3/26/2011

Should a baby conceived after a father's death be given Social Security survivor benefits?

While this is a cute baby, it seems very clear to me that a child shouldn't be eligible for Social Security benefits if it is conceived of after the parent's death. The point of insurance is to protect one against unforeseen events. You conceive the child and then have the parent die unexpectedly. In that case, it makes sense to get insurance. But having the baby after the child is born is not the same.

Melissa Amen conceived her 3-year-old daughter, Kayah, seven days after Kayah's father died of cancer.
"It's my miracle," the 28-year-old Nebraska resident told FoxNews.com. Melissa and her husband, Joshua, struggled for two years to have a child before she conceived through intrauterine insemination. Joshua had stored his sperm in a bank in case treatments for his cancer rendered him sterile. They were planning to raise a family together despite his three-year battle with cancer.
Now Amen faces her own battle: Winning Social Security benefits for Kayah from a federal government that, in essence, doesn't recognize Joshua as the father.
The Social Security Administration denied Melissa's application seeking survivor benefits for Kayah because she was conceived after the death of her father.
"I was so frustrated. I didn't know what to do," Amen said. "I knew I had to fight for her benefits." . . .

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Biden's staff consigns reporter to closet so that he can't talk to guests at a fundraiser

From the Orlando Sentinel on March, 23 2011:

Consider our man Scott Powers, who was sent over to the Winter Park home of Alan Ginsburg this morning as the designated “pool reporter” — aka scribe — for the fundraiser where Vice President Joe Biden is appearing on behalf of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Turns out the veep hadn’t arrived, but about 150 guests (minimum donation $500) were already in the house. So to prevent Scott from mingling with the crowd, a member of Biden’s advance team consigned him to a storage closet — and then stood outside the door to make sure he didn’t walk out without permission.

Scott e-mailed us this photo from his temporary prison. “Sounds like a nice party,” he wrote.


Apparently:

One attendee later emailed the Sentinel to say “I was in attendance at the Fundraiser and enjoyed a nice lunch. If I had known there was a reporter stuffed in the closet, I would have been compelled to stand up and demand answers. I would also like to know if this is actually legal to treat people like caged animals. I’m disgusted by these actions.” Despite this outrage, Sentinel editors have dropped the story. . . .


Another take:

When Ginsburg – who has supported both Democrat and Republican candidates in the past – learnt of the treatment that took place in his house, he called the reporter.
Powers said: ‘[Ginsburg] said he had no idea they'd put me in a closet and was very sorry.
‘He said he was just following their lead and was extremely embarrassed by the whole thing.’ . . . .


UPDATE: Well, the media has pretty much ignored this story for some days, but Biden's office now apologizes for what happened.

The vice president's press secretary has apologized to a local political reporter after he was kept in a storage closet during a Florida fundraiser.

Scott Powers, a reporter with the Orlando Sentinel, was relegated to the storage space during a fundraiser Wednesday for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., apparently to prevent him from speaking to people before Vice President Biden showed up. The Orlando Sentinel published a brief account of the incident earlier in the week.

Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander, responding to coverage of that account, said in a written statement Sunday that the decision to hold Powers there was a "mistake" and that the reporter has accepted her "unequivocal apology." The apology was made shortly after the fundraiser.

"This was the unfortunate mistake of an inexperienced staffer and the vice president's office has made sure it will never happen again," she said. . . .

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How the IRS decides whom to go after

OK, so the lesson is don't drive a fancy car, don't train for a marathon, don't talk about your finances to attractive women. On those three grounds, I think that I am safe. But it seems that the IRS will stop at nothing once they see you are driving a fancy car or training for a marathon. From the NY Times:

As a young man, Mr. Engle had been a serious drug addict, but after he got clean, he became an ultra-marathoner, one of the best in the world. In the fall of 2006, he and two other ultra-marathoners took on an almost unimaginable challenge: they ran across the Sahara Desert, something that had never been done before. The run took 111 days, and was documented in a film financed by Matt Damon, who served as executive producer and narrator. Mr. Engle received $30,000 for his participation.

The film, “Running the Sahara,” was released in the fall of 2008. Eventually, it caught the attention of Robert W. Nordlander, a special agent for the Internal Revenue Service. As Mr. Nordlander later told the grand jury, “Being the special agent that I am, I was wondering, how does a guy train for this because most people have to work from nine to five and it’s very difficult to train for this part-time.” (He also told the grand jurors that sometimes, when he sees somebody driving a Ferrari, he’ll check to see if they make enough money to afford it. When I called Mr. Nordlander and others at the I.R.S. to ask whether this was an appropriate way to choose subjects for criminal tax investigations, my questions were met with a stone wall of silence.)

