Gov. Ed Rendell seeks mandate for more gun control in Pennsylvania

Governor Rendell is again calling for changes to Pennsylvania gun laws following the first fatal shooting of an on-duty Philadelphia police officer in a decade.

The governor tells public radio that gun regulation is a touchy subject beyond Philadelphia and its suburbs.

"This is a state with a lot of gun ownership. But I do think the legislators mistake that for thinking that for believing that gun owners don’t want reasonable gun laws that would affect criminals," Rendell said. "So we’re going to try again. But it’s an uphill fight in Harrisburg."

But he said he’ll continue to push for additional local control for the city.

"What I’m going to try mostly to do is convince the legislature to let Philadelphia have the right to pass its own gun laws. We had that, when I was mayor, up until 1996 – then they took it away from us. I’d like them to give us that right back," Rendell said. . . .

I am not sure what one officer being killed in a decade shows regarding gun control, but the officer was apparently killed with a shotgun (see below). I don't recall any laws specifically addressing the ownership of shotguns that was in effect in Philadelphia before 1995 or is currently being proposed if local regulatory control was granted. I hope that Rendell isn't allowed to view a win in the gubernatorial race this fall as a mandate for more gun laws. He was able to use his previous win as a mandate for higher income and other taxes in the state. Here is some info on the shooting:

Officer Gary Skerski, 46, was heading to the rear entrance of the bar in the city's Frankford section about 10 p.m. Monday when a man came out and fired a shotgun blast, striking him in the neck.

"This officer didn't appear like he even had an opportunity to pull his weapon," Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson said.. . .


Canada's sponsorship scandal, finally the right amount of damages being discussed

Well, may be not the right amount, but at least closer to the right amount. I never understood how the Canadian media let the Liberals get away with saying that they only had to pay back $1.1 million for the money that was stolen. $1.1 million was the amount of the kickbacks that could be clearly linked to the stolen money, but $40.5 million is still unaccounted for. In either case, this would be the equivalent to charging robbers with only the value of the items as determined by the fence. What would make even more sense is the amount that was given out by the Liberals to their pals. Something in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

But Justice John Gomery concluded that millions of dollars were diverted to Liberal-friendly ad firms for little or no work, pocketed by Liberal organizers or kicked back to the Liberal party's Quebec wing.

It has never been clear exactly how much of the sponsorship money wound up in Liberal coffers.

Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas pointed out that Gomery found $40.5 million from the program remains unaccounted for.

But Liberals countered there's no evidence any of that missing money went to them.
Based on Gomery's findings and a forensic audit he commissioned, the Liberals calculated that $1.14 million was diverted to the party from the federal sponsorship program. That money was repaid last year.
. . .


Weapons grade uranium found again in Iran?

The U.N. nuclear watchdog has found traces of weapons-grade enriched uranium at a second site in Iran, diplomats said on Thursday, and President Bush warned Tehran it faces global condemnation.

One diplomat told Reuters the discovery could support Tehran's explanation that the discovery of highly enriched uranium at a previous site in Iran was due to contamination from imported components.

But several other diplomats said it could support the U.S. theory that Iran has been secretly purifying uranium for use in a nuclear explosive device -- a charge Tehran denies. . . .

What the discovery does support is that Iran has weapon grade uranium. The discover at a second site indicates that the discovery at the first site was not the result of some hard to believe accident. The claim that this supports "Tehran's explanation" just seems bizarre. How does the fact that this weapons grade uranium was found at a second site prove anything about imported components? Would finding such uranium at a third or fourth site make that case even stronger?

Single Juror Kept Moussaoui from being Executed

The point that upset me the most is not that there was just a single juror that stop Moussaoui from being executed, but that this single juror never had to provide any reason. It makes the decision come across as one that the juror didn't even feel could be defended.

A single holdout kept the jury from handing a death sentence to Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in this country in the 9/11 attacks.

But that juror never explained his vote, said the foreman of the jury that sentenced the confessed Al Qaeda conspirator to life in prison last week. . . .

