Kopel weblog 2003 Archive/h1>

Dec. 8, 2003

ROCKY AND ME

[Dave Kopel]
My latest media column looks at implausible claims made by supporters of redundant legislation on identity theft. Plus, the disgraceful Associated Press story whitewashing Paul Robeson's love of Stalin and hatred of America
Posted at 12:10 AM


Dec. 1, 2003

NRA ON YOUR BACK

[Dave Kopel]
This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari in Silveira v. Lockyer, which I wrote about in a column last September. This afternoon, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of a middle school student to wear a t-shirt from a NRA shooting sports camp, in the case of Newsom v. Albermarle. The student and his family had sued the Albermarle, Virginia, school board after the student was threatened with discipline for wearing the shirt. The district court denied the student's request for a preliminary injunction to protect his First Amendment rights. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court, and held that the student was entitled to a preliminary injunction. So as of today, it is legal to wear NRA t-shirts in Albermarle County schools. The Independence Institute filed an amicus brief on behalf of the student's Fourth Circuit appeal. The student was represented for free by NRA attorney Daniel Zavadil.
Posted at 04:31 PM


Nov. 26, 2003

OFF INTO THE SUNSET

[Dave Kopel]
On December 10, the 1988 federal ban on so-called "plastic guns" will sunset. Efforts are currently underway to extend the law for another ten years. As I detailed in a NRO column, the law is nonsense. There is not, and never has been such a gun. Allowing this law to sunset would set a good precedent for sunset of the ban on cosmetically incorrect guns (so-called "assault weapons") in September 2004.
Posted at 02:24 PM
 


Nov.23, 2003

GUNS & ZIMBABWE

[Dave Kopel]
The Strategy Page (Nov. 19) reports that, "President Mugabe and his cronies must be scared, since the police have been ordered to embark on a nationwide firearms audit starting on the 21st. They want the public to take their firearms and firearm certificates to their nearest police station, so the number of guns and types can be verified." As is typical in such situations, "The authorities are using the excuse of rising crime for this exercise." In fact, crime is rising in Zimbabwe, because the criminal "government" of Robert Mugabe is intensifying its genocidal persecution of the people of Zimbabwe. As Paul Gallant, Joanne Eisen and I have detailed, "gun control" is the sine qua non of Mugabe's vicious regime.

Mugabe is unquestionably a tyrant. Every theory of government which permits forcible resistance to tyranny would identify overthrowing Mugabe as plainly just. Every theory of just war which recognizes the suffering of people in a foreign country would authorize the use of force by any nation to remove Mugabe. For same reasons that the world should have acted in Germany in the 1930s and in Rwanda in the early 1990s, every nation has a moral obligation to do what it can to liberate Zimbabwe. Because diplomatic efforts to remove Mugabe have failed, the United States ought to begin supplying weapons and other aid to the people of Zimbabwe, so that they can save themselves from genocide, and so that they can install a government chosen by themselves. The failure of the United Nations to act is one more instance of the UN's pathetic favoritism of tyrants, and one more reason why all freedom-loving people should resist the UN's gun prohibition programs.
Posted at 03:49 PM


Sept. 11, 2003

BREAKING NEWS

[Dave Kopel]
Over-riding a governor's veto, the Missouri Senate has voted to make Missouri a "shall issue" state for licenses for permits to carry handguns for lawful protection. The Senate vote was 23-10, meaning that there were no votes to spare on the over-ride. Yesterday, the Missouri House voted to over-ride the veto, by a six-vote margin. Thus, the concealed handgun licensing law will go into effect in 30 days. Two states--Vermont and Alaska--do not require a permit to carry a concealed handgun in most cases. Thirty-six states, now including Missouri, issue licenses according to objective criteria, and licenses are not denied merely because a police chief or sheriff does not want people to have guns. Of the 36 "shall issue" states, Missouri's law is among the very most restrictive, and substantially more restrictive than a "shall issue" referendum which voters narrowly rejected in 1999. (Technically, Alabama, Connecticut, and Iowa are "may issue" states, but in practice, licenses are usually issued fairly and without unreasonable denials.)

Of the remaining states, about half--such as New York and California--are "may issue" states, in which sheriffs and police chiefs have nearly unlimited discretion in issuing permits. The other half, including Kansas and Ohio, have no procedure for issue concealed handgun permits.

Missouri joins Colorado, Minnesota, and New Mexico in enacting "shall issue" legislation this year. Such legislation is thought to have a reasonable chance of passing soon in Ohio and Wisconsin.

The Missouri Senate also voted to over-ride Governor Holden's veto of a bill outlawing the St. Louis government's junk lawsuit against firearms manufacturers. [The House voted to over-ride the next day.] As with the "shall issue" law, the Missouri legislature's action brings Missouri law in line with a large majority of other states.

While debate continues about whether concealed handgun legislation reduces crime by a statistically significant degree, the overwhelming evidence from states with "shall issue" laws is that permit-holders tend to be extremely law-abiding with their guns, and that gun prohibitionists' fears of constant "wild west" shoot-outs do not materialize.
Posted at 05:48 PM
 


Aug. 27, 2003

THE DAY IN HISTORY

[Dave Kopel]
Today is the anniversary of the 1928 signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war. The Pact, produced by American Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand was eventually ratified by sixty-two nations, almost every sovereign in the world at the time. It passed the U.S. Senate with only a single negative vote. The Pact had, arguably, one success, in defusing a 1929 Soviet-Chinese dispute over a railroad in Manchuria. The other effect of the Pact was to encourage countries engaged in international aggression not to issue a formal declaration of war. Thus, there was no declaration of war for Japan's 1931 invasion of Manchuria, Italy's 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, and Germany's 1938 threatened invasion of Austria (which eventually took place peacefully, thanks to the cowardice of the Austrian government and the democracies). Kellogg was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize (Briand had already won one), putting him and Briand in the ranks of Prize winners such as Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Rigoberta Menchu, Le Duc Tho (North Vietnamese foreign minister), and others whose public careers ended up helping to cause war and violence.

The Pact helped produce World War II, by making it appear that it was immoral or illegal to take decisive military action against Hitler when he was still weak, in the mid-1930s. All 15 of the original signatory nations ended up fighting in World War II. Notably, the Pact was produced under the administration of Calvin Coolidge, which shows that even conservatives can delude themselves with Wilsonian illusions about the power of international agreements. Technically, the Pact is still in force, a permanent reminder of folly of all who believe that pieces of paper, rather than powerful armies, will deter the aggression of dictatorships.
Posted at 02:19 PM


Aug. 26, 2003

TODAY IN HISTORY

[Dave Kopel]
On this date in 1944, the great Charles DeGaulle led a march through the recently-liberated city of Paris, cheered by a million Parisians. After traveling the Champs-Elysees, DeGaulle--along with leaders of the French Resistance--concluded the march at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. There, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), was sung, louder even than the din of the joyous fusillade that filled Paris:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...
for he who is mighty has done great things for me...

He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree...

He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.

DeGaulle wrote in his memoirs: "The Magnificat rose. Was it ever sung more ardently?" From the degradation of appeasement and surrender, France on August 26, 1944, began to rise again to her historic role a leader and defender of Western civilization. This anniversary can give us hope that one day France will stop appeasing Islamo-nazism, and will once more march in the front ranks of western civilization.
Posted at 06:30 PM


Aug. 24, 2003

MEDICAL MARIJUANA '04

[Dave Kopel]
The Marijuana Policy Project has been reporting on how Democratic presidential candidates stand on the issue of federal interference with state medical marijuana laws. States Rights advocates and other supporters of constitutional limits on federal powers would take the position (which Glenn Reynolds and I argued in a law review article) that the federal government has no constitutional authority to over-ride state laws on possession of marijuana (and lots of other things) that takes place solely within a single state. The Bush administration, however, compares state medical marijuana laws to state segregation laws, as something which must be wiped out by federal power. (Never mind that the 14th Amendment guarantees Equal Protection of the law, and thus gives Congress some legitimate interest in suppressing state laws which require racial segregation, but no part of the Constitution gives Congress power over mere use of medication within a single state.) John Edwards supports the Bush position. Richard Gephardt, who supported the federal crackdown in 1988, has changed his mind, and now favors the States Rights view. Dennis Kucinich also supports States Rights on this issue. Howard Dean and John Kerry are waffling, and refusing to explain what they think. Kerry claims to want to see the results of a scientific study currently underway, although there is no such study, and when pressed for details about the alleged study, Kerry replied, "I am trying to find out. I don't know."
Posted at 05:53 PM


Aug. 13, 2003.

