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WTF?! Jury Duty!

I just got summoned for Federal jury duty next month (first time I've ever been called to serve), and after I got online and submitted my questionnaire electronically, I spent the next hour following links reading up on what is to be expected of me.

So I started reading the Jury Handbook and stumbled across this gem, under the sub-section "The Jurors' Solemn Oath":

After the voir dire is completed, the jurors selected to try the case will be sworn in. The judge or clerk will state to the jury: "Members of the Jury, you will rise, hold up your right hands, and be sworn to try this case."

The jurors then rise and hold up their right hands. The jurors face the judge or the clerk who is to administer the oath. That official slowly, solemnly, and clearly repeats the oath. The jurors indicate by their responses and upraised hands that they take this solemn oath.

Jurors not wishing to take an oath may request to affirm instead of swear. In some districts the jury is sworn upon the Bible and not by uplifted hand.


WTF?! Are there really still any jurisdictions that really require you to swear your oath on a BIBLE? I mean, its the 21st Century not the 19th anymore! How is this not a blatant violation of separation of church and state? I mean, MAYBE, in certain parts of the Deep South I could see it, but even then, why hasn't the Department of Justice put its foot down and brought this practice to an end already? There really should be just one uniform standard for all Federal courts, and it should NOT involve bringing anyone's religious paraphernalia into it. I mean, do they have Korans and Bhagavad Gītās in stock just in case a non-Christian dare affront the courtroom with their presence? Or do they just embarrass and publicly shame them when they politely refuse to place their hand on that particular Book of Atrocities and Genocides?

Kind of reminds me of the only time I attended a local city council meeting 10 years ago and they opened with a sectarian Christian prayer. Completely caught me off-guard. I believe they finally ended the practice with much complaining by the Christ-in-Your-Face crowd, but I can't believe its still happening in FEDERAL courts of all places!

Have any of you been in a situation where you were "asked" to place your hand on a Bible in order to somehow prove you are trustworthy and honest?

I just can't believe it.

Colorado Courts Continue to Protect Felons’ Rights to Keep and Bear Arms

As I noted last Fall, Colorado courts have treated the Colorado Constitution’s right to keep and bear arms provision as substantially protecting felons’ rights to keep guns for self-defense — an approach quite different from that used by the U.S. Supreme Court in interpreting the Second Amendment, or by other states’ courts interpreting those states’ constitutions. Today’s State v. Carbajal (Colo. Ct. App. Mar. 1, 2012) reaffirms that. An excerpt:

In 1876, the new State of Colorado adopted a constitution that included a provision in its bill of rights establishing a right to keep and bear arms in defense of one’s home, person, and property:

The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called into question; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons.

Colo. Const. art. II, § 13 (section 13) (emphasis added). This provision has never been amended.


Really, if a convict is deemed safe enough to be released from prison, he/she really ought to have all rights of citizenship back, including being able to vote, serve on jury duty, and yes, even RKBA.

It shouldn't be a long, hard process to get all your civil rights restored like it is now in many states. Nothing tells an ex-con that he/she is unwelcome back in civil society than continuing to deny him/her their basic civil rights. If we want people to change and be productive members of society, we should treat them as full citizens, not second-class citizens their whole lives.

HAHAHA! Ted Nugent Just Endorsed Mittens!

Mitt Romney may finally be shaking a memory regarding gun control legislation that has haunted him since he was governor of Massachusetts by picking up a critical endorsement from hard-rocking pro-gun outdoorsman, author and gun rights icon Ted Nugent.

The “Motor City Madman” threw his considerable weight behind Romney’s campaign Friday, hours after this column was tipped that the endorsement was imminent, during Thursday evening’s Romney fund raiser at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center. This column discussed that gathering and the importance of sportsman and gun owner attendance at Saturday’s Republican caucus gatherings.