UPDATE: Just a reminder, that Moussaoui told us "you lose" when he was given life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. Here is an op-ed by Mark Steyn to remind everyone:

"America, you lose," said Zacarias Moussaoui as he was led away from the court last week.

Hard to disagree. Not just because he'll be living a long life at taxpayers' expense. He'd have had a good stretch of that even if he'd been "sentenced to death," which in America means you now spend more years sitting on Death Row exhausting your appeals than the average "life" sentence in Europe. America "lost" for a more basic reason: turning a war into a court case and upgrading the enemy to a defendant ensures you pretty much lose however it turns out. And the notion, peddled by some sappy member of the ghastly 9/11 Commission on one of the cable yakfests last week, that jihadists around the world are marveling at the fairness of the U.S. justice system, is preposterous. The leisurely legal process Moussaoui enjoyed lasted longer than America's participation in the Second World War. Around the world, everybody's enjoying a grand old laugh at the U.S. justice system.

Except for Saddam Hussein, who must be regretting he fell into the hands of the Iraqi justice system. Nine out of 12 U.S. jurors agreed that the "emotional abuse" Moussaoui suffered as a child should be a mitigating factor. Saddam could claim the same but his jury isn't operating to the legal principles of the Oprahfonic Code. However, if we ever catch Mullah Omar or the elderly Adolf Hitler or pretty much anyone else we're at war with, they can all cite the same list of general grievances as Moussaoui.

He did, in that sense, hit the jackpot. We think of him as an "Islamic terrorist," an Arab, but he is, in fact, a product of the Western world: raised in France, radicalized in Britain, and now enjoying a long vacation in America. The taxpayers of the United Kingdom subsidized his jihad training while he was on welfare in London. Now the taxpayers of the United States will get to chip in, too.

On the afternoon of Sept. 11, as the Pentagon still burned, Donald Rumsfeld told the president, "This is not a criminal action. This is war." . . . .

"twice as big a scandal as the [Canadian] sponsorship scandal"

PUBLICATION: National Post
DATE: 2006.05.12
EDITION: National
BYLINE: Allan Woods
SOURCE: CanWest News Service
ILLUSTRATION: Black & White Photo: Garry Breitkreuz.

Contract is registry's 'smoking gun': Public works investigating: Conservative MP says $273M computer deal hidden from Parliament

OTTAWA - The former Liberal government "broke every rule in the book" when it signed a $273-million computer contract for the federal gun registry -- now the subject of a "stop-work" order -- and never reported the costs or terms of the deal to Parliament, a long-time Conservative gun-registry critic alleges.

Saskatchewan Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz, who discovered the existence of the 15-year contract last fall, said it was never reported to Parliament in government estimates on spending, or disclosed by the Treasury Board, which controls the government purse.

A Tory source referred to the 383-page contract, which was obtained by Mr. Breitkreuz under the Access to Information Act and provided to CanWest News Service, as the "smoking gun" in the troubled saga of the Canadian Firearms Centre.

The revelations come after CanWest revealed that Auditor-General Sheila Fraser will report on Tuesday that the former Liberal government kept the true costs of the gun registry from Parliament and that the problems identified in her initial 2002 audit of the controversial program continued for at least three years despite fierce criticism and the scrutiny of opposition parties.

"When they gave out that $273-million contract, they broke every rule in the book," Mr. Breitkreuz said, echoing the phrase that Ms. Fraser made famous in her audit of the $250-million sponsorship program.

Former Liberal public works minister Scott Brison disputed the Tory allegations yesterday, saying "to the best of my knowledge we were extremely vigorous" in reporting gun-registry costs to Parliament.

Nevertheless, the Conservatives believe the findings they expect to see in next Tuesday's audit of the firearms program will give them the ammunition they need to scrap the registry.

"I think it's a huge story, and in my mind, this is twice as big a scandal as the sponsorship scandal because here you've got contracts over $500-million going out and the work being done just doesn't measure up to that kind of money that we're spending," Mr. Breitkreuz said. . . .

