Harden the targets

By Scott Weiser

Two teenage middle-school students from Sabin Middle School in District 11 have been arrested for allegedly planning an armed attack on the school based on a “kill list” they discussed on social media. Police spokesperson Lt. Howard Black said in a press conference that the suspects “had the ability to control, potentially, some of these weapons.”

On April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, two armed high school students walked in through unsecured doors while the School Resource Officer was absent and killed 13 people.

Thirteen years after Columbine, on December 14th, 2012, a killer shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six adults. While the school kept the front doors locked during the school day to control access, the foyer was not constructed entirely of bulletproof glass, which allowed the killer to shoot out a tempered-glass side panel window and gain entry.

The only person in the school with a gun was the killer, and it took 14 minutes before police entered the building, some five minutes after the shooting stopped with the suicide of the killer.

Failures in security planning, protocols, response and physical hardening all contributed to the deaths in these incidents.

Outrage over such violence is to be expected, but effective solutions are hard to come by.

One of the most effective solutions is the willingness of the public, parents and school kids to report suspicious activities. That’s what stopped this potentially deadly attack at Sabin Middle School. Vigilance is the best way to intervene, before a plan can be put into action. This incident is proof positive that a well-planned systematic approach to detecting, evaluating and responding to threats quickly is absolutely necessary and highly effective.

Physical hardening is more difficult but just as necessary. It is expensive to replace regular classroom doors with bulletproof doors that can be secured from the inside. It’s expensive to install automatic gates or doors on hallways that can be closed remotely to compartmentalize the school. It’s expensive to install systems that monitor entrances to the school to ensure that doors are not propped open. It’s expensive to armor the front desk to give employees cover. It’s expensive to install a bulletproof foyer that can be locked remotely to prevent entry and trap an intruder until the police arrive.

But these measures could have saved lives at Columbine and Sandy Hook. District 11 has taken these threats seriously, but budget issues have compromised student safety.

Devra Ashby, Public Information Officer for District 11 says, “In District 11 we’ve installed locked doors with intercom/camera-only access at the front doors of all elementary and middle schools. All exterior doors at elementary and middle schools in the District are locked. At high schools, visitors must enter through the main entrance and receive the appropriate badge.”

“Students and staff at each D11 facility must practice monthly lockdown, shelter in place and evacuation drills,” She says, “Also, the District has a partnership with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office called Operation Safety where a plain clothed deputy will try to access the school. If they are able to get in without someone stopping to ask why they are there, actions to strengthen the schools security points are taken. We have updated our security camera systems in all of our schools but seven. The remaining seven will be completed this year.”

She goes on to say “All Middle School SRO’s were reduced during the 2010-2011 school year. This reduction was a result of the CSPD’s budget cuts. District 11 has five SRO’s funded from our general fund totaling $310,000. There is a sixth SRO position that is grant funded.”

While no teachers or school staff are presently armed, Ashby says, “Currently in District 11, only security personnel are armed, and only on a voluntary basis. They have to take law enforcement’s test to carry a weapon, and currently 32 security staff members are armed.”

While physical hardening and armed first responders may be expensive, can that possibly be a rational excuse for not making every possible effort to physically secure the safety of our children while they are at school?

 

 

 

 

School vouchers can pay for religious schooling

By Scott Weiser

One of the most often heard complaints about school vouchers is that they will be used to unconstitutionally “fund religious education.” Anti-religious and pro-public school objectors to vouchers claim this is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. But this is merely a stalking-horse for their real agenda, which is to preserve the monopoly of public schools receiving the lion’s share of state education funding.

Objectors don’t like vouchers because they threaten the jobs of public school teachers and administrators and they threaten to shut down ineffective public schools that cannot get the job done. The entrenched bureaucracy of our public school system doesn’t like the notion of having to compete with charter, private and religious schools for student dollars. They want to keep their jobs secure by controlling where the state education funds can go regardless of whether they are providing students with the best possible education at the lowest price, which is what free-market competition for voucher funds will produce.

