The award of costs was the third consecutive loss for Handgun Control, Inc. in the case, coming on the heels of a decision on January 15, 1999 by the Superior Court to throw out a motion filed by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (the legal action arm of Handgun Control, Inc.) to dismiss a November 1998 jury verdict in favor of Beretta U.S.A. Corp. on the grounds of juror misconduct.
"Handgun Control, Inc's consistent failure in the Dix case should stand as notice to other litigants that this organization is out of touch with the law and with the merits of these cases," commented Jeff Reh, General Counsel for Beretta U.S.A. Corp. "During the Dix case, Beretta presented its concerns about the safety and feasibility of internal locking devices for handguns and the jury agreed with our reservations about this technology. The jury also overwhelmingly determined that the responsibility for safe storage of any firearm lies with the owner, not with the original manufacturer of the gun."
"More importantly," Reh added, "all potential litigants in cases of this type -- including mayors of cities which might be contemplating filing lawsuits against the firearms industry -- should note our industry will aggressively defend itself and will seek reimbursement of litigation costs. Any city which thinks that it can sue the firearms industry without financial risk to itself is mistaken."
In addition to Reh, Beretta U.S.A. Corp. was defended in the Dix case by Robert Gebhardt and Craig Livingston of the San Francisco law firm of Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon and by Lawrence Keane of the White Plains, New York law firm of Pino & Associates.
WASHINGTON, DC -- In an effort to reclaim the eroding privacy rights of American citizens, US Rep. Ron Paul on Wednesday introduced his financial privacy package that includes three separate pieces of legislation.
"Today we proclaim that American citizens have the right to be free of the snooping, spying, prying eyes of government bureaucrats," said Rep. Paul. "This legislative package will, once enacted, give Americans the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their every financial step is not being filed away and viewed as potentially criminal. This package restores and protects the fundamental privacy and due process rights that are the foundation of our system of government.
"The centerpiece of the package is the Know Your Customer Sunset Act, which will stop federal agencies from implementing recently proposed regulations that would essentially turn bankers into the frontline spies and investigators for the federal government. The proposed regulations have garnered more than 14,000 opposition comments from customers and bankers alike. Rep. Paul was the first Member of Congress to take a stand against the proposed regulations.
"These rules are more like 'Spy on your neighbor,' and I have not yet met anyone who likes them," Rep. Paul said. "I've heard from literally thousands of people, and not one of them wants the government to require banks to implement these massive new programs which turn every customer into a presumed-guilty suspect."
An informal group of organizations and individuals actively opposing the proposed rules and supporting Rep. Paul's legislation ranges from the liberal American Civil Liberties Union to the conservative Eagle Forum. In addition, the Texas Bankers Association, the California Bankers Association and the American Bankers Association are actively opposing the rules.
The Know Your Customer Sunset Act has about a dozen original co-sponsors, including Majority Whip Tom Delay of Texas, Government Reform chairman Dan Burton of Indiana and the Resources Committee chairman Don Young of Alaska.
Rep. Paul's financial privacy package also includes the Bank Secrecy Sunset Act. The measure would require that Congress either re-write the poorly-written and abused Nixon-era law, or choose to devolve the power of regulation to the states.
Finally, there is the FinCEN Public Accountability Act. This measure would allow Americans to view the files created on them by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, much as citizens are currently allowed to view their FBI and credit report files.
"It's time for Congress to reign in the creeping Surveillance State; the time has come, the people are demanding it."
A special section on Rep. Paul's web site contains a great deal of background information on the important topic. It can be found at:
For reference, the bill numbers of the Financial Privacy Package are:
HR 516, the Know Your Customer Sunset Act
HR 517, the FinCEN Public Accountability Act
HR 518, the Bank Secrecy Sunset Act
"America doesn't need the Cursing Police to wash our mouth out with government soap," said Steve Dasbach, the national director of the Libertarian Party. "George Carlin's classic seven dirty words you can't say on television should not be turned into the seven dirty words you can't say anywhere."
The Cursing Police? What the, ahem, heck is going on here?
The case in question involves a Michigan man who tumbled out of his canoe on the Rifle River last summer, and let loose what police call a "three-minute profanity tirade."
Because a woman and her two young children were within earshot, Timothy Boomer, 24, was ticketed by a police officer under an archaic 1897 Michigan law that prohibits cursing in front of women and children. If convicted during his trial on Thursday, he faces up to 90 days in jail and a $100 fine.
Boomer is being defended by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that cursing is Constitutionally protected speech.
And at the risk of being labeled "pro-cursing," the Libertarian Party agrees.
"This is a classic case where we must defend someone whose actions we may not personally approve of," said Dasbach. "No one would argue that Mr. Boomer behaved in a way that could be called courteous, dignified, or mature.
"However, there is a big difference between being a jerk and being a criminal. While we may find Mr. Boomer's language offensive, the First Amendment does prohibit the government from banning speech based on content -- even if that content is ignorant, gutter-level cursing."
The case also illustrates a bigger issue, said Dasbach: Whether it is a proper function of government to legislate good manners.