Mr. Engle’s tax records showed that while his actual income was substantial, his taxable income was quite small, in part because he had a large tax-loss carry forward, due to a business deal he’d been involved in several years earlier. (Mr. Nordlander would later inform the grand jury only of his much lower taxable income, which made it seem more suspicious.) Still convinced that Mr. Engle must be hiding income, Mr. Nordlander did undercover surveillance and took “Dumpster dives” into Mr. Engle’s garbage. He mainly discovered that Mr. Engle lived modestly.

In March 2009, still unsatisfied, Mr. Nordlander persuaded his superiors to send an attractive female undercover agent, Ellen Burrows, to meet Mr. Engle and see if she could get him to say something incriminating. In the course of several flirtatious encounters, she asked him about his investments.

After acknowledging that he had been speculating in real estate during the bubble to help support his running, he said, according to Mr. Nordlander’s grand jury testimony, “I had a couple of good liar loans out there, you know, which my mortgage broker didn’t mind writing down, you know, that I was making four hundred thousand grand a year when he knew I wasn’t.” . . .

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"Americans will be picking up a great deal of the tab" of war

Some notes on the Libyan war. From ABC News:

America may be handing off some of the responsibility of Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya to other nations, but it is clear America's service men and women still will be bearing a heavy load, and Americans will be picking up a great deal of the tab.

Today, British fighter jets flew high above the Libyan desert searching for targets, taking out six tanks with precision guided missiles. Yet, despite a plan to get the rest of the world more involved, more than half of the nearly 100 strike missions in Libya in the past 24 hours were done by Americans. . . .

The U.S. Navy now has 12 ships in the Mediterranean, in less than a week, firing 184 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The USS Kearsarge is the largest of these ships. The crew has actually been underway for 210 days, with only 4 days in port. In September it was Pakistani flood relief. In January, many of its Marines sent to Afghanistan. In February, it stood by for possible evacuations from Egypt, and now, it's targeting Libya.

Adding to that, American fighter pilots routinely are flying five- to six-hour missions along with 24/7 coverage from communications planes and those aerial refuelers.

But with other nations now taking the lead on enforcing the no-fly zone, the number of American fighter jets at least should be reduced, even though so many of the other aspects of this operation will continue to fall to the U.S. . . .


Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links

One also has to wonder whether Obama's foreign policy is causing this to happen: "Pakistan Switches Sides, Expanding Arms Allegiance With China and Leaving U.S. Behind . . ."

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Biden on impeaching presidents for initiating wars without Congressional approval


This clip also contains a quote from Obama on this same issue.

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As budget impasse looms, Tea Party plans rally outside Capitol on Thursday

The Tea Party is apparently calling a rally for this coming Thursday in Washington to protest the high level of government spending and debt. Are we headed for a shutdown? Would it really be that bad? It would be nice if the government actually saved money from the temporary shutdown.

Senior Democratic officials involved in high-level efforts to bring House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House to a budget agreement said that while some progress had been made toward an accord on an overall level of spending cuts, the parties remained divided on the final figure and had to resolve the fate of ideologically charged policy provisions demanded by House conservatives.

Some senior Republicans, after relying on House Democrats to help pass the most recent short-term measure, are also uneasy about having to team up with Democrats again to pass any compromise that dips too far below the $61 billion in spending reductions endorsed by the House for the current fiscal year. Senate Democrats want to wring some of the savings out of mandatory spending programs like Medicare, an approach Republicans are resisting. . . .

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Large increase in the number of police officers killed

During the first three months of 2011, 48 officers have been killed. This is about 4 times the rate in 2009. In 2010, it looks as if there were 67 cases.

"We're not seeing AK-47's, and we're not seeing high-capacity magazines," Baltimore Police Chief Fred Bealefeld said.
Some speculate that a combination of factors may be contributing to the uptick in cop shootings, including economic stresses, mental illness, drug use and alcoholism andlax sentencing of violent offenders, as well as a host of other socio-economic pathologies. . . .


Read more:

Number of victim officers 536
2000 - 51
2001 - 70
2002 - 56
2003 - 52
2004 - 57
2005 - 55
2006 - 48
2007 - 58
2008 - 41
2009 - 48

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Revealing interview with Randi Weingarten, who has been head of the American Federation of Teachers

There were a lot of thought put into the answers to these questions. It is actually scary to think that she might believe them. All the answers are self-serving.

I ask Ms. Weingarten about union-backed laws in 14 states mandating that teachers be laid off by seniority instead of job performance, and whether they help improve public schools. Why can't teachers who have been chronically absent from work be the first to go? Or the ones who have been convicted of crimes? Or the ones who are languishing—with full pay and benefits—in some "reserve pool" because no school will hire them? Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently said that "last in, first out" policies hit low-income kids hardest because the poor are more likely to attend schools where teachers have less seniority.

Says Ms. Weingarten: "It's not the perfect mechanism but it's the best mechanism we have. You have cronyism and corruption and discrimination issues. We're saying let's do things the right way. We don't want to see people getting laid off based on who they know instead of what they know. We don't want to see people get laid off based on how much they cost." She praises New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for defending the state's seniority system.

