11/24/2007

I just hope that James Taranto is correct about Guiliani

James Taranto seems a lot more confident about Guiliani's views on guns than I am.

What about those social conservatives Mr. Giuliani has to win over? A few hours after I interviewed Mr. Olson, he introduced Mr. Giuliani's speech at the annual conference of the Federalist Society, the hub of the conservative legal community. Sure enough, the former mayor promised that as president he will choose judicial nominees "with the advice of people like Ted." He seemed to be on the same page as his adviser: "We need judges who embrace originalism, endeavor to determine what others meant when they wrote the words of our Constitution--justices like Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts. That would be my model."

He reassured the gun-rights constituency, praising the recent appellate decision that struck down the District of Columbia's handgun ban as a violation of the Second Amendment.


Well, I was at Guiliani's talk to the Federalist Society and I wasn't convinced:

John Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime" told Cybercast News Service he was disappointed he did not have the opportunity to ask Giuliani questions.

"He talks about how it's an abuse of the legal process for people to bring suits that try to accomplish public policy goals," said Lott.

"So I wanted to ask him about his suit against gun manufacturers. He has talked about how this suit has morphed into something he disagreed with and I wanted him to be specific and tell how this suit had changed and what had been included that now he disagreed with," he added.


James is a smart guy. Possibly he is right, but I have my doubts.

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Copying is the sincerest form of flattery?

From Friday's Wall Street Journal, an article by Mike Cox on the DC gun ban notes that:

Crime rose significantly after the gun ban went into effect. In the five years before the 1976 ban, the murder rate fell to 27 from 37 per 100,000. In the five years after it went into effect, the murder rate rose to 35. In fact, while murder rates have varied over time, during the 30 years since the ban, the murder rate has only once fallen below what it was in 1976.


From a piece that I wrote in 2004

Crime rose significantly after the gun ban went into effect. In the five years before Washington's ban in 1976, the murder rate fell from 37 to 27 per 100,000. In the five years after it went into effect, the murder rate rose back up to 35. . . . In fact, while murder rates have varied over time, during the almost 30 years since the ban, the murder rate has only once fallen below what it was in 1976.


This involves only three sentences that total 172 words in the piece, but it is still a little irritating. There were two changes in what I wrote: 1) because three years have gone by since I wrote the original piece the "almost 30 years" that I wrote was changed to "30 years" and 2) "fell from 37 to 27" was changed to "fell to 27 from 37." Otherwise it was identical. The first change is most troublesome because it indicates that Cox (or someone who wrote it for him) probably looked at what I wrote and the date on it in order to make the change.

This is getting to be a fairly common "crime" these days for example with Law Professor Ian Ayres being one of the more recent people caught:
“Several passages in Yale Law School professor Ian Ayres ... new book are unattributed verbatim reproductions or nearly identical paraphrases of passages from various newspaper and magazine articles published in the last twenty years, an investigation by the [Yale Daily] News has shown."


Yet, as some have noted in Ayres' case, "The problem with [Ayres'] explanation---whether used by Ayres or the others---is that it explains how a verbatim quotation can end up unattributed but is not so credible in explaining how an almost-verbatim paraphrase ends up unattributed. . . . But paraphrases in which the sentence structure is altered ever so slightly is much harder to explain as the result of inadvertence."

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11/23/2007

Some leaks in one case for justifying higher tax rates

David Henderson has a good analysis of some recent justifications for higher marginally tax rates by Economist Robert Frank:

A summary of Frank's argument is in order. He claims that many of the goods we buy are "positional." In other words, their value to those who own them depends strongly on relative position rather than anything absolute. Frank gives the example of a Ferrari Scaglietti, a car that sells in the United States for about $250,000. According to Frank, purchases of such cars and of 60,000-square-foot houses "subtly change the social frame of reference that defines what kinds of houses and cars seem necessary or appropriate." The people who buy such things up the ante on their purchases, and then the people "below" them do likewise, and so on down the income scale. Frank calls this alleged phenomenon an "expenditure cascade." In buying positional goods, the highest-income people, writes Frank, impose a negative externality on the people below them, who then, through their purchases, impose a negative externality on those below them, and so on. Frank advocates the standard economist's solution to a negative externality, which is a tax on the activity that generates the externality. Frank's favored tax is a tax on consumption, with a higher rate for those who consume more.