With state money being given directly to the student to use at any accredited school they choose, including a religious school, public schools will be on the hot seat and will have to up their game if they hope to keep students who will be able to pick the school that best suits their educational needs.

When Douglas County instituted a voucher program in 2011 that did not explicitly exclude voucher funds from being used by parents to pay for their kid’s education in a religious school, the program was immediately challenged. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the program violated the anti-religion Blaine Amendment language of the Colorado Constitution that flatly prohibits any public money going to religious schools.

While the case was on appeal to the United States Supreme Court, the Court ruled in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer that a church could not be denied benefits from a government program that provided recycled rubber playground surfacing to protect children against injury. The Court said that denying a generally available public benefit to a religious entity only because of the entity’s religious status is “odious to our Constitution.” The Court then sent the Douglas County case back to the Colorado Supreme Court for reconsideration consistent with the Trinity Lutheran decision. The Colorado Court has yet to rule.

The question of the constitutionality of public money being directed to religious schools by the recipients is settled law that completely repudiates the complaints of voucher opponents. In 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court in Zellman v. Simmons-Harris wrote “Three times we have confronted Establishment Clause challenges to neutral government programs that provide aid directly to a broad class of individuals, who, in turn, direct the aid to religious schools or institutions of their own choosing. Three times we have rejected such challenges.”

The Court’s reasoning is simple. The First Amendment says that government itself is prohibited from advancing religion because to do so threatens an “establishment” of a state religion by favoring or disfavoring one or another religion. But the Court has repeatedly held as constitutional that the choice of where to spend aid once granted lies with the beneficiaries and their private choice of where to spend it. The Court says “We have repeatedly recognized that no reasonable observer would think a neutral program of private choice, where state aid reaches religious schools solely as a result of the numerous independent decisions of private individuals, carries with it the imprimatur of government endorsement.” This has been the case for at least 15 years.

The ruling in Trinity Lutheran serves to invalidate Colorado’s Blaine Amendment language, upon which the Colorado Supreme Court relied for its original ruling. Trinity Lutheran, combined with Zellman, stands for the proposition that because Douglas County’s voucher program provides a general public benefit to all eligible students, Colorado cannot discriminate against the private use of voucher funds to pay for education at a religious school.

This repudiation of the Blaine Amendment language by the U.S. Supreme Court is a strong move away from the bigoted anti-religious beliefs and practices of the past that have facilitated educational and religious discrimination for a century and a half.

 

 

The right to discriminate keeps the peace

By Scott Weiser

Some incidental impacts on religious belief such as paying income tax are permissible. But when the law forces people to relinquish their religious belief in order to participate in public life, it is repugnant to the foundations of the nation and our laws.

Gay marriage has been held to be something that government cannot and should not forbid for reasons of equal protection under the law and mandatory government religious neutrality. There remains a fundamental divide between those who believe that gay marriage is morally acceptable and those who have firm religious and moral convictions that marriage is a sacred covenant handed down by God as between one man and one woman that cannot be extended to gays. Those who hold this belief cannot be forced into associating with gay marriages any more than gays can be forced into association with religions that do not support their beliefs.

The First Amendment protects the right of both groups to hold these disparate beliefs. Each is required peaceably tolerate the exercise of those beliefs by the other. Each group is to keep to itself and refrain from interfering with the beliefs and practices of the other.

That’s what “discrimination” actually means with respect to the First Amendment rights of freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We all have the right to peaceably refuse association with others and decline to speak on their behalf. This includes the right not to be compelled to serve others in violation of our religious beliefs.

One person may discriminate against Christians by refusing to associate with them. Another may discriminate against outlaw biker gangs by refusing to associate with them. Someone else may discriminate against Broncos fans by associating only with Steelers fans. Yet others may discriminate against gays by refusing to associate with them.

The permutations of constitutionally protected discrimination are literally endless. Refusing to force people into unwilling association with others by government mandate has for most of our history been one of the bulwarks of our liberties and perhaps one of the most important safety valves in preserving public peace and order.

