Thursday, April 30, 2015

How Divided Is America?

Typically, when it comes to politics, we tend to focus upon the presidential race.  However, that contest decides who controls but one third of one level of our government.  To really see how divided we are, it is helpful to look at other races that make less national news.



US Senate
Solid Colors = 2 of Same Party
Purple = 1 of Each Party
Stripes = 1 Independent
First let's look at the US Senate.  The Senate tends to be a lagging indicator because it takes six years for the entire body to face reelection.  Still, it provides a great deal of insight into the political divide.  Counting the two independents who function as Democrats as what they effectively are only 15 states have one senator from each party.  That means that 70% of states are represented by two senators of the same party.  Nearly all of these states are solidly conservative or liberal with little chance of the Democrats or Republicans winning a statewide office.
State Governors
Alaska's Governor is a Right Leaning Independent

Let's move on to Governors.  Here the picture begins to become more clear.  Note that Republicans hold control of governorships in a huge swath of territory from Arizona to North Carolina.  In addition, they control most of the former industrial states, the bulk of the Midwest and Mountain West (32 states).  Democrats are in solid control of the West Coast and most of the North East (18 states).  These numbers can be somewhat deceptive because most of the 18 states Democrats control have high population densities.



When we look at the control of state legislatures, the Republican domination of the South, Mid-West and Mountain West becomes even more clear - as does the Democratic domination of the West Coast and the Northeast.

Furthermore, the parties are much further apart than ever before.  These divisions are no longer simply a matter of how best to accomplish a mostly shared goal, such as economic growth.  Today, the two parties represent two radically different world views.  The single most reliable predictor of which party someone will vote for is no long class or race.  The most reliable predictor is: Does the voter attend religious services regularly.  If they do, they are very likely to vote Republican.  Today the Republican world view is theistic and includes a belief in moral absolutes.  The Democratic world view is secular and includes a belief in moral relativism.  Republicans believe strongly in personal responsibility, while Democrats tend to believe in collective responsibility.  Republicans believe in the free enterprise system, while Democrats increasingly believe in outright socialism.  Republicans believe that our Constitution is to be followed as written and only changed via the amendment process.  Democrats believe that our Constitution is a "living document" that can and should be interpreted in any way necessary to accomplish the "greater good".  The parties haven't been this far apart since the Civil War.


The conclusion is inescapable: The US is deeply divided not only politically, not only in their fundamental world views, but geographically too.  Some foreign observers have even predicted a break up of the US into two or more countries.  Let us hope that our democracy and our nation can survive this division - without a second civil war.




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Religious Freedom Versus Non-Discrimination - A Civil and Tolerant Approach

Sadly religious freedom is all but dead in America.  Religious discrimination is widespread and much of it is directed against evangelical Christians (see graphic).  It's a real shame that we cannot seem to have a civil discussion about this subject.  Instead, it seems that most on the left are intent upon transforming freedom of religion into freedom of worship - which is very different.  WE HAVE NOW MOVED FROM RELIGIOUS PEOPLE BEING INTOLERANT OF GAY PEOPLE TO THE ENTIRE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT BEING INTOLERANT OF RELIGIOUS PEOPLE.
Tolerance seems to be, in the eyes of the left, a one way street.  Everyone is required to be tolerant of their constituencies - in the recent controversy the gay community.  Hence, the uproar over the mere possibility that religious individuals might not be LEGALLY FORCED to violate their faith by participating in same sex wedding ceremonies.  As usual, the left has cranked up the "lie machine" to gin up their base.  There is ZERO CHANCE that a religious exemption to anti-discrimination laws would be granted outside of the narrow area of wedding ceremonies.  This is not about leases, admission to hospitals or any of the other issues brought up to scare people into opposing the new law in Indiana. 

Successfully claiming a religious exemption under any of the RFRA laws is extremely difficult.

1) It is an affirmative defense - the burden of proof is on the claimant.

2) The religious belief must pre-date the law for which the person claims exemption - you can't make up a belief to get out of the law.

3) Exemptions are narrow in scope - a person with religious objections to war can be exempted from military service, but not from paying taxes to support a war.

4) No religion I am aware of - and this is my field of expertise - generally prohibits its' members from doing business with gay people, to include serving them in nearly every capacity.  Additionally, once someone does serve gay people, it becomes nearly impossible to get an exemption after doing so.