CONTRASTS & HISTORY

[Dave Kopel]
Today is the anniversary of the 1927 birthday of Cuban tyrant Fidel Castro. It is also the anniversary of the 1961 beginning of the construction of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall now lies in history's ash heap of discarded lies, and the people of the defunct "Democratic Republic" of Germany are free. One day, Castro and his thieving, murderous regime will also lie in ashes, and the "Republic of Cuba" will become a real republic. In the meantime, shame on every American who has paid obeisance to the Havana despot; such Americans are enemies of freedom, as were their wicked predecessors who worshipped Stalin, Mao, and Ho.
Posted at 04:01 PM

Aug. 8, 2003

MOOSE

[Dave Kopel]
As Paul Blackman and I have detailed, former Montgomery County, Maryland Police Chief Charles Moose bungled the sniper investigation last fall, partly through his obsessive belief, not supported by evidence, that the sniper must be white. Since then, Moose has resigned from the Montgomery police, so that he could sign a book deal that violates county ethics rules (making outside income based on his police job); there is great concern that the book's publication this fall may substantially interfere with the trial of the alleged snipers. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported another misadventure of the ethically-challenged former chief, elaborating a story originally reported by WorldNet Daily (which has far outpaced the rest of the national media in uncovering Moose's abuses of his position). Moose and his wife were vacationing in Hawaii at a Marriott Hotel. They wandered into a portion of the hotel used only by staff, not by guests. A hotel security officer noticed them, and when they claimed to be guests, security asked the couple to show their room key. Moose was indignant that the security officer did not recognize him. He filed a discrimination lawsuit, and Marriott, while considering the suit outrageous, settled for $200,000, for fear of the publicity from a lawsuit involving the then-popular chief who had supposedly solved the sniper case. Moose failed to properly report the settlement to Montgomery County, which is withholding his final paycheck as a result. Moose's wife, who is white, had previously received a $10,000 sexual harassment settlement from the city of Portland, Oregon, where she worked. In 1991, the couple unsuccessfully tried to interest the Southern Poverty Law Center in suing Jackson, Mississippi, because when Moose and his wife went to party for himself and two other finalists for the police chief job, people at the party did not engage the couple in conversation.
Posted at 12:20 PM

Aug. 6, 2003

KOPEL ON MEDIA

[Dave Kopel]
My new media column explains how the media see religious issues through a p.c. lens. The column examines the media's fawning treatment of three nuns in the Plowshares movement who were recently sentenced to federal prison for vandalizing a defense facility. The column also looks at coverage of the Catholic sex abuse scandals, and at coverage of St. Juan Diego, the Mexican Indian who saw the Virgin of Guadeloupe in 1531.
Posted at 11:25 AM

Aug. 5, 2003

HATE CRIMES ON NRO?

[Dave Kopel]
NR writers and Andrew Sullivan have recently been engaged in a lively discussion over the Vatican's recent statement condemning gay marriage. But in Ireland, according to the Irish Times, the misnamed Irish Council for Civil Liberties is issuing warning letters to the nation's Bishops, claiming that discussion of the Vatican statement may be a criminal violation of the Incitement to Hatred Act. The director of the "civil liberties" organization warned that "The document itself may not violate the Act, but if you were to use the document to say that gays are evil, it is likely to give rise to hatred, which is against the Act." In Canada, "hate crime" cases have been brought against conservative religious spokespersons who have quoted what the Bible actually says about homosexuality. Criticism of gays has also been censored in Sweden. Gay marriage is an important public policy issue which should be broadly and vigorously debated, and every side in that debate should receive full protection of their freedom of speech. As I've argued elsewhere, "hate crime" laws amount to improper discrimination. Rather than expanding the American "hate crime" laws to include gays, all such laws should be repealed, and everyone should be guaranteed the equal protection of the law, without regard to sexual orientation, race, or religion. Never have Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, or the other leaders of the "religious right" supported criminalizing the mere advocacy of gay marriage. Yet in many Western nations, the freedom of speech for persons who do not support the gay agenda is being eliminated. There have been far too many historical tragedies in which persecuted groups, the moment they gained power, began persecuting others: Christians in the Roman Empire; Puritans in Massachusetts; and Islamists in Iran are only a few examples. It is deplorable that so much of the gay leadership appears eager to pursue a similar course. In the United States, the Independent Gay Forum offers a sensible alternative for people who want to expand gay rights without persecuting dissenters.
Posted at 12:51 PM

SMOKING

[Dave Kopel]
A new Gallup Poll finds that a majority of Americans oppose smoking bans in restaurants, workplaces, hotels, and bars. For the first three of those places, majorities favor designated smoking areas. For bars, 44% prefer set-asides, while 31% want no restrictions at all. Complete smoking prohibition (treating tobacco cigarettes like marijuana cigarettes) is favored by 16% of Americans. The power of junk science has declined slightly, with 51% of Americans now believing that secondhand smoke is "very harmful," a drop of 5% from 2000. Readers who want the full details on the junk science about secondhand smoke, which is being used as a smokescreen by the tobacco prohibition lobby, should pick up the book Passive Smoke: The EPA's Betrayal of Science and Policy, by Gio B. Gori and John Luik.
Posted at 12:36 PM

DEALING WITH N.K.

[Dave Kopel]
On August 4, 1950, the Eighth Army of United States of America began establishing a defensive line on the Naktong River in the Korean War. North Korean tyrant Kim Il-Sung had attacked the South in June, and by early August his forces had conquered most of South Korea, except for a small area in southeast Korea, near the port of Pusan. The defensive line, only fifty miles from the southern coast, was known as the Pusan Perimeter. Over the next six weeks, the U.S. Army and Marines halted intense North Korean offensives, saving the South from conquest. The defenders of Pusan set the stage for the next phase of the Korean War, General MacArthur's brilliant amphibious landing at Inchon on September 15, which began the liberation of South Korea. Today, a Stalinist monarchy continues to oppress North Korea and to threaten war against the South. As Kim Jong-Il makes nuclear threats against the United States, and develops ICBMs, the necessity of removing his family's kleptocratic tyranny is even clearer. Full-speed development of missile defense, and regime change in North Korea must be the foundations of American policy.
Posted at 12:12 PM

July 21, 2003

BREAKING NEWS

[Dave Kopel]
Brooklyn federal judge Jack Weinstein has dismissed the NAACP's lawsuit against the firearms industry. The 175 page opinion found that NAACP had not proven that it had a right to sue for public nuisance, because the NAACP failed "to show that its harm was different in kind from that suffered by other persons in New York." Judge Weinstein did find that the firearms companies had created a public nuisance by, in his view, failing to take sufficient steps to prevent guns from being used by criminals.
Posted at 01:38 PM

GUN-CONTROL & AMIN

[Dave Kopel]
As the world prepares for Idi Amin's imminent death, let us remember that his genocide was made possible by gun-control laws which Amin's government inherited from the British colonial government. Historically, genocide almost never occurs without the prior imposition of gun laws which disarm the victim population.
Posted at 12:32 PM

June 12, 2003

CORRECTION

[Dave Kopel]
The American Prospect weblog points out a serious error I made in my latest NRO article, which criticizes New York Times coverage of the gun issue. In that article, I wrote that the Francis X. Clines' Jan. 17, 2002, coverage of a shooting at the Appalachian School of Law failed to mention the fact that the law students who stopped the killer used their own handguns to do so. In fact, the article clearly explained that one of the students, a former police officer, " ran to his car for his bulletproof vest and service pistol before tackling the suspect." Accordingly, the Times on this story produce a more complete report than did many other publications, which omitted the fact of the gun. My error was sloppy and indefensible, a result of reading the Clines story too hurriedly. I apologize to Mr. Clines and the Times, and thank TAP for providing the correct facts.
Posted at 09:48 AM

June 10, 2003

TIMES CHANGE

[Dave Kopel]
My new media analysis column examines the resignations at the New York Times and how the Times needs to change. Plus Maureen Dowd's non-correction correction, coverage of Microsoft, and trans fats.
Posted at 09:42 AM

June 4, 2003

RE: VICTORY?

[Dave Kopel]
Glenn Reynolds and I have made the same point as Prof. Adler, at greater length. Outlawing a particular type of abortion procedure simply isn't within a reasonable understanding of Congressional power to regulate interstate commerce. Partial-birth abortion is horrible, and if I were a state legislator, I would support a state-level ban. But abortion performed within a single state is not "interstate commerce." Nor is divorce, gun possession, drug possession, most violent crimes, and many other human activities.
Posted at 11:33 PM

May 30, 2003

BEST MOVIE

[Dave Kopel]
Among the best comedies of the 1980s: Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Posted at 05:52 PM

May 28, 2003

WORKING FOR THE ENEMY

[Dave Kopel]
Al Jazeera's director general has been fired, The Times reports, following the discovery that he was working with Saddam Hussein's secret police.
Posted at 02:38 AM

MATRIX IN THE NEWS

[Dave Kopel]
Columnist Diana West connects "The Matrix" to various homicides in which the perpetrators claimed to be acting against the omnipresent matrix of control. The most notorious of these appears to be accused sniper Lee Boyd Malvo. Well, Charles Guiteau, who assassinated President James Garfield 1881, was an ardent Bible reader and advocate of "Bible Communism." Although the Bible is rife with violence, and with killings ordered God, that doesn't mean that the people who wrote the Bible bear the slightest responsibility for Guiteau's deranged attempt to use the Bible to justify murder. Timothy McVeigh quoted John Locke, and the Unabomber is reported to have owned heavily-annotated copy of Al Gore's "Earth in the Balance." But artists and authors can't be blamed for wicked acts which there was never any intention to incite.
Posted at 02:18 AM
 

May 26, 2003

WORD CHOICE

[Dave Kopel]
Well, I would argue that even though you can say it ("crappy"), it would be better not to. You're not cussin', so it's not a per se immoral word. But given NRO's extremely powerful leadership role for today's college students, I'd argue that NRO ought to set a high-class tone of dialogue. If we don't set an example of high standards of discourse, nobody will. I suspect that if WFB were asked, he would agree. He'd probably try to convince you to say "feculent" instead, although I'd argue that copro-metaphors are so greatly overused today that NRO should employ them only in the rarest of circumstances.