The lead company in the consortium, Montreal-based CGI Information Systems, was under contract for four years to the federal government while the Liberals and top public servants responsible for the firearm registry struggled to find ways to bring the escalating costs under control.

A 2004 report for the government noted that an "unstable" legislative environment and continuous delays were driving up the cost of the registry.

EDS Canada, the registry's original computer firm, was under contract at the same time as CGI, but its computer system was not considered flexible enough for the changing demands government officials placed upon it.

Team Centra's term running the gun registry computer system began on Dec. 5, 2005, according to the contract, but there are suggestions that a test run on the new computer system was a "huge failure," Mr. Breitkreuz said, adding that the original computer system designed by EDS Canada is still being used to process gun registrations.

"I'm really interested to know if we made any payments on that $273-million contract," he said.

Both Mr. Fortier and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, whose department is responsible for the firearms program, declined interview requests yesterday.

In her 2002 report on the federal gun registry, the Auditor-General found that Parliament had been "kept in the dark" about the costs of the program, and that they had risen to $1-billion from $119-million when it was created in 1995.

"She stopped her audit at $1-billion because she couldn't find out where the rest of the money has gone. Maybe she has found out more and is able to determine the actual costs," Mr. Breitkreuz suggested. . . . ..

How Hybrid Cars Make Our Country Poorer

If the only reason that you use a hybrid car is because of the government subsidy, it is likely that hybrids are making the country poorer. The analysis is no different that for farm subsidies or protecting jobs in the steel industry. In this case, the example below implies that the social loss is $1,271 per car. You want to save gas? Well, the price of the gas already incorporates all the opportunity costs and gives you the right incentive to economize. There are obviously many ways to economize and you weigh those costs against the gains from not having to buy as much gasoline. Worried about the fact that Iran may stop delivery? Well, that risk is already in the price of gas. If Iran were to stop deliveries, the price would rise to some amount. Traders will raise the current price to that expected price. If they didn't, someone could make some money. The point in referencing the example below is that if the cost of gasoline paid for the additional cost of the hybrid vehicle, you wouldn't need a subsidy. That additional cost of buying something that doesn't pay for itself is a loss to the country. Let the Europeans or others adopt these environmental rules. They will pay the cost and we will get a slightly lower price for gas (the effects hardly seem large given that we live in a world market for gas).


The incentives of purchasing a hybrid car could be philosophical, financial or environmental. Berman recognizes that not everyone is willing to go completely green right away.

"Everyone should take little steps," Berman told LiveScience. "Buy the most efficient fuel car. It doesn't have to be hybrid. If you don't need an SUV, don't get an SUV."

Some car buyers might want to look at the decision from a purely financial standpoint.

Here is an example of how one choice might work out:

The average American drives 15,000 miles each year, with 45 percent of that on highways. The traditional Honda Civic costs about $17,110, and it gets about 30 miles per gallon in the city and 40 highway. At $2.92 a gallon, this subcompact car costs $1,296 in gasoline in one year.

At $22,900, the Honda Civic Hybrid will initially cost a bit more, but with an average of 50 miles per gallon, a year of gas will cost $878.

In 10 years, taking into account inflation at 3 percent but not factoring in any possible changes in gas prices, the gas savings of a hybrid reaches almost $5,000.

Finally, a new federal incentive program allows you to receive a one-time $2,100 tax credit for buying a hybrid.

Tally up all the extra costs and factor in the savings — not counting additional incentives offered by some states — after 10 years, this hybrid will ultimately save you about $1,229. . . . .


Report due any day on Problems with Canadian Gun Registry

I wish that the other thing that the report would go into would be that despite these costs it hasn't solved any crimes, though of course the former liberal government already admitted that.

