seeking restitution for damages to personal property and medical and veterinary expenses. It was filed in September 2010 against the 12 police officers who were at the raid for their contribution toward an alleged violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

Here is video of the SWAT raid.

Let’s summarize this.  A “small amount of marijuana,” one dead and one wounded dog, a shot-up house, and endangerment of a family.  The use of SWAT tactics is inherently dangerous, which is why [innocent] 68 year old Eurie Stamps was shot and killed by a SWAT team member who tripped with his finger on the trigger of his weapon causing him to fire it due to sympathetic muscle reflexes.

These tactics are dangerous for the team members too.  Let me be clear about this.  I have weapons.  If I think my home is being invaded, I’m not slowing down to figure out by whom.  The home invader is going to get shot.  Period.  So the salient question is this: why would anyone voluntarily choose to implement such tactics when there is another choice?

They could have chosen to wait until everyone left the home, bring along animal control to safely handle the dogs, and searched the home in assured peace and safety.  If anything was found that warranted further legal action, then wait until the individual comes home and arrest him in the driveway.

But they chose to endanger themselves, the targeted individual, his wife, his child, and his two dogs.  Why?  What good reason could there possibly be for making this choice?  Do SWAT teams want to play soldier so badly that they are willing to endanger the public, and are judges concerned enough about a “small amount of marijuana” that they are willing to see military tactics used against U.S. citizens?

When Impeachment Is Too Good: Independent Counsel Needed for D.O.J.

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 8 months ago

This post is sparked by a short article in The Hill:

A senior GOP lawmaker said Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder could be impeached over botched gun-tracking operation Fast and Furious.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) suggested at a House Judiciary Committee hearing that Congress may impeach Holder if it does not get satisfactory answers about inaccurate statements and information the Department of Justice provided on the operation.

“If we don’t get to the bottom of this — and that requires your assistance on that — there is only one alternative that Congress has, and it’s called impeachment,” Sensenbrenner said. “And I don’t want to go this far, but if we keep on getting pushed down the road and the can keeps on getting kicked and we don’t get closure to this, what is Congress to do so that we don’t spend all of our time in court arguing privilege, which is not a way to get at the truth?”

Sensenbrenner, a former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was referring to a letter DOJ wrote to Congress that denied any agency involvement in “walking” guns — letting weapons fall into the hands of suspected criminals. That letter has since been withdrawn because of its inaccurate statements.

First off, kudos to Congressman Sensenbrenner for at least having the nerve to raise impeachment as a possibility.  Far too often, the GOP members of Congress are simply too afraid of the Leftist Media (and their own shadow) to take a firm stand on anything.

When Sensenbrenner states, however, that the only alternative is impeachment, he is either ignorant of or intentionally avoiding the power of Congress to appoint a Independent Counsel to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute members of the Executive Branch, such as Attorney General Holder, or subordinates in the Department of Justice.

I am fine with impeachment proceedings that involve dereliction of duty and require removal of an incompetent or otherwise compromised member of the Executive Branch.   But there are two reasons why Republicans should not be talking about impeachment with regard to the DOJ (not to mention the other agencies involved) in the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning conspiracy.   (And I use the term “conspiracy” decidedly).

First, there is zero chance that impeachment of Holder or lesser minions would succeed.   Although the odds are good that the Republican-majority House could vote to impeach, actual conviction and removal of the impeached official (as we know all too well from the Clinton Follies) requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate.   There is no way to get to that margin, period.   So impeachment is a non-starter unless it is undertaken simply to expose the lawlessless of the Obama Administration.   In my opinion, the light is not worth the candle.

The second reason impeachment should not be considered is more substantial:  mere impeachment is simply too good for those in the Department of Justice.   Even if these officials could all be removed from office by impeachment, they will otherwise escape any, real punishment for their crimes.   And that is the heart of the matter.   Eric Holder and the Administration want us to believe that Fast and Furious was simply a good idea that was executed poorly— a mistake that will not be repeated.   According to Holder:

Holder defended DOJ’s actions and blasted Republicans for trying to “score political points.”

He called the tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious “flawed” and “unacceptable.” He also pointed to recent changes in training and oversight measures taken by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), which headed the failed operation, to ensure it never happens again.

The attorney general stressed that the mistakes made under Fast and Furious, which oversaw the sale of thousands of weapons to known and suspected straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels in an effort to track and dismantle gun-trafficking routes, must not detract from the larger goal of stopping the flow of weapons south of the border.

He has been joined by congressional Democrats in his push to use the issue of Fast and Furious to highlight the weaknesses within the ATF, including the agency’s lack of a confirmed director and the lack of a law requiring gun dealers in the Southwest to report multiple purchases of long guns.

This is nonsense and a shameful example of lawlessless, something that cannot be tolerated in a nation of laws.  “Fast and Furious” and the associated “Gunwalker” programs are not about “flawed” tactics.   Multiple federal (and international) laws were broken.

A good synopsis of this that has not been touched on elsewhere is this article by James K. Stinebower posted at PJ Media.   According to Stinebower:

As we continue to watch the general uproar over the Operation Fast and Furious program, and specifically what Attorney General Holder knew and when he knew it, it needs to be noted that perjury is not the only apparent violation of law to have occurred.

I refer to the apparent violation of at least one (probably two) major U.S. laws by the Holder Justice Department. A few years ago, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701, the follow-on to the Trading with the Enemy Act) was expanded in order to criminalize any transactions between U.S. entities — to include departments and agencies of the U.S. government — and all foreign drug cartels.

