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March 29, 2008
Fitna, the censorship

Ah Fatwas... We've come to the point where radical muslims can always create credible threats of violence that become prior restraints on free speech. I've downloaded and am making available an .avi Copy of the english version of Geert Wilders' Fitna the Movie (72M) which is also available from RapidShare. I'll try to keep a YouTube/Google Video version embedded below. Warning that this is adult content. Also, know that all of the very worst images were either shot by radical islamists or were scenes created by their actions:

Note that LiveLeak explains its self censorship here:

I'm not amused by the LiveLeak folks being so easily intimidated.

Update 3/31/08 at 3PM: Liveleak has put the video back up after completing some security precautions. I am quite impressed and wanted to make sure kudos are given to those who deserve them.

Posted by hoffmang at 10:37 AM

March 28, 2008
Oil, Inflation, and the economy

I've been watching the inflation numbers closely and remembering a hypothesis I've come to adopt. It seems to me that in the past when the Fed was trying to "fight inflation" all they were really doing was chasing the cost of oil. As the modern economy has moved to use less oil per $1 of GDP one would expect that we'd hit a point where oil costs wouldn't have the same effect on the economy as they have in the past. In the current economic situation I've been surprised at how much negative activity is actually happening in the first quarter because I can state pretty emphatically that the economy isn't slowing in Silicon Valley. As such, I was starting to worry that we were for the first time inflating the currency denominated price of oil only and thus driving oil prices up artificially as a monetary phenomenon. With that question in mind I asked the interwebs and found an excellent series of charts. This one shows that the oil price is likely more a commodity bubble and not strictly a currency phenomenon as these other countries are not adopting such inflationary policies:

My quick googling also doesn't show a direct correlation between oil and gold - which further lends some credence to this being more of a bubble and not currencies coming unglued from underlying value. Also note that I find the "peak oil" thesis relatively specious. One can see some inflation in the dollar in these charts but that smaller amount is not surprising even if it is annoying.

Always nice to take a moment for the first principals sanity check. Now to figure out where to short oil prices...

Posted by hoffmang at 12:19 AM

March 20, 2008
Libertyzilla meets Utopiankong with special guest Generalrothra

Originally I had predicted a 6-3 decision. Now that I've reviewed the arguments a few times let me talk first about where I was wrong.

I did not expect Kennedy to be maybe the most impassioned advocate for gun rights outside of Gura. My initial response to Ginsburg's questioning was to think she was far more hostile than I expected. That said, that impression has moderated as I've looked and listened to the arguments a couple of more times. Also, I am surprised at Souter's hostility to a fairly wide individual right.

As we have 5 this is a case that the pro-gun side is going to win. The questions that remain are two fold. First, is it 7-2 or maybe even 9-0 on an individual right? I sensed some frustration from the pro-gun 5 and even Ginsburg about the currently skeptical justices. As an informed guess, I think Roberts is trying to put together a 9-0 but Souter and Stevens are holding out. I also expect that they're going to throw Miller into the dustbin of history where it belongs. The second question is what level of scrutiny and how do the votes on scrutiny break down. Ginsburg notes that the M-16 is the most protected arm in America under Miller. That said, they don't want to go there this time. I expect a 7-2 holding that Miller's done and the test is arms in common use - basically a slightly less faithful to Miller version of the DC Circuits ruling - call it a clarification of Silberman's reasoning. They'll point out that this does not hold anything about other arms as those are cases for future courts and aren't in front of them here. I also expect the Chief Justice to write it. He wants a wide and real Second Amendment holding that is long term politics proof - as it should be.

The two things that have annoyed me to no end are Gura criticism and machine guns. First, much of the Gura criticism starts out from individuals who had dreams that they would stand there at the counsel table and discuss Scalia's firearms collection. The number and size of the egos who've been attacking Gura is amusing to put it mildly. I've been repeating "Ego over the Republic" to too many comments and maneuvers. The good news is that once Gura is done winning, he'll be a rock star as he should be. Brett and I made sure that he wasn't buying his own drinks at this event.

Machine guns... Where to start. Brown v. Board of Education wasn't won in a day. It took decades for the African American civil rights movement to get from Jim Crow to real basic human rights. The good news is that we're not going to have to fight that long to really be done with securing the full meaning of the Second Amendment. Remember there was a time that the NAACP had to be happy with Plessy and separate but equal. Justice Kennedy, from not even 9 feet away, dared Alan Gura to say anything but "Yes your honor" to Kennedy's question about banning shipping machine guns in interstate commerce. Had Alan said anything else we could have kissed the right to keep and bear arms goodbye.

However, after this case is decided and the Second Amendment means something, the frame of reference will be reset. Modernizing and making NFA more shall issue is well within the federal legislative capabilities of NRA and others. For once we may finally be able to make some compromises that extend the right to arms because prohibition and rules that do not have an honest basis will not be constitutional. I'm betting that what we'll find is that we can use the 14th Amendment after incorporation to have a reasonable (as we'd define it) ability to get our NFA tax stamps - even in gun unfriendly places.

The other twist that I think is being under-reported is that the SG on balance helped us. He didn't get a lot of time on his intermediate scrutiny theory and to the extent he talked about it the court got him to agree that he probably doesn't have a problem with the DC Circuit's test - especially if it basically holds that strict scrutiny only applies to the common firearms stock. To stave off the comment, I'm aware that select fire M4s aren't common because of an arguably unconstitutional law but that is a fight for another day.

I live in California. I just want to protect the future ability for my kids to actually buy a semiautomatic handgun first. Secure that and then move forward.

Final thought: What happens to LCAV, Brady, and VPC? Will The Joyce Foundation shy away now that the real goal of an outright ban is out of reach?

Posted by hoffmang at 01:11 AM

March 18, 2008
Heller and Hotels

To make a long story short, multiple hotels conspired to make my morning of March 18, 2008 odd. When Brett and I arrived it was clear that the line was long enough that we couldn't get in. My wake up call didn't come but Brett did get to the steps.

The entire oral argument in MP3 is available from my webserver. There is also a broken down version here.

I'll post a full recap later as I want to talk to some of the principals tonight.

Posted by hoffmang at 01:57 PM

March 17, 2008
On the way to DC for Heller

Just about to depart for DC. The line apparently started at 5:30PM Sunday night so our plans to camp out may be moot.

I'll post updates during the day on Tuesday. I'm either going to not have slept and gotten in or be well rested and catching the circus outside.

Scotusblog is going to be live blogging as well.

Posted by hoffmang at 11:14 AM

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