5) The only possible exemptions that might be upheld - and so far everyone who has sought this has lost - would be participation in a same sex wedding ceremony.  In other words, a baker absolutely could not claim an exemption for generally baking cakes for gay customers - but might be exempted from baking a wedding cake.  A photographer cannot refuse to take a portrait of a gay person, but might be able to refuse to photograph a same sex wedding.  In order to claim an exemption, one must prove that one is being asked to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in something forbidden by their faith.
In short, the idea that anyone would be able to generally discriminate against gay people, in violation of an anti-discrimination law, is completely bogus.

IMHO, it is long past time for the culture wars to end.  However this will never happen as long as both sides want to crush the other.  That will only cause further division and discord.  It's time for real tolerance, tolerance that flows both ways.
Unless the intolerance is directed
at people of faith......

There is a simple solution to this problem.  Write specific and narrow religious exemptions into anti-discrimination laws.  Follow the example of the medical profession.  If a patient requests an abortion from a doctor who has religious objections to performing the procedure, he or she cannot be forced to do so.  However, he or she must provide a referral to a doctor willing to do so.  This preserves the rights of both doctor and patient.

I see no reason why this same solution could not be applied to the issue of same sex wedding ceremonies.  If a baker, a wedding planner, a photographer, or even an officiate like myself, has religious objections to same sex marriage, do not force them to violate their conscience - but do require them to find someone who will provide that service.  Again, the rights of all parties are protected.


I'm an evangelical minister.  I cannot do a same sex wedding.  No matter what government may do to me, I still won't violate my faith.  HOWEVER, I have attended a same sex wedding.  Why?  Because the couple were and are my friends.  They knew I wasn't there affirming their actions, they knew I was there because they are important to both God and myself.  I would rise in a heartbeat if gay people were generally discriminated against.  I have no objection to, and generally support in principle, anti-discrimination laws - provided that said narrow religious exemptions are provided.

I have not even mentioned the fact that countless people whose religious beliefs prohibit same sex activity have been persecuted, run out of public or private office, or generally had their lives ruined because of their faith.  Not to mention the fact that one city even tried to subpoena sermons from local churches, while others have tried to require permits for home Bible studies.  In short, there is a war on all conservative religions in America today. 


Our nation is more divided than at any time since the Civil War.  Religious freedom may not be important to many in the "blue states", but it is very important to nearly everyone in the "red states".  Crush it, eliminate it, or subvert it and the result will be even greater division.  Enough division, and you will split the nation apart.  Indexed to today population, over 5 million people died in the Civil War.  Please, let us not have a second one.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hillary's Emails: The Tech, The Whole Tech And Nothing But The Tech

As many readers know, I have my own domain which I use for email.  What many may not know is that I am also a certified network technician, certified PC tech and I have operated my own email server for nearly 20 years.  For 15 of those years I operated my server in my residence - just like Bill and Hillary Clinton.  (In recent years I have leased a server in a data center, which I administer remotely.)  All of this qualifies me to comment on the technical issues surrounding this controversy.

1) Security Issues

I am going to assume that the Clintons had enough money to hire a very good tech to make sure that they were not going to be hacked.  Absent more information, IMHO this is not an issue.


2) Bogus Excuse 

Today, Secretary Clinton stated that she used her personal email address at the Clinton's personal domain and server because she did not want to carry two devices.  The reason this is a bogus excuse is that it is easy for most email clients to handle more than one email account.  At one point I had four email accounts in one program: Personal, business, church and Civil Air Patrol.  It's actually quite common.  Hillary's excuse doesn't make sense. 

3) Hidden and Easily Destroyed Communications

Someone who is using a governmental account for email creates an indestructible record.  "Delete" does not destroy the data.  As Col. Ollie North found out way back in the 1980s, the messages are recoverable not only from the original drive on the server that the account exists on, but on others it may have been relayed through, as well as on backup drives or tapes.  Recently Lois Learner's emails - which we supposedly unrecoverable - were found on backup tapes.  This is consistent with a failed effort to destroy them.

Someone using a private email system such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Outlook.com faces much the some challenge in getting rid of messages.  Messages might be recoverable for a long time after the user deletes them.

When one moves to a private email server, everything changes.  Someone running their own server has total control over everything.  They can create and delete accounts.  They can destroy backups.  They can delete or even edit emails.  Most importantly, after accounts and emails are deleted the drive can be scrubbed, making recovery impossible.

A government official - any government official - using their own server, could set up accounts not only for themselves, but for any other people they wished to communicate with - inside and outside government.  In this case, emails between accounts on the same server would never show up anywhere outside of the private server and the computers or devices of the users.  It would be a secure and completely private way for officials to communicate "off the radar".  When the need for such communications ends, deleting the emails and running a secure delete or scrub program on the server and the devices would completely destroy any trace of the messages.  The only evidence would be the absence of any deleted files from before the date the drive was scrubbed.