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2006.05.11
PAGE: A1 / Front
BYLINE: Allan Woods
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen
NOTE: Auditor: Sheila Fraser says she won't use new powers, pageA3


Liberals hid gun registry costs: report: Auditor general to reveal huge expenses were buried in routine reports for several years


The former Liberal government buried the huge costs incurred by the federal gun registry deep within mandatory reports on government spending, the auditor general is expected to reveal next week.

In a new report, Sheila Fraser is expected to reveal that the problems she identified in a 2002 report -- including that Parliament was "kept in the dark" about the ballooning costs related to the registry -- persisted for three years, despite fierce criticism and the scrutiny of opposition parties. She will also note that there were serious difficulties related to the handling of computer contracts.

Ms. Fraser is expected to lay the blame at the feet of top public servants and their former Liberal masters when her report is released on Tuesday. . . . ..


Don't throw in the towel yet on Republicans keeping control of Congress

"The real oil profiteers"

My friend Ben Zycher has a nice piece in yesterday's Orange County Register on oil company profits.

Reagan, of course, cast aside the nonsense of price controls, windfall-profit taxes and conspiracy accusations promoted by innumerable experts, officials and pundits in the context of the 1970s oil crises, allowing market forces to engender sharply lower prices in the 1980s. That wisdom is withering away.

In contrast, still standing tall is the fundamental principle that the Great Leonid Ilyich of the former Soviet Union bequeathed to all mankind: What's Mine Is Mine, and What's Yours Is Up For Grabs. (I translate loosely from old editions of Pravda.)

And so, in the wake of sharply rising gasoline prices, many in both Washington, D.C., and Sacramento now stand foursquare in favor of the Brezhnev approach, in the form of loud clamoring for "windfall profit" taxes to be imposed upon oil producers and refiners.

During 1986 through 1999, when market conditions were weak, and oil prices were low, did anyone advocate a "windfall loss" subsidy for those same producers? The question answers itself. This asymmetry means that over time producers would find it difficult to earn competitive returns, since upside potential would be limited by tax policies driven by popular passions, while downside risks would remain as they are. Investment would fall, longer-term production capacity would decline, and prices would rise, another shining achievement of Beltway magic visited upon consumers.

Let us shunt aside the "conspiracy" accusations – as Pavlovian as they are unsupported by actual evidence – and ask why gasoline prices have increased sharply. First, there is the obvious: Crude-oil prices are high in substantial part because economic growth in Asia and elsewhere has strengthened demand conditions. Moreover, there are ongoing supply problems in Venezuela, Nigeria, Russia and other producing nations; and political uncertainty about the physical security of some fields and pipelines has added a risk premium to prices.

Three refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast shut down by hurricanes last fall only now are slowly returning to operation. Other refineries at that time deferred planned maintenance in order to continue production (so much for purported conspiracies) until this spring, while others are undergoing planned spring maintenance now in advance of the summer driving season. And so gasoline production has declined recently by about 450,000 barrels per day, yielding a 20 million-barrel reduction in stocks over the past month. . . . .


Will Donohue and Levitt predict that a massive new crime wave is coming?

Guttmacher Institute, associated with Planned Parenthood, claims that: "The rate of unintended births — unintended pregnancies carried to term — rose by 44 percent among poor women from 1994 to 2001, but declined by 8 percent for wealthier women." If true, I assume that those few who still believe that abortion massively reduces violent crime rates after the errors were discovered in the original research will be predicting that we will soon see a big increase in violent crime rates. If up to 80 percent of the changes in murder rates can be explained by abortion as has been argued, those who believe this relationship must be worried we could be in for big increases in murder. (Of course, the abortion is more likely to slightly increase crime.) People born in 1994 will become teenagers starting next year. Presumably, proponents of this theory will start warning people very soon.

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Under British Socialized Medicine: Doctor Heal Thyself

Lessons from Gas Price Controls in Hawaii

John Fund in today's OpinionJournal's Political Diary writes:

. . . Late last month, legislators quietly agreed on a bill to rescind Hawaii's eight-month-old experiment with gasoline price caps. While every Democrat in the legislature had voted in favor of the caps in 2005, all but one now voted to scrap the idea as unworkable. . . .