I would, on the other hand, encourage extensive discussion of Star Trek.
Posted at 05:19 PM


May 24, 2003

GUNS IN THE U.K.

[Dave Kopel]
Gun crime in England is "growing like a cancer", according to a BBC report on the annual meeting of the Association of Chief Police Officers. England is discovering that when you destroy the culture of law-abiding gun ownership, the result may not be pacifist utopia, but rather a burgeoning criminal gun culture.
Posted at 06:10 PM

DOWD AND MORE

[Dave Kopel]
"Dowd's Elision Elicits Derision" is the title of my new media column, looking at Maureen Dowd's phony quote about President Bush and al Qaeda. I also bemoan the absence of intellectual diversity at the NY Times, look at coverage of second-hand smoke, and debunk an A.P. article about "lynching" in South Carolina.
Posted at 06:09 PM

May 23, 2003

HEDGES

[Dave Kopel]
Yesterday on the excellent Media Minded weblog, I posted a comment suggesting that even though Chris Hedges has very mean-spirited and far left world view, it's possible that he could still produce good quality, fair journalism. After all, I argued, the writers for NR and TNR have strong views, and they usually do good journalistic work. Well, I might have been right about Hedges in theory, but I was wrong in fact. Hedges' reporting from Israel was heavily slanted, inaccurate, and misleading, as detailed in three reports from CAMERA.
Posted at 03:05 PM

May 22, 2003

BAKING FOR LOBBYISTS

[Dave Kopel ]
Jay Greene's article on bake sales and bombers is right on. Since October 2001, the slogan at the top of my website page on terrorism policy has said: It will be a great day when our Navy has all the smart bombs it needs, and the NEA has to hold a bake sale to pay its lobbyists.
Posted at 02:42 PM

May 21, 2003

SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT

[Dave Kopel]
Jonah quotes with approval a reader who claims that racist college admissions policy (a/k/a "affirmative action") is bad because the policy "punishes meretricious applicants who happen to be neither minorities nor legacies." Well, I think that's debatable. "Meretricious" means "having the character of a prostitute", and it's certainly true that more meretricious students would make it easier for some other students to get a little satisfaction. On the other hand, a secondary meaning of "meretricious" is "showily but falsely attractive," and it's hard to see what benefit most colleges would get more from students like that. Such students could just skip college, and go directly into college administration. Personally, I think it would be better for colleges to focus on attracting meritorious students--perhaps including some former meretricians who want to learn a new profession.
Posted at 04:17 PM

May 19, 2003

JUNK SUING

[Dave Kopel]
In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, I write in favor for a ban on junk lawsuits against law-abiding firearms companies.
Posted at 12:11 PM

May 15, 2003

FROM THE FRONTLINES

[Dave Kopel]
A reader of my article about British government hostility toward the right of self-defense offers some details about how bad things have gotten:

"I'm an alumna of Pepperdine University, a school which proudly owns a house/campus on Exhibition Road, literally across the street from the Imperial University, in the middle of South Kensington, right near Harrods, Hyde Park, the Albert Hall. Within two days of arriving for our first semester in London, our relatively small [American] class (37 students, 10 men, 27 women) was visited by a local police officer to instruct us on living in London. Her first question was to the women, 'How many of you brought mace?' Three girls raised their hands. She told us we couldn't use it, shouldn't even carry it, it was illegal.

"Had any of us brought any other type of weapon, such as a knife? Several of the men in our group indicated that they carried pocket knives. She told us to leave them at home too.

"Then she instructed us on how to properly be a victim. If we were attacked, we were to assume a defensive posture, such as raising our hands to block an attack. The reason was (and she spelled it out in no uncertain terms) that if a witness saw the incident and we were to attempt to defend ourselves by fighting back, the witness would be unable to tell who the aggressor was. However, if we rolled up in a ball, it would be quite clear who the victim was.

"The feeling I got was, in London, it is not permissible to defend oneself. I also understood that this police officer thought Americans were more likely to be aggressive and/or cause more damage to a potential attacker. She was warning us for our own good. I have to admit, she did not make me feel particularly safe."

Posted at 10:25 PM


May 14, 2003

GUNS & NAACP RULING

[Dave Kopel]
The jury has reached a verdict in the NAACP suit against the firearms industry. The plaintiffs have failed on every count. Thirty-eight of the industry defendants were unanimously found not liable by the 12-person jury. Seven other defendants were found not liable by 10 or 11 members of the jury. For 23 other defendants, the jury could not reach a verdict. The jury is an "advisory jury," and Brooklyn federal judge Jack Weinstein is free to accept or reject any of the jury's findings within the next 30 days. In the Seton Hall Legislative Journal, I argued that the Second Amendment should be protected from abusive lawsuits just as the First Amendment is protected from libel lawsuits which might interfere with a free press.
Posted at 04:44 PM

May 13, 2003

CRIME@CASE WESTERN

[Dave Kopel]

Last Friday, a man who was an advocate of severe gun control and was also an opponent of the war in Iraq perpetrated a mass shooting at Case Western University, in Ohio. Below are some thoughts about this crime from Keith J. Barton, who is director of information and technology at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. His words are excerpted from a private discussion group on firearms law and policy. Mr. Barton gave me permission to post these on The Corner:

I hope you will indulge me in a little discussion of an emotional issue. You see, I was just affected by a mass public shooting. Although I was not in the building with the shooter, I was in the Law School, which is the closest building and literally just a few feet away from the Peter B. Lewis building where a shooting took place Friday. Consequently, I was at first restricted to certain areas of the building, and then later evacuated (certainly not as affected as those in the Peter B. Lewis building).

The first things I thought of (being completely open and honest here - in temporal order) as I learned of the events unfolding next door was 1) to be angry that Ohioans are not allowed to carry concealed firearms, 2) I was grateful the shooter did not choose the Law School, and 3) I was saddened that someone was emotionally disturbed enough to do this. I am not suggesting a non-law enforcement person with a concealed firearm should have searched the building to stop the shooter in this situation. I cannot accurately say what I would have done had I been in the building next door instead of where I was. But I can say I believe the shooter would not have been at large for 7 hours had one or more persons been carrying a concealed firearm and had known how to use it. Many will say, and have said already, in response to this incident that this is the best argument for more restrictive firearm regulations. I realize not everyone is comfortable around firearms. I also realize my experience may be a little different than the average person: I was a primary marksmanship instructor in the Marine Corps. I personally believe this is an argument for allowing concealed carry. I would feel much safer knowing I have the tools with which to protect myself and those immediately around me should I ever have the need to do so.

Posted at 01:10 PM


May 12, 2003

FRENCH-WINE SLIDE

[Dave Kopel]
Wine Spectator magazine (May 31 issue) conducted a poll of its readers, and discovered that 31% of readers were boycotting French wine, and 25% were boycotting German wine. Five percent were boycotting American wine. Wine Spectator readers are, by definition, serious oenophiles, so the fact that nearly a third of American's most-committed wine drinkers have decided to "just say non" helps explains the significant drop in French wine imports in recent weeks. That's good news for Coalition wine countries (such as Australia) and for winemakers in countries such as Chile, Argentina, and Hungary which were not active allies of the Saddam regime.
Posted at 01:25 PM

BRITISH ROUNDUP

[Dave Kopel]
My new media analysis column examines the British newspapers. Conclusion: The Guardian and The Telegraph are the best of the bunch.
Posted at 01:10 PM

May 2, 2003

MORE FROM BRITAIN

[Dave Kopel]
Last night's preliminary election returns for local council races in England significantly understated Tory gains. It now appears that the Tories have picked up 550 seats, out of the approximately 11,000 seats which were elected. On election day, Tory Shadow Trade Minister Crispin Blunt ostentatiously resigned his leadership post, in what he hoped would be the start of a party revolt leading to a no-confidence vote against Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith. While the Independent is claiming that Blunt's resignation overshadows the Tory gains, the more realistic newspapers, including the Guardian, are acknowledging that "IDS" has significantly improved his position as leader, thanks to strong election results. The unstated cause of Blunt's hostility to IDS appears to have been disagreement with Tory leadership's support for the liberation of Iraq, as well as Tory support for Israel.
Posted at 12:51 PM

BRITISH ELECTION RETURNS

[Dave Kopel]
May 1 was the day for local council elections in Britain. With about 11,000 local seats contested, the Tories appear to be gaining about 300 seats--a respectable gain, but mainly a regression to the mean, following a Tory wipeout two elections ago. The Tories remain mired in a debate over what they really stand for, and are having difficulty fully exploiting Labor's failure to deliver on its long-standing promises to improve the quality of education, health care, and police protection.
Posted at 07:12

April 28, 2003

LIBERATING ZIMBABWE

[Dave Kopel]
SW Radio Africa provides extensive news about the struggle for liberation in Zimbabwe. The (Harare) Daily News is under intense pressure from the "government," but still speaks truth to power. A new editorial examines the daunting choices facing Zimbabwe's people.
Posted at 10:56 AM