As a bonus, argues Frank, a government can tax high-income people even more than it currently does without making them worse off. How so? For simplicity, imagine a society in which there are a million people making more than $500,000 a year. Most of us would agree, I think, that those people have high incomes. Imagine that they now pay 30 percent of their income in federal income taxes. Now imagine that the government, following Frank's suggestion, imposes a tax on consumption above some amount per year and, thus, raises tax rates on high-income people so that those million people now pay 40 percent of their income in federal income taxes. Because their relative position with respect to each other would be unchanged, and because they spend so much money on positional goods anyway, they would not care--or so the argument goes. As Frank testified, "Thus, if a consumption tax led wealthy families to buy 5,000-square-foot houses instead [of] 8,000, and Porsche Boxsters instead of Ferraris, no one would really be worse off, and several hundred thousand dollars of resources per family would be freed up for more pressing purposes." . . . .


I won't speak for Frank, but while I would like a Porsche, a Ferrari would be even neater. Would I also like a bigger, newer house? Would I like these things even if everyone else wasn't jealous? I got an iPhone this summer, and I am very happy that I did. Did others like looking at it? Yes. But am I extremely happy that I have a smart phone that I can really effectively use all its features.

Well, David Henderson, doesn't always get things right, but, apparently, there were some problems with the original evidence that Frank used to make his point. One piece of supposed evidence: Employee salaries at the University of Michigan don't show the variation that they should if salaries vary with productivity. However, there are two very obvious problems with this as Henderson points out: 1) public institutions, just as with unions, compress wages. Anytime you let wages be determined by votes you tend to get that outcome. 2) University professors get paid in lots of ways other than salaries. Henderson points to other data problems here.

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Permits in Utah

This is kind of interesting that "1,000 non-resident citizens of foreign countries, from the Congo to Switzerland" have concealed handgun permits.

Nearly half of the 28,000 permits issued this year will go to out-of-state residents. Utah has issued more than 100,000 concealed gun permits since the program began in the early 1990s.

Ed McConkie, chief of the Bureau of Criminal Identification told the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday some rule changes, including one that allows the BCI to keep the fees it collects for concealed weapon permits, has allowed the agency to catch up on its backlog of background checks.

Under law, the agency must issue the permit within 60 days. Before the new rule took effect, the waiting period had reached 120 days, violating the statute. Now it's 49 days for Utah applicants and 53 days for out-of-state residents. . . . .

Through reciprocity agreements, Utah's permit allows holders to carry a concealed gun in 34 states. More than 1,000 non-resident citizens of foreign countries, from the Congo to Switzerland, have been issued Utah permits.

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11/22/2007

Defensive Gun Use: "Kill or be killed"

"What would you do if someone broke into your home? . . . What would you do if someone wants you dead?"
A dramatic example of a gang attacking a man at home and a man defending himself can be seen here. This is a really dramatic example.

Thanks to Andrew Breitbart for putting this up on his website.

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Letter From Canadian Police Officer to Member of Parliament

I received this from Garry Breitkreuz's office:

I am a peace officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and am currently posted to the xxxxxxxxxx Detachment.

One of my current responsibilities is to train new cadets that have recently graduated from Depot Division by furthering their "hands on" training in the field. I am very concerned about this new Bill regarding firearms registration. I am concerned that if it is not passed in the House that more Mounties may face the same fate as the two young men did within this last month.

This firearms registration must be abolished once and for all! I find that I have to deprogram every cadet that I train when it comes to CFRO checks and their reliability in regards to officer safety. One dark evening, myself and a newly graduated cadet had to visit a residence of someone suspected of a violent crime. The cadet told me, rather proudly, that they had conducted a CFRO check on the house and that it showed that there were no firearms present, so we would not have to worry.

I scolded his ignorance and naivety. I told him to stop and think about that for a moment. I said, "Do you honestly think that someone who is already living a criminal lifestyle and is in possession of firearms has any intention of registering them?" I told him to never place any faith in the registry and most of all, never trust that notion that just because nothing is registered to an individual then an officer's safety is insured. Conversely also, do not ever believe that just because someone has a firearm registered that they will never use it in the commission of an offence! It does not matter if a gun is registered, if someone is bent on crime they will use a registered or non-registered gun. If no gun is available, they will use something else.