The protection of the right to discriminate is and must be jealously guarded because forcing people into unwanted associations is a prime cause of conflict and violence in any society. Any attempt to force associations carries with it a clear and present danger of fracturing the delicate balance of mutual tolerance and producing conflict and violence. Therefore great care must be exercised when infringing on the right to discriminate.

Like every other right the right to discriminate is not absolute, but only the most compelling need on the part of government to force such associations can be countenanced, and then only when the forced association constitutes the least intrusive way of achieving a legitimate, necessary governmental purpose.

The effects of forcing people into unwanted association are particularly notable today, where intolerance for diversity of opinion and demands for forcible association have manifested in social and political polarization that is spiraling down into precisely the sort of public disorder and violence that our pluralistic and mutually tolerant society was created to prevent. The need is one of careful legislative and judicial balancing the various interests involved in order to protect the tolerant plurality of belief our nation is founded upon.

Religion most often consists of a set of beliefs about the nature of the universe combined with a moral code to guide believers in their associations with one another. But that’s not the only definition of religion. Religion is also defined as “something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience.” This non-theistic definition perhaps better describes the important place that individual moral beliefs hold in our society than do the usual theistic references to the commandments of a deity.

That which people follow devotedly as a matter of ethics or conscience can easily become an ideological battleground. When diversity of opinion and belief are no longer mutually and peaceably tolerated, all too often people become willing to lay down their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor on an actual battleground littered with the casualties of ideological intolerance.

 

 

The roots of our social discord

By Scott Weiser

America is suffering through a paroxysm of social and political discord unlike anything seen since the Vietnam War protests. Ideological polarization has led to increasing levels of violence in the streets and to the division of our society into two distinct and seemingly intractable hostile camps. This pattern is often seen as a prelude to social collapse. We need look no further than Venezuela to see the terrible results of unhealed social division.

To understand what is happening and have any hope of correcting it, we need to examine the root causes of our present social divide.

There are two predominant forms of social organization seen in the world today: Individualism and Collectivism. Both derive primarily from a third: monarchy. The historic condition of humanity for many thousands of years has been the unquestioned rule of a monarch over his people.

Individualism and Collectivism are the natural opponents of monarchy. Both express the general objective of societal self-determination over rule by an individual. The difference between the two however is in who takes the place of the monarch when it comes to the governing of society and to whom the individual owes fealty.

Collectivism replaces the monarch with, as Karl Marx puts it, the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” which is to say majoritarian totalitarianism. Individualism replaces the monarch with the individual as sovereign.

But as the Declaration of Independence says, governments are instituted among men to secure the fruits of liberty. Government is a necessity in human culture. Anarchy isn’t a useful model of social organization. The question becomes one of social participation and how it is viewed and regulated.

If you place the philosophical goals of Collectivists such as Socialists, Liberals and Progressives side by side on a list with those of Individualists such as Libertarians, Republicans and Conservatives they are practically identical, at least insofar as the goals of securing the life, liberty and happiness of the average citizen is concerned. In this we are not so far apart. But there are some important fundamental differences.

We as Americans do not substantially differ in our desire for peace, prosperity, justice, health, welfare, liberty, community and safety for all. But today we differ radically in how we believe those goals can best be achieved.

The difference can be simply stated as the polar opposite individual internal beliefs of “I owe” versus “I am owed.”

Collectivists have an “I am owed” internal belief that society owes them what they need. They believe that compulsion is the only way to obtain what they need and to achieve fairness and equality in society. Collectivists take the jaundiced view of human nature that it cannot be trusted to act altruistically or charitably. Therefore everyone must be forced by the collective to fulfill the “I am owed” needs of others. This is exemplified by Karl Marx’s creed “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Individualists on the other hand have an “I owe” internal belief and a desire for fairness and equality created and served by natural human instincts that manifest as voluntary social cooperation and contribution to the common good. This is exemplified by President John F. Kennedy’s quote “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Collectivists also believe that social equality and prosperity are a zero-sum game; that the success of one person requires the failure of another. If one person has more wealth or higher social standing than another it must have been stolen. This is seen in the present “social justice” demands for redistribution of wealth to achieve equality of outcomes.

