December 29, 2009

There be witches

In a copyrighted broadcast on December 21st, NPR reported on a death sentence handed by down by a Saudi court. The criminal was the Lebanese host of a popular television advice program in which he would sometime offer predictions of future events. The Arabic language program was broadcast from Beirut by satellite. Ali Hussain Sibat was apprehended as he traveled to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

So what was his crime? What unspeakable, heinous sin did Sibat commit that would justify capital punishment?


Sibat’s attorney says, "They took him to prison, and after that they took him to the court many times, asking him, you have to say that you have done something against religion, and after that we will release you and take you to your country." He admitted his sins, and was promptly sentenced to beheading.

A reasonable person would think that this must be an isolated case, and that such extremes would be rare. But as NPR reports, Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch says that such cases are on the rise in Saudi Arabia, and the religious police have arrested many Saudis and non-Saudis, Muslims and non-Muslims on sorcery charges.

Mr. Sibat, in following the advice of his captors, confessed that he consulted spirits to predict the future. Instead of releasing him they marched him in front of live television cameras and told him to confess again. He was then tried, his confession used against him, and sentenced to die. The Saudis did not respond to several requests for comments from NPR and other news organizations.

Whitson says that "You will never know on any given day whether the book you are reading or the words you are saying are going to be interpreted or used against you deliberately as a form of witchcraft".

Saudi Arabia has no penal code and the “crime” of witchcraft is not specifically defined. In each case the judge is left to decide if the charge is a crime. Most Saudi judges view people who believe in the supernatural as heretics and often sentence them according to their personal Sharia training.

The religious police headquarters in the Saudi capital of Riyadh has an entire department devoted to combating sorcery and witchcraft and regularly distributes pamphlets and DVDs. In one DVD, which is set to religious music, police are shown searching homes for signs of witchcraft.

Mr. Sibat’s case is by no means a unique example of the Saudi’s purposeful march into medieval times. Other cases include a Saudi man who was arrested for smuggling a book about witchcraft into the country, an Asian man accused of using “powers” to solve marital disputes, and a man of unknown nationality given a death sentence for “trying to learn magic.” An Egyptian pharmacist was executed in 2007 on a charge of sorcery.

In yet another case, a Eritrean national was convicted and sentenced to 20 month and 300 lashes on a charge of "charlatanry." The evidence was a leather-bound phone booklet with handwriting in the Tigrinya alphabet commonly used in his home country. The religious police called the phone book a "talisman.” The man was imprisoned for over double his sentenced time, then deported.

We should try to remember… these people are our allies.


December 28, 2009

Chicken Littleism

How Hysteria = a Win for Terrorists

About two years ago the Cato Institute’s Ben Friedman wrote an article in the Washington Times regarding what he called the Politics of Chicken Littleism, and how media hysteria and the use of the Precautionary Principle is giving the Terrorists just what they want. The goal of terrorism is to instill terror, and because of hysterical reporting and commentary surrounding even amateurish, failed terroristic efforts, the terrorists are winning.

Friedman identified some recent examples of the Principle’s application, such as the U.S. involvement in the Iraq war. The excuse for the war was that Saddam had WMDs, and the reactionary assault on Iraqi sovereignty was "necessary" as a "preventive measure." The reactionary definition of the Precautionary Principle as applied to the "War on Terror" could be summarized:

“…any threat to national security should be met with preventive action, regardless of cost or the remoteness of the risk.”

Keep in mind that bit about cost, then consider the unnecessary clamor over the “Underwear Bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

That the pre-boarding security systems failed is undeniable, but media hysteria and wingnut reactionism is playing right into the hands of terrorists. The delusional boy failed in his attempt at martyrdom (thanks to quick reacting fellow passengers) and is now talking his head off providing some (hopefully) good intelligence.

So this must mean that, in the end, the premptive transportation security system worked and terrorism failed, right?


A single, amateur terrorist failed, not because of the premptive systems we have instituted, but because of individual passengers who did not want to become victims. Terrorism came out a big winner.

As evidence, witness the reactionaries marching to the pulpit...