Nugent issued a one-sentence comment:

“After a long heart and soul conversation with Mitt Romney today, I concluded this good man will properly represent we the people (and) I endorsed him.”—Ted Nugent

Is it that surprising? Nugent and Romney both hail from Michigan. Romney was also recently endorsed by Rob Keck, who spent some time hunting with the former governor and presidential hopeful last fall in Montana.


Heads are going to freakin' EXPLODE over on FreeRepublic.com! They already turned on Ann Coulter months ago for endorsing Romney.

NUGE: What a total sell-out!

Now all we need is for the NRA to get behind Mitt Romney, and we'll know the wool has been completely pulled over everyone's eyes.

Mitt Romney is really no better than Obama on gun rights. Anyone who thinks he'll nominate pro-gun justices if elected is drinking the Kool-Aid.

This Republican primary season has just gone from crazy to bat-shit insane!

REJOICE! The Canadian long gun registry is DEAD!

Wednesday was the day the long-gun registry died. It was too intrusive, unfair and onerous of a burden on law-abiding Canadian firearms owners to continue to be imposed upon them.

There is another burden, as intrusive, unfair and onerous as the registry, to which the federal Conservatives must now turn. That burden is the minimum sentencing law on gun crimes, which was enacted four years ago. It's not working because, like the gun registry, it is unfairly catching in its wide net people who do not deserve to be entangled in the mesh.

This week, Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Malloy bravely threw down the gauntlet when she refused to sentence 27-year-old Leroy Smickle to the minimum three years in prison for the "crime" of posing for his own Facebook photo, alone in his apartment late at night in his underwear, holding a gun. Malloy, who gave Smickle a one-year sentence of house arrest as a sop to the law, said given the circumstances, sending him to the slammer for three years would be "unfair, outrageous, abhorrent and intolerable."

She's absolutely right, but she could have gone farther. She could have thrown the case out of court, as there was no reason for the police to charge Smickle with any crime. They burst in on him looking for his cousin, frightening Smickle so much that his laptop and pistol fell to the floor. True, he had been holding a restricted, loaded weapon, but he was endangering no one and wasn't actively engaged in committing any crime.


Good to see our neighbors to the north becoming more free...

I Shook Glenn Greenwald's Hand Tonight

The ACLU of Idaho threw its annual Bill of Rights Celebration dinner and auction tonight in downtown Boise. Glenn was the featured speaker. As an ACLU volunteer, I got to attend the event for free, but I bought a copy of his latest book (which he signed) proceeds of which he's donating to the ACLU of Idaho Foundation. The event was only advertised about a month in advance, but we sold about 130 tickets at $75/pop before tonight, and the remaining 20 seats sold out quickly at the door. We also raised approximately another $10K in silent auction items, plus several thousand more in donation pledges.

As for the speech, what can I say? He was great. He said right from the get-go that he wasn't going to re-hash all the ways the Obama Administration has followed in the foot-steps of the Bush Administration, because after 3 years it was so glaringly obvious, it wasn't even necessary to explain it anymore. Especially not to this crowd. Instead, he focused on the "war on terror" in general, and what it means for dissent in this country, and abroad. He pointed out that the dictionary definition of terrorism ("the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes" was used by our government against even those who simply disagreed with our foreign policies, yet REAL acts of terrorism (drone strikes against women, children, and U.S. citizens) for political purposes committed by this government are given a free pass. While its easy for Americans to excuse such terrorism committed by our own government, since after all its "One of THEM, not one of US" -- he pointed out that even though many of us may trust the current administration to not wantonly abuse such authority, what about future administrations down the road? What would a Michele Bachmann or a Sarah Palin administration do with such broad powers? To reach out and detain, even kill U.S. citizens, without so much as a trial or proving to the world the case against them, only because the government says they need to go?

He touched on Wikileaks, pointed out how when he put the call out for people to give Wikileaks financial support, so that they could have more resources to hire more people to vet all the leaked info they were receiving, he got dozens and dozens of concerned responses, all saying: "I really want to help, but I'm AFRAID of being put on a list! What if Wikileaks is eventually labeled a 'terrorist organization' by the U.S. government and everyone who gave money rounded up and charged with providing material support?" Indeed, many of us have been scared and intimidated into inaction, because of how broad these new government powers really are.