April 24, 2003

SODOMY

[Dave Kopel]
Me too, me too! I'm against sodomy laws. The article that Glenn Reynolds and I wrote in the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly explains why such laws are not within the legitimate range of government powers.
Posted at 01:00 AM

April 22, 2003

LEVITT, FOR THE RECORD

[Dave Kopel]
Earlier today, Glenn Reynolds posted an update about an article we wrote in August 2001, raising concerns about possible bias in a National Academy of Science panel which was beginning a study of firearms law. Perhaps our warnings had some effect; the panel's "charge," which we linked to from our article, focused only on examining the negative effects of firearms in society. That link is no longer operative, and a more detailed charge has replaced it; the new charge requires the panel to also consider beneficial aspects to firearms ownership. Expressing concerns of the make-up of the panel, we pointed to the appointment of Benjamin Civiletti (President Carter's Attorney General), who is not a scholar, and who has well-established anti-gun credentials. Regarding Steve Levitt, a young scholar at the University of Chicago, we wrote that he "has been described as 'rabidly antigun.'" Shortly after this article was published, Steve Levitt wrote to Glenn: "I don't understand your National Review article in which I am described as 'rabidly anti-gun.' "No one who knows me would describe me that way. I love to shoot guns and would own them if my wife would let me. I recently published an op-ed piece in Chicago Sun-Times entitled 'Pools more dangerous than guns' (July 28, 2001) that could only be construed as pro-guns. I have never written anything even remotely anti-gun. I think your sources must have me confused with someone else." As Glenn notes in an Instapundit post today, Glenn promptly posted an Instapundit item noting Levitt's statement about his view on guns. Levitt's Sun-Times article argues that the risks of gun accidents are grossly exaggerated by the media compared to other accident risks. I wrote back to Levitt something which I should have asked then to be posted on this article, so I'm belated posting it now:

As Glenn's Instapundit site details, we have checked with our original source. Nevertheless, since I try (not always successfully) to shed light rather than heat on the gun issue, I think that in retrospect the adverb 'rabidly' shouldn't have been used. So I promise to avoid it in the future. I'm glad to know about your swimming pools piece, and I enjoyed reading it. I did check your publications page on the web before I submitted the article, but the pool piece wasn't there -- understandably, since your page just cites journal articles.

And, as the article said, whatever your views on guns, there's no dispute about your scholarly abilities. My forthcoming article "Lawyers, Guns, and Burglars: Why Mass Tort Litigation Fails to Account for Positive Externalities and the Network Effects of Controversial Products'" 43 Arizona Law Review (no 2, 2001) cites and discusses your excellent LoJack article.

I think that Levitt is mistaken in his belief that he has "never written anything even remotely anti-gun." In “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime,” 116 Quarterly Journal of Economics (No. 2, May 2001): 379-420 (co-authored with John Donohue), Levitt wrote: "Elevated youth homicide rates in this period appear to be clearly linked to the rise of crack and the easy availability of guns." p. 395, note 21 ("this period" refers to the late 1980s and early 1990s).

In “Guns, Violence, and the Efficiency of Illegal Markets,” 1998 AEA Papers and Proceedings 88 (May): 463-67 (also co-authored with John Donohue), Levitt concluded that the presence of firearms lead to greater levels of violence. He argued that this effect stems not from the lethality of guns per se, but from how they make the outcomes of fights less predictable. A small person who knows he would very likely lose a fistfight to a larger person, will usually choose not to the fight. But if the smaller person has a gun, he may choose to fight: "Guns are an equalizing force that makes the outcome of any particular conflict difficult to predict. All else held constant, this increases the willingness to fight among weaker combatants, leading to greater levels of violence." p. 467.

I'm not arguing (at least not in this post), that Levitt's statements are incorrect, and they are certainly not "rabid." But if a person selecting panelists for the NAS study were looking for panelists who might be expected to see benefits from reducing "easy availability of guns," it would have been reasonable to pick Levitt. There is nothing logically inconsistent with a scholar favoring gun control to address the very large problem of criminal homicide with guns, while also recognizing that the magnitude of the problem of fatal gun accidents involving children is not nearly as large as the media imply.

Posted at 08:27 PM

YOU'VE BEEN HAD

[Dave Kopel]
The Charleston Post and Courier has graciously admitted that it made a mistake its coverage of the recent protest at the Augusta Golf tournament. A man who held up a sign at Martha Burk which said "Make me dinner" did not supply his real name, but instead spelled out his name as "Heywood Jablome." The protester is really an Atlanta radio host with a different name. But the South Carolina reporter isn't the only journalist to fall for this trick. A May 1, 2001 business story in the New York Post looked into the new trend of putting cafes in investment firm offices; the story reported the skepticism of "Heywood Jablome, 41, a Manhattan real estate agent." This brings back memories of the day in high school when the attendance administrator puzzled over an attendance slip reporting the absence of student whose name she did not recognize: "Jack Mehoff? Jack Mehoff? Who is Jack Mehoff?" People who enjoy reading book reviews by Paige Turner and military commentary by Warren Peace will find a good list of silly names at psacake.

Posted at 11:42 AM


April 21, 2003

AND IN BASRA...

[Dave Kopel]
Although British troops in Basra have been urging residents to voluntarily turn in their guns, American forces in the middle-class Baghdad suburb of Hay al-Qudhat are doing no such thing. Instead, they are simply ordering people not to carry guns in public. Neighborhood residents have been defending their homes from looters. Said one resident, "We all have guns, but we don't want them. We just want peace and stability." The neighborhood is home to many doctors, lawyers, and other professionals.

Charles Clover, "Baghdad's middle classes ask: how long will they stay?" Financial Times, 16 April 2003.
Posted at 09:21 PM

GUNS IN UGANDA

[Dave Kopel]
The Financial Times reports on the connection between firearms and equal rights in Uganda:

Women who carry guns and fight for their country do not voluntarily head back to the kitchen, says a leading member of Uganda's administration. This is one explanation for the change in female fortunes since the National Resistance Army seized power in 1986 with the help of women fighting and collaborating in other vital ways to military victory. Since then, women have achieved a status in Uganda unrivalled in much of Africa.

William Wallis, "Freedom Fighters Win Political Clout, Financial Times, 15 April 2003.
Posted at 09:17 PM


April 14, 2003

PROWLER vs. GORTON

[Dave Kopel]
The American Prowler chastises retired Washington Sen. Slade Gorton for giving the wrong advice to Rep. Jennifer Dunn, who was being pressured by the White House to run against the vulnerable Patty Murray. Gorton said, "Go with your heart." So Dunn won't run, and George Nethercutt probably will. Gorton was right to give the advice, and Dunn to follow it. Our nation would be a lot better if American elected officials more often followed their hearts rather than the dictates of party machinery.
Posted at 12:21 PM

HATE MUSIC

[Dave Kopel]
Egyptian folk singer Shabaan Abdul Rahim is looking to follow up on his major international success, last year's hit "I hate Israel."  Rahim sang: "I hate the Jews, I hate them. I hate them because they are annoying. All people hate them." Working on a movie of the same name as the song, Rahim has been rejected by four actresses who were offered the role of leading lady. Despite the cinematic stall, Rahim has a new radio hit, "The Attack on Iraq." He offers a litany of American/Zionist oppression: "Chechnya! Afghanistan! Palestine! Southern Lebanon! The Golan Heights! And now Iraq, too? And now Iraq, too? It's too much for people. Shame on you! Enough, enough, enough"
Posted at 12:06 PM

MECCA MOVIES

[Dave Kopel]
In "solidarity" with (the defeated tyranny in) Iraq, Egyptian film artists are urging a boycott of American films, according to Al Bawaba. Cynics might imagine motives besides pan-Arabism: "the film 'Gangs of New York' brought in big profits in Egypt overshadowing local films, making it impossible for fair competition. The film made over five million Egyptian pounds in profit, a matter which forced owners of cinema houses to cancel a number of scheduled screening, since it caused a negative impact on Egyptian films."
Posted at 12:05 PM

SOMEONE AT HARVARD WHO GETS IT

[Dave Kopel]
Another important obstacle to peace between Israel and its neighbors is the United Nations, as Romen Mukamel shows in the Harvard Israel Review. The UN opposed the Camp David Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel. The UN aids resettlement for all refugees around the world, but refuses to assist the resettlement of Palestinian refugees. The UN would not convene a special session to address on-going genocide in Rwanda or former Yugoslavia; instead six of the ten special sessions have involved Israel, on issues as trivial (compared to genocide) as illegal Israeli construction in East Jerusalem.
Posted at 12:04 PM

SYRIA=IRAQ

[Dave Kopel]
Ha'aretz reports that the United States is recognizing Syria's plan to turn Iraq into the next Lebanon. A better outcome would be to turn Syria into the next Iraq. This would also end the illegal dictatorship in the occupied territories formerly known as Lebanon. The removal of the terrorist regime in Syria would also remove the last pro-terror regime able to ship supplies directly to Palestinian terrorists. With the Palestinian terrorists isolated, the prospect for a genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians would become a possibility. Just as the best way to "give inspections time to work" was to remove the Saddam regime which was obstructing WMD inspections, the best way to genuine self-government for the Palestinians is to remove the regimes fomenting war in the West Bank and Gaza.
Posted at 12:02 PM
 