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, (R-Michigan) is the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, and on FOX News Sunday, Rep. Hoekstra suggested that President Obama was responsible for the security failures, and that Mr. Abdulmutallab's ability to board the flight was evidence that the administration doesn’t take preparedness seriously. "The threat to the United States is real. I think this administration has downplayed it," said Hoekstra.

Rep. Peter King (R-New York) got into the act as well, speaking on CBS's Face the Nation. “We do need the full-body scan, especially when you have countries like Nigeria, which have inadequate security to begin with; then you have passengers transiting in Amsterdam and coming here.”

Not to worry, fellas, awareness is heightened and additional security measures were being instituted before you could rush in front of the nearest camera, and even the innocent will pay the price for something that could have happened... but didn't.

The goal of terrorists is being realized thanks to a shrill media, pompous politicians and over-reacting bureaucrats. The terrorist act attempted by Mr. Abdulmutallab achieved its purpose without the taking of a single life, and now we'll be lucky if the TSA doesn’t require us to strip to our shorts and submit to a full-body, hands-on pat down and cavity search.

It may indeed be prudent to institute precautions in our efforts to protect people from terrorists, and that pre-boarding security screening is necessary, but to what extent do we allow the invasion? How much liberty are we willing to sacrifice? In every instance we must, in spite of the desperate warnings, consider the cost. One of America’s greatest wordsmiths, Benjamin Franklin, in a February 17, 1775 address to the Pennsylvania Assembly, observed that “…they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

You can put me on Ben's side when it comes to matters like these. Considering the rarity of success the terrorists have enjoyed, I am of the opinion that we have sacrificed quite enough of our freedom.


December 25, 2009

Apologies to Michael Shermer

The debate over healthcare reform, like just about everything these days in this highly polarized America, has become contentious. This time however, things are a bit different. The rhetoric has risen to a frenzied pitch and there is actual public violence like we haven’t seen since perhaps the Viet Nam protests. There are a good many talking points in this debate that are misleading - many outright lies - yet the masses are swallowing the bait and taking protest to the streets. So, with apologies to Michael Shermer, I will ask…

Why do people believe strange things?

In a survey and interview-based study published in a recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry, sociologists from four major research institutions concentrated on the most curious aspect of the 2004 presidential election: the strength, intensity and resilience of belief held by many of the Bush administration lie that Saddam Hussein was linked to the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

The paper, authored by researchers Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., a visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo; Monica Prasad, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology at Northwestern University; Andrew Perrin, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, addresses what it refers to as a "serious challenge to democratic theory and practice that results when citizens with incorrect information cannot form appropriate preferences or evaluate the preferences of others."

The study revealed that, although this belief influenced the election outcome, it did not result from as much pro-Bush propaganda as it did from the urgent need by many in this country to justify a war to which we were already committed. The findings illustrate possible reasons why some Americans form or accept false beliefs regarding Obama's citizenship, and in the healthcare debate.

The journal article, titled "There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam and Inferred Justification," calls unsubstantiated beliefs, a "serious challenge to democratic theory and practice," and the authors discuss how and why such beliefs continue to be maintained by so many voters for so long in the absence of supporting evidence.

Co-author Dr. Hoffman says that over the course of the 2004 presidential campaign, several polls showed that majorities of respondents believed that Saddam Hussein was either partly or largely responsible for the 9/11 attacks, a percentage that declined very slowly, dipping below 50 percent only in late 2003. "This misperception that Hussein was responsible for the Twin Tower terrorist attacks was very persistent, despite all the evidence suggesting that no link existed," Hoffman says. In the study a rather substantial sampling of voters reported believing in a link between Saddam and 9/11. The researchers presented the available evidence of the link, along with the evidence that there was no link, and then urged respondents to justify the incorrect belief. For all but one, the overwhelming evidence that there was no link left no impact on their arguments in support of the link.

Hoffman says "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning' (similar toconfirmation bias), which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe. "In fact," says Hoffman. "For the most part people completely ignore contrary information. [the study] demonstrates voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information."