In my evaluation, the registry only causes more criminal code infractions (before the amnesty) as police query law abiding citizens' guns to see if they are registered only to find out that they may not be - in spite of the claims that the owner did in fact attempt to register them; or the information on the registration certificate is incorrect, etc. making the gun owner appear negligent.

The gun registry places police officers' lives at risk. The gun registry offers a false sense of security. The gun registry is making criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens. The gun registry is eating up resources that the RCMP and every other municipal or first nation force desperately need. The gun registry consumes valuable time for the average police officer on the street who has real crime to fight. Saying that the guns are the problem in this society is like saying pens are the cause of spelling errors, or that cars are the cause of drunk driving, or like saying fast food restaurants are the cause of obesity.

When will common sense prevail? People need to be held accountable for their actions - whether with firearms, alcohol, vehicles, etc. That is what the Conservatives did with the Liberals when in opposition and then on a larger scale once elected.

The gun registry brings justice into disrepute. It is an absolute waste of taxpayers money. The registry does nothing to fight the crime issues in this country. Please do everything possible to make sure that this Bill passes.

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Recommended Books for Christmas Gifts

Mike Adams, a criminology professor and columnist, sent out his annual list of books give and not to give as Christmas gifts:

"Freak-o-nomics," by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dupner.

This book has raised quite a stink with its assertion that legalizing abortion in the 1970s greatly reduced crime on the 1990s. The book also makes claims about the effects of right-to-carry laws on crime rates, which are contrary to what I have been saying in speeches on college campuses including Ohio University and, more recently, Bucknell University. Nonetheless, I always encourage my readers to seek contrary opinions.

"Freedom-nomics" by John R. Lott, Jr.

In this enjoyable book, Lott offers an intriguing argument about the true effects the 1973 "Roe" decision has had on crime. This argument alone makes the book well worth the purchase price. But Lott alsooffers a strong rebuttal to the assertion that right-to-carry laws have not reduced crime. Levitt and Dupner suggest that Lott may have fabricated data and that there has been a widespread inability of others to replicate his results. But, why then, are there more refereed studies (fifteen) showing that CCWs reduce homicide rates than refereed studies (ten) showing no effect? And why are there no (exactly zero) refereed studies showing the CCWs are increasing homicide rates? Was that not the principal argument against right-to-carry laws in the first place?

Lott also makes a strong case for the deterrent effect of the death penalty, which is causing this lifelong abolitionist to reconsider his position.

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11/21/2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

This has been another interesting year with much to be thankful for.

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Finally, University of Iowa Police will begin carrying guns

Glenn Reynolds on the Second Amendment and the options the Supreme Court Faces

It can find that the Second Amendment doesn't grant individual rights, but only protects the right of states to arm their militias (or "state armies," as some gun-control advocates put it). This would make the DC case go away, but at some cost: If states have a constitutional right, as against the federal government, to arm their militias as they see fit, then states that don't like federal gun-control laws could just enroll every law-abiding citizen in the state militia and authorize those citizens to possess machine guns, tanks and other military gear.


This is the first time that I have seen this point. Putting the merits of this approach aside (even DC doesn't appear to really have its heart in this approach), I really wonder if gun control advocates know what they might be getting into if they get their wish regarding the DC gun ban.

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Saudi Arabia: Does its punishment for rape encourage the crime?

Saudi Arabia defended on Tuesday a court's decision to sentence a woman who was gang-raped to 200 lashes of the whip, after the United States described the verdict as "astonishing". . . . .


Putting aside one's reactions to this weird penalty, there is the question what impact it has on the total number of rapes. It is not clear. There are two effects. Surely, punishing women will make them even more willing to avoid situations that could result in rape. But it also makes it less likely that women will report rapes when they occur. It is not clear what the net effect is. It would be an interesting empirical study to see if Islamic law increased rape rates. The big problem with testing this is that if rapes stop being reported at the same time that the rules change, one would have to come with something imaginative to figure out how to measure the change in the number of rapes. Surveys would probably also be problematic.

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11/20/2007

Michael Medved reviews "Redacted": The "Could be the Worst Movie that I have ever seen"

Redacted is another critical movie on the Iraq war. Michael spares little in his critique: "Could be the Worst Movie that I have ever seen . . . none more disgusting than Redacted . . . close to vomitting . . . nothing quite like this . . . Mark Cuban . . . ought to be ashamed . . ." This is a pretty amazing discussion by Medved.

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Supreme Court Grants Cert for DC Gun Ban Case

Whatever one thinks is the obvious meaning of "shall not infringe," this case is a big risk. I would have thought that the first amendment was clear with "shall pass no law," but the court interpreted this as "Congress shall pass no law unless it has a good reason." The case is likely to be closely decided.

Probably one reason why the court took an extra week to announce that they were taking the case was because they were rewriting the question before the court:

Here is the way the Court phrased the granted issue:

“Whether the following provisions — D.C. Code secs. 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02 — violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?”


The Scotusblog has a useful discussion of the case.

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11/19/2007

Anti-Mormon Push Poll May Have Been Done by Romney?

If this is true, it could end Romney's campaign:

Who would be behind such a thing, given that the risks to any campaign caught dragging religion into the race would be enormous? After an extensive investigation, Mark Hemingway of National Review has fingered a likely culprit: "Although the Romney campaign denies involvement, evidence points in its general direction."

Why? One plausible motive would be to gather data about public reaction to negative information about the Mormon Church. Another might be to arouse sympathy for Mr. Romney and provide him a needed pretext to give a major address on why voters should not factor in his Mormon religion when making their presidential decision.

the firm making the calls is the Utah-based Western Wats, which may have direct ties to the Romney campaign. Back in August, people in Iowa and New Hampshire who received unwanted telephone calls of a political nature were able to trace those calls back to Western Wats. The client paying Western Wats was Target Point Consulting, a firm that had been received $720,000 from the Romney campaign. Alex Gage, president of Target Point, has been identified in the media as "Romney's Data Cruncher" and part of "Mitt Romney's Inner Circle."


UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt has been all over this on his radio show and his guests have argued that it is most likely funded by George Soros.

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I was wrong about Huckabee, he is even worse then I thought

And I already thought that he was really bad, a kind of social conservative with left-wing economic views. I have written a few things on Huckabee here and here.

I have mentioned previously his obsession with the hysteria about man-made global warming being a real threat, but now he wants to further expand conservation, make us energy independent within four years, and expand ethanol and other biofuels. This is a recipe for economic poverty. Subsidize the sale of fruit and vegetables. Force use of fluorescent lights. This guy is a disaster. Is there anything that this guy won't mandate or subsidize or tax?

Talk about micromanaging. People aren't eating enough fruit, subsidize it.

I'm one of the few people who's actually talked about the fact that as Republicans we have done a lousy job of presenting the case for conservation. We ought to be the leaders, but unfortunately we've been the last people speaking out on conservation. . . . .

You've vowed in your presidential platform to achieve energy independence by your second term. . . . .

The key is to create [energy independence is] the kind of unbridled marketplace that turns innovators loose to find the solutions. I don't think we're going to find one big answer. I think it's going to be a combination of many that will include hydrogen, solar, wind, nuclear, domestically produced fossil fuels -- at least for the short term. . . . .

You mentioned your support for ethanol and other biofuels. . . . . .

replace light bulbs with the fluorescent types. We need to shoot for less fossil fuel, go to more energy-efficient and certainly non-carbon-producing methods of energy. . . . .

we can start making a genuine transition to healthier, more whole-food products, doing more to subsidize fruits and vegetables, rather than just the processed food, and creating the appetites in children by exposing them more to fruits and vegetables at the marketplace, and the schools, and their homes and neighborhoods. . . .

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11/18/2007

The American Hunter Reviews Freedomnomics

This is from the December 2007 issue:

When John R. Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, sent me a copy of Freedomnomics, I was ready for my preconceptions to be busted; after all, this is the guy who, after years of research, proved that gun control doesn't lower crime rates -- actuall all it does is disarm law-abiding citizens. Freedomnomics starts with a hat tip to Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, then clearly shows what the free market has done for America and the free world. The book includes chapter titled "Crime and Punishment" that covers our Second Amendment freedoms. Lott delves into crime statistics to find out if things like the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban worked. When the ban expired in 2004 Sarah Brady predicted that it would effectively "arm our kids with Uzis and AK-47s." Instead, Lott's research shows the nationwide murder rate fell by 3 percent in 2004. This book busts anti-free market myths and will give you control and many other issues pertinent to America today.