This is why the use of private email systems by government officials is so dangerous.  It allows for completely secret communication that can later be completely destroyed.  In short, exactly what laws passed after Watergate were passed to prevent.  IMHO legislation should be passed post haste to require all governmental officials currently required to preserve communications to use government email accounts for ALL email communications - both private and work related.

It remains to be seen if Secretary Clinton used her private server to get around the law - but her deletion of mails she considered "personal" certainly raises suspicion.  If she wants to establish that nothing illegal took place she can have an independent computer security firm examine the server.  If it hasn't been scrubbed, then as many emails as possible should be recovered.  An independent agency - such as the FBI can then determine if any of them are work related.  If the drive has been scrubbed, the only reason to do that is to hide something..... either way, if she wants to be president we probably need to know.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

TRUTH AND LIES ABOUT CCW PERMIT HOLDERS

THE ANTI-GUN RIGHTS VPC AND NEW YORK TIMES GET CAUGHT LYING AGAIN!


The Violence Policy Center (VPC) recently updated a list of what it calls "Concealed Carry Killers," claiming that there have been 722 "Total People Killed by Concealed Carry Killers, May 2007 to the Present" in a few hundred incidents involving "Concealed Handgun Permit Holders."  On cue, the New York Times, endorsed VPC's effort in an editorial misleadingly titled Concealed Carry's Body Count.

There's only one problem - the VPC's figures are intentionally false.  I have previously documented VPC's intentional deception and this latest report is more of the same.  The Crime Prevention Research Center has also exposed their lies.

Here are the facts about those 722 incidents:

1) 38% of these incidents were SUICIDES, not shootings of another person.  Most took place at home.  It should be obvious that a carry permit, or for that matter even a gun, is not required to kill yourself.  VPC wants you to think that these deaths are cases where CCW permit holder has shot someone else - something that is clearly deceptive.

Incidentally, the suicide rate among permit holders is less than half that of the general public!

2) Over 10% of the shootings took place in locations where a permit was not required or where carrying was illegal even with a permit - THUS THEY ARE COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO THE ISSUE OF PERMITS.

3) The VPC frequently counts both pending charges and convictions IN THE SAME CASE thus doubling the count!

4) VPC's figures actually include people not killed with handguns, including five people killed in auto accidents!

5) The 722 incidents include cases of lawful self defense, cases where charges have not yet been resolved and cases in which the shooter did not have a carry permit.

THE BOTTOM LINE: THE VPC HAS INTENTIONALLY INFLATED IT'S FIGURES BY AT LEAST 100%.


THE REAL FACTS ABOUT CCW PERMIT HOLDERS


Fortunately, we do not need to depend upon the VPC's bogus report to determine how law abiding permit holders are.  We have the revocation rates for many states. In most cases, revocations do not involve abuse of a firearm - so these figures are actually much, much higher than the number of criminal homicides committed by permit holders.

The Crime Prevention Research Center has produced a report using official reports from state governments.  Florida and Texas have extensive experience with CCW permits.  Two paragraphs from the report are quite relevant: 

"During almost three decades, from October 1, 1987 to May 31, 2014, Florida issued permits to almost 2.66 million people. These permits have been revoked for firearms-related violations at an annual rate of only 0.0003 percent. For all revocations, the annual rate in Florida is 0.012 percent."

"The numbers are similarly low in Texas. In 2012 (the latest year that crime data are available), there were 584,850 active license holders. Out of these, 120 were convicted of either a misdemeanor or a felony, a rate of 0.021 percent. Only a few of these crimes involved a gun."

So in Florida - with 25+ years of experience - the chances that a CCW permit holder will have their permit revoked for a firearms related offense (the vast majority of which are not homicides) is 1 in 30,000.  The revocation rate for all reasons was a bit more than 1 in 500.

Even more significantly, these revocations take place when the permit holder is CHARGED NOT CONVICTED!  The conviction rate of CCW permit holders is about 5%.  Yep, 95% of cases brought against permit holders do not result in convictions.  In these cases, the former permit holder is again eligible to get a permit.  IN OTHER WORDS, THE PERMANENT REVOCATION RATE FOR ALL REASONS IS 1 IN 9500!

Again, using publicly available figures from Florida, the Crime Prevention Research Center has established that CCW PERMIT HOLDERS ARE LESS LIKELY TO COMMIT CRIMES THAN POLICE OFFICERS!  (Also see this page.)  Let that sink in - the people the VPC is trying to disarm are actually safer to arm than cops.  Of course, these same people want to disarm cops too......