"The last thing Americans should want is a government, at any level, that acts like Miss Manners with a gun," he said. "Do we really want to grant the government the power to make sure that people behave politely? Do we want to look over our shoulders to make sure we're not being followed by the Language Police?"
All that said, Dasbach acknowledged he can sympathize with the sentiment behind the Michigan law.
"There is a widespread feeling that our society has become coarsened; that more Americans are being regularly exposed to behavior and language that is offensive, disrespectful, and obnoxious. Who can argue with that?
"However, the way to solve that problem is not by letting the government act as the Civility Czar. The way to solve the problem is to allow the civil bonds of society to work their imperfect magic.
"In this particular case, what we need is a return to an old-fashioned sense of shame. Mr. Boomer acted like a jerk. He shouldn't have been arrested; he should have been shamed. His friends on the canoe should have told him to clean up his act. His fiancee should have told him to grow up. And his mother, after she heard about the incident, should have called him up, told him he's a disgrace to the family, and told him to behave himself.
"The state of Michigan should keep that in mind: When it comes to good manners, mothers are more powerful than any law."
Over a hundred people attended the District of Columbia "Community Forum on the Year 2000 Computer Problem" held on Saturday, January 30 at Hine Jr. High School across from the Eastern Market Metro. I'm forwarding comments of particular interest to D.C. peace, libertarian, decentralist, green, etc. activists.
The forum was organized by local D.C. Y2K activists who got sponsorship from fifteen community-based organizations, including Coop America, Friends of the Earth, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, National Congress for Community Economic Development, DC. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton and D.C. Council Chair and Councilmembers.. The Honorary Chair was D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams.
Below is a summary of four of the six speakers official commentsand of the replies that often angry and suspicious questioners in the audience managed to prod out of them. The question and answer session was moderated by WOL morning radio talk show host, Eric St. James, who was very knowledgeable and concerned about the issue.
Councilmember Sharon Ambrose assured the audience that D.C. had "indemnified" itself against any "frivolous" lawsuits; of course, that also means that all the government employees who did nothing about the Y2K issue all these years cannot be held responsible for citizens' losses due to official incompetence. She also said D.C. had warned its vendors it would not be held responsible for failures due to vendors' non-compliance.
Keith Kaye, Contingency Planning Manager for the District of Columbia Y2K Project Office, said that all D.C. government agencies were hurrying to fix their computers, and were establishing contingency plans in case they were not compliant on time. He assured the audience that 911 line could be operated manually and about 2 minutes per call might be lost. He also said that the D.C. Water supply was in good shape because "water runs down hill," a comment with some skepticism by the audience. He did admit that if government services failed, D.C., Virginia and Maryland governments would competing for services from the same private vendors and that might cause some problems. Only under audience prodding did Kaye admit that which Ms. Ambrose's concern with legal liability impliedthat D.C. had gotten a late start on dealing with Y2K issues.
Gordon Davidson, Y2K Community Preparedness Expert of the Center for Visionary Leadership, seemed to echo the federal government's line that there will be no major infrastructure failures and only local ones, and that foreign nations would have much greater problems. However, as a long-time community builder, his point was that no matter what might happen, Y2K is an opportunity for community building, something the forum itself did prove. (In an article on his web page Davidson further writes: "If Y2K triggers the collapse of some of our infrastructures, it could pave the way for many of the key social transformation movements of the last twenty years to leap forward. Our individual and collective sense of purpose could mobilize everything from environmental consciousness, alternative energy and organic farming, to social investment, alternative currency, complementary medicine and co-ops of all kinds.")
Paul Nicholas, U.S. Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000, provided an even rosier picture during his talk. However, skeptical questioners got him to admit that, for example, he did not know the status of Federal Reserve System computers, ones which would be responsible for electronic deposit of social security and welfare checks. He also admitted the Senate had to continually request Y2K status reports from federal agencies in order to get any.
In the most dramatic encounter of the session, four black men in a row demanded to know if the federal government would be sending national guard troops into poor areas of D.C. like Anacostia in order to put to potential or actual disturbances like food riots and looting. Senate staffer Nicholas admitted that Congress was concerned about civil disturbances. However, when he tried to assure the audience there were no plans for martial law, a number of people hissed and booed in disbelief. One of the men obviously was angry that D.C. residents could not bear arms to protect themselves from potential violence and would be reliant on "military occupation"; others seemed concerned about police brutality by such occupying troops. Unfortunately, there was too little discussion of how to get food and resources to poor people who might not be able to stock up ahead, as can middle class people. Nicholas said that with the falling away of the cold war, there was less such "emergency preparedness."
Lisa Brown from National Congress for Community Economic Development presented an excellent overview of the kind of organizing that needed to be done to alert individuals and community organizations to the problem and the need for individual, organizational and small business preparedness. She stressed the need for things like involving churches, community development corporations, local business owners and young people; setting up community safe houses for those without heat, food and water; helping small stores and businesses increase inventories ahead of time to serve those individuals who have failed to stock up.