Hawaii's legislation capped the wholesale price of gasoline last September just as Hurricane Katrina caused oil prices to soar. Far from restraining prices, the regulations led to spot shortages, panic buying and general confusion. The law's main motivation appears to have been an attempt to retaliate against big oil companies, namely Chevron. But legislators two weeks ago finally surrendered to political reality. According to The Honolulu Advertiser: "Several lawmakers privately believed the cap would work over time but the risk was too great if they left it in place and gas prices skyrocketed over the summer when they were out of session and campaigning for re-election."

But even though the gas cap regulations are going away, the damage they caused will linger. "Oil companies will be leery of investing capital into their Hawaii operations, knowing that all that stands between them and a new lower Gas Cap, which might order them to sell gasoline below their cost of production, is a few bad poll numbers in an election year or a majority of bad apples in the new legislature," notes HawaiiReporter.com. . . .

One always hopes that these lessons don't have to be learned again and again.

TV Special on Annie Oakley Tonight

Even the New York Times concedes that this is an excellent show tonight:

Plenty of women accomplished plenty of things in the first century or so of United States history, so it's a little dismaying to think that the country's first female superstar was famous not for her voice or her musicianship or her brain, but for her ability to shoot firearms accurately. Yet tonight's installment of "American Experience" on PBS makes the case that Annie Oakley was the first American woman whose fame and knack for spawning legends (a close cousin of gossip) qualified as superstardom.

Even if her particular talent is not to your liking, it would be difficult to watch this program and not be awed by the woman's life. Oakley, born Phoebe Ann Moses in Ohio in 1860, lived during a remarkable stretch of history that encompassed both the Civil War and World War I, one that began on horseback by lamplight and ended in automobiles under electric bulbs.

So familiar are the images of Oakley in old-time Western regalia, making her seem like some preindustrial artifact, that it's surprising to see movies of her, shot by Thomas Edison in his New Jersey studio. It's surprising too to track the incredible array of luminaries she met or performed for or with, Sitting Bull on the one extreme, Oscar Wilde on the other. . . . . .

Thanks to Don Kates for letting me know about this.

Gore running for President

The Wall Street Journal reports that Al Gore is likely to enter 2008 presidential race:

For former Vice President Al Gore, a rash of favorable publicity surrounding this month's opening of his movie "An Inconvenient Truth," and the growing political resonance of its subject -- global warming -- are stoking the most serious speculation about a Gore political comeback since his loss in the 2000 U.S. presidential election.

In 2008, that could mean a once-unimaginable battle for Democrats' nomination between Bill Clinton's former vice president and his wife, Hillary Clinton. To some pro-Gore Democrats, worried about Mrs. Clinton's electability, that is part of the appeal.

"I appreciate that buzz, but he's not running for president," insists Michael Feldman, a former vice presidential adviser who is helping promote the film and Mr. Gore's new book on which it is based. "He has been spending a considerable amount of time trying to educate people about the issue of global warming," and won't talk about politics "right now," Mr. Feldman says.

The demurrals aren't persuasive to some Democrats, including former Clinton-Gore White House insiders. "I do know that he's thinking about it. I know for a fact," a former adviser says. "He's talked to people about the pros and cons." . . . . .

Since the 2000 campaign, Gore has drifted farther and farther left and gotten more and more shrill. I just hope that the Republicans have a strong contender. On guns, he ran on a platform of gun registration in 2000.


Ohio Concealed Permit Holder Shoots Robber

Stating the obvious on right-to-carry research

Here is a recent short note that I wrote up:

An April 15 People's Forum letter attacking my research was filled with inaccurate claims. It said that my research showing that concealed carry gun laws lead to a drop in violent crime has been "entirely discredited" and "failed to stand up when examined by more objective researchers." In fact, a large number of refereed academic studies have confirmed my results, some finding drops in crime even larger than I did. For a list of papers see: http://johnrlott.tripod.com/postsbyday/RTCResearch.html. . . .