April 12, 2003

THEY'RE NOT PEACE ACTIVISTS

[Dave Kopel]
My new media analysis column suggests that many people labeled "peace activists" would be properly labeled "war activists." The column also examines Pearl Jam's implausible campaign against the reporter who covered the fan walk-out at a concert last week. And I look at the Denver Post's assertion that real minorities only go to government schools and don't play tennis.
Posted at 07:39 PM

THE MUSIC OF THE DAY

[Dave Kopel]
Want to celebrate the liberation of Iraq? Like patriotic music? Interested in new independent artists? Then check out the superb new album by Eric Free. You can listen to the entire song on the MP3.com website, where all lyrics are available. The first four songs mock tyrants around the world. Free sings, "There's no God in old Bin Laden, Just the Devil grinnin' there...Bin Laden, America is comin' after you! You got no place to run or hide, Your killin' days are through!...Them crazy Taliban hate women, Treat 'em all like slaves. They bag 'em up from head to toe, Can't even show their face." Kim Il-Jong gets a bluegrass treatment: "In old Pyongyang lives a little madman. He's the only son of the old madman...He makes his people call 'im dear, But it ain't from love it's out o' fear. He kills 'em if they gripe or jeer. If his name comes up they gotta cheer." The title track "Saddam Insane" proclaims, "Saddam Insane, twisted brain, Gotta say g'bye to his evil reign! Sad Iraqis' house of pain, Saddam, Saddam, Saddam Insane!" Inspiring songs such as "United We Stand," "Flight 93," "American Heroes (At Ground Zero)," and "America Will Win" celebrate American freedom, valor, and determination. The music, mostly country, is fun and the lyrics are witty, poignant, and erudite. Eric Free's "Saddam Hussein" is a stunningly brilliant debut, and wonderful listening for everyone who rejoices in the victory of liberty.
Posted at 07:15 PM


April 11, 2003

ANOTHER COOL SITE

[Dave Kopel]
A fine new web slide show displays images of the liberation of Iraq, the sacrifice of our soldiers, the hubris of Saddam's allies to the tune of "Hallelujah" by Rufus Wainwright.
Posted at 09:11 PM

TRIBUTE

[Dave Kopel]
All gave some. Some gave all. A beautiful new tribute site to our armed forces, with a roll of honor for every soldier who gave his life to protect our nation and topple the tyrant. It's hard to view without getting choked up.


April 10, 2003

APRIL 9

[Dave Kopel]
April 9 is Victory in Baghdad Day, and it is also the day when the Nazi attack on Norway commenced, with the assistance of Vidkun Quisling and other Fifth Columnists. The "policy of the broken gun" ("det brukne geværs politikk") was supposed to make Norway safe, according to the promises of the foolish pacifists in the 1930s, who imagined that as long as Norway was weak, Norway would never be attacked. After Hitler's War brought Nazi tyranny, the Norwegian people promised "never again 9th of April." The Norwegians kept that promise after the war. Norway joined NATO. After serving as Foreign Minister of Norway, Trygve Lie became the first Secretary General of the United Nations. During his tenure, the U.N. played a responsible role in international affairs: recognizing the democratic state of Israel, and authorizing the use of force to defend South Korea against the Il-Jung monarchy's attack from the North. Today, the Norwegian government has fallen far away from Norway's historic role as a friend of liberty; before the Second Iraq War, the Norwegian government announced that even in the case of a United Nations mandate, Norway would not necessarily assist in the liberation of Iraq. Today, the Norwegian Friends of America seeks to improve relationships between Norwegians and Americans by supporting their common tradition of freedom. Whatever the formal relationships between the United States government and other governments, may the people of every free nation always cultivate friendship with freedom-seeking people throughout the world.
Posted at 03:05 AM


April 9, 2003

PRESCIENT

[Dave Kopel]
One prognosticator that was exactly right: Senator McCain predicted that the war against Saddam "will be a slam dunk . . . they [the Iraqi people] will dance on his grave." (Newark) Star-Ledger 2/23/03.
Posted at 05:34 PM

ABUSIVE SUITS

[Dave Kopel]
The House of Representatives is currently debating, and likely to pass, a bill to preempt abusive lawsuits against the firearms industry. My website has lots of background on the issues involved in the lawsuits--including a link to a National Public Radio program today, in which I was one of the people interviewed for a segment on the NAACP's lawsuit currently being tried in federal district court in Brooklyn.
Posted at 02:51 PM


April 7, 2003

"DIVERSITY"

[Dave Kopel]
The recent meeting of the Organization of American Historians, according to a report on the History News Network, was characterized by a "near-unanimity of opinion" on issues such opposition to the war in Iraq and to President Bush. As university presidents fight before the Supreme Court to maintain campus "diversity" by discriminating against people of Asian ancestry, history departments and other humanities departments at many universities hire according to an intolerant code which leaves little room for intellectual diversity.
Posted at 08:43 PM

RAVE

[Dave Kopel]
Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) has been pushing a civil liberties disaster called the "RAVE Act," as I detailed a several weeks ago. Very strong grassroots opposition has stalled the Biden bill in Congress. It has not passed a single committee. So now, Biden is attempting to put the RAVE Act onto the conference committee version of the Amber Alert bill (S. 151), regarding abducted children. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, Biden is incorrectly claiming that the ACLU no longer opposes his bill. The popular Amber Alert bill is in very serious danger of being taken over as a vehicle for oppressive laws which can't make it through the legislative process on their own merits when exposed to public scrutiny. The House version of the Amber bill includes a particularly repressive measure having nothing to do with missing children: the Feeney Amendment destroys most discretion of federal judges to impose downward departures under the federal sentencing guidelines. The discretion would be transferred to prosecutors--a serious violation of the principle of separation of powers, based on a draconian and unjust insistence that the failed federal drug war must never waver from imposing major sentences on minor actors.
Posted at 03:37 PM


April 2, 2003

OVERRATED

[Dave Kopel]
National Journal's reputation as an authoritative source of information is sometimes overrated. Consider an article in the current (3/29) issue comparing the presidencies of the two Bushes: "Both former President George H.W. Bush and current President George W. Bush were initially elected in close contests that left them with uncertain political mandates." Actually, the first Bush in 1988 carried 40 states, beat Dukakis by 426 electoral votes to 111, and won 53.4% of the popular vote compared to 45.6% for Dukakis.
Posted at 02:02 AM


April 1, 2003

NAACP VS. GUNS

[Dave Kopel]
Yesterday was opening day for the NAACP's lawsuit against the firearms industry, in the Brooklyn court of federal Judge Jack Weinstein. The NAACP attempted to portray the lawsuit as not hostile to gun ownership. The NAACP attorney told the jury, according to the transcript:

Certainly the NAACP of all organizations in this country understands and respects the constitutional right to bear arms. Upon the NAACP's founding on 1909 in New York City, soon thereafter it took up its first criminal law case In Ossien, Michigan, where a black male, Mr. Sweet, was charged with killing a white supremacist along with several accomplices. The court, to rule out Mr. Sweet and his family to be pushed out of their home in Michigan, it was in that case that the presiding judge, to uphold Mr. Sweet's right to be with his family, coined the popular phrase "a man's home is his castle."

One might take the attorney's claim about upholding the constitutional right to arms a little more seriously if he were more scrupulous about the facts. In Detroit (Not "Ossien") Michigan in 1926, the NAACP and Clarence Darrow came to the defense of Dr. Ossian Sweet, a black man who had fatally shot a person in a white mob which was attacking his home because Dr. Sweet had moved into an all-white neighborhood.

The phrase "a man's home is his castle," while certainly relevant to the Sweet case, first appears in a 1499 case which arose during the reign of Henry VII.

Notwithstanding the nice, half-way accurate beginning, the NAACP lawyer then turned to such a harsh and emotional attack on the gun industry that Judge Weinstein repeatedly interrupted him to announce that the attorney was wrong in what he was telling the jury that the case was about. At the end of the NAACP opening statement, Judge Weinstein addressed the jury and told them: " Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. I want to emphasize the case is not a case about segregation or discrimination; is that clear? It's not a case about lobbying, getting particular legislation or not getting it. Is that clear?"

The attorney's comparison of the firearms industry to people who drown babies in rivers was not corrected by the judge.
Posted at 08:32 PM

TROOPS ON YOUR MIND?

[Dave Kopel]
American military spokesmen in Kuwait have said that their facilities are currently overwhelmed by cards and gift packages for our heroes in current war. Accordingly, one of the best ways to send a gift to our fighting men and women is to make an electronic donation through the Gifts from the Homeland program to buy a PX card for members of the Armed Forces. If you don't have a particular recipient for the gift, the program will send your gift to someone in the Air Force. Or you could make a donation to the USO. Alternatively, the PizzaIDF program allows you to buy a pizza and soda for an American serviceman operating the Patriot Missile batteries in Israel.
Posted at 03:00 AM

WAR POETRY

[Dave Kopel]
A fine new poem by Rob S. Rice graces the "Poets for the War" website. It concludes:

Our carriers loom off his coast.
Our bombers fill his skies.
And brave, skilled men with stealthy tread
Prepare his grim surprise.
Grant, and Sherman, Patton, Greene
Have taught us to make war.
We now pick up their legacy
And free the world once more.