So while pundits and politicians continue to blame the all-so-obvious misinformation campaigns of the Bush administration and FOX news, this study argues that premise and points to an individual or collective desire to believe in a pre-conceived worldview instead. While these deluded individuals point to the false authorities as support for the belief, it is the individual who is seeking confirmation.

As Hoffman says, "the argument here is that people get deeply attached to their beliefs," and that we humans form “emotional attachments that get wrapped up in our personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter. The problem is that this notion of 'motivated reasoning' has only been supported with experimental results in artificial settings. We decided it was time to see if it held up when you talk to actual voters in their homes, workplaces, restaurants, offices and other deliberative settings."

The same phenomena appear to be at work in this healthcare debate, with lies and hypocrisy bubbling from the bowels of advocates and opponents alike. Even as the bills have passed both houses we are seeing the talking heads still on the offensive. It don’t matter what the other side is for, I’m agin it…

The results of this study are rather dramatic, proving that irrespective of which political wing a person is affiliated, individuals exist in mass who are comfortable in their delusion and wishing to not to be confused by facts; almost all refusing to change positions even when confronted with the falsity of beliefs.

We need far more skeptics and many fewer sheep.

This missive was heavily plagiarized from a published interview with Dr. Hoffman, which can be found HERE.


December 22, 2009

Of Product Liability, Patents, and Forum shopping

Forum shopping is the practice of filing claims in “friendly” courts. This has been adopted by attorneys in an effort to get a case heard in the court which will provide a more favorable judgment. It has been long known that some courts are more plaintiff-friendly, and thus have become litigation magnets even when there is slim connection between the issue and the jurisdiction.

Lawyers seek courts where there is a track record of bias against defendants; often defendants located outside of the state or even the country. These courts have established records of providing rich awards. Personal injury lawyers seek out these jurisdictions and file cases there because they know they will receive a large reward, a favorable precedent, or both.

Former Virginia Supreme Court Justice Richard Neely described one of the reasons behind this phenomenon in his recent book The Product Liability Mess: How Business Can Be Rescued From the Politics of State Courts: "As long as I am allowed to redistribute wealth from out-of-state companies to injured in-state plaintiffs, I shall continue to do so. Not only is my sleep enhanced when I give someone else's money away, but so is my job security, because the in-state plaintiffs, their families, and their friends will reelect me.... It should be obvious that the in-state local plaintiff, his witnesses and his friends, can all vote for the judge, while the out-of-state defendants can't even be relied upon to send a campaign donation."

Drug maker liability

Nueces County, Texas was known as a plaintiff-friendly court, and it was in that court in February of 2003 that personal injury lawyer Mikal Watts filed the now infamous Baycol class action lawsuit. The case was tried more in the press than in the courtroom, but in the end the defense prevailed and there was a great brouhaha regarding the actions and inactions of attorney Mikal Watts.

In a May 03, 2004 interview with Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley, Watts stated, "I was feeding a lot of information to European and U.S. papers. ... It was part of my strategy to affect the stock price, which I was very successful at."

Watts was seeking $550 million, and refused to consider any other unless the defendant settled all 1,400 of his Baycol cases. Watts' efforts failed and judgment went to defendant, German drug maker Bayer. After learning that he could have settled early and received $250,000, 82-year-old plaintiff Hollis Haltom was stunned. “Watts thought he could make a killing,” but “I got nothing, not a penny.” As for the settlement, Haltom said: “The lawyer never told us. We might have taken it.”

At the time this was a rare instance of forum shopping failing to meet plaintiff’s expectations.

Applying forum shopping to gun laws

Multiple gun-related cases have been shopped to Judge Jack Bertrand Weinstein of New York’s Eastern District. Judge Weinstein is known to be very plaintiff-friendly in regard to firearms litigation, having been rather creative in his interpretations of liability laws. It was for this reason that the City of New York, in an effort to place blame for the city’s violence, unsuccessfully attempted to use public nuisance laws against gun manufacturers by filing in Weinstein’s court.

In City of New York v. Beretta, filed first in 2000 by the Rudy Giuliani administration, Weinstein ruled in favor of the City. Beretta appealed to the 2nd Circuit and in March of this year, dealing another blow to forum shopping, SCOTUS refused to reconsider the case.