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"Pasadena man remorseful about killings"

This is neither the cleanest nor best example of a defensive gun use:

The Pasadena man who killed two suspected burglars as they left his next-door neighbor's home did not intend to kill them when he stepped outside with his 12-gauge shotgun, his lawyer said Friday. . . . .

"He (Horn) was just doing what everyone is supposed to do," Lambright said at a news conference in front of the Houston police memorial near downtown. "He called the police. He was cooperating with them as best he could, trying to give the police the direction of the burglars. He knew there was danger going outside." . . . .

Lambright contended that Horn was startled to find the burglars just 15 feet from his front door when he stepped onto his porch. "He was petrified at that point," the lawyer said. "You hear him say, 'I'll shoot. Stop!' They jumped. Joe thought they were coming for him. It's a self-defense issue." . . . .


I am however bothered by the advice given by the 911 operator not to go outside to intervene. It appears as if the 911 operator is giving advice that would cover all such cases and I don't see how that is at all responsible.

Thanks to CM Ross for sending me this. She notes that it apparently took 8 minutes for the police to respond.

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Movies that have attempted to Attack the War in Iraq are bombing

I am not sure what this means. It could either be that people don't want to listen to this type of political lecturing or that the opposition to the war is not that deep. After 10 days in the US (including two weekends), Lions for Lambs has earned $11.6 million. At tickets going for $10, that is only about 1,160,000 people going to see the movie. BEOWULF earned about that just this last Saturday. The BEE MOVIE has been out a week longer than Lions for Lambs, but it earned as much on Friday and Saturday in each third week as Lions for Lambs has made over each entire 10 days.

LIONS FOR LAMBS
IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH
RENDITION

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75 School district Employees in three Oregon School Districts have Concealed Handgun Permits

It is difficult to get a handle on the number of people in schools with handgun permits. 75 employees might not be a large number, but it would be useful to first figure out how many this implies on average per school in those districts.

More than 75 school district employees in the Eugene, Bethel and Springfield school districts have concealed handgun permits, but it is unclear how many, if any, carry their weapons to school.

The lawsuit of Shirley Katz, a Medford teacher who wants to carry a 9mm Glock on the South Medford High School campus, has garnered national attention, and last week a Jackson County judge denied Katz’s request to carry her gun to school.

State law is clear that holders of concealed handgun licenses can carry concealed weapons into schools. But in his ruling, Circuit Court Judge G. Philip Arnold said the Medford district’s policy, which prohibits employees from carrying weapons on school property, overrules the law.

Katz plans to appeal the ruling, and the question remains: Should teachers with concealed weapons permits be allowed to take guns into the classroom? . . . .

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Among Extremely Likely Voters Gallup Shows Giuliani and Thompson Very Close (25 to 21 percent)

Barry Bonds Perjury Trap

On Thursday, his very freedom was put in jeopardy when a federal grand jury indicted him on five felony counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, charges that could result in a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if he's convicted.. . . .


Here are my questions:

1) Why wasn't he charged with illegal drug use? I have a hard time with these perjury charges where there is no claimed underlying crime.
2) Let Baseball deal with this. Why should this be something that prosecutors spend a lot of time dealing with?

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Boston Police to Search People's Homes for Guns

Boston police are launching a program that will call upon parents in high-crime neighborhoods to allow detectives into their homes, without a warrant, to search for guns in their children's bedrooms.

The program, which is already raising questions about civil liberties, is based on the premise that parents are so fearful of gun violence and the possibility that their own teenagers will be caught up in it that they will turn to police for help, even in their own households.

In the next two weeks, Boston police officers who are assigned to schools will begin going to homes where they believe teenagers might have guns. The officers will travel in groups of three, dress in plainclothes to avoid attracting negative attention, and ask the teenager's parent or legal guardian for permission to search. If the parents say no, police said, the officers will leave. . . . .


Thanks to Rich for sending me this link.

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