What about teacher-tenure rules that offer lifetime sinecures after two or three years in the classroom and compel principals to hire bad instructors? "If you eliminated due process, what we would get is we would lose innovation and risk-taking in schools," she says. . . .

But in the next breath she shoots down suggestions for changes—vouchers, charter schools, differential teacher pay and so on—that have become important parts of the reform conversation. . . .

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Concealed Carry on Campus bill Advances in Nevada

From the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL:

The Senate Government Affairs Committee voted 4-1 in favor of Senate Bill 231, which would strike from state law a provision that requires people with a weapons permit to first get permission from a college or university president before taking their gun on Nevada System of Higher Education property. . . .

It also received supporting testimony from several current and former college students, including one woman who said the restriction prevented her from having her legal handgun on the night in 2007 when she was sexually assaulted in a parking garage at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Also in favor were district attorneys in Clark and Washoe counties.

Testifying against the bill were police chiefs representing the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, College of Southern Nevada and UNR. . . .

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Public Employee Unions make it impossible to fire some pretty bad people

What happens when a state employee rapes or assaults a disabled person in his charge? The NY Times states:

The Times reviewed 399 disciplinary cases involving 233 state workers who were accused of one of seven serious offenses, including physical abuse and neglect, since 2008. In each of the cases examined, the agency had substantiated the charges, and the worker had been previously disciplined at least once.

In 25 percent of the cases involving physical, sexual or psychological abuse, the state employees were transferred to other homes.

The state initiated termination proceedings in 129 of the cases reviewed but succeeded in just 30 of them, in large part because the workers’ union, the Civil Service Employees Association, aggressively resisted firings in almost every case.

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Apple pulls "anti-gay" App

It would be interesting to see if Apple pulls any pro-gay Apps.

Apple has removed a widely-criticized anti-gay app from the App Store. The title was created by Exodus International, a group that claims to "provide support for individuals who want to recover from homosexuality." It quickly drew the ire of the public however, fueled by attention from gay rights groups including Truth Wins Out and PFLAG.

The driving factor in the removal may have been Truth Wins Out's petition, which was highly publicized, and accumulated more than 146,000 names by the time its goals were met. TWO has called Exodus "hateful and bigoted," and charged that the group's supposed therapies are opposed by the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association. PFLAG is better known than TWO, however, and its open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs may have got his attention. . . .


This wasn't the first time that if an anti-gay app has been pulled. This other app was pulled even though it had no derogatory statements about homosexuals.

Buchanan said that given that the "pro-gay" Metropolitan Community Church of New York has a place in Apple's online store (with a podcast app), Exodus should be allowed to distribute its application there as well.

Since the online protests started, he said, his group has not had any response from Apple.

But this isn't the first "anti-gay" app to cause a flap in Apple's iTunes store. In November, Apple pulled another controversial application after just 7,000 people signed an online petition at Change.org.

The application, called Manhattan Declaration, was a "call of Christian Conscience" that advocated "the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty," according to its website. . . .

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Voter Photo ID bills moving through some state legislatures

Despite voters overwhelmingly favoring these laws, only a few states have enacted them and only a few more besides Texas are considering enacting them.

Twenty-eight states require voters to show some form of ID to vote, according to a late 2010 study by the National Conference of State Legislatures. But only eight require the more restrictive photo ID: Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota.
After Republicans dominated the 2010 elections, photo ID bills are working their way through several statehouses this year, including in Kansas, North Carolina Pennsylvania and Arkansas, where the House approved it on Monday. . . .

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3/25/2011

Paul Krugman is a liar

Krugman's latest blog post "Researchers Republicans Like" contains his typical vicious and dishonest attacks. This time they are about me. Apparently, some Wisconsin Republicans attacked a University of Wisconsin academic in a way that Krugman thought was unfair and mean, and thus Krugman decided to go and attack me as someone who Republicans rely on. As to his claims, I have written extensively about most of these attacks. I will just deal with the first couple of his claims here.

"John Lott first attracted notoriety with a pro-gun-ownership study nobody else could duplicate; his original data, he said, was destroyed by a hard disk crash."

1) There is a whole list of studies have duplicated my research on gun control (see here for a slightly out of date list). I even had a letter in Krugman's own New York Times in January pointing this fact out (available here). If Krugman has evidence that these papers that I cite do not duplicate my work, he should provide his evidence.
2) The original data that was used in my regressions was replaced after a hard disk crash and given out to well over a couple hundred academics. David Mustard and I had given out this data to some critics before the crash (Dan Black, Dan Nagin, and Jens Ludwig), but they would not give us back a copy of the data so David and I spent months putting the data back together again. But we did put it back together and we did lend out that data to others, as demonstrated by the papers that have been published by those using the data.

Other unrelated thoughts about Krugman.