Not surprisingly, the report ignores the increasing evidence that firearms are frequently used to save lives in self defense.  Nearly 1,500 of examples from the last two years can be found here


When the VPC and the New York Times have to distort and lie to make CCW permit holders look bad - when the facts prove exactly the opposite, something is very, very wrong.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Four Good Reasons For Gun Control Advocates To Support National CCW Permit Reciprocity.

Citizen Concealed Carry 1987-2013
It may seem absurd to suggest that gun control advocates should support a federal bill that would set up nationwide reciprocity (or recognition) of concealed weapons permits, but I think a strong case can be made that such a bill could be in their interest.  Here it is:

1) "Shall Issue" concealed carry permits are here to stay.  50 states have permitting systems in place - 43 of them are shall issue, meaning that there is no requirement that "good cause" be proved before a permit is issued.  Last year the 9th Circuit - the most liberal appeals court in the federal system - ruled that carrying a firearm outside of the home is a civil right under the 2nd Amendment.  Not one state has ever repealed their concealed carry law.  In short, the gun control side has lost the battle to stop concealed carry - both politically and legally.  If it cannot be stopped, the best thing you can do is to set uniform standards - and the best way to do that is a federal reciprocity law.


2) A reciprocity bill could be used to increase training requirements.  Currently, states require anywhere between zero and sixteen hours of training before a permit is issues.  Some states, such as Idaho, actually offer two different permits - one of which requires more training in order to be recognized in more states.  Gun control advocates could offer to support a reciprocity bill, provided it raises the training requirement to a 16 hour minimum - roughly the same required of armed security guards.

3) A reciprocity bill would encourage more people to get permits - even if their state does not require them.  Currently at least five states all permit-less or "constitutional" carry.  More states are considering such bills every year.  Under such laws, anyone legally permitted to own a firearm may carry it openly or concealed.  The primary reason people in such states obtain permits is to carry in other states that do require permits, or require them of non-residents.  If a permit meeting national standards was good in every state, more people in "constitutional carry" states would obtain them - and this would require them to meet national standards of training.


4) Gun control advocates might be able to get some things they want - such as expanded background checks - in return for agreeing to national carry permit reciprocity.  If background checks are really that important - if they really would do a lot of good - then why not trade for them?  Especially when what you would be trading is something you are likely to loose in the courts anyway.  So, attach background checks to the reciprocity bill.  Gun control advocates might be surprised at who supports the package.

So, there you have it - four good reasons for gun control advocates to support CCW reciprocity.  Sadly, I highly doubt that they will do so.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Heroic Gun Dealer Who Stopped Four Criminals From Stealing Dozens Of Guns Needs Your Help

In recent years, I have had the privilege of getting to know some gun shop owners - both as a customer and when I had my business as a computer tech.  Every one I of them I have met have been great people who took the responsibility of selling deadly weapons quite seriously.

My guess is that most people reading this would think of the need to do background checks to keep guns out of the hands of prohibited persons - and the need to maintain records in accordance with federal law - records that allow guns to be traced should they be used in a crime.  While these are all important, they are not the most important responsibility a gun shop owner must fulfill.

By far, the most critical responsibility is that of securing their inventory against theft.  The average person has no clue how much efforts gun shops put into security.  Bars on the doors and windows are just the beginning.  Every night, just after closing, even though the building has bars on every window, even though the doors are made of heavy steel, even though there is an alarm which - if tripped will result in an immediate police response - in spite of all of these measures - every handgun is locked away in one of several heavy duty safes.


However, thieves do not always come calling when the gun shop is closed.  That is why in every gun shop I have ever been in that sells handguns (the weapons criminals most desire) the staff is armed.  Every employee carries a loaded sidearm.  I had this responsibility driven home one day when I was working on a shops computers.  The shop was closed, but when the only owner who was there left to get us lunch, I was handed a loaded .357 and warned not to open the door for anyone but her.

This week, in Shawnee Kansas, the thing gun shop owners fear most happened.  The owners of "She's a Pistol" gun shop and training center - a husband/wife team - were both working.  That is when four armed robbers burst in.  Police believe that they were responsible for several other armed robberies.  They certainly were not there for money - they were there to take as many guns as they could.  They outnumbered the owners two to one - and they had the element of surprise.  What they did not think of, or did not know, is that both husband and wife were instructors who taught defensive firearm use for a living.