I am familiar with these prohibitive statues because several years ago, while serving as the senior drug analyst for the Senate Intelligence Committee, I was tasked to initiate and became the principal drafter of legislation which became known as the Kingpin Act (21 U.S.C. §§ 1901-08). The Kingpin Act is an extension of the highly successful IEEPA sanctioning program specifically targeting Colombian drug cartels. It expands sanctions authority against various drug cartel operations worldwide — including Mexico — which have been determined by the president to be threats to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.

A violation of any of the IEEPA sanctioning programs or the Kingpin Act carries stiff penalties, both criminal and civil, and potentially totaling decades in prison and tens of millions of dollars in fines. It is not necessary that an individual or governmental entity be shown to have “knowingly” violated any of these programs: it is illegal for any U.S. entity or individual to aid, abet, or materially assist — or in the case of Operation Fast and Furious, to facilitate others to aid, abet, or materially assist — designated drug traffickers. There are no exceptions within IEEPA programs for unlicensed U.S. law enforcement or intelligence agency operations.

Based on the July 5, 2010, memo to Eric Holder, it would appear that Fast and Furious facilitated the delivery of weapons to — at a minimum — the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. The U.S. Department of the Treasury, which administers both the IEEPA and Kingpin Act programs, has designated numerous members of the Sinaloa cartel under both programs. IEEPA prohibitions apply to the U.S. government as well as to individuals, and as stated there are no exceptions within IEEPA programs for unlicensed U.S. law enforcement or intelligence agency operations.

I am sure that this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of laws being broken.   Nonetheless, it is a good example of just how outrageously the Administration has acted in this regard.  Congress has an absolute duty to exercise its Constitutional power to oversee and reign in (when necessary) the excesses of the Executive Branch.   While there have been calls for the appointment of independent counsel (formerly known as a “special prosecutor”), those calls have been directed at the Obama Administration to make that appointment, presumably under Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution known as, “The Appointment Power.”   But this power is not the exclusive prerogative of the Executive Branch.  According to the case of Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654 (1988), Congress has the power to indirectly appoint “inferior officers” such as Independent Counsel by directing the Judiciary to make such an appointment with its approval.   This power arises for the very reason that the Executive Branch cannot always be expected to cooperate in appointing an Independent Counsel when Executive wrongdoing is involved.

There are many things today that engender cynicism and despair in the ordinary citizen when it comes to politics, but perhaps nothing corrodes and undermines our national coherence like elected officials and appointees who thumb their noses at our laws— the very laws that would be used mercilessly and without hesitation against you or me– and are not brought to account.   If this were a Republican administration and the House was in the hands of Democrats, you can be absolutely certain that a veritable crop of Independent Counsels would be springing up under similar circumstances.   When you throw in the Solyndra loans, the failure to enforce the civil rights laws against Black Panther intimidation of voters and the brewing scandal over money being laundered for the Sinaloa Cartel by the Drug Enforcement Agency, it is incredible to me that there is not a firestorm in Congress right now to prosecute everyone involved in this abuse of power.

Now that U.S. troops are leaving the Kunar Province?

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

From the BBC:

What happens when US forces pull out of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan? The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary, the first journalist to visit one of the areas the US left in Kunar province, uncovers a disturbing situation.

Kunar has always been a crucible of conflict. Tucked away in the north-eastern corner of Afghanistan, it borders Pakistan’s tribal badlands. It is one of the first ports of call for war-minded militants crossing the mountain passes.

But after the US-led invasion, troops began to assert their hold over the province. It is now littered with US and Nato bases and despite bloody battles there, the US invested heavily. Roads were asphalted, buildings renovated and a sense of security slowly developed. Villagers went about their business while infrastructure was put in place.

The US pulled out of parts of Kunar last year, beginning the withdrawal process. What has happened in the province since then makes for grim reading.

The new roads are now pock-marked with craters left by militants who plant bombs targeting Western and Afghan forces.

[ ... ]

When I visited the picturesque Pech valley in the west of the province, a cloud of gloom hung over it.

In Barkanday village, I found a group of tribal elders brooding over their predicament: where once US forces were a deterrent to the Taliban, the Afghan government is notable only for its absence.

“It is Taliban across the river,” one elder said. “They are lying in wait. At the first opportunity, they will descend on the village to take their revenge,” he said, refusing to give his name for fear of retribution.

[ ... ]

“When US forces left, they told us that our security was now the responsibility of the Afghan government,” Mohammad Akbar said. “But the Afghan government exists only in the district headquarters at Mano Gai.”

I did not come across a single soldier or official on my way there or during my four-hour stay. Villagers say development has also suffered.

Worthless Afghan National Army troops and corrupt Afghan National Police.  It seems that someone should have said something about the ANA and ANP – you know, how the ANA were curled up in fetal positions under blankets during the battle of Kamdesh at COP Keating.

It seems that maybe I did say something about the whole population-centric counterinsurgency thing at one point.

[The Pech River Valley is] … strategically irrelevant to the campaign planners who focused their efforts on population-centric counterinsurgency and thus withdrew troops to redeploy in larger population centers.  Not strategically irrelevant to me.  Google the phrase Abandoning the Pech and see where TCJ lies in authority.  I have supplied a surrogate conversation between flag officers when AQ returns to the Pech (which would be  now), and argued that without hitting the Taliban’s recruiting grounds, fund raising and revenue development, training grounds, and logistical supply lines, the campaign cannot be won.  I have pleaded that we not abandon the chase, and that we kill every last Taliban.  Campaign management and I just disagree.

The Marines are pulling out of Afghanistan completely in 2012, and there is a general drawdown of all troops underway.  If you’re deploying at the moment (and I know of some men who are), you have to wonder why, to what end, and whether you’re going to attempt to do anything other than survive the deployment?


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