Daniel Okrent, New York Times Ombudsman, wrote: "Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults."
Paul Krugman Is a Liar: Does the New York Times Care?
Paul Krugman: Idiot or Morally Bankrupt Liar?
Krugman’s Forgotten History
Neil Cavuto Smacks Around Paul Krugman While Calling Him a Liar
How did Paul Krugman get it so Wrong? by John H. Cochrane
"Krugman’s the liar," Donald Luskin NRO
Paul Krugman is a Dangerous Liar
Big Lies and Little Ones, Paul Krugman's only example turns out to have been fraudulent.
Krugman’s a Liar, by Jonathan Adler
George Will Smacks Down Paul Krugman With Simple Reaganomics
Paul Krugman: An Ignoble Liar

UPDATE: For more on Krugman citing Media Matters' claim see this discussion here.

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Nutty left wingers

Mother Jones is attacking Michele Bachmann for hiring Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson. Sorenson's sin? That he wants presidential candidates to file evidence of a birth certificate for them to be on the ballot. This gets him classified as a "birther." Possibly they have some other evidence, though they apparently haven't found it useful enough to mention. Let me ask a hypothetical question: Would the nutty "birther" debate even be occurring now if such a law had been in place in 2008? Obviously not. My own guess is that Obama hasn't acted to clear up this whole debate because it is in his interest that these claims continue. Why are Democrats angry about this proposed bill? That is the real puzzle. Democrats claim that Obama is too busy to bother putting out his birth certificate. Be serious. It won't really impose on anybody or make a difference in any race. All serious presidential candidates are American citizens so the law will be irrelevant except for ending this silly "birther" speculation. Places such as Mother Jones simply don't want the speculation to end. Mother Jones has a history of getting facts wrong, but this twisted discussion about Bachmann is pretty amazing.

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3/24/2011

Remember about how Google has made such a big deal in the past about its open source code?

Well, that was this and this is now. Google is refusing to release the source code for its Honeycomb operating system.

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Newest Fox News piece:What's Really Behind Obama's New Push for Gun Control?

Please leave any comments at the Fox News website. If you want Fox to run more gun pieces, please also hit the recommend button at that site. My newest piece starts this way:

Despite the Libyan crisis and ongoing problems with America's massive deficit, last week President Obama decided it was time to focus on gun control. He wrote an op-ed, challenged the NRA to negotiate new gun control regulations, and met with gun control groups.
Of course, Obama's op-ed says he supports gun rights. Yet, he also emphasizes that he doesn't want people to "shout at one another" and supports "reasonable laws." Alas, this is simply positioning for the 2012 presidential election and does not accurately describe his true agenda on gun control.
Obama claimed in his op-ed: “My administration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners, it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.” But he conveniently forgot to mention that he never initiated or supported this legislation. Instead, it was forced upon Obama by a large majority of Congress passing an amendment to a bill that he wanted passed, the “Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009.” Just because Obama wasn’t willing to veto a bill he wanted hardly shows support for the right to self-defense.
Indeed, Obama has been a consistent opponent of gun ownership. . . .




UPDATE: A copy of the NRA's letter to Obama is available here. Given how inaccurate Obama's op-ed was, it isn't clear why the NRA should trust dealing with him.

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Obama speaks out on "Gun Walker" case

It has taken a while for Obama to disown this. It will be interesting to see who if anyone will actually be held accountable. From CBS News.

Last night, a reporter from Univision asked President Obama about the subject of a CBS News investigation: allegations that ATF allowed traffickers to send weapons to Mexican drug cartels in an operation called "Fast and Furious." Insiders call the strategy letting guns "walk."

In response, the president said neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder approved the operation.

"There may be a situation here which a serious mistake was made and if that's the case then we'll find out and well hold somebody accountable," he added. . .

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The UK cuts Corporate Income Tax from 28 to 23 percent

With the US corporate tax rate at 40 percent and a UK rate at just 23 percent, where would you want to invest your money?

Mr Osborne also announced that corporation tax would be cut by 2 per cent, more than the 1 per cent reduction which was already scheduled, with further 1 per cent falls in coming years.
Funded by an extension of the banking levy, the tax will eventually be slashed to 23% from its current rate of 28%. . . .

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3/23/2011

New Gun Law Proposed by Senator Chuck Schumer Would Ban People with Arrests for Drug Violations from Buying Guns

Forbidding people from owning a gun without even requiring that they have been convicted of an offense? Would Schumer support denying people the right to vote because they have simply been arrested? He probably doesn't think that people should be prevented from voting even if they have been convicted of violent crimes such as murder or rape. You can find this bill by going to Thomas.gov and looking up bill S.436.

Bill Text
112th Congress (2011-2012)
S.436.

SEC. 104. CLARIFICATION OF THE DEFINITION OF DRUG ABUSERS AND DRUG ADDICTS WHO ARE PROHIBITED FROM POSSESSING FIREARMS.