Posted at 02:49 AM

LEPANTO, AGAIN

[Dave Kopel]
One of NRO's very erudite readers recently explained that my post on the Battle of Lepanto (a 1571 naval battle in the eastern Mediterranean in which a Western coalition demolished the Ottoman navy) overstated the battle's long-term significance. To wit: the Ottomans swiftly rebuilt their fleet, and used it to retake Tunis in 1573, and then to conquer Morocco. In 1645, they launched a successful invasion of Crete. Lepanto was an important Western victory, but not of the enduring magnitude of Marathon or Tours.
Posted at 02:47 AM


Mar. 31, 2003

VOTING IN ZIMBABWE

[Dave Kopel]
Parliamentary by-elections are taking place in Zimbabwe, and the Movement for Democratic Change is threatening mass action if Mugabe rigs the vote again.
Posted at 03:37 AM

TAXING IN CALIF.

[Dave Kopel]
California advocates of more expensive government are hard at work on plans to weaken Proposition 13, the 1978 tax limitation initiative.
Posted at 03:36 AM

A PALESTINIAN CELEBRATION

[Dave Kopel]
The Palestinian Authority has renamed a main neighborhood square in Jenin in honor of the terrorist who killed four Americans with a bomb in a taxi.
Posted at 03:35 AM

IRAQ, AFTER

[Dave Kopel]
A great article by Eric Davis for the Foreign Policy Research Institute explains Iraq's post-colonial political history, and argues that prospects for civil society and democracy in liberated Iraq are very good.
Posted at 03:34 AM


Mar. 30, 2003

MEDIA

[Dave Kopel]
My new media analysis column looks at how today's new media, such as weblogs, are supplanting last decade's new media (cable news and the Drudge Report) in coverage of Gulf War II. The column also examines the death of Rachel Corrie, gay rights in the Supreme Court, hockey playoffs, and the censorship of David Wells.
Posted at 09:04 AM

TRUMAN & GEPHARDT

[Dave Kopel]
Harry Truman would have liked Dick Gephardt. They both sprang from Missouri's machine politics, both fervently supported organized labor, and both believed in activist federal government in service of the American people. They were also both patriots. Truman won his battle for the soul of the Democratic party in 1948, when he held the party together against challenges from Communist sympathizers (Henry Wallace) and die-hard segregationists (Strom Thurmond). William Kristol explains that Gephardt and other patriotic Democrats face a similar challenge in today, against a large faction of the party that is fundamentally hostile to the war on terrorism and which does not wish for American success in the war in Iraq.
Posted at 09:03 AM

IN CHINA NEWS

[Dave Kopel]
Another success for the president's patient diplomacy: China has started putting on oil squeeze on North Korea, in order to signal that country's regime that confrontational policies will lead to disaster--with Kim Il Jong risking the same fate as Saddam Hussein.
Posted at 09:02 AM

AI PRIORITIES

[Dave Kopel]
Steven Den Beste deconstructs Amnesty International's urgent condemnations of the United States coupled with its almost complete silence on the human-rights atrocities being perpetrated by the Iraqi regime. His conclusion: AI's member base considers anti-Americanism a higher priority than human rights. AI's record on human rights has been uneven for many years. As a congressional intern in 1981, I attended a party in which an AI official made the preposterous claim that South Korea (at the time, a pro-American dictatorship) had the worst human-rights record on the planet--as if Rumania, Albania, or North Korea were not far worse. Currently, AI is actively supporting the campaign at the U.N. to disarm all civilians, thus preventing civilians from resisting tyranny and genocide. In contrast to AI, Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff is a principled leftist supporter of human rights for all humans, and his latest column argues that overthrowing the Saddam regime is a human-rights imperative.
Posted at 09:01 AM

LEPANTO

[Dave Kopel]
A recent post by Rod reports on a Catholic priest organizing prayers "imploring the intercession of our Lady of Lepanto for the safety of our armed forces." For those of you unsure about how Mary acquired the title "Our Lady of Lepanto," the story goes back to October 7, 1571, when Western Christian navies, under Admiral Don John of Austria, wiped out a huge Ottoman naval invasion force in the Battle of Lepanto, near Greece. The Christian forces were carrying a replica of the Guadeloupe painting, and praying the Rosary. Thousands of Christian galley slaves were freed from the Turks. The battle was one of the most important in the West's struggle to resist Islamic imperialism, and was the first major Turkish naval defeat. Volunteers from all over the West had joined to together to repel a catastrophic threat of invasion; the victory at Lepanto ended Turkish naval expansionism in the Mediterranean, although Turkish land forces remained quite vigorous in the Balkans and central Europe for much longer. Lepanto ranks with Marathon, Thermopylae, and Tours as among the greatest and most heroic Western battles against Eastern imperialism and despotism. Twelve thousand galley slaves were freed as a result.
Posted at 09:00 AM

ARMS FOR THE LOVE OF AMERICA

[Dave Kopel]
On Friday, Hugh Hewitt's national radio program played a song suggested by the James Lileks: "Arms for the Love of America." If you missed it, this great 1941 Irving Berlin song can be heard on the web. The web version isn't quite as rousing as the version that Hewitt played, but it's still good.
Posted at 08:57 AM
 


Mar. 17, 2003

ONE MAN'S TERRORIST...

[Dave Kopel]
The Palestinian Authority's official newspaper has a new article extolling Dalal Mughrabi, a female terrorist who murdered 37 people on March 11, 1978, including the niece of U.S. Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.). Several schools in PA territory are named for the terrorist.
Posted at 01:45 AM

SEE FOR YOURSELF

[Dave Kopel]
Rush Limbaugh's website presents satellite photos of an Iraqi facility said to have been used for training hijackers
Posted at 01:43 AM


Mar. 16, 2003

LONG WAR

[Dave Kopel]
The Jewish holiday of Purim begins on March 17. It celebrates the story in the Book of Esther, in which the Babylonians Jews were saved from a plot to murder them all. The heroine of the story is Queen Esther, who risked her life to reveal her identity as a Jew. When the attempt to slaughter the Jews began, the Jews "gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives" and destroyed those who would destroy them. In honor of Purim, you can send special Purim candies (or pizza, or hot soup) to an Israeli Defense Forces soldier--or to a patrol or even a whole platoon. They've been fighting on the front lines of war against terror for years, and if they had failed, the front lines would now be much closer to the United States.
Posted at 10:55 AM


Mar. 2, 2003

IN THE NEWS

[Dave Kopel]
My new media analysis column looks at coverage of fencing the Mexican border, the Iraqi stock market, Jihad demonstrators, a NPR station that can't handle diversity, and "affordable housing."
Posted at 12:58 PM

NIT-PICKING

[Dave Kopel]
Today's Sunday New York Times includes a cartoon about Michael Bellesiles and John Lott, accusing them of moral equivalence. It's a hard claim to make since Bellesiles's book was a fabrication through and through, as Clayton Cramer has proven. In contrast, the Lott controversy involves only a single sentence in his book, and the rest of the book is supported by a detailed data which Lott has made available to many dozens of researchers. But I think the worst thing about the cartoon is that it shows the continuing decline of quality editing at the Times. The on-line version of the cartoon refers to "knit-picking" scholars who questioned Lott. People who pay attention to small details are not like people who pick at knitted fabric; the proper word is "nit-picking"--a metaphor for picking tiny lice eggs (nits) out of hair. Nit-picking, both literally and figuratively is a very important activity. During my father's 22-year career in the Colorado legislature, he was known as the body's chief nit-picker, which meant that he paid careful attention to how proposed statutes were worded, so that sloppy language did not cause unintended problems. (He also worked on scores of bigger projects, authoring many major bills, and serving for a while as House Judiciary Chairman, and as Assistant Minority Leader). Nit-pickers get rid of problems which are tiny now but which will cause serious trouble later if they are not removed. Let's not confuse much-needed nit-pickers which the pointlessly destructive people who distress knitted clothing.
Posted at 12:52 PM


Feb. 25, 2003

A NEW EU

[Dave Kopel]
British humor site The Brains Trust reports that France is preparing to form a New European Union: "The French are only including themselves in the initial membership of the NEU and are expected to maintain control of all of the decision making bodies and writing all of the treaties."
Posted at 02:37 AM

NOT JUST GUNS

[Dave Kopel]
Gun companies such as Smith & Wesson have long enjoyed a profitable sideline selling logo items. Now, Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47, is getting into the business. He's just signed a deal with a German company to sell "manly" items such as snowboards, umbrellas, shaving foam, watches, penknives, and a vodka cocktail. "The articles are very similar to my rifle: reliable, easy to use and indestructible," he says.
Posted at 02:35 AM

GETTING BEYOND THE PROTESTS

[Dave Kopel]
Sound and Fury reminds us that naive and misguided "peace" protesters don't pose much of a political threat to Republican Presidents who stay the course. A million people showed up at Central Park to demonstrate for a nuclear freeze; Reagan ignored them, and went on to win the largest electoral landslide in American history.
Posted at 02:33 AM