Falling out of favor

Recently the clamor against the practice has reached a fever pitch, and the higher courts are listening. The 5th Circuit ruled earlier this month that chief judge David Folsom of the Eastern District of Texas abused his discretion in refusing to transfer Novartis's patent infringement case against Hoffmann-La Roche out of his jurisdiction. This is the third time since October 2008 en banc ruling in re Volkswagen that the 5th Circuit has granted a writ of mandamus and booted a patent case out of Folsom’s court.

Less than two weeks later it happened again. Another patent infringement case, Motiva LLC v. Nintendo Co Ltd et al, was filed in the Texas Eastern District by Texas lawyer Mark Lanier. Nintendo asked the court to transfer the case to the Western District of Washington, claiming the dispute had no connection to Texas. Nintendo is a Japanese company with an affiliate in Redmond, WA. Motiva is an Ohio company and no witness had any Texas connection. None of this mattered, as in June Eastern District Judge Leonard Davis denied Nintendo's request. Davis was overturned by the 5th Circuit.

In the mandamus order, the Circuit panel found Davis had "clearly abused his discretion" by refusing Nintendo’s request for change of venue, explaining that "this case features a stark contrast in relevance, convenience, and fairness between the two venues. ... No parties, witnesses, or evidence have any material connection to the venue chosen by the plaintiff."

Texas lawyer Edward Reines, of Weil, Gotshal & Manges has been following this issue closely, and told American Lawyer that the law governing venue change requests in the Eastern District of Texas has been transformed. "It's safe to say over the last two to three years that there has been nothing less than a sea change in the law on transfers," noting that the turning point was the 5th Circuit's 2008 en banc ruling in re Volkswagen.


December 21, 2009

Sustainable pleasure?

I can’t decide if this is too much information…

DUBLIN — When world leaders in Copenhagen argue for days in knife-edge talks to save the planet, what more fitting way to relieve the tension than an environmentally-friendly vibrator?

The global sex toy industry is worth an annual 15 billion dollars (around P699-billion), and uses up a mountain of batteries in the process, many of which end up as toxic waste.

But now one Irish company reckons they've got the solution to shake up the market: a vibrator they are calling the worlds first-ever "green technology sex toy".

The Earth Angel, described as "eight inches (20 centimeters) with a sleek white finish", is a wind-up vibrator which comes with a handle built into the bottom.

Janice O'Connor, the co-founder with her husband Chris, of Caden Enterprises which makes the gadget, says "I've only used it a couple of times, and it's fantastic. It's very intense, and sometimes, at the top level, depending on the person that's using it, it can actually be too intense sometimes."

…or too little.

[read the rest of the story HERE]

At about US$ 100.00, the Earth Angel is a bit pricey. As one blog commenter stated, the zucchini was likely one of the first truly green sex toys, and is a heck of a lot less expensive. Another commenter suggested mounting it to the stationary bicycle, so you could be “green and obscene at the same time.”

The product comes with an instructional video, but don’t get too excited. It only demonstrates the crank… not the cranking.


December 11, 2009

The right to bear arms

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is at the heart of the issue of gun control. The Second Amendment declares "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

To understand 2A, one must interpret the text, the historical background for its adoption, and the intent of the framers of our Constitution. Such a thorough investigation has not always been undertaken as the rights of gun owners have been debated in Congress, the courts, state legislatures and city halls.

History shows us that the struggle with England and King George prompted the American people to be very wary of a standing army, and of a supreme leader. The founders recognized that one man with supreme power and a large, armed force could easily be tempted into unjust action against the citizens. For that reason our political system contains the many checks and balances prohibiting one branch from dominating over either of the other two.

2A, therefore, spoke to the founder’s concern that the government should never gain power over the individual. The amendment was framed to protect individual citizens from oppression by government as much as to allow citizens a means of self-defense from criminals and invading armies alike.