(a) Inferences of Abuse- Section 921 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
`(c) Unlawful User of Any Controlled Substance-
`(1) IN GENERAL- An inference that a person is an unlawful user of a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)) may be drawn based on--
`(A) a conviction for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past 5 years;
`(B) an arrest for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past 5 years;
`(C) an arrest for the possession of drug paraphernalia within the past 5 years, if testing has demonstrated the paraphernalia contained traces of a controlled substance;
`(D) a drug test administered within the past 5 years demonstrating that the person had used a controlled substance unlawfully; or
`(E) an admission to using or possessing a controlled substance unlawfully within the past 5 years.

`(2) MEMBERS OF ARMED FORCES- For a current or former member of the Armed Forces, an inference that a person is an unlawful user of a controlled substance may be drawn based on disciplinary or other administrative action within the past 5 years based on confirmed use of a controlled substance, including a court-martial conviction, nonjudicial punishment, or an administrative discharge based on use of a controlled substance or drug rehabilitation failure.'.

(b) Application to Federal Courts- Section 103(e)(1) of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (18 U.S.C. 922 note), as amended by this section 102, is amended--
(1) in subparagraph (C), by inserting `(including any record of a Federal court of any person ordered into a diversion program as described in section 921(a)(37))' after `any person'; and
(2) by adding at the end the following:
`(G) APPLICATION TO FEDERAL COURTS- In this paragraph--
`(i) the terms `department or agency of the United States' and `Federal department or agency' include a Federal court; and
`(ii) for purposes of any request, submission, or notification, the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts shall perform the functions of the head of the department or agency.'.

(c) Definition- Section 921(a) of title 18, United States Code, as amended by section 103(a), is amended by adding at the end the following:
`(37) The term `addicted to any controlled substance' includes a person ordered by a court into a diversion program designed for abusers of or addicts to controlled substances as part of a criminal or juvenile delinquency proceeding, regardless of whether the person was convicted, whether the court made a finding of guilt, or whether the program accepts participants who are abusers of or addicted to substances other than controlled substances.'.

(d) Conforming Amendment to NICS Improvement Amendments Act- Section 102(b)(1)(C)(iii) of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 (18 U.S.C. 922 note) is amended by striking `(as such' and all that follows through `adjudications,'.

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Rep. Anthony Weiner, Obamacare supporter, looking at Waiver for New York

Too bad Obamacare didn't make it easy to get these waivers. If even a liberal Democrat from NYC is looking at waivers, it is clear that Obamacare is having problems.

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Rand Paul has ad against the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty

A copy of his ad is available here.

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Media Matters attempts to defend accuracy of NICS system

Media Matters cites the Violence Policy Center for evidence that the NICS system doesn't have a high false positive rate. Media Matters was responding to a post on my website that had responded to their earlier inaccurate attack on me. The Obama administration report on how well the government background checks work is available here: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/231052.pdf. Media Matters cites the VPC this way:

M. Kristen Rand, Legislative Director for the Violence Policy Center explains further:

RAND: The act of trying to buy a gun when you are in a prohibited category is not a crime per se. The bottom line is that when Lott says "The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns," he is not accurately describing the category.

The 78,906 represents the universe of denials evaluated for referral for potential prosecution. Of those, 5,573 were referred to ATF field divisions for further review. Ultimately, the field offices referred 147 cases to prosecutors. This has absolutely nothing to do with whether the NICS accurately identified the 1 percent of people denied for being in a prohibited category, e.g. the system identifies that a buyer has a felony record and the transfer is denied. That person is a "banned individuals trying to purchase guns," as Lott describes it. The fact that that person is not later singled out for prosecution is irrelevant to the fact that he is in fact a prohibited purchaser.


Take the 5,573 number. That implies a 93 percent false positive rate. However, the 5,573 cases involves no legal finding that a prohibited person actually tried to buy a gun, just that it was likely that it happened. While neither the VPC nor Media Matters might want to believe this, it is possible that the government made a mistake here. In 147 cases, the government believed that they had sufficient evidence to prosecute a prohibited individual. A 99.8+ percent false positive rate. Even here it is possible that the government has made a mistake on whether the person should have been prevented from buying a gun. In only 43 cases did the government have sufficient evidence to convince a jury that a prohibited person had tried to buy a gun that they knew they weren't allowed to obtain. A 99.95 percent false positive rate. Now I admit that some of the other cases may have involved guilty individuals who should have been stopped from getting a gun. If that rate is about twice as high, you will still get a 99.9 percent false positive rate. It also contains some individuals who may not have realized that they were prohibited from buying a gun, though that implies that someone forgot about prior felonies or covered misdemeanors that they had committed -- something that can happen, but presumably rarely do people forget about their criminal convictions. Juries are generally unsympathetic to people forgetting about their criminal convictions, and these should be easy cases for the government to prove, especially if they were to ever involve someone who actually posed a real safety threat.