CHRONICLE OF A FRAUD

[Dave Kopel]
In Reason, Joyce Lee Malcolm recounts how Michael Bellesiles almost got away with audacious academic fraud.
Posted at 02:32 AM
 


Feb. 21, 2003

MALAYSIAN IMMIGRANT VS. HOLLYWOOD

[Dave Kopel]
Malaysian immigrant Anuska Anastasia Solomon criticizes the narrow-minded Hollywood anti-war protesters who refuse to confront the world's realities of good and evil:

The anti-war demonstrations - reminiscent of the 1960s and heady, I am sure, for Americans enamored with democratic process - do not address the vitriolic anti-Americanism that caused Sept. 11. Nor do they take careful account of the peculiar dilemma of the Iraqi people and of Muslims all over the world.
It is disheartening to observe among Americans a form of anti-Americanism, of self-hate, that transforms into a nebulous, rude and uninformed rebellion against a president and an administration that has been called into power for such a time as this....
The Iraqi people are victims of Islamic government. There is no room for God, freedom of speech, thought, or worse, conscience in the Islamic political, social and cultural environment....
Freedom needs to be coupled with truth. Waving slogans and stripping naked does not set us free. The reality is that there is no Islamic constitution. Freedom as we understand it does not exist on Islamic soil....
The "white male majority," the Founding Fathers of America, not perfect men by any means, were inspired to write the unique American Constitution, according freedoms that must be defended at any cost. The civic institutions and character by which America became great militarily, commercially and culturally can be emulated. I'm no poet of Allen Ginsberg's stature to howl - but there is a time to speak.
The enemy is not American.

Ms. Solomon is one of the Denver Post's "Compass" columnists who provide perspectives from under-represented communities.
Posted at 11:54 AM


Feb. 18, 2003

TONY BLAIR, MEET HARRY TRUMAN

[Dave Kopel]
Harry Truman was an undistinguished political hack of the Prendergast machine from Kansas City. As a senator, he was known mainly for blind loyalty to his party, and accomplished little except successfully heading a commission on corruption in military procurement. As president, he advocated a variety of failed big government measures, such as wage and price controls and socialized medicine. Yet on the most important issue of his time, he was courageously and stubbornly far-sighted. He recognized Soviet expansionism as a mortal threat to civilization, and he rallied his nation and Western Europe to defend themselves. Tony Blair, while born in much more elevated circumstances than Harry Truman, has devoted too much of his own tenure to repressive domestic nannyism. Yet, like Truman, he is defiantly and proudly right on the most important issue of his day: the awful mortal danger to civilization posed by Islamic terrorism. He may, like Harry Truman in 1948, win an unexpected vindication in the next election, but there is little doubt that he will join Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy among the greatest of liberals who embraced the privilege to defend freedom in its hour of maximum peril.
Posted at 11:31 PM


Feb. 16, 2003

OLD MEDIA MISS THE STORY, AGAIN

[Dave Kopel]
My latest media analysis column for the Rocky Mountain News examines how newspapers overlooked two stories which have been well-reported by Internet media: the Franco-German cover-up of their role in helping Saddam acquire illegal WMDs, and the celebrations of some Arabs about the Columbia tragedy. I also examine polling about gay rights, and whether it's "McCarthyism" to call a Communist a "Communist." Finally, I retract my earlier statement that ANSWER/WWP are "Stalinist." Hardline revolutionary Communist, yes; Stalinist, no.
Posted at 12:11 PM


Feb. 15, 2003

FRANCE LOVES TYRANTS

[Dave Kopel]
Zimbabwe News reprints an article from the Guardian detailing how France is unilaterally undermining the European Union's attempt to put pressure on Robert Mugabe. The French policy can't be explained as stemming from anti-Americanism, since the U.S. is uninvolved. France is not merely an old country, it is senile.
Posted at 12:39 PM


Feb. 14, 2003

CAN'T SAY "FRENCH" ANYMORE?

[Dave Kopel]
If the plan to replace "French fries" with "victory fries" works, does that mean that when people osculate with their tongues, we have call it "victory kissing"? That the Valentine's Day activity known as "Frenching" will henceforth be called "victory"?
Posted at 04:07 PM

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

[Dave Kopel]
The great poet of liberty, in "Feelings of a Republican on the Fall of Bonaparte", still has contemporary relevance -- for Saddam, and perhaps for others:

I hated thee, fallen Tyrant! I did groan,
To think that a most unambitious slave,
Like thou, should dance and revel on the grave
Of Liberty. Thou mightst have built thy throne
Where it had stood even now: thou didst prefer
A frail and bloody pomp, which Time has swept
In fragments towards oblivion. Massacre,
For this, I prayed, would on thy sleep have crept,
Treason and Slavery, Rapine, Fear, and Lust,
And stifled thee their minister. I know
Too late, since thou and France are in the dust,
That Virtue owns a more eternal foe
Than Force or Fraud: old Custom, legal Crime,
And bloody Faith, and foulest birth of Time.


Posted at 12:00 AM


Feb. 13, 2003

GUN OWNERSHIP AND HUMAN RIGHTS

[Dave Kopel]
In support of the United Nations disarmament program, many academics campaign against gun possession by "non-state actors." In the latest issue of the Brown Journal of World Affairs, the Kopel-Gallant-Eisen team argues that gun ownership by citizens is a foundation of human rights. We detail the horrible consequences of disarmament campaigns around the world.
Posted at 01:19 PM

SUPREME COURT TO RULE ON GUN OWNER PRIVACY

[Dave Kopel]
On March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Treasury v. Chicago. In that case, Chicago argues that the Freedom of Information Act compels the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to release the names of gun owners in various federal databases. I preview the case in the forthcoming issue of the American Bar Association's Preview of Supreme Court Cases. (PDF version.)
Posted at 01:12 PM


Feb. 12, 2003

DEATH TAX

[Dave Kopel]
Cato's David Boaz explains that the Social Security system is an even more pernicious form of "death tax" than is the estate tax.
Posted at 01:16 PM

OHIO BAN ON GUN CARRYING IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

[Dave Kopel]
A trial court in Seneca County, Ohio, has ruled the state's ban on the carrying of concealed weapons for lawful protection to violate the Ohio Constitution's right to keep and bear arms. A case raising the same issue, based on a ruling in Hamilton County, is pending before the Ohio Supreme Court
Posted at 01:03


Feb. 11, 2003

CAN YOU SPELL "BIGOT"?

[Dave Kopel]
A mother and father have convinced the Upper Canada District School Board to remove the word "gun" from all first grade spelling tests throughout the district.
Posted at 11:12 AM

UNDERSTANDING OLD EUROPE

[Dave Kopel]
"Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the truth," observed Sherlock Holmes. Chicago Boyz has now changed its mind, and agreed with Den Beste that the most plausible remaining explanation of Franco-German behavior is an attempt to cover up complicity in Saddam's WMD programs
Posted at 02:56 AM

ASIA TIMES

[Dave Kopel]
Asia Times offers a pair of excellent new columns, explaining that the post-WW II order of the Arab world is passing away, and detailing France's destructive "sacred heart of darkness" in the 17th century as emblematic of the nation's inclination to vicious diplomacy and self-delusion.
Posted at 02:51 AM


Feb. 8, 2003

CARDINAL MINDSZENTY

[Dave Kopel]
On this day in in 1949, the Communist government of Hungary sentenced Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty to life in prison. Today, a foundation named in his honor carries on his work of educating the world about the evils of Communism. Earlier generations of National Review readers remember him as one of the foremost of Europe's courageous anti-communists.
Posted at 05:21 PM

Feb. 5, 2003

PI = 3.2

[Dave Kopel]
On February 8, 1897, the Indiana House of Representatives, by a vote of 67-0, passed a bill declaring the value of pi to be 3.2. The bill did not pass the Indiana Senate. The Senators did not understand that the bill was incorrect, but they did understand that the subject was not appropriate for legislation. May modern legislatures display the wisdom of the Indiana Senate.
Posted at 01:42 PM


Feb. 3, 2003

MEDIA BIAS ON WAR PROTESTS AND SUVs

[Dave Kopel]
My new media analysis column for the Rocky Mountain News examines the media's egregious failure to inform readers about the Communists organizing the major anti-war protests. I also debunk New York Times claims that Bush is pushing a special tax break for SUVs.
Posted at 01:33 PM


Feb. 1, 2003

REID'S SENTENCING

[Dave Kopel]
Judge William Young:


Mr. Richard C. Reid, hearken now to the sentence the Court imposes upon you....This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and a just sentence. It is a righteous sentence. Let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before.....

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature.....And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice. ....You're no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders. ....

And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty and admit you are guilty of doing. And I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you. But as I search this entire record it comes as close to understanding as I know.

It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose. Here, in this society, the very winds carry freedom. They carry it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely....We care about it. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties.

Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms. Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. Day after tomorrow it will be forgotten. But this, however, will long endure. Here, in this courtroom, and courtrooms all across America, the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done. The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged, and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.

See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom. You know it always will. Custody, Mr. Officer. Stand him down.


