Oklahoma law mandates that employees have the right to keep gun locked up in their cars

From Friday's Wall Street Journal:

In late summer of 2002, Steve Bastible put three bullets into a dying cow at his ranch, threw the emptied rifle behind the seat of his pickup and forgot about it.

A few weeks later, the rifle cost him his job of 23 years.

That Oct. 1, in a surprise search, Weyerhaeuser Co. sent gun-sniffing dogs into the parking lot of its paper mill here. Mr. Bastible and 11 other workers were fired after guns were found in their vehicles. The timber company said the weapons violated a new company policy that extended a longtime workplace gun ban to the parking area. The fired workers said they knew nothing of the new rule.

The firings outraged many in this wooded community in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. In rural Oklahoma, carrying a firearm in one's car is commonplace. "In Oklahoma, gun control is when you hit what you shoot at," says Jerry Ellis, a member of the state legislature.

Now, the dispute is reverberating beyond the borders of tiny Valliant, located in the southeast corner of the state. In response, the state legislature overwhelmingly passed a law giving Oklahomans the right to keep guns locked in their cars in parking lots. But just days before the law was to go into effect this month, several prominent companies with Oklahoma operations, including Whirlpool Corp. and ConocoPhillips sued to stop it. A federal judge put the law on hold pending a hearing.


Howard Dean with lead in race to take over as DNC Chairman?

Eleanor Clift is one person who should know what is going on in the Democratic Party. She writes:
"Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, withdrew his name from contention after being shown numbers suggesting Dean would win."

The only benefit that I can see for the Democrats is that it could keep Dean from running for President in 2008.

Lancet Survey on Post War Fatalities in Iraq Continues to be heavily Criticized

If the New York Times critiques you (even with caveats) from the right, you know that you are in trouble:
Three weeks ago, The Lancet, the British medical journal, released a research team's findings that 100,000 or more civilians had probably died as a result of the war in Iraq. The study, formulated and conducted by researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University and the College of Medicine at Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, involved a complex process of sampling households across Iraq to compare the numbers and causes of deaths before and after the invasion in March 2003.

The 100,000 estimate immediately came under attack. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain questioned the methodology of the study and compared it with an Iraq Health Ministry figure that put civilian fatalities at less than 4,000. Other critics referred to the findings of the Iraq Body Count project, which has constructed a database of war-related civilian deaths from verified news media reports or official sources like hospitals and morgues.

That database recently placed civilian deaths somewhere between 14,429 and 16,579, the range arising largely from uncertainty about whether some victims were civilians or insurgents. But because of its stringent conditions for including deaths in the database, the project has quite explicitly said, ''Our own total is certain to be an underestimate.''

It has refrained from commenting on the 100,000 figure, except for noting that such a number ''is on the scale of the death toll from Hiroshima'' and, if accurate, has ''serious implications.'' Certainly, the Johns Hopkins study is rife with assumptions necessitated by the lack of basic census and mortality data in Iraq. The sampling also required numerous adjustments because of wartime dangers -- and courage in carrying out the interviews. Accordingly, the results are presented with a good many qualifications.

I haven't spent a lot of time going through the methodology used in this survey by Lancet, but it seems obvious to me that those surveyed could have lied to create a false impression. After all, some of those interviewed do have a strong political motive and there is the concern that they could greatly exaggerate the number of deaths to those conducting the survey. There is also the question of the comparability of the before and after war fatality rates. Andrew Bolt has a very extensive and interesting critique of the Lancet paper:

But what evidence we have tells us these pre-war death rates were actually much higher. Dated United Nations figures suggest the overall death rate was well over seven in every 1000 – or close to, if not higher than, the present rate of 7.9 in every 1000 that the Lancet survey suggests.

But even more persuasive are 2002 figures from UNICEF, which in a much bigger survey of 24,000 households found the infant mortality rate in Iraq before the war was actually a tragic 108 deaths per 1000 infants.

This is more than three times higher than the Lancet survey claims was the case – and double what even the survey claims is the infant mortality rate today. . . .

The researchers did not ask for proof of the children's deaths and admit they were reluctant to ask for proof of all the adults' deaths, either, "because this might have implied that they did not believe the respondents, perhaps triggering violence". Were the Iraqis likewise scared to tell the truth?

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The cost of deer (or the benefits produced by hunters)


Happy Thanksgiving

For an excellent discussion of the real story of Thanksgiving see go here. The central point is this:

"The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well. Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives. He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. That's right. Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn't work!?


She hardly seems like a real risk

A 79-year-old woman was arrested Tuesday at Fort Lauderdale International Airport in Florida after screeners found a single-shot Colt Derringer and seven bullets in her tote bag. She said she forgot it was in the bag, which she tried to carry on the plane, according to the Broward County sheriff's office.

The previous day the NY Times had a story about women (including a 70-something woman) who were upset about being frisked too throughly. At least for the older woman, that is pretty hard to comprehend as being necessary.

