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Ruling on Guns Elicits Rebuke From the Right

Four months after the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess guns, its decision is under assault — from the right.

Two prominent federal appeals court judges say that Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in the case, District of Columbia v. Heller, is illegitimate, activist, poorly reasoned and fueled by politics rather than principle. The 5-4 decision in Heller struck down parts of a District of Columbia gun control law.

The judges used what in conservative legal circles are the ultimate fighting words: They said the gun ruling was a right-wing version of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that identified a constitutional right to abortion. Scalia has said that Roe had no basis in the Constitution and amounted to a judicial imposition of a value judgment that should have been left to state legislatures.

Comparisons of the two decisions, then, seemed calculated to sting.

“The Roe and Heller courts are guilty of the same sins,” one of the two appeals court judges, J. Harvie Wilkinson III, wrote in an article to be published in the spring in The Virginia Law Review.

The Botnets Attack

In a windowless room on Microsoft’s campus here, T.J. Campana, a cybercrime investigator, connects an unprotected computer running an early version of Windows XP to the Internet. In less than a minute the computer is “owned.”

An automated program lurking on the Internet has remotely taken over the PC and turned it into a “zombie.” That computer and other zombie machines are then assembled into systems called “botnets” — home and business PCs hooked together into a vast chain of cyber-robots that do the bidding of automated programs to send the majority of e-mail spam, to illegally seek financial information and to install malicious software on still more PCs.

Botnets remain an Internet scourge. Active zombie networks created by a growing criminal underground peaked last month at more than half a million computers, according to shadowserver.org, an organization that tracks botnets. Even though security experts have diminished the botnets to about 300,000 computers, that is still twice the number detected a year ago.

Many Large Donations in Campaign

Much of the attention on the record amounts of money coursing through the presidential race this year, including in Sen. Barack Obama’s announcement on Sunday of his $150 million fundraising haul in September, has focused on the explosion of small donors.

But there has been another proliferation on the national fundraising landscape that had not been fully apparent until the latest campaign finance reports were filed last week: people who have given tens of thousands of dollars at a time to the candidates.

Enabled by the fine print in campaign finance laws, they have written giant checks, which far exceed normal individual contribution limits to candidates, to joint fundraising committees that benefit the candidates as well as their respective parties.

Many of these large donors come from industries with interests in Washington. A New York Times analysis of donors who wrote checks of $25,000 or more to the candidates’ main joint fundraising committees found, for example, the biggest portion of money for both candidates came from the securities and investments industry, including executives at various firms embroiled in the recent financial crisis.