My take away from this is that even the VPC concedes that there is a false positive rate of 93 percent. I think that is very low for obvious reasons, but it is a start and I assume that even gun control supporters would concede that is a high rate.

It is interesting that Media Matters has to point to the VPC as the ultimate source for its gun control claims. But if they really want to go around defending a 93 percent false positive rate (a number biased in their direction), go ahead.

Other notes on a new set of inaccurate Media Matters' claims:

1) "As the gun lobby's apologist-in-chief, John Lott needed to explain why the National Rifle Association (NRA) refused to meet with the Obama administration, despite agreeing with the policy President Obama laid out in a recent editorial."


After this bit of typical inaccurate name calling by Media Matters about me, I have to say it isn't obvious to me what the NRA would gain from meeting with Obama. Obama would very likely try to demonize them and any compromise that would come out of their discuss would harm law-abiding citizens.

2) "To support his assertion that "The Obama administration has been a consistent opponent of gun ownership," Lott claimed that the Obama administration "enacted a ban on the importation of semiautomatic guns," then cited an article about an administration action that blocked the bulk sale of surplus military rifles from South Korea. The State Department's decision blocking the bulk importation of these particular surplus military firearms is not in any way a "ban on the importation of semiautomatic guns." The importation of semiautomatic guns hasn't been banned, nor do any of the Obama administration policies suggest doing so."


Note that Media Matters doesn't even try to defend the Obama administration’s push for the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty or the nomination of Andrew Traver given his anti-gun statements in the past. That said, the administration is actually banning the importation of "the aging rifles," the M1s, from South Korea. I provided a link to the quote that describes exactly what was meant by the quote. Media Matters wants to claim that "blocking the bulk importation" of guns is not a "ban on importation."

3) "Lott also criticized Obama for a request made by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) citing an out-of-date article, saying that the Obama administration has 'also imposed much more extensive reporting requirements on sales of long guns.' In fact, the Obama administration has not imposed the regulation in question. The proposed regulation by the ATF has been repeatedly delayed by the Obama administration, which most recently rejected the ATF's request to enact the proposal as an emergency regulation."


In fact, my quote is "They have also tried imposing much more extensive reporting requirements on sales of long guns." Besides, even if the point had been honestly misread, if someone has tried to check the link, the point would have been clear. Nice try Media Matters.

UPDATE1: As is usual at Media Matters, they are making it very difficult for me to put up a comment on their website. In this case, they appear to have disabled my account to post comments.

UPDATE2: For those coming to this page from Paul Krugman's post please see this.

UPDATE3: Media Matters has no problem using a doctored picture of me (editing the color of my hair and clothes and doing something with my hair), but some such as Paul Krugman amazingly assume that Media Matters won't doctor screen shots of webpages.

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"New-home sales plunge in February to record low"

Remember these numbers are totals, not rates. The population of the US has increased dramatically since these numbers were first started being collected. To hit a record low number is shocking.

Sales of new homes plunged in February to the slowest pace on records dating back nearly half a century, a dismal sign for an already-weak housing market.

New-home sales fell 16.9% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 250,000 homes, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It's the third straight monthly decline and far below the 700,000-a-year pace that economists view as healthy.

The median price of a new home -- half sold for more, half for less -- dropped nearly 14% to $202,100, lowest since December 2003. The median is now 30% higher than the median price of resold homes — twice the markup typical in healthy housing markets.

Builders have struggled to compete with a wave of foreclosures that has lowered the price of previously occupied homes. High unemployment, tight credit and uncertainty over prices have also kept many potential buyers from making purchases.

Last year was the fifth straight year of declines for new-home sales after they reached record highs during the housing boom. Economists say it could take years before sales return to a healthy pace.

Poor sales of new homes mean fewer jobs in the construction industry, which normally powers economic recoveries. Each new home creates an average of three jobs for a year and $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Many builders are waiting for new-home sales to pick up and for the glut of foreclosures to be reduced. But with 3 million foreclosures forecast this year nationwide, a turnaround isn't expected for at least three years.

"We fully expect further price declines in order to help clear inventory from the market although this problem is more acute in the existing home market than the new home market," said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist for Miller Tabak. . . .

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Obama hides the ball on transparency

Andrew Breitbart has this post at BigGovernment.com.

The White House is still holding back “tens of thousands” of visitor logs, according to congressional testimony last week by Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch, who also added that “the Obama administration is less transparent than the Bush administration.” . . .

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Dismal polls on Obamacare's anniversary

Kim Strassel at the WSJ's Political Diary has this:

No surprise then that the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll shows a significant erosion of even the timid support the bill had upon passage. A year ago, 35% of respondents said they and their family would be "better off" as a result of the legislation; today 26% feel that way. A year ago, 28% believed their quality of care would be better under ObamaCare; today that number is 20%. Around passage of the legislation, 31% believed the cost of their care would get better; only 23% now believe that promise. Only 2% of those questioned believe their health insurance premiums have been going down; fully half say their premiums are going up. And more people now say their family has been "negatively affected" by ObamaCare than those who say their family has benefitted. . . .


Note also:

The Washington Post went so far as to call Mrs. Pelosi's recent claims that the law has created jobs and will cut the deficit "false or exaggerated." . . .


So where is the Democrat effort to sell the program?

Democrats are under siege as they mark the first anniversary of health care reform Wednesday — and they won't get much help from the star-studded, $125 million support group they were once promised.

Wal-Mart Watch founder Andrew Grossman unveiled the Health Information Campaign with great fanfare last June. Tom Daschle and Ted Kennedy's widow, Vicki, were expected to lead the effort. They'd have help from former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn. They'd have an office in Washington with 10 or 15 operatives backing the Affordable Care Act and those who supported it.

And they'd have money to spend: Grossman hoped for $25 million a year for five years.

But nine months later, the Health Information Campaign has all but disappeared. . . .


It looks like the only pushes for Obamacare have been paid for by taxpayers.

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Bill Maher falsely claims that Palin said something she never said

Lying about what Palin said is explained as "an apparent attempt at humor," though there is no evidence that the audience knew that the claim was false. Possibly people just thought that they were supposed to laugh at how dumb Palin was supposed to be.

Bill Maher uttered a female vulgarism when referring to former Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin on his HBO show Friday night.

“Did you hear this – Sarah Palin finally heard what happened in Japan and she’s demanding that we invade ‘Tsunami,’” Maher said. “I mean she said, ‘These ‘Tsunamians’ will not get away with this.’ Oh speaking of dumb tw**s, did you...”

Maher was offering an imagined Palin response in an apparent attempt at humor, as Palin had made no such statement.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) refused to comment on Maher’s use of the derogatory term. A rep told FOXNews.com it is a “known fact” that NOW does not correspond with FOX News. . . .

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3/22/2011

Armed Beauty Queen Shoots Intruder in Home at 3 AM

From Fox News:

When a burly ex-convict forced his way into a posh Florida home last week, he had no idea what awaited him -- a 25-year-old beauty queen with a pink .38-caliber handgun.
Meghan Brown, a former Florida pageant queen, shot and killed 42-year-old Albert Franklin Hill during a home invasion March 12 at the 2,732-square-foot house she shares with her fiance in Tierra Verde, Fla.
Hill barged into the home at around 3 a.m. after Brown responded to a knock at the front door, according to a police report. He allegedly grabbed the 110-pound Brown around her nose and mouth and dragged her to an upstairs bedroom.
The woman’s fiance, Robert Planthaber, said in an interview that he was quickly awakened by the altercation and ran to Brown’s side.
"I attacked him and took a severe beating to the head," Planthaber told FoxNews.com. "But I got him off of her long enough for her to scramble to the room where she keeps her pink .38 special.” . . .


Thanks to Tony Troglio for the link.

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Judge says that Google goes too far in ignoring copyright protection

Google continues to ignore property rights. From Fox News.

U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan said the creation of a universal library would benefit many but would "simply go too far." He rejected a $125 million settlement that was opposed by Google rivals, consumer watchdogs, academic experts, literary agents and even foreign governments.
Google has already scanned more than 15 million books for the project.
Chin said the settlement that the company reached with U.S. authors and publishers would "grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners."
The deal gives Google "a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case," Chin said. He noted that many of the concerns raised in objections to the settlement would go away if it were converted to an "opt-in" settlement from an "opt-out" settlement. . . .

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"Obama: ‘President Does Not Have Power Under Constitution to Unilaterally Authorize a Military Attack’"

In a Dec. 20, 2007 interview with the Boston Globe, Obama stated that the president would not have the constitutional authority to bomb Iran without first seeking authorization from Congress. Of course, Obama didn't think that it was necessary to get approval prior to going into Libya.

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. . . .


So what was the Congressional reaction to the Libya attack.

The criticism is from all directions: from moderates, like Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.); from those on the far left and right, like Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Ron Paul (R-Texas), who believe the president acted outside the Constitution; and from the establishment on both sides, including House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut and Republican Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan, a self-described “hawk.” . . .


UPDATE: The White House is now claiming that "installing a democratic system" is the goal in Libya.

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3/21/2011

Six Truths about the Deficit

James Carter has this new piece in Investors' Business Daily.

Truth No. 1: The CBO reported last week that the federal budget deficit is, under current law, expected to total $1.4 trillion this year and $6.7 trillion over the coming decade. At $1.4 trillion, this year's deficit is larger than the annual economic output of all but 10 foreign countries.

Truth No. 2: Because of these deficits, the publicly held federal debt is poised to almost double to $18 trillion within 10 years, nearly quadrupling annual net interest costs to $807 billion in the process!