A militia is the only safe form of military power that a popular government can employ; and because it is composed of the armed [citizens], it will prevail over the mercenary professionals who man the armies of neighboring monarchs.” [1]

Firearms have been a part of this nation since the time before we were a nation. To 16th century Americans, possessing firearms was common and necessary. There was resistance in that first Congress to the inclusion of 2A for this reason. That free firearm ownership should be enshrined in our constitution seemed unnecessary. “[T]his right had not been questioned, for it was viewed as a traditional privilege lying outside the Constitution...”[2] Citizens with firearms was so commonplace at the time that many of our founders were not concerned with codifying this right into law.

The situation is far different today. There is much controversy and the intent of the founders is up for debate. SCCOTUS has been an on again, off again friend to gun owners in this regard. The traditional view of free ownership of firearms was questioned in U.S. v. Miller (1939), when SCOTUS held that the amendment merely protects the right of states to form a state militia. Even before the Miller interpretation, Congress, state legislatures, and local governing bodies were passing laws that restricted the right to bear arms. Kentucky passed the first state legislation prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons, in 1813, and by 1993, firearms were regulated by approximately 23,000 federal, state, and local laws. [3]

State and local firearms laws vary widely. Some states prohibit the carrying of concealed handguns while others require permits for concealed carry. Three Chicago suburbs—Morton Grove, Oak Park, and Evanston—ban handgun ownership outright. Generally, firearms regulations have been more restrictive in large metropolitan areas.

While states base their power to control firearms on the police-power provisions of state constitutions, Congress derives its power to regulate firearms in the Commerce Clause, in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, of the U.S. Constitution. Under the Commerce Clause, Congress may regulate commercial activity between the states and with foreign countries. In reviewing federal legislation enacted pursuant to the Commerce Clause, SCOTUS has granted tremendous leeway. Congress may enact criminal statutes relating to interstate firearms transactions, and that body has utilized that leeway to a great extent.

In 1927, Congress passed the Mailing of Firearms Act, which banned the shipping by mail of concealable handguns, then followed this with the National Firearms Act of 1934, which placed heavy taxes on the manufacture and distribution of firearms. A few years later, Congress enacted the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, prohibiting unlicensed manufacturers and dealers from shipping firearms across state borders.

In 1968, following the assassinations of John Kennedy, Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy, public outcry prompted the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which repealed the Federal Firearms Act and replaced it with increased federal control over firearms, destructive devices (bombs, grenades, etc.) and explosive materials.

The attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981 and the shooting of his aide James Brady led to pressure for even more gun-control. It took them 12 years, but in 1993 Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which amended the 1968 GCA, requiring U.S. attorney general to establish a national instant background check system and immediately put into place certain interim provisions, including a waiting period, until the federal system became operational. These measure cast the burden upon local and state law enforcement, and the uproar and outrage was immediate.

Law enforcement across the country objected to the onerous burden of performing the required background checks. Some sued, and various district courts ruled the requirement unconstitutional. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit consolidated two of the cases and reversed these decisions, finding none of the Brady Act's interim provisions unconstitutional. The question was off to the Supreme Court.

SCOTUS, in Printz v. United States, (1997) reversed the Ninth Circuit, ruling that the interim provisions were unconstitutional. Justice Scalia believed that the interim provisions disturbed the separation and equilibrium of powers among the three branches of the federal government by transferring the President’s duty to administer enacted laws to Congress. The Brady Act "effectively transfers this responsibility to thousands of CLEOs [Chief law enforcement officers] in the 50 states," leaving the president with no meaningful way of controlling the administration of the law. Thus, according to SCOTUS, CLEOs could not be required to accept Brady Forms from firearms dealers.

In Gillespie v. City of Indianapolis, (1999), a former police officer, who had been convicted of domestic violence and lost his job, challenged the Brady prohibition of persons convicted of domestic violence offenses from possessing a firearm in, or affecting, interstate commerce. The Seventh Circuit found that Gillespie had standing to challenge Brady, noting that 2A was intended to ensure protection by a militia for the people as a whole.

SCOTUS, however, failed to find a reasonable relationship between ownership of a particular gun and the preservation and efficiency of a state militia, and ruled against Gillespie. Other lower federal courts have similarly held that 2A does not prohibit the federal government from imposing some restrictions on private gun ownership.