November general election exit polls on gun ownership

The national exit polls indicate that 41 percent of American households own a gun. 63 percent voted for Bush (an increase of 2 percent over 2000), 36 percent for Kerry, and 1 percent for Nader.


Isn't it just a question of historical accuracy?

Maryland public schools are in a bit of debate about how to teach Thanksgiving tomorrow. Personally I think that the more important issue is how they reorganized property (moving away from a communal to a private property organization) that saved the colony and of course this is never mentioned, but this other debate is still worth notice:

Young students across the state read stories about the Pilgrims (search) and Native Americans, simulate Mayflower (search) voyages, hold mock feasts and learn about the famous meal that temporarily allied two very different groups. But what teachers don't mention when they describe the feast is that the Pilgrims not only thanked the Native Americans for their peaceful three-day indulgence, but repeatedly thanked God. "We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not from a religious perspective," said Charles Ridgell, St. Mary's County Public Schools curriculum and instruction director. School administrators statewide agree, saying religion never coincides with how they teach Thanksgiving to students. . . . . Teaching about a secular Thanksgiving counters the holiday's original premise as stated by George Washington in his Thanksgiving Day proclamation: "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor." Such omissions also deny the Pilgrims' religious fervor in the celebration of Thanksgiving, as related by Harry Hornblower, an archaeologist who spent years researching the history of the holiday. According to the Web site Plimoth.org, dedicated to Hornblower's research, the Pilgrims "fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean." Thanksgiving, the site said, derived from their belief that "a series of misfortunes meant that God was displeased, and the people should both search for the cause and humble themselves before him. Good fortune, on the other hand, was a sign of God's mercy and compassion, and therefore he should be thanked and praised."

What might future elections hold?


More on the lack of diversity in Universities

It is not like I give much credence to these types of tests, but the results are ironic nonetheless:

Mr. Rothman used statistical analysis to determine what factors explained how academics ended up working at elite universities. Marital status, sexual orientation and race didn't play a statistically significant role. Academic excellence, as measured by papers published and awards conferred, did. But the next best predictor was whether the professor was a liberal. To critics that argue his methodology is flawed, Mr. Rothman points out that he used the same research tools long used in courts by liberal faculty members to prove race and sex bias at universities. Liberals criticizing his methods may find themselves hoist by their own petard.

How is this for some pretty amazing reading:
Robert Brandon, a Duke University philosophy professor, is one liberal who has at least made an effort to explain why conservatives are seldom seen in academia. "We try to hire the best, smartest people available. If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire. Mill's analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican Party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia."

The rest of John Fund's article is worth a read.

In praise of judicial restraint

Steve Chapman has another great piece in the Chicago Tribune. The whole article is definitely worth the read:

Not many businesses survive by turning away customers who have a right to buy. Apparently gun sellers are supposed to be mind readers. "Should know"? Maybe a Ford dealer "should know" that an 18-year-old male who is lusting after a Mustang will drive well over the speed limit. Does that mean he should be liable when the youngster crashes?
The manufacturers were faulted for making guns with features that supposedly appeal to thugs--such as concealability and resistance to fingerprints. But some people are legally permitted to carry concealed handguns, which means they need concealable ones. And miniaturization takes place in other products not used in crime. Even many law-abiding shooters like small handguns better than big ones, just as teenagers prefer iPods to boom boxes.

Fingerprint-resistant surfaces are popular among law-abiding sportsmen, because traditional shiny finishes are more visible to prey and more prone to corrosion. This innovation is no favor to crooks because it doesn't actually prevent police from getting prints off a murder weapon.

Useful resource in discussing suits against gun makers

Overlawyered.com has a nice collection of facts and articles about suits against gun makers.

"Parishioners protest firing of pistol packing priest"


Responses in the LA Times to Op-ed on Judicial Confirmation Process

The LA Times published a couple of letters responding to my op-ed with Sonya.

November 20, 2004 Saturday

Home Edition

SECTION: CALIFORNIA; Metro; Editorial Pages Desk; Part B; Pg. 20

HEADLINE: High Court Drama


"Breaking the Siege in the Judge War," Commentary, Nov. 16:
John Lott and Sonya Jones write that the confirmation rate for President Bush's judicial nominees is historically low. In particular, they claim that only 69% of Bush's nominees to federal appeals courts and 33% of his nominees to the District of Columbia Appeals Court have been confirmed. The facts, however, are quite different: Bush has made 210 nominations to federal judgeships and 200 have beenconfirmed, a 95% confirmation rate. It is hard to know how Lott and Jones came up with their figures.

William Zame
Los Angeles


So, let me understand the argument: If Democrats simply roll over and play
dead when President Bush sends his judicial nominations to the Senate, the
so-called logjam will end.

My goodness! Why didn't the Democrats think of that?

Richard Doolittle
Grand Terrace

First, the numbers that we discussed on the issue of confirmation rates explicitly noted they involved Appeals Court judges, not all judges. Appeals Court judges are much more important than District Court judges and that is where the problems are occurring. Second, if you do look at all judges, Bush had 220 nominations of which 192 (or 87 percent) have been confirmed.