Interestingly, there are no refereed academic journal publications that claim that right-to-carry laws increase any type of violent crime rate.

John Lott

ABA: "Alito’s first opinion favors murder defendant"

It is undoubtedly good politically that Alito start off with a decision such as this because it will slightly take the edge off attacks on his later decisions. Personally, I also don't think that this particular case is troublesome to conservatives either.

In his first opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., a former federal prosecutor, overturned a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling restricting a murder defendant’s right to produce evidence that another person committed the crime.

The South Carolina Supreme Court had ruled that since the state had strong forensic evidence of the defendant’s guilt, he was precluded from introducing his evidence of third-party guilt.

Writing for a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court in Holmes v. South Carolina, No. 04-1327, Alito said the state court erred in evaluating only the strength of the prosecution’s case and not the defendant’s evidence. Criticizing the South Carolina rule as "arbitrary," Alito said it violated the defendant’s constitutional right to present a complete defense.

"The true strength of the prosecution’s proof cannot be assessed without considering challenges to the reliability of the prosecution’s evidence," wrote Alito, who served in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey and in the Justice Department. His opinion vacated the judgment of the South Carolina court and remanded for further proceedings. . . .

Worker confidence in the U.S. labor market strong and rising

Ads for Citgo gasoline touting its connections with Venezuela?: Is this serious?

I was just watching Meet the Press where there was an ad pushing Citgo gasoline stations and its relationship to Venezuela. It was a little stunning to see an ad pointing to ties to Venezuela as a strength for a gasoline company. I did a search and came across websites trying to get Americans to buy Citgo gas because Citgo is owned by Venezuela. A Marxist dictator who is brutally killing his own people being held up as a positive reason to buy gasoline? Here is one example:

Looking for an easy way to protest Bush foreign policy week after week? And an easy way to help alleviate global poverty? Buy your gasoline at Citgo stations.
And tell your friends.

Of the top oil producing countries in the world, only one is a democracy with a president who was elected on a platform of using his nation's oil revenue to benefit the poor. The country is Venezuela. The President is Hugo Chavez. Call him "the Anti-Bush."

Citgo is a U.S. refining and marketing firm that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company. Money you pay to Citgo goes primarily to Venezuela -- not Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. . . .

UPDATE: I have gotten some of the wierdest messages ever after I made this post, and they have defended Chavez and saying that the people in Venezula know the truth: "where people actually know what's going on." Here are some examples of Chavez's behavior:

1) Cardinal Lara had this to say: “A government that was elected democratically seven years ago, has lost its democratic course and presents a face of dictatorship, where all of the powers of government are practically in the hands of a single person, who exercises them arbitrarily and despotically.”

2) The intensity of Chavez’s anti-Americanism is matched only by his zealous campaign against democracy at home. The most basic democratic pillar of free speech is in critical condition as Chavez supporters recently enacted a law which criminalized anti-government dissent; banging pots against the road is now a quick way for a Venezuelan citizen to be thrown in jail. The private press, constantly derided by President Chavez as defying “public order”, is now neutered by yet another presidential edict which allows the government to shut down news organizations without explanation or review. These methods are all part of Chavez’s “Bolivarian” political philosophy, which represents a dangerous amalgamation of Maoist-Marxist-populist dogma. Groups of pro-Chavez thugs dubbed “Bolivarian circles” have been recruited to intimidate, assault, and even kill enemies of his “Bolivarian revolution”. In a final step towards absolute power, the Venezuelan supreme court, stacked with a majority of 17 Chavez appointed judges, has hinted at its willingness to alter the ragged constitution even further, this time in order to declare Chavez “President for Life”.

3) The "presidential guards are responsible for the shooting of unarmed protesters." See also Chavez's supporters did "open fire" on opposition rallies.

4) The link here also discusses the disappearance and murder of opposition leaders, and how the government held a press conference to attack the dead man filled with many false claims about how he had died.

5) A summary of points can be found here.