The next assault (pun) came in August 1994 when Congress passed. This act banned the manufacture, sale, and use of nineteen types of semi-automatic weapons and facsimiles, as well as certain high-capacity ammunition magazines.

A bit of a tide change came in 1995 when SCOTUS set some limits on congressional efforts to control guns with the landmark decision in United States v. Lopez. The Court ruled that Congress had exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause by passing the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, holding that such gun possession was not an economic activity that significantly affected interstate commerce, and therefore beyond Congress's power to regulate.

Large cities have always been at the forefront of the gun control effort, and in 1998 several brought lawsuits against the gun industry to recover mounting costs in law enforcement and health care. Mayors from New Orleans, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Philadelphia hoped to emulate the success of the tobacco settlements. In February 1999 they were encouraged when a federal jury returned the first-ever verdict holding gun makers liable for damages caused by the use of their products in a crime. But as many more cities considered filing suits, the gun industry fought back with lobbying and launched preemptive strikes in state legislatures against future lawsuits.

Many of the lawsuits were dismissed. The gun industry enjoyed two victories in 2000 as judges dismissed suits brought by the cities of Philadelphia and Chicago. A judge in the Cook County Circuit Court dismissed Chicago's claim because Chicago had failed to prove that gun manufacturers were responsible for public costs resulting from criminal gun violence. Likewise, a Pennsylvania judge dismissed Philadelphia's lawsuit because under the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act—for which the gun industry lobbied—the state of Pennsylvania has the sole authority to regulate the industry.

State and federal appellate courts have generally held in favor of gun manufacturers as well. The California Supreme Court, in Merrill v. Navegar, Inc., (2001), held that gun manufacturers cannot be held responsible when their products are used for criminal activity. The closely watched case stemmed from a 1993 shooting rampage in a San Francisco office tower that left eight people dead and six wounded.

The Third Circuit, in Camden v. Beretta, (2001), upheld the dismissal of a suit brought by Camden County, New Jersey accusing several gun manufacturers of creating a public nuisance and acting negligently in the distribution of handguns. The Third Circuit also upheld the dismissal in Philadelphia v. Beretta.

Over just the past few years we have seen some turnaround in this debate, and honest citizens are beginning to see some light. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), SCOTUS held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. The Court based its holding on the text of the Second Amendment, as well as applicable language in state constitutions adopted soon after the Second Amendment.

Heller recognized a right to keep and bear arms in self-defense, which logically presupposes some legal right to self-defense. Justice Scalia writes of a "right to self-defense" in terms that raise it to constitutional stature. "That of the nine state constitutional protections for the right to bear arms enacted immediately after 1789 at least seven unequivocally protected an individual citizen's right to self-defense is strong evidence that that is how the founding generation conceived of the right."

The U.S. Supreme Court has set a date to hear another landmark civil liberties case that will determine whether 2A prohibits state and local governments from enacting stiff anti-gun laws. Oral arguments in the lawsuit, McDonald v. City of Chicago, will be held on the morning of March 2, 2010. A decision is expected by late June or early July. Even gun control advocates are predicting a win for gun owner rights.

The intent of the founders when “the right to bear arms” became an enumerated right, obviously, was to ensure an individual’s ability to protect life and property. The rights of the people should not be subject to the whims of those with little understanding of, or lack of regard for the history of our country.


[1] Nesbit, L. 1990. Gun Control Debate: You Decide. New York: Prometheus Books.

[2] Hook, D. Gun Control: The Continuing Debate. Washington: The Second Amendment Foundation, 1992. Out of print, available used only.

[3] Dolan, E., and Margaret M. Scariano. 1994. Guns in the United States. New York: Watts.


American Civil Liberties Union. 1996. The ACLU on Gun Control.

Dunlap, C. 1995. "Revolt of the Masses: Armed Civilians and the Insurrectionary Theory of the Second Amendment." Tennessee Law Review 62.

Gottfried, T. 1993. Gun Control: Public Safety and the Right to Bear Arms. Millbrook Press.

Kopel, D., et al. 2003. Supreme Court Gun Cases. Phoenix, Ariz: Bloomfield Press.