The goal of conference organizers is to form a coordinated regional contingency planning effort that includes emergency services, food, water, power, and other essential services; community task forces to educate and prepare residents for possible disruptions; and new neighborhood groups.
I attended two of the eight workshops, those on forming a "Y2K DC Action Network"and on forming "Neighborhood Awareness Groups." There already are several such groups in the region including the Northwest DC Year 2000 Group, the Silver Spring Y2K Preparedness Group, the Northern Virginia Y2K Community Action Group, and groups in Takoma Park and Friendship Heights. Most have been networking at the weekly Y2K Community Solutions Meetings at Center for Visionary Leadership on Wisconsin Avenue.
The Monday February 1 and 8 meetings are scheduled to focus on clear goals, functions and structures for the growing network. (7:30pm - 9:30pm 3408 Wisconsin Ave., NW Suite 200 202-237-2800, two blocks north of the National Cathedral at Newark Street.) Attendees at both workshops agreed that whatever form that might take, future organizing meetings should be held at more metro accessible spaces such as the current D.C. government offices at Judiciary Square metro or the Martin Luther King Library near Metro Center and Gallery Place metros. Organizers of the forum already are planning some community meetings at the D.C. government offices to keep the D.C. government aware of citizens' concerns and to facilitate outreach to the African American community in Northeast and Southeast.
"There's one more right you should have. As more of our medical records are stored electronically, the threats to our privacy increase... We will protect the privacy of medical records this year."
Bill Clinton received big applause for that line in his State of the Union speech. Although it hasn't yet made headlines in the media, his private polls and focus groups have alerted him that this is a hot and growing issue at the grassroots.
Assuring Americans that he is going to be our savior about medical privacy is just one of the many false promises Clinton made in that speech. The record is clear that he doesn't believe in the privacy of medical records (except, of course, for his own).
A major feature of Bill and Hillary Clinton's nationalized health plan, which the public rejected in 1994, was to allow the Federal Government to build a database containing every American's medical records. We all remember Clinton's 1993 television speech when he displayed his "Health Security Card" that was to contain our personal identifying number and assure our access to health care.
Control of that massive government database, with every American's medical records identified by a number, would have enabled the Clinton Administration to achieve its proclaimed goal of "global budgeting," i.e., government control of both public and private health care spending by allowing or rationing payments. The American people rejected Clinton's takeover of health care, but he has been incrementally working toward the same goal ever since.
The 1996 Kennedy-Kassebaum law gave the Department of Health and Human Services the power to create "unique health care identifiers" so government can electronically track and monitor every citizen's personal medical records. Fortunately, Congress last year put this authority on hold, pending further Congressional action.
We should never forget (even if Ken Starr forgot) that the Clinton White House demanded and illegally got nearly a thousand FBI files on individuals. That cache of personal information could be the source of some of the damaging private information about Republicans that has been leaked to the press.
It's so phony for the Clintonites to complain about the "poisonous politics" of spying on public officials' misbehavior when this Administration has a comprehensive plan to spy on private citizens' money and whereabouts. The Administration is already far down the road of putting us all on databases in order to monitor not only our medical records, but also our bank accounts and daily activities.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's new "Know Your Customer" regulation has stirred up a hornet's nest of adverse public comments. And no wonder; it requires your bank to notify a government database in Detroit called the Suspicious Activity Reporting System about any "inconsistent" deposits in or withdrawals from your personal bank account.
The Federal Communications Commission's regulation to monitor the location of all wireless phones will enable the government to know where you are when you make every call. New federal regulations of state driver's licenses are designed to turn them into de facto national I.D. cards so the government can track everyone's movements about the country.
The welfare reform act allows the Clinton Administration to put all workers on a federal database called the Directory of New Hires, which will ultimately allow a comprehensive monitoring of nearly all employed Americans. The government is using the "instant background check" required by the 1993 Brady Act to set up a database of lawful gun buyers.
Putting all this personal information on a government database means giving government the power to control our very life, our health care, our access to a job, and our financial transactions. It's the power to destroy individuals who get in Clinton's way; look at all the people who crossed Clinton and are now dead, in jail, in debt, a fugitive, or discredited.
Clinton is using terrorists, drug kingpins, criminals, illegal aliens, welfare cheats, and deadbeat dads as phony excuses to impose progressive government surveillance over our private lives. His plan is to monitor law-abiding citizens rather than punish law-violators.
In addition, the Clinton Administration has been demanding a power that no free society has ever given its rulers: the power to read our mail. Vice President Al Gore, Attorney General Janet Reno, and FBI Director Louis Freeh are all aggressive advocates of the effort to enable the government to get access to our e-mail and computer files without our knowledge or consent.
Their cover phrase for this totalitarian plan is "key recovery." Fortunately, their plan did not pass in the last Congress and, if we value our freedom, it should remain permanently buried.
Contrary to Clinton's boast in his State of the Union speech, he will not protect our medical records or any other private information; he is steadily gathering power into his own hands to bring about the end of privacy as we know it.
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