March 17, 2010

Citzen Takes on Governator Over Gun Law

Second Amendment supporters should take note of a lawsuit filed in the Central California United States District Court.   Brian Baker is suing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the State of California to throw out the recently enacted California Assembly Bill 962

The law requires that all ammunition sales be made "... in a face-to-face transaction with the deliverer or transferor being provided bona fide evidence of identity from the purchaser or other transferee" and further requires the purchaser to provide a right thumbprint at the time of sale.

Baker's suit alleges these requirements are a de facto ban on internet and out of state purchases of handgun ammunition in violation of Commerce Clause of the Constitution and constitute "... an unwarranted and illegal restraint of trade."

Baker's suit also takes issue with the law's section which he alleges would prohibit internet or out of state purchases of replacements for some handgun parts and accessories by redefining ammunition:
"For purposes of this section, 'ammunition' shall include, but not be limited to, any bullet, cartridge, magazine, clip, speed loader, autoloader, or projectile capable of being fired from a firearm with deadly consequences. 'Ammunition' does not include blanks."
As we follow the progress of Baker's suit, the question looms large: Why was it necessary for Baker, a private citizen, to step forward and file suit to protect the rights of California's law-abiding gun owners?  Where are the major gun rights organizations?

The Case number assigned by the Clerk of the United States District Court, Central District of California is CV10 1843 DMG (JEMk).  As of this posting, it has not made it onto the Court website for easy access.  However, Baker posted his filing for reading on his blog.  

Major H/T to TownHall blogger, BrianR, for taking on what the big boys won't.

Dennis P. O'Neil

March 13, 2010

Through the Eyes of an Urban Camper

I try to live by the motto: “Refuse to have a bad day. Every day is a good day – some are just better than others.”  Lately however, each day is a struggle, not for survival, but for sanity in a world gone awry.  Perhaps most disheartening of all is knowing that my story is not unique in today's economy.  Maybe it would be better to start at the beginning.  After all, that is what beginnings are for.

Life was pretty good until that fateful day one year ago when the notice appeared, taped to the front door.  The house I had been leasing for over five years was going into a bank auction.  I had 10 days to clear the premises.  The absentee owner, after pulling out all equity in a booming housing market, had walked away from his mortgage payments when the market tanked. (A later check of public records showed he had taken out $60K in equity loans during the previous year. The house eventually sold for $80K less than he owed.)

Anyway, first came the mad scramble to move a three-bedroom house into a 10' X 15' storage facility.  Since that months rent payment had already been sent and cashed,  I didn't have funds enough for new accommodations until my next paycheck.  The dogs and I took to spending days at parks and sleeping in the truck overnight.  Two weeks passed before we found a new place.  Things were starting to look up again.  Then recession took firm grip on the throat of our nation.

Businesses faltered or just closed up.  Owners, faced with no work available for their employees, made tough choices.  My employer chose to keep as many on the rolls as possible, but cut schedules across the board to avoid mass layoffs.  Many complained, but I pointed out that they still had jobs, even if only part time.  Some threatened to quit and look for other work.  I wished them well and thanked them for their willingness to help by freeing up hours for the rest of us.  The short paychecks and mounting bills finally took their toll at the end of August.  The dogs and I were back out on the street.

Now, I was not new to this living on the street.  I went through a similar three-month exercise in the fall of 1996.  I learned the gas stations with restrooms in which to bathe, and the safer streets where I could overnight until the parks reopened in the morning.  I also learned which motels and hotels had guest laundries where I could wash and dry clothes, usually at less cost than commercial laundromats, as part of payday splurges for one night in a real bed and a long hot shower.

Everything was geared toward saving enough for more substantial shelter.  Even meal expenses were kept to a minimum, except for my animals who always got top drawer grub as reward for their loyalty.  The main thing I learned was attitude.  Instead of bemoaning my predicament, I chose to view it in the best light possible.  I still had a job, and my animals for companionship.  I refused to accept the brand of “homeless”, adopting the less pejorative self-description of “urban camper” instead.  I saw every day as a new adventure instead of another challenge. 