Posted at 02:25 AM

SLAVERY IN LIBYA

[Dave Kopel]
The Libyan dictatorship, now ensconced as chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, is a supporter of the Sudanese slave trade, and allows the sale of Sudanese slaves in Libya. The anti-slavery group iAbolish is promoting a letter-writing campaign about this travesty. Don't expect Mr. Mandela to send any letters.
Posted at 01:42 AM

WANT PEACE? DEPOSE TYRANTS

[Dave Kopel]

"Manus haec inimica tyrannis
Einse petit placidam cum liberate quietem."


(This hand, enemy to tyrants,
By the sword seeks calm peacefulness with liberty.)
Algernon Sidney, Discourses on Government. This great statement is the Official Motto of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Posted at 01:28 AM

OF COURSE MANDELA SUPPORTS SADDAM

[Dave Kopel]
Nelson Mandela outperformed almost every modern head of state on the African continent by not attempting to anoint himself President for life. Nevertheless, his vicious anti-Americanism and support for Saddam Hussein should come as no surprise, given his long-standing dedication to Communism and praise for terrorists. The world finally saw that his wife Winnie, rather than being a saintly freedom-fighter, was a murderous thug. The events of 2003 are helping many Americans lose their illusions about the Old Europe; perhaps it is also time to discard the Old Media's fantasy version of Nelson Mandela, proud winner of the Soviet Union's Lenin Peace Prize.
Posted at 12:36 AM

SURRENDER MONKEYS WERE NOT ALWAYS THUS

[Dave Kopel]
My earlier post overlooked some important French military accomplishments. In 732, Charles Martel won one of the most important battles in world history, defeating Saracen invaders at Tours. Martel's grandson Charlemagne was one of the greatest military leaders of all time, unifying much of Western Europe under wise and (for its time) very free government. "France" derives from the word "Frank" which means "free" and there was a time when the Franks were the vanguard of freedom. The French tradition of being cheese-eating surrender monkeys is really a tradition of only a little less than two centuries. If the French would pay more attention to St. Joan and less to Jean-Paul Sartre, they might find the courage to regain their ancient gloire.
Posted at 12:20 AM


Jan. 31, 2003

THE HISTORY OF CHEESE-EATING SURRENDER MONKEYS

[Dave Kopel]
The Gauls put up a pretty good fight before getting beat by Julius Caesar, but them then on it's been pretty much downhill for the French militarily, as Silflay Hraka's weblog details quite humorously. Hraka makes a very unfair comment about Joan of Arc, but other than that, he's right on. He notes the absurdity of the French national anthem "To arms, to arms, ye brave! Th'avenging sword unsheathe!" being sung by a nation which never wins wars on its own, and whose most recent major war, the Algerian Rebellion, marked the first time since the Crusades that an Arab (non-Turkic) military beat a western army.


Jan. 30, 2003

RAVE ACT IN ANOTHER DISGUISE

[Dave Kopel]
In our column today, Glenn Reynolds and I pointed out how last year's failed "RAVE Act" has been snuck into Tom Daschle's omnibus crime bill, under the misleading title of "Crackhouse Amendments." Proponents of this oppressive law are also pushing it under the new "Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act," S. 226, sponsored by Joe Biden, Charles Grassley, Dianne Feinstein, and Joe Lieberman.
Posted at 11:25 PM

DEPT. OF JUSTICE ABUSE

[Dave Kopel]
Federal prosecutors in California are prosecuting Ed Rosenthal for cultivating marijuana. Amazingly, they are successfully preventing the jury from finding out that Rosenthal's activities were entirely legal under California's medical marijuana statute. This is an outrageous abuse of power, and contrary to due process and utterly inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment.


Jan. 28, 2003

MORE ON BOSNIA

[Dave Kopel]
A reader serving with our armed forces in Afghanistan writes with a correction for my Bosnia column yesterday, in which my co-authors and I called "Milosevic, the first head of state to face war-crimes charges." The reader points out that "Admiral Karl Doenitz was the head of the German government" between the announcement of Hitler's death (May 1) and the German surrender (May 7, 1945). Doenitz was tried at Nuremburg and served a decade in prison. The acts for which Doenitz was convicted (waging a war of aggression, and violating the law of war at sea) did not involve his short tenure as a head of state.

GUN LIABILITY VERDICT OVERTURNED

[Dave Kopel]
Last November, I wrote about a case in West Palm Beach in West Palm Beach in which a firearms wholesaler had been found civilly liable because a gun was used in a murder. Yesterday, the trial judge in the Grunow threw out the verdict. He ruled that because the jury had found that the gun was not defective, the wholesaler could not be liable for having sold it.


Jan. 24, 2003

RICHARD LAMM: ROE V. WADE MAY BE WRONG

[Dave Kopel]
As a freshman Colorado legislator in 1967, Richard Lamm sponsored what was then the most liberal abortion law in the nation: allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and physical and mental health (narrowly defined, in practice). Lamm, who was elected Governor three times, continues to strongly support broad abortion rights. Yet on the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, he writes: ""I think it might have been better to let states develop" abortion policy. "There's a question of whether to have nine people change such a dramatic thing is the wisest course of action."

As Glenn Reynolds and I have argued, federalization of the abortion issue is a terrible constitutional mistake. Our law review article argues that neither the federal law protecting abortion clinic entrances, nor the proposed federal law banning partial birth abortion are legitimate exercises of federal power to regulate "interstate commerce." More generally, we suggest that national unity is better served when the national government does not impose winner-take-all national policies on divisive social issues such as abortion, drugs, and guns.
Posted at 02:17 AM


Jan. 16, 2003


NORTH KOREAN GULAG

[Dave Kopel]
As MSNBC reports, North Korea's gulag rivals the monstrous creations of Stalin and Mao. Two hundred thousand people held as slave laborers in the gulag; they usually end up dead, sometimes as the victims of biological warfare experiments. Human Rights activists need to start encouraging the administration to take energetic steps to depose the tyrant sooner rather than later. The USSR was a nuclear power, but it couldn't survive the sustained determination of Ronald Reagan to destroy its communist regime. The people of North Korea suffer from a regime far worse than the 1980s Soviets, and the North Korean tyranny is orders of magnitude less powerful than the Soviets. It's long past time for Kim Jong Il to hang from a lamp post, and it's time for the White House to begin helping the people of North Korea depose him.
Posted at 02:58 AM

BUY PIZZA FOR ISRAELI SOLDIERS

[Dave Kopel]
If you'd like to deliver a morale-boosting, nutritious meal to the freedom-fighters on the front line of the war against terrorism, then PizzaIDF lets you send a pizza and soda to Israeli soldiers. Or you can send a package of dried fruit, hot soup, or hamburgers. Your gift also helps Israel's pizza parlors and other food stores, which are suffering from the lack of tourism resulting from the Palestinian terror campaign
Posted at 02:39 AM

NEW STUDY: BALLISTIC FINGERPRINTING DOESN'T WORK

[Dave Kopel]
Last year, an expert report by the California Department of Justice concluded that ballistic "fingerprinting" can't work -- in the sense that a large database of ballistic images from gun owned by law-abiding citizens would not help solve crime. California Attorney General Lockyer attempted to suppress the report, and ordered a new study to be conducted by European experts. That study, too, has concluded that Lockyer's scheme won't work. Again, Lockyer is attempting to hide the report from the public.
Posted at 02:11 AM

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

[Dave Kopel]
January 15 is the birthday of Dr. Edward Teller, the father of the American hydrogen bomb, and the great intellectual force behind missile defense. Other than Ronald Reagan and Harry Truman, few people deserve more credit for the fact that today the U.S.S.R. lies on the ash heap of history, and Eastern Europe is free.
Posted at 01:16 AM


Jan. 13, 2003

HATE CRIME LAWS

[Dave Kopel]
Ever since 1991, the Colorado legislature has rejected repeated efforts to amend Colorado's "Ethnic Intimidation" law so that it becomes a "Hate Crimes" law covering homosexuals. In a new monograph, I argue that laws granting special victim status on the basis of race, sexual orientation, or other Identity Politics classes are dangerous and divisive. They harm effective law enforcement, promote hoaxes, and undermine the equal protection of the law.
Posted at 02:04 PM


Jan. 10, 2003

NO PRIVATE CONFESSIONS?

[Dave Kopel]

Kentucky State Representative Susan Westrom has introduced legislation to abolish the legal confidentiality of statements made in confession to a priest (or by people of other faiths speaking to a minister, rabbi, etc.) According to Westrom's bill, "The privilege shall not extend to any communication relating to the neglect or abuse of a minor child." Should the bill become law, it will deter parents or other caregivers from seeking the help of priests and other religious counselors -- especially since aggressive social workers tend to define "neglect" very broadly.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights explains: "This bill does not touch tangentially on church-state relations—it cuts to the core. The sanctity of the confessional is one of the most important elements of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Indeed, it is impossible to fathom how the sacrament could operate if the government is permitted to penetrate the privacy of the priest-penitent relationship. At stake is both the religious liberty clause of the First Amendment and the establishment clause....the cases of child sexual abuse that have come to light have had nothing to do with information learned in the confessional."

The Kentucky bill -- and similar bills sure to be introduced in other states -- should be understood not simply as expressions of hostility towards religious freedom, but as important steps toward the total information state, in which all legal claims to privacy from state surveillance, such as the accountant-client privilege, are under attack.

 

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