Upon entry, it is reported the one of the four opened fire on the husband - while another struck his wife in the face.  The husband - Jon Bieker - was able to return fire almost immediately.  While details are sketchy it is probable that both he and his wife Becky were able to get shots off.  We likely won't know exactly what happened for some time.   What is certain is that when the smoke cleared, two of the armed robbers lay on the floor, too severely wounded to flee with their fellow criminals.  Another was wounded, but managed to flee a short distance before being tracked down and arrested by police,  Only one of the four escaped injury - and arrest.  Sadly, Becky was significantly injured and Jon lay on the floor mortally wounded.  He died a short time later at the hospital.  He gave his life to defend his wife and to prevent the theft of the firearms in his care.   Not one gun was stolen that day.  Jon and Becky stopped that from happening. The cost of doing so was high - but who knows how many lives they may have saved, lives that would have been lost if those four men had gotten those guns and lives that would have been lost if they had simply been permitted to continue committing armed robberies.  In my book, both Jon and Becky are heroes.  



This experience has not changed Becky's views on guns and self defense:

“Thank you to my friends, family, and community for their love, prayers, and support during this very difficult time. I have lost my husband in this senseless murder. Although tragic, he saved my life because he carried a firearm,” Becky said in a statement.

“Guns are not evil,” she added. “I would not be able to make this statement if private citizens such as Jon and I were banned from owning them. Please respect my husband’s memory by refusing to turn this tragedy into a political statement in support of banning firearms.”

BECKY CAN USE YOUR HELP!

She needs help with her husband's final expenses and help to save her business.  Please follow the link below and give SOMETHING.  It all ads up - but we have to give something, or it adds up to nothing.


PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK AND SEND BECKY A FEW BUCKS.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Washington DC Mayor Vows To Restrict Civil Rights As Much As Possible

Imagine the uproar that would happen if a Southern mayor said in a speech, "I know that the courts have said that Black people are equal to Whites, and I have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution - but I hate integration.  I will do as much as I can within the law to keep Blacks in their place."

Imagine the uproar if a mayor anywhere in the US said, "I know that the Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and I am sworn to uphold it - but I hate Muslims.  I intend to do everything I can to keep them out and if that fails to make life as difficult as possible for them."

Imagine the uproar if a U.S. mayor said in a speech, "I hate being criticized - so I hate the press.  I know that the Constitution provides for freedom of the press - but I am going to restrict the press as much as possible."

Imagine if a New York mayor said, "I know that the 4th Amendment provides protection against unreasonable searches - but I am instructing my police force to search as many "suspicious" people on the street as they possibly can.  If that results in more black men being searched - oh well......"  Oh wait, we don't have to imagine - that is exactly what two NYC mayors did and there was a huge uproar and the policy was reversed.

The press would never tolerate any of the above actions by a mayor - and neither would the Administration - or the Congress.  We hold our civil rights dear - except for one.  Consider these comments by Washington D.C.'s newly minted mayor, Muriel Bowser:

You have a mayor who hates guns,” she said. “If it was up to me, we wouldn’t have any handguns in the District of Columbia. I swear to protect the Constitution and what the courts say, but I will do it in the most restrictive way as possible.(Source)


Notice that there is no wishy-washy language about supporting the 2nd Amendment, but wanting reasonable restrictions.  This woman is quite clear - if she had her way she would eliminate a basic civil right, placed in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers.  But since she can't do that, she will restrict the right as much as possible.  Having this mayor upholding the 2nd Amendment rights of her citizens is like putting the KKK in charge of enforcing civil rights laws.

Of course, the mainstream press won't cover these comments - because it would cause an uproar among the roughly 50% of Americans who own firearms.  True, many of these gun owners do support some reasonable restrictions - like instant background checks - but when you start talking about banning firearms protected by the 2nd Amendment, they tend to get VERY UPSET.   They also tend to get organized and demand solutions.  Thankfully, they also have their own communication system, and they WILL FIND OUT.

Civil rights are not unrelated to each other.  Like pillars in a building, each one works with the others to support the roof - which in this case is is AMERICAN FREEDOM.  If you are opposed to one of our freedoms, you are undermining all of our freedoms.

So, what should be done?  Congress has looked at this issue before and threatened to use a simple solution that is within their rights because Washington D.C. is a federal enclave: A preemption of all of D.C.'s gun laws.

It should be noted that this would in no way eliminate all restrictions on firearms.  Robust federal laws - including background checks - would remain in place.  What would not remain in place would be the D.C. mayor's attack on the basic civil rights of her citizens and visitors.