So it would be this time, or so I thought.  What I wasn't prepared for was the scope, depth, or duration of this economic downturn.  I have noticed distressing changes as unemployment continues to rise.

The faces have changed.  More and more out of work young men and women, even whole families, show up at the parks each day, seeking refuge from their daily plight.  Gone are the retirees who used to walk along lagoon pathways, play chess in the shade, or sit on benches feeding the birds. 

The retirees are now manning counters at fast food restaurants.  Life savings devastated, they wear name tags and paper hats for minimum wage in an effort to keep body and soul together.  Meanwhile a new generation populates their old haunts as homelessness continues to rise.

The mood has changed.  Confusion and agitation over finding themselves, many for the first time in their lives, without steady work and a nice house, have given way to anger and resignation.  Desperate fathers leave their wives and preschool children to wait in parks while they engage in futile searches for a job, any job, that might pay for the next family meal. 

Sometimes there is open resentment toward office workers who come to the parks during their lunches.  The newly dispossessed often view them as interlopers.  They react as if the office workers were out gawking at carnival freak shows of downtrodden.  Hopelessness is almost palpable as despair continues to rise.

Until this point, only a few select family and friends were aware of my situation.  So, why am I telling this story now?  Because it is important for others to be aware of the anger, resentment, and hostility brewing out of sight to polite society.  It is important for local, state, and national leaders to be aware of what their out-of-control deficit spending is doing to ordinary Americans. 

The people I see are not society's dregs.  They are, or at least were, the backbone of an energetic economy.  They are, or at least were, the guardians of a free society's principles.  They can be again, if given the chance.  I cannot predict an uprising or anarchy among these normally good people.  However, the seeds are sown.  Only time will tell if they are allowed to take root.

Dennis P. O'Neil

March 12, 2010

Deja Vu All Over Again

My Irish Catholic parents were understandably proud and excited about the election.  My father counseled me to listen to the handsome, charismatic young man elected to the highest office of our land.  I did listen, and was deeply move by his words:

Ask not what your country can do for you – Ask what you can do for your country.”
I took those words to heart.  Those words, to my parents' surprise and dismay, formed the original core of a conservative belief.  Imagine that, the words of a liberal Democrat senator inspiring the political journey of a conservative.  Yet, I understood those words as a simple directive: “Be self-reliant.”
Today, another young, handsome, charismatic, liberal Democrat senator prepares to become the President of the United States.  This has many conservatives searching for the next conservative leader – another Reagan – someone to deliver their message.  Others fret about what that message should be.
I offer no suggestions about who should carry the conservative message.  However, the message is ready, and has been for a very long time.  There was another orator from that same past era who already delivered the core message:
“Now, my fellow Americans, the tide has been running against freedom. Our people have followed false prophets. We must, and we shall, return to proven ways-- not because they are old, but because they are true.
“We must, and we shall, set the tide running again in the cause of freedom. And this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom.
“Freedom made orderly for this nation by our constitutional government. Freedom under a government limited by laws of nature and of nature's God. Freedom balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the slavery of the prison cell; balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the license of the mob and of the jungle.
“Now, we Americans understand freedom; we have earned it, we have lived for it, and we have died for it. This nation and its people are freedom's models in a searching world. We can be freedom's missionaries in a doubting world.”
That past dilemma described may seem eerily familiar in light of today's political developments.  Many have forgotten those words, still more have never heard them.  Most would be hard pressed to identify the speaker.  Yet, there is one enduring phrase from that same speech nearly everyone will recognize.  The pointed admonition that still applies:
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”  
There you have it.  The message and marching orders.  Stand ready for a long, hard battle to reclaim our country.

Dennis P. O'Neil

King's Ex! Lessons From the Park

The park area was already alive with activity on this warm July morning.  Arizona's fabled summer sun had yet to reach its skin-melting apex as the dogs and I sought refuge in cool shade at the base a large eucalyptus.  The grandchildren and their new friend flew a kite under the watchful eyes of Grandma and the little girl's mother.  I settled back to enjoy watching the world go by.

The temperature was a still bearable 90 degrees before beginning its inexorable climb into double digits.  Soon, the park would nearly empty during the midday heat, only to refill in late afternoon for an evening of barbecues, patriotic music and fireworks.  For now though, the sights and sounds of children at play filled this green oasis in a desert city.

Not far away, little girls played jacks on a sidewalk meticulously swept of any foreign particle which might affect the bounce of the ball.  Well away from the dainty young ladies, some boys chose to set up shop in a less pristine enclave devoid of concrete or grass.  Playing marbles “for keeps” from a circle scribed in the powdered dirt, they whooped and hollered as a player's favorite aggie fell victim to a well knuckled shot.

A paper bag and bits of cardboard formed the diamond for a pickup softball game.  The teams had only six players to each side. One of the batting team's players acted as catcher – actually, more as retriever of pitches until a ball was hit, then the pitcher became the person covering home plate.  There was no umpire, so there were no walks.  A batter either got a hit or struck out swinging.  Having only two outfielders caused another defensive problem.  Any ball hit past the outfield players became an almost automatic home run as an outfielder chased it down.  No ground rule double in this contest.

The rolling scrum moving toward my lair drew my attention.  A solitary youth bolted from the pack carrying what looked to be a volleyball.  The others quickly turned in pursuit until he threw to ball up and back over his head.  The former runaway then rejoined the group in chasing down the bouncing orb.  The cycle repeated several times as each person grabbing the ball ran as if being chased by the Devil himself, tossing away the ball just before being tackled.  Here was a game I recognized from my own preteen years, the outcome was inevitable.

From my distance I couldn't determine if it was bravado or terror as one runner, refusing to relinquish his prize, tried to run through the closing crowd.  He was quickly enveloped to a chorus of “Dog pile on the rabbit!”  The boys fell back in laughter and cheers as they unwound until the “rabbit” was no longer buried under a writhing stack of humanity.  The hapless “rabbit” stood to brush off dirt and bits of grass, then performed an end-zone dance and spike worthy of Neon Dion.  After a few minutes of rest, one daring soul snatched the ball, and the game continued.

Everywhere I looked, children engaged in the type of politically incorrect endeavors now prohibited in most schoolyards.  Little girls continually raising their own measure of success at jacks, with each pass more difficult than the last.  Little boys risking their own capital in that dirt circle for the opportunity to increase their holdings, putting their marbles where their mouths were, so to speak.  Batters swinging to succeed or fail on their own, with no free passes.  Outfielders hustling to make that put-out throw without benefit of a fence safety net or regulations designed to hobble their competition.

The roughhouse bunch, again coming my way, demonstrated a concept required for prevailing in life's conflicts.  There were times when people must turn and face their adversity.  The runner this time was quick and nimble, executing sharp turns to maintain his advantage on the pursuers.  A shoe came off during one of these maneuvers and he spun toward them with index fingers crossed.  “King's ex!”  The others obliged while he retrieved the wayward footwear and tied it firmly in place.  Once he was ready, they buried him.  Yes, even the budding warriors, engaged in mock combat, still had respect, chivalry, and a sense of fair play.

I was surrounded by Americana on our nation's birthday and couldn't help but think, “Children are such wonderful teachers.  Why can't we learn from them?”

Dennis P. O'Neil

Will Article III Remain Relevant?

Article III of the United States Constitution addresses the Judicial Branch of our form of government, defining the scope of, and limits to, the powers reserved for the Judiciary. For years we have heard about “activist judges legislating from the bench” as the left dragged their every losing cause before the courts, seeking to impose by judicial fiat what they could not accomplish through the ballot. Now that the left has seized power of the remaining branches of government, the courts may be the only remaining obstacle in their march toward socialist domination. Nothing makes this more clear than the events surrounding bonuses paid by companies covered in the “Wall Street” bailout.

The Obama administration and Congress are determined to push through “clawback” legislation against AIG. The legislation is targeted at those current and former employees of AIG who received bonus payments which Obama and Congress find offensive. The legislation seems to be in direct violation of the Article I Section 9 paragraph 3 which provides that: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law will be passed.”

“These clauses of the Constitution are not of the broad, general nature of the Due Process Clause, but refer to rather precise legal terms which had a meaning under English law at the time the Constitution was adopted. A bill of attainder was a legislative act that singled out one or more persons and imposed punishment on them, without benefit of trial. Such actions were regarded as odious by the framers of the Constitution because it was the traditional role of a court, judging an individual case, to impose punishment.” William H. Rehnquist, The Supreme Court, page 166.

Congress is trying to slip past that bill of attainder provision by broadening the language to encompass bonuses paid by any company receiving bailout funds. They contest that by not specifically naming AIG, the legislation does not target a limited populace and will pass Constitutional muster, a ploy that might just work. However, even the dystopia on Capitol Hill is constrained by the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

While the clear intent the legislation is punishment, Congress had to find a way around all those pesky “due process” restrictions. So they turned to that old Democrat standby, the tax code. This is not a new tactic. Their desire to redistribute wealth goes back to the post Civil War era with the federal income tax law of 1894. This first attempt at soaking the rich was struck down by the 1895 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a two percent federal flat tax on incomes over $4,000 unconstitutional (Pollock v. Farmer's Loan & Trust Co., 157 U.S. 429, 15 S. Ct. 673, 39 L. Ed. 759). The Court relied on Article I Section 9 paragraph 4 of the original Constitution which stated:
“No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.”

Stung by that setback, the Democratic party actually made passage of an amendment a plank in their platform for the 1896 election cycle. They succeeded in gaining passage in 1909, aided by conservatives who were caught up in an early form of “bi-partisanship”and mistakenly believed the amendment would fail in the States. In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified giving Congress the power to lay direct taxes upon individuals. It is within the framework this creature of the Democratic party that Congress now seeks its revenge.

Yet, there are still those darned contracts which allow bonuses in the first place. There are three recognized ways to break an existing contract – declare bankruptcy, declare the other party breached the confines of the contract, or declare the contract was legally flawed from the outset. Each of these requires adjudication in a court of law. The beast in DC is not content. Now, the administration is moving for legislation to force not only AIG, but other companies, including those not taking any bailout money, to change those contracts. The in terrorem effect of these proposals being that companies will “voluntarily” re-write contracts or suffer further government intrusion on their operations.

The Obama administration and Congress are embarking on an effort to usurp the Judicial Branch by legislatively voiding legal contracts, in order to make companies comply with their ideas about how a free market should work. To the Judiciary, they are saying, “Your services are no longer required.”

Dennis P. O'Neil

Originally posted at TownHall.com on March 22, 2009

March 11, 2010

Deep Beats a Warrior's Heart

I just finished reading What the Media Missed posted by Rob Banerjee. It describes a US Marine encounter with terrorist insurgents in Shewan, Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day. I found one statement in the enclosed article particularly moving, the significance of which, most who have not seen combat will fail to grasp:

“I wasn’t even aware of a lot of the rounds impacting near my position, because I was concentrating so hard on making sure my rounds were on target.”

There are sure to be those who question the actions of this outstanding young Marine – even going so far as to brand him some type of insensitive killing machine. They will be in error. Which bring me to the subject of this post.

I was once confronted in a newsgroup by an avid gun control proponent who raised the example of retired Marine, John Lovell, as reason to keep guns out of the hands of private citizens. Mr. Lovell foiled an armed robbery attempt, killing one perpetrator, and seriously wounding his partner in crime. 

The criminal's families were outraged, branding Lovell a vigilante. Family Of Subway Robbery Suspect Says Customer Shouldn't Have Pulled Trigger There were some in group who sided with the families. One poster even suggested that former combat troops be segregated for the “safety of society in general.”
The following was my reply:

Lost is the impact of that encounter on John Lovell. The article states Lovell is a retired Marine. Given his age of 71, I am guessing he started his military service in the mid to late 1950s. That would place him in uniform, and in harm's way, during U.S. Military activities in Indo-China and Southeast Asia. John Lovell is a warrior.
Warriors experience things that would make most polite society wretch in revulsion. Once separated, they long to distance themselves from those horrors, attempting to live their lives as unobtrusively as possible. They seldom discuss their military days except in general, usually amusing, anecdotes unrelated to their actual time in combat. If they do share, it is done almost exclusively one-to-one with a fellow warrior. This most often happens in some quiet corner of the VFW, where their terrible secret is safe from an unsuspecting civilian populace.
What is this burden they bear? What do they strive to protect? Fear. That most primal emotion roils just below the surface. This is not a normal everyday fear, such as fear of the dark, or fear of heights. They fear themselves. They know what they are capable of doing – what they can become. They struggle to subdue this anima lest that demon break free to cry, “Havoc!” Most warriors, in a moment of candor, will admit to taking a quiet, personal pledge upon removing their uniforms that final time: “I will never take another human life.”
Despite the protestations of the would-be robbers' families, John Lovell is no vigilante. Rather, he is a man whose training and instinct surfaced to save his life and that of the innocent employee. The actions of Donicio Arrindell and Fredrick Gadson forced Lovell to let slip his dogs of war.
Did Arrindell and Gadson get what they deserved?
Perhaps not by civilian standards where robbery is a less than capital crime. However, they placed Lovell in a situation with no alternative but to break that silent warrior's vow. For that unforgivable offense, the exacted price can be very steep.

I urge all to contemplate the finest and bravest our country has to offer. Honor the sacrifices they willingly make for our security. Let them live in a peace they have earned.

A Bright Shiny Nickel

My grandchildren first spotted the old guitar in a closet during one of their weekend stays. Now, I hadn't touched the long forgotten instrument in years, but they insisted I play for them. So I played, poorly, very poorly, yet that mattered little to them as we had fun singing nursery songs. Ever since, that relic has become a bond between us.

They are now learning to play that guitar themselves. My granddaughter was first to ask this weekend, so she gained temporary custody for an hour. I watched as she practiced, tiny fingers working to master Lemon Tree. Her older brother came to the study, trying to convince her to relinquish the guitar so he could play.

I should explain a bit about my grandson. He is a master negotiator for an eight-year old. The quintessential used car salesman in short pants. He perfected his craft taking advantage of his younger sibling. Today, he cajoled, pleaded, bargained – all to no avail. She was resolute about using her full hour. She had learned about some of his deals sounding too good to be true.

Three years ago, the children and I walked to the corner market for ice cream on a warm June morning. The little one decided to save her fudge bar and put it in the freezer. The boy wolfed his down on the way home. That afternoon, he asked her if he could have her treat. She told him, "No." I thought the matter was closed until I heard water running in the bathroom.

As any parent can attest, five-year-old boys are not known for spontaneous cleanup. I peered around the corner and saw he was busily washing and polishing a grubby coin. Something was afoot. He went back to his sister and conned her into trading her ice cream for a bright shiny nickel. Only later did she realize that nickel wouldn't buy another ice cream.

I tell this story because of two men in recent headlines. The parallels between these two men cannot be ignored. Both men are master negotiators whose charm and smooth talk gained them great followings. Each made promises involving distributing billions of dollars back to those who would invest with him. Both offered plans that are fatally flawed and cannot be sustained without taking money from some in order to pay others, constantly repeating the process while doling out small amounts to maintain an illusion. Think of it as a giant game of monetary whack-a-mole.

The similarities between plans offered by Bernard L. Madoff and Barack H. Obama are striking. It is too late for those who lost fortunes to Madoff's shenanigans. There is still time for Americans to tell Obama, “No.”

Unless of course, Americans would rather have a bright shiny nickel.