Truth No. 3: While increased spending and depressed revenue both contribute to this year's federal deficit, the source of our long-term fiscal predicament is not a lack of revenues, but an overabundance of spending. . . .

Truth No. 4: Reducing federal spending in 2021 to its historical average of 20.8% would require a 13% across-the-board reduction in projected spending for that year. Excluding mandatory spending (e.g., Social Security, Medicare) and interest on the debt from the cuts would necessitate an unrealistic 46% reduction in defense and nondefense discretionary spending. Any serious effort to nudge the federal budget toward balance will require a concerted effort to restrain mandatory spending growth. . . .

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Obama's approval on economy falls to new low

The question is when these low approval numbers on the economy will impact his overall approval ratings.

Public approval of President Obama's handling of the economy has fallen to a new low, according to Rasmussen Reports, which found only 31 percent of those surveyed approved of the chief executive's performance on the issue.

"A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters show that just 31 percent rate Obama’s handling of economic issues as good or excellent. Forty-five percent say the president is doing a poor job handling these issues," Rasmussen said.

Obama's rating on the economy was at 34 percent last week, not strong but still measurably above the 31 percent mark this week.

Obama is taking his biggest hits on the economic issue among voters aged 40 and older, according to Rasmussen. . . .

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Home sales plummet 9.6 percent in February, median price lowest in 9 years

The housing market continues to get worse. It isn't too surprising that the gap between new and old home prices is getting bigger. Prices for new homes have to be above a certain level or they won't get built.

Fewer Americans bought previously occupied homes in February and those who did purchased them at steep discounts. The weak sales and rise in foreclosures pushed home prices down to their lowest level in nearly nine years.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales of previously occupied homes fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million. That's down 9.6% from 5.4 million in January. The pace is far below the 6 million homes a year that economists say represents a healthy market.

Nearly 40% of the sales last month were either foreclosures or short sales, when the seller accepts less than they owe on the mortgage.

One-third of all sales were purchased in cash — twice the rate from a year ago. In troubled housing markets such as Las Vegas and Miami, cash deals represent about half of sales.

The median sales price fell 5.2% to $156,100, the lowest level since April 2002. . . .

New-home prices are now 45% higher than prices for previously occupied homes. A more normal difference is about 15%, an indication that old homes on the market are being sold at comparatively cheap, and affordable, levels. . . .


The Financial Times reports:

Despite lower prices, “traditional” homebuyers were being discouraged from entering the market by tight credit conditions, said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “We’d be seeing greater numbers of traditional homebuyers if mortgage credit conditions return to normal.” . . .

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On the one year anniversary of Obamacare being signed into law

3/20/2011

Remember when Obama promised to cut the projected deficits by $1.1 trillion, well it turns out the deficits will be $2.3 trillion higher than claimed

Even the CBO has big problems with Obama's claims about the budget deficit. Instead of decreasing deficits by $1.1 trillion, he will actually increase it by $1.2 trillion. Remember when Obama promised during the presidential debates to cut the deficit?

Compared with the Administration's estimates, CBO's estimates of the deficit under the President's budget are lower for 2011 (by $220 billion) but higher for each year thereafter (by a total of $2.3 trillion over the 2012–2021 period). That disparity stems from differences in the underlying projections of what would happen under current law ($1.3 trillion) as well as from differing assessments of the effects of the President's proposals ($1.0 trillion).


Politico has this:

Altogether, the report raises significant questions about the administration's projections, as well as the White House's mantra of responsibility in government.

Republicans have already seized on the report, saying that Obama has always overstated his administration's posture on deficit reduction, and the CBO has only confirmed what they have said all along: that the president's budget actually raises the deficit over time, instead of lowering it.

"In short, the CBO analysis proves that the president’s budget accelerates our dangerous and unsustainable trajectory. It is the most irresponsible spending plan a president has put forward in our time," said Jeff Sessions, the Senate Budget Committee's ranking Republican.

The CBO cites differences in the budgetary effects of Obama's programs, such as a freeze on Medicare's payment rates to physicians, increased transportation spending, and the cost of military engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq. . . . .


During President Bush's four years in office, the national debt went from $5.6 to $9.1 trillion -- a $3.5 trillion increase. Obama's first three years in office have already easily eclipsed that number, and it looks as if any three years he is in office will greatly exceed it.

Note that the Obama numbers contained a lot of unspecified cuts.

Incredibly, the Obama administration doesn’t identify where $650 billion of its $1.1 trillion reduction in the deficit is supposed to come from. But the president doesn’t want to take the heat of identifying specific cuts. Instead the president says that he is depending on Congress to figure out those savings.

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"Armen A. Alchian interviews Friedrich A. Hayek"

Armen Alchian was a brilliant professor of mine at UCLA. Here is an interview that he did of F.A. Hayek back in 1978.

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