It was a powerful speech.

During the book signing afterward, I told him: "DemocraticUnderground.com says hi," then after telling him my name, added: "You have many fans and many haters," at which point he chuckled and said he's come across several links to this site and realizes how polarizing of a figure he is, but he appreciates the support. Later on, after almost everyone had left, I got him alone and asked him if he is still in regular contact with Julian Assange. He said he was. He added that he thought it was pretty likely that he would be extradited to Sweden to face those charges, but his spirit is holding up pretty well for the most part still. I thanked him for keeping everyone abreast of the situation with Assange, and reporting news that no one else seems to dare want to report. I ran into him again a third time as we both entered the elevators. He was going up (to his room, presumably -- the event took place in a hotel) and I was going down to my car. He said a final "Good night" and I responded "Yeah, take care."

Say what you will about him, but he's a really polite and likable guy. I can see why he gives Establishment Democrats such headaches, but he's really only doing what President Obama told us to do in the first place when we elected him: "If I ever stray, hold my feet to the fire." While I suspect most everyone in that room will probably end up voting for Obama in the end anyway, it won't be without much disappointment and regret. Disappointment that the Obama Administration is still prosecuting so many policies of the Bush Administration, and regret that our protests have fallen upon deaf ears. We really need more people like Glenn to open up more people's eyes and see how dangerous following in the foot-steps of Bush/Cheney really is, so that hopefully, during President Obama's second term, he is more receptive to civil libertarian concerns. Hopefully, once getting re-elected is no longer a concern, he'll finally listen to his base and act to change some of the worst holdover policies of the Bush Era. Because as Glenn pointed out: "The longer these pernicious policies stay in place, the harder its going to be to get rid of them later."

Glenn Greenwald is a true patriot and a scholar. I hope one day the Democratic Party finally listens to him and takes a firm stand in defense of the Bill of Rights, not because its necessarily popular, but because its necessarily right.

What an awesome night.

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Several 2nd Amendment Cases

The Supreme Court late last month declined petition to take up more Second Amendment cases. A news release I received today from the Michel and Associates law firm (that does not seem available yet on its web site dedicated to gun law) explains what was at stake. It also discusses other Second Amendment cases that people have tried, and failed, to take all the way to the Supreme Court since 2008's Heller case created a brand-new landscape for weapons possesion law:
Williams v. State (Maryland)....asked the Supreme Court to decide whether the Second Amendment protects a right to carry or transport a registered handgun outside the home. Mr. Williams was appealing his conviction for possessing a handgun in public without the required state permit allowing him to do so.

United States v. Masciandaro...involved a man convicted of violating the federal prohibition on carrying or possessing a loaded weapon in vehicles in National Parks after he was found asleep in his vehicle with a loaded handgun in a national park. He sought review from the Supreme Court of whether that prohibition violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms; asking the high court, like the petitioner in Williams, whether the right extends beyond the home.
While you might think these decisions on the Court's part to not hear these Second Amendment cases means it's reluctant to reconsider the Amendment at all, that's not quite right:

Despite the of certiorari denials in all the aforementioned Second Amendment cases, the fact that the Supreme Court has been requesting responses in these cases shows the Justices are paying unusually close attention to the Second Amendment issue. Of the roughly 8,000 petitions for review filed with the Supreme Court every year, only in a few hundred cases does the Court request a response from the opposing party. When the Court requests a response brief, it is a strong sign that the Court is interested in hearing argument in that case. And, such a request increases the probability that the Court will grant oral argument by roughly 9 times, from 0.9% to 8.6%....


Wow. It almost sounds as if the SCOTUS is telling the government: you can't restrict guns inside the home, but you can restrict the hell out of guns in public. And so what if the government restricts guns to people based off of misdemeanor convictions? And tough luck on getting Heller and McDonald retroactively applied...

And some people think this is a "pro-gun" court.

Did Democrats Give Up in Gun Control Debate?

As The Times’s Dalia Sussman noted on Tuesday, Americans have generally become more protective of gun ownership rights in recent years.

There are some exceptions to the rule — for instance, according to the General Social Survey, conducted intermittently since 1972, the percentage of Americans who think permits should be required before a gun can be obtained has gradually risen (to 79 percent in 2008 from 72 percent in 1972). Background checks for gun owners are overwhelmingly popular, attracting the support of as many as 90 percent of Americans. And while most Americans say they do not want gun control regulations to become stricter, even fewer — about 10 percent — think they should be made more lax.

Still, the overall pattern is reasonably clear. According to Gallup surveys, for instance, the number of Americans favoring a ban on handguns has been on a long-term decline and is now about 30 percent, down almost 10 percentage points from a decade earlier:
It is perhaps not surprising, then, that support for gun control measures has declined in recent years, with one of the parties essentially having surrendered on the issue. Somewhere along the line — perhaps between 2000 and 2004, when the rhetoric in their platform changed significantly — Democrats concluded that the issue was a political loser for them and they stopped fighting back.

It may also be that gun control has became less a priority for the Democratic Party’s key stakeholders. On one hand, major cities — where Democratic voters and donors have long been concentrated — became much safer during the decade of the 2000s, and so gun violence would have seemed a less immediate threat to an Upper East Side liberal in 2008 than it would have in 1988.


Pretty interesting analysis by Nate Silver there at the New York Times.

Lower crime rates have lead to less households owning guns, yet people are becoming more tolerant of guns in general.

Long before the McDonald or Heller decisions, the Democratic Party acknowledged individual right to keep and bear arms, which makes it harder to push for gun control now.

Would You Support Stricter Federal Training Requirements in Exchange for National CCW Reciprocity?

This is a question for both the pro-gun and pro-control sides.

I've been engaged in a back-and-forth PM session with another member who favors more gun control, and this idea for a compromise came up.

How would you feel about being able to pack heat (concealed-carry) anywhere in the contiguous 48 states without having to worry about violating some states' arbitrary laws during long-range road trips, if it meant having to put up with more rigorous training requirements to qualify to get a Federal CCW permit?

This would mean that unrestricted states like Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont would have to adopt stricter uniform Federal training standards, but on the flip-side, states like California, Illinois, and New York couldn't deny permits altogether, or only issue them if you are rich or politically well-connected.

I'm thinking this might be one area of compromise which might satisfy most (but not all) pro-gun folks, and most (but not all) pro-control folks, and be able to get Congress and President Obama to come together and deliver on during Obama's second term.

Touching the Void (2003)

Have any of you NOT seen this incredible movie? Queue it up on Netflix if you haven't.

Its based off the true story of two expert mountain ice-climbers who take on one of the tallest peaks in the Peruvian Andes. They become the first known people to make it all the way to the top, but like with most climbs, the descent is the trickier part. On the way down one of them breaks his leg, which leads them to have to make some very hard decisions if at least one of them wants to come out alive, as they only brought minimal fuel to melt snow into water. (And mountain climbing is a VERY thirsty business.)

I won't spoil the ending, but let me just say that for those who say there are no atheists in fox-holes, it appears that there are some on mountain-tops. Despite facing certain death, the idea of calling out to God never even entered this lapsed Catholic's picture.

A very inspirational and moving story.

Is the Internet Responsible for Americans Losing Their Faith?

Check this out:

It seems as if the ranks of the "Nones" didn't start really start gaining ground until the mid-1990's, just as the Internet was picking up steam.

Again, as the free-flow of information and ideas online became more widespread, the numbers of non-believing youth began to rise, surpassing that of young evangelicals around the turn of the century.

The following graph suggests that more liberals are losing their faith, whereas conservatives are "stubbornly clinging to their Bibles," as President Obama suggested during the 2008 campaign:

Lots more charts and graphs here:

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