Individualists believe in the unlimited nature of both wealth and social standing and that equal opportunity means the opportunity for anyone to strive for social and economic advancement and success without social or legal barriers being deliberately erected to frustrate the attempt.

True equality is not created by the equally penurious outcomes that are the inevitable consequence of Collectivist conceits. True equality comes through individual effort, voluntary cooperation and mutual support spurred by the natural human attributes of charity, altruism, compassion and rational self-interest.

 

EMP attack by North Korea is a grave danger

By Scott Weiser

North Korea now has the technology to bring America to its knees. It has already launched intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States. The most recent launch flew directly over Japan. Now Kim Jong Un evidently possesses a working thermonuclear warhead.

According to a source in Asia it is believed that the primary obstacle to a targeted, precision, low-altitude nuclear attack on a city has been the lack of heat shielding to protect the warhead on its reentry into the atmosphere. Observations of recent North Korean missile tests indicate that this may no longer be a problem.

Worse is that North Korea has almost certainly achieved the ability to destroy most of America’s technology in an instant without needing re-entry heat shielding. The Wall Street Journal reported on Sept. 2nd that North Korea has for the first time openly threatened to use an EMP weapon. This threat would be consistent with Kim Jong Un’s repeated rhetoric that he can perpetrate a crippling nuclear catastrophe in America. With North Korea’s lack of missiles and warheads a surface strike on the US, while certainly a catastrophe, would hardly cripple the United States.

But an EMP warhead doesn’t have to reenter the atmosphere to deliver a devastating blow. Detonated 200 to 300 miles over the central U.S., a single device has the capacity to wipe out the entire electrical grid and most computer infrastructure.

Nuclear weapons produce an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) when detonated. This pulse is strong enough fry the huge high-voltage transformers that serve our electrical grid, which would shut it down instantly. It could take years to restore the electrical grid alone.

These transformers are custom-manufactured and take years to build. There are no backups waiting to be installed. Government reports on the EMP threat have for decades been reporting that we are woefully unprepared to deal with an EMP event, which includes not just an attack but also includes a massive solar flare that can have the same sort of effects.

Such an attack would destroy computers, cell phone systems, emergency services radio systems, modern automobiles and trucks, industrial computer control systems and even emergency back-up generators.

Without power to operate water systems and damage to pumps and control systems that filter and deliver drinking water to cities nationwide, deaths from lack of water are certain and large cities will become uninhabitable. Destruction of food harvesting, processing, distribution and transportation systems would create widespread famine and starvation within months.

In the early 2000s, during a brief thaw in relations with Russia, the U.S. Government’s EMP Commission went to Moscow and was told that not only had the Soviet Union handed over a design for a super-EMP weapon to North Korea, but also that two of the scientists in charge of the Soviet Union’s EMP research were themselves in North Korea. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that Kim Jong Un has been working to perfect an EMP weapon.

In an interview at the Western Conservative Summit with Frank Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy he said, “What we were told were failures in terms of the five nuclear tests that the North Koreans have done, because they were relatively low yield or at least low seismic signature, could well be explained by what is a low-blast, high gamma-ray design which is exactly what a super-EMP weapon is.”

A few days ago a much larger seismic signature was detected in North Korea that likely confirms Kim Jong Un’s claim to an operative high-power thermonuclear device.

The United States can no longer ignore this threat, something it’s been doing for more than a decade now. In the short term our anti-ballistic missile defense systems must be deployed and enhanced to provide the best chance of intercepting and destroying an incoming missile and diplomatic efforts to force China to put a leash on North Korea or face a trade embargo are needed.

In the long term, Congress needs to squarely face the EMP issue and begin a program of hardening our electrical grid and critical infrastructure against EMP damage caused by a bomb or by the sun.

 

 

Facing the hard truths of medical care

By Scott Weiser

The most difficult issue we face in discussing health care is the often-ignored truth that no person’s exercise of their rights can impose on others any obligation other than benign tolerance of the peaceable exercise of those rights.

When someone proclaims that there is a “right to health care” they are mostly correct. We have the right to seek out health care. Government cannot prohibit this quest nor can it prohibit us from obtaining it…if it is available. But that does not give anyone the power to compel anyone else to provide or to pay for it.

Liberals love to trot out the hoary old canard that because we socialize the costs of military, fire and police protection we can and must therefore socialize the cost of everything else, including health care. The truth is that we collectivize funding for military, fire and police protection because they combat common enemies that if left unchecked damage the whole community. Short of communicable diseases however, health problems directly affect only the individual and the indirect effects on others do not make one person’s poor health a common enemy like fire, crime or invasion.

Your health care needs are largely dictated by your exercises of freedom and by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. You may sit at home and eat Cheesy Poofs and get as fat as Eric Cartman and have a heart attack or a stroke, or you may not. You may break your spine bicycling and require expensive care for the rest of your life, or you may not. You may suffer from a genetic defect that can’t be blamed on anyone, or you may simply be unlucky. All are unfortunate consequences of living that society is not obliged to indemnify you against.

There is a good reason for this. Granting society the power to indemnify your exercise of individual liberty is granting it the power to infringe upon that liberty. If taxpayers are compelled to pay for the medical consequences of your choices or random chance, then taxpayers justifiably must have the power to compel you not to make lousy lifestyle choices that might end up costing them money. Fair is fair, after all.

Do we really want to grant government the power to tell us that we cannot go rock climbing or motorcycle racing or that we cannot smoke or eat a greasy cheeseburger? Real liberty is your right to choose to take risks and to live in freedom. You get to take risks because our system burdens only you with consequences of your life.

We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but we do not have the right to burden others through the exercise of those rights. We are free to live our lives as we please but that requires us to accept the consequences of freedom without complaint. It also requires us to respect the equal rights of others to live their lives in freedom without being compelled to serve our economic needs.

We all have our own economic burdens to deal with, and what each of us works to earn is ours and ours alone. The socialist notion that we owe our lives, our labor and our money to others “according to our ability” and that others may compel us to labor and sacrifice on their behalf “according to their need” has no place in our culture or society.

But that doesn’t mean that the poor, the ill and the unfortunate are unworthy of compassion or assistance. Americans are the most generous people on earth when it comes to giving to help the needy. We are champions of compassion, altruism, charity and rational self-interest and unstinting in our desire to help others. But that charity and altruism cannot be constitutionally made compulsory. Doing so destroys our right to liberty and binds us into involuntary servitude to others, which is prohibited by the 14th Amendment.

Those who need help can ask for it and we will respond to that need, but they cannot be allowed to use the inherent force of government to compel us against our will to do so.

Anti-gun academics are liars

By Scott Weiser

The mendacity of anti-gun academics apparently knows no bounds. A couple of weeks ago notorious anti-gun academic and law professor John Donohue of Stanford University produced another in a long list of self-serving screeds disparaging the rights and lives of law-abiding citizens who choose to carry concealed weapons. Donohue has published numerous anti-gun articles and op-eds in years past, and ups the ante with a “synthetic control” working paper that claims that his newest speculations have eliminated “any suggestion of benign effects on crime from the adoption of RTC laws and consistently shown evidence that RTC [Right to Carry] laws increase murder and/or overall violent crime.”

In the conclusion the paper states, “There is not even the slightest hint in the data that RTC laws reduce violent crime. Indeed, the weight of the evidence from the panel data estimates as well as the synthetic controls analysis best supports the view that the adoption of RTC laws substantially raises overall violent crime in the ten years after adoption.” (Emphasis added)

That is a flatly false statements and Donohue knows it. This is the fake news message being propagated by liberal anti-gun press organs like Vice Media, which trumpets a headline about the report saying “The Good Guy with a Gun Theory, Debunked.”

Donohue’s research does not show that RTC laws “increase murder and/or overall violent crime” at all. The actual data, which includes seminal research by RTC advocate John Lott, and Donohue’s own graphs continue to show precisely the opposite: more guns, less crime. What Donohue claims is nothing more than his opinion that factual reduction in violent crime rates since 1996 would have been perhaps 15 percent greater if RTC laws had not been enacted. To avoid a charge of plain academic fraud Donohue admits this, saying “our analysis suggests that Texas would have experienced a more sizable violent crime decline if it had not passed a RTC law.” (Emphasis added)

But after burying that weasel-worded disclaimer deep in the statistical wonk, he flatly states that violent crime increased after RTC laws were passed when in fact they continued to decrease, just not as much as his statistical analysis suggests it would have absent RTC laws. That’s a deliberately deceptive and mendacious claim disparaging the actual fact that more citizens carrying guns for self-defense reduce violent crime rates. Donohue’s research is synthetic speculation masquerading as truth under the typical liberal anti-gun theory that if you repeat a lie long enough and loud enough it will become the perceived truth.

It should be painfully obvious that a “more sizable” decline in a pre-existing overall decline is not at all the same thing as his bald-faced and demonstrably false claim that “the adoption of RTC laws substantially raises overall violent crime.” Thus a charge of mendacity and that he and his team have engaged in blatant and intentional politicized academic misconduct (if not fraud) would seem pretty obvious to any reasonable person.

Such a conclusion is strongly bolstered by the paper’s descent into political pandering and gun-banning advocacy that follows the conclusion. Not satisfied to let his supposedly-scholarly work stand on it’s own scientific feet, he goes on at length, saying for example that “the statistical evidence shows us that whatever beneficial effects RTC laws have in reducing violence, they are outweighed by greater harmful effects.” To support this specious and unscientific political opinion he cites a very small number of incidents where in his opinion concealed carry permit holders committed a crime. The paper states, “The most obvious mechanism is that the RTC permit holder may commit a crime that he or she would not have committed without the permit.”

The stupidity of this statement is fairly obvious. If a person is inclined to misbehave and use a deadly weapon improperly it’s highly unlikely that having or not having a carry permit is going to change anything, and if such a thing happens then others who might be harmed by such misconduct, be it from a permit holder or a criminal have a greater need to be armed for self-defense. Yes, there may be examples, some of which Donohue cites, where permit holders have done bad things with their guns, but he completely ignores the fact that there are perhaps 12 million permit holders in the United States who, according to all the evidence, do not do so, and there are perhaps 2.5 million people who lawfully use their concealed weapons to prevent and thwart violent crime every year. His argument is the very essence of throwing out the baby with the bathwater after boiling the baby in a hot pot.

Donohue firmly believes, and has argued in the past that all citizens must be disarmed in order to decrease crime rates, and this is another pseudo-scientific attempt to support his anti-constitutional agenda of disparaging the 2nd Amendment and our right to keep and bear arms.

Donohue and people like him simply refuse to accept that the right to armed self-defense is not subject to being statistically apportioned. The individual’s right to keep and bear arms for self-defense is not dependent on the amount of crime in their vicinity or anywhere else for that matter. It cannot be conditioned upon their statistical chance of victimization. It cannot be infringed because someone thinks carrying a gun in public is unsettling. The right is complete, whole and indivisible.

Disarming citizens turns them into helpless victims without any evidence that doing so will protect them from being victimized and in the face of undeniable proof that an armed citizenry in fact makes society safer, something that Donohue knows but attempted (badly) to conceal in his recent screed. His statistical argument ignores the reality that it is real people who are victimized, each of whom has a constitutional right to be armed against victimization. Government cannot constitutionally conclude that a law-abiding person being armed somehow increases the overall abstract risk of violent crime in society and use that as an excuse to revoke gun rights.

No right is subject to apportionment in such a manner. Government cannot say, “Your exercise of your right to free speech must be prohibited because it creates a 15 percent greater chance that someone else might abuse theirs.” Nor can it say, “Your right to keep and bear arms in public is revoked because otherwise some criminal somewhere might become more violent.”

It should be obvious that Donohue’s agenda and speculation is a call for inherently unconstitutional legislative response by government. This must not be permitted or tolerated. You either have rights that are complete or you do not have rights at all, and in this country we have a right to keep and bear arms for self-defense, as the United States Supreme Court has pointed out on several occasions recently.