Lock, P. 1999. Pervasive Illicit Small Arms Availability: A Global Threat. [PDF] Helsinki, Finland: European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, Affiliated with the United Nations.

Lott, J. 2000. More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws. 2d ed. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

McCoskey, W. 2002. "The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not be Litigated Away." [PDF] Indiana Law Journal 77 (fall).

Zelman, A. et al. 2001. Death by "Gun Control": The Human Cost of Victim Disarmament. Hartford, Wis.: Mazel Freedom Press.

National Rifle Association Website.


December 10, 2009

Of Anniversaries and the Rights of Man

This blog turns one year old today. It began out of frustration. I enjoy writing, and was encouraged to submit some of what I’d penned for publication. Never got a bite, so with further encouragement I turned to blogging. Reading back on my own missives I think maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick on the trigger, but I still like the first piece I published.

My first piece was a memorial to the human rights movement, and a tip of the hat to those who have fought for what I called (with apologies to Thomas Paine) “The Rights of Man”. The post was timed to coincide with 60th anniversary of United Nations General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10, better known as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So today is the resolution’s 61st.

Today is International Human Rights Day. The United Nations officially came into existence at the end of World War II, on October 24, 1945, with a mission to preserve world peace and security; develop friendly relations between nations; work toward solving world economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems; and to protect and promote respect for human rights and freedoms.

The UN’s definition of human rights is “those rights which are inherent in our nature and without which we cannot live as human beings.” “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” These is the first statement found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet today, the fight against discrimination remains a daily struggle for millions around the globe. Americans take our inherent rights for granted, but many in the world continue to have what we consider basic denied. In the 1948 Declaration, the UN listed the basic human rights:

1. Right to life and liberty

2. Right to freedom of movement

3. Right to equality before the law

4. Freedom of opinion and expression

5. Freedom of assembly and association

6. Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion

7. Right to be recognized as a person before the law

8. Right to presumption of innocence until proven guilty

9. Right to appeal a conviction

10. Freedom of choice in whom a person marries

11. Freedom from discrimination based upon race, sex, color, national origin, or language

12. Right to self-determination

13. Right to wages sufficient to support a minimum standard of living

14. Right to equal opportunity for advancement

15. Right to equal pay for equal work

16. Right to paid or otherwise compensated maternity leave

17. Right to form unions

18. Right to strike

19. Right to free primary education

20. Right to accessible education at all levels

21. Freedom from exploitation of children

The list of human rights originally enumerated in 1948 have been expanded over the last three-score years, and now includes new issues, such as a nation’s right to develop; capital punishment; children in armed conflicts; compensation of victims; disability; expanded discrimination based on HIV or AIDS; enforced or involuntary disappearances; environment; impunity; indigenous peoples; migrant workers; peacekeeping operations; the sale of children, terrorism; and war crimes.

TRIVIA: The UN recognizes six official languages. Do you know what they are? (answer at the end)

The first UN Prize in the Field of Human Rights was awarded in 1968, posthumously to American human rights activist Eleanor Roosevelt, who was active in the formation of numerous institutions—most notably the UN, the United Nations Association and Freedom House. She chaired the committee that drafted and approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

There were 48 original members of the UN, and the vote on the Declaration of Human Rights was 48-0. There are 192 member nations today, and one must wonder, if the same resolution were voted on today… just how much consensus we would find. So we can debate the effectiveness of the UN, but the founding goals were admirable.

This year marks the 61st anniversary of the adoption of the UDHR. The theme for International Human Rights Day 2009 is “Embrace Diversity; End Discrimination.” Human Rights Day this year will focus on non-discrimination.

Discrimination lies at the root of many of the world’s most pressing human rights problems. No country is immune from this scourge. Eliminating discrimination is a duty of the highest order.” Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Another admirable goal…


United Nations 24-Hour ‘Hot Line’ for Reporting Human Rights Violations

A Summary of United Nations Agreements on Human Rights

Human Rights Watch

About UNICEF: Who We Are

Bill of Rights Day

Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

United Nations Fact Sheet on Human Rights

The United Nations and Human Rights

United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights: Background

The six official languages of the United Nations are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish