Politics Czech style.

Politics Czech style: some entertaining pictures of politicians in action. If government was smaller and there was less at stake, my guess is that fewer of these types of events would occur.

So how is Tony Snow doing?

Not only does Tony Snow seem to be doing a good job, but he seems to be making a strong fashion statement. The discussion is at the end of the segment.


Tony Snow in an exclusive interview on how his job is going.

Obviously, I like Tony a lot. He is someone who I have gotten to know personally, and he is one of the most innately nice people you could ever meet. It is nice to see him getting such a continued nice reaction in his new post.

People generally like their own congressman

If the Supreme Court thinks that we should follow foreign law on things such as the death penalty, what about this?

Apparently, the Iranian Supreme Court still needs to approve the law passed by the Iranian parliment, but if you get a few countries pass this, should we follow suit? After all, we don't want to make certain types of people feel harmed by having to accidentally touch other "unclean" people. I assume that this decision could be based upon international understandings of human rights.

Israel has reacted strongly to a news report that Iran has passed a new law that mandates non-Muslims to wear disctinct colour bands to identify them in public saying that it resembled Nazi era policy against Jews.

The purpose of the law as per a report in the 'Canadian National Post' is to prevent Muslims from becoming "unclean" by accidentally shaking the hands of non-Muslims in public.

Citing human rights groups the newspaper yesterday reported that the Iranian Parliament had passed a new dress code for religious minorities this week and was awaiting the final approval from its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to the new law, the Jews will have to wear a yellow band on their exterior in public, while Christians will be required to don red ones, the newspaper claimed. . . .


Prime Minister John Howard was among three world leaders who today said an Iranian bill, which reportedly would force non-Muslims to wear coloured badges in public, was akin to Nazi Germany. . . .

Ohio Legislation Would Pre-empt Local Gun Laws

A potential change to Ohio's concealed-carry law is raising concerns for the mayor of Columbus.

When it became possible for Ohioans to carry a concealed weapon with a permit, Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman made a move to keep the weapons out of city parks. Some new changes being considered at the statehouse would call for statewide gun laws only, and no city gun laws. "I think the citizens have a lot to be worried about," Coleman said.

Coleman said he believes that city leaders should be able to make decisions about how firearms can be used within their city boundaries.

"We need to have the ability and use . . . the ability to protect our citizens, and have the ability to do so. And the state legislature's taking that ability and that right away from cities," Coleman said.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jim Aslanides of Coshocton, said that if gun laws are made only at the state level, gun owners will be better able to be aware of them and comply. . . .

Possibly Columbus should try having its own traffic laws. Possibly all the counties and cities in Ohio should have their own traffic laws. After all, traffic laws affect people's safety.


The New Adscam, tracing the money in the Canadian Gun Registry Program

We also found specific cases in our sample of 147 contracts that did not follow good contracting practices. Her report went on to provide samples of these contracts and concluded: Several fixed-price contracts were awarded to three contractors in 2001 and 2002 that, in some cases, had no measurable deliverable, and no record of a deliverable product being received. The initial value of each contract was below the $25,000 limit, but the final values were much higher: $50,000, $107,000, and $319,431. We noted that requests for the contractors' security clearance stated that they would have no access to the work site. In these cases, the Centre was the contracting authority. We will be reviewing these contracts in greater detail.

Canadian Member of Parliment Garry Breitkreuz asks: "Mrs. Fraser’s report tells us that contracts were awarded through a non-competitive process, lacked due regard to economy, added two additional commissions and increased costs by an average of 25 percent. Commissions for what? How much was paid in commissions? Who got paid and where did the money end up? This is exactly what happened in Adscam.”

Weird Conspiracy Theories Revealed: The Da Vinci Code has finally opened up one writer's eyes to what is really happening around us

DANIEL HENNINGEN has a pretty funny discussion of the Da Vinci Code movie in today's WSJ. This is from the end of his piece:

Here's my theory of "The Da Vinci Code." Dan Brown was sitting one night at the monthly meeting of his local secret society, listening to a lecture on the 65th gospel, and he got to thinking: "I wonder if there's any limit to what people are willing to believe these days about a conspiracy theory. Let's say I wrote a book that said Jesus was married. To Mary Magdalene. Who was pregnant at the Crucifixion. And she is the Holy Grail. Jesus wanted her to run the church as a global sex society called Heiros Gamos, but Peter elbowed her out of the job. Her daughter was the beginning of the Merovingian dynasty of France. Jesus' family is still alive. There were 80 gospels, not four. Leonardo DiCaprio, I mean da Vinci, knew all this. The 'Mona Lisa' is Leonardo's painting of himself in drag. Da Vinci's secret was kept alive by future members of 'the brotherhood,' including Isaac Newton, Claude Debussy and Victor Hugo. The Catholic Church is covering all this up."

Then Dan Brown said softly, "Would anyone buy into a plot so preposterous and fantastic?" Then he started writing.

The real accomplishment of "The Da Vinci Code" is that Dan Brown has proven that the theory of conspiracy theories is totally elastic, it has no limits. The genre's future is limitless, with the following obvious plots:

Bill Clinton is directly descended from Henry VIII; Hillary is his third cousin. Jack Ruby was Ronald Reagan's half-brother. Dick Cheney has been dead for five years; the vice president is a clone created by Halliburton in 1998. The Laffer Curve is the secret sign of the Carlyle Group. Michael Moore is the founder of the Carlyle Group, which started World War I. The New York Times is secretly run by the Rosicrucians (this is revealed on the first page of Chapter 47 of "The Da Vinci Code" if you look at the 23rd line through a kaleidoscope). Jacques Chirac is descended from Judas.

None of this strikes me as the least bit implausible, especially the latter. I'd better get started.

"Chicago took 1st shot: '98 gun sting like [Bloomberg], but misfired in courtroom"

Mayor Bloomberg isn't the first big-city boss to pull a sting operation on gun dealers.
In a 1998 probe dubbed Operation Gunsmoke, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley had undercover cops posing as gang members go into area gun stores.

Grainy video shot by investigators seemed to show gun merchants gladly allowing straw purchases - the practice of legally authorized citizens buying guns for others.

The sting was a public relations success, with footage shown on "60 Minutes" and elsewhere. But the operation had less success in court, where it was used in a civil case and several criminal prosecutions.

"It failed because they were unable to show the dealers willfully did anything wrong," said John Lott, a former University of Chicago law professor and the author of controversial books "More Guns, Less Crime" and "The Bias Against Guns." . . .

There was one conviction, but that was a plea bargain where the company agreed to go out of business but they were going out of business anyway and they agreed to this just to save legal costs.


Canadians favor scrapping gun registry

Candy Frey: Cops can differentiate defensive gun use from hunting

A Florida woman shoots a gator who was attacking her dog gets citation for hunting without a license. The woman is a former Marine, someone who obviously knows how to use a gun. Can't the state officials differentiate defensive gun use from hunting? The link at Fox News can be found here. You would think that the cops would have heard about the three women who have been killed by alligators over the last week.

Another dog wasn't so lucky.
Dog In Royal Palm Beach Killed By Alligator

Authorities say a six-foot alligator killed a Yorkie-Maltese mix in Royal Palm Beach.

Michael Rochefort said his dog ran outside his interior design shop Tuesday and straight to a nearby retention pond.

The gator quickly grabbed the dog, Malibu, and swam away. Trappers captured the alligator they believe killed the dog.

They plan to trap two other gators seen in the pond.

Alan Gottlieb on Bloomberg's New Lawsuit Against Guns

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's lawsuit against 15 alleged "rogue" firearms dealers in five states is political grandstanding run amok.

The press and prosecutors in those five states ought to be asking Bloomberg why, if his investigators had positively identified these retailers and caught them in an illegal act, was the information not turned over to the proper authorities, including the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives?

Instead, the headline-hunting Bloomberg launched a civil lawsuit in what should be, if he is to be believed, a criminal action.

There's a reason for that. The private investigators New York hired to conduct this sting must have made deliberately false statements on federal firearms purchase forms. That's a felony. They should be prosecuted. If Bloomberg sent them to do this, he's an accessory, if not a conspirator.

Given Bloomberg's anti-gun history, and that of New York's previous unsuccessful efforts to sue firearms manufacturers, he is turning his attention to retailers. Yet, his ultimate goal remains the same, and it has nothing to do with stopping criminals.

His intent, and that of his cheerleaders, is to demonize gun owners and ultimately drive gun manufacturers out of business while destroying the individual right to keep and bear arms in the process. . . .

Split personalities for South Africans on Guns


"New NRA Campaign Asks Lawmakers to Pledge Not to Confiscate Guns in Times of Crisis"

If McCain’s going to claim he’s a conservative on guns, then he’s got some explaining to do.

I have a new op-ed at National Review Online today:

With presidential primaries just over two-and-a-half years away, John McCain is moving back towards Republican conservatives. On some issues, from campaign finance to illegal immigration to global warming, he isn’t even trying to convince conservatives that he agrees with them. But he realizes he can’t oppose them on everything. So, on other important issues, such as taxes, abortion, and guns, he’s brandishing his conservative credentials.

It is quite a contrast to his 2000 presidential campaign, when he openly criticized and needled conservatives. This last Saturday, he even gave a graduation talk at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University (though, for balance, he will also be addressing this week graduates at New York City’s very left-wing New School).

Reporters speculated on Meet the Press on Sunday that McCain wants to make amends with conservatives well before he officially announces his candidacy for president next year. So can he convince people he is still sufficiently conservative? . . . .


Verdict on Canadian Gun Registry

The one point missing from all these facts is that not one single crime has been solved by all this money that was spent. Not one single crime!

Canadian TV

The former Liberal government went to great lengths to hide the true costs of the controversial gun registry, Auditor General Sheila Fraser said in a scathing report released Tuesday.

Though the decade-long expense of the controversial registry through the end of fiscal 2005 has been tallied at $946 million -- coming in below an earlier approximation of $1 billion -- government officials concealed the actual amount, Fraser said in her first report since the minority Conservatives came to power earlier this year. . . . .

Toronto Sun

The former Liberal government cooked the books on the much-maligned gun registry program, ignoring legal advice and hiding the true cost of the registry from Parliament, says the auditor general. . . . .

Calgary Sun

Canada's spending watchdog delivered more damning revelations about hidden cost overruns, sloppy storage of information and broken accounting rules on the gun registry yesterday, but opposition critics insist it's not enough ammunition to justify the Conservative government's plan to kill the controversial program.

In her eight-part spring report, auditor general Sheila Fraser fingered the last Liberal government for keeping MPs in the dark about excessive costs for the registry -- an issue she called "very serious." Her audit found the costs of a computer information system ballooned from an initial $32-million price tag to more than $90 million -- and it still isn't operational.

She also revealed two "significant errors" in financial reporting to Parliament, $39 million in 2002-03 and another $21.8 million the following year, but couldn't say if the Grits deliberately attempted to hide unauthorized spending. . . . .

Tony Snow, Knocks Them Dead in His First Full Blown Press Briefing

54% of Canadians Support Scrapping Gun Registry

A new Ipso-Reid survey for CanWest/Global News reports that most Canadians (54%) feel the “gun registry is badly organized, isn’t working properly, and should be scrapped” – a level of opinion essentially unchanged from what was recorded nearly four years, and two Prime Ministers ago (53% expressed this opinion in a December 2002 Ipsos Reid survey).

Professor Gary Mauser, from Simon Fraser University is not surprised by the results. "The expected Auditor General's report will probably peg the cost of the firearms registry at over two billion dollars," stated Mauser. "This cost is exorbitant but that is not the worst problem with the registry. The Liberal government hid the true costs from Parliament, so the public could not discover the the real cost."

"Even worse, the registry did nothing to improve public safety and may even have made Canadians less safe. Since 1998, when the registry was introduced, homicide rates have increased, while both violent crime rates and suicide rates have remained stubbornly stable. The worst is that the registry vacuumed money from other programs -- like hiring more police officers and putting violent criminals in jail longer -- that might actually have done some good," concluded Mauser. . . . .

Thanks to James for sending me this link.

Bizarre Patents

This is simply too funny:

A five-year-old kid from Minnesota has patented a way of swinging on a child's swing. The US Patent Office issued patent 6,368,227 on 9 April to Steven Olson of St Paul, Minnesota for a "method of swinging on a swing". Olson's father Peter is a patent attorney.

The award has generated a mixture of chuckles and frustration at an overworked patent system unable to catch absurd applications. The patent covers moving a swing side to side or in an oval pattern. Children can get bored by swinging back and forth, or by twisting the swing to make it spin, the patent says.

"A new method of swinging on a swing would therefore represent an advance of great significance and value," it reads. Olson's alternative is to pull on one chain at a time, so the swing moves towards the side being pulled.

Peter Olson told New Scientist: "I had told him that if he invented something he could file a patent." His son had not seen sideways swinging because the swings at his school are closely spaced, so he asked his father to file the application.

The patent office initially rejected the application for prior art - citing two earlier patents on swings - but Peter Olson appealed, noting that neither was a method for swinging sideways. The patent was then issued. . . . .

Update: A friend of mine who is a lawyer writes me that:

" I've read the swinging patent. It is now expired, for failure to pay maintenance fees, so you can now go out and swing sideways.

"Have you heard of the patent for a method for aerobically exercising a cat? You wave a laser pointer around and let the cat chase it."

Texas raises maximum speed limit to 80 MPH


Comments of Canadian Police on The Canadian Gun Registry

There is a long list of quotes here:

23-YEAR VETERAN OF THE ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE: In June of 2006 I will be commencing my 24th year as a member of the Ontario Provincial Police. For 18 of those years I have been assigned the rank of Detective, specifically assigned to major criminal investigations. I must point out that in all my experience as a police officer I have only investigated one homicide were a firearm was the weapon used in the slaying. In contrast, the majority of murders that I have been involved in as an investigator, a knives were preferred and two separate occasions a hammer was the weapon of choice. I have however been involved in the investigation of countless offences such as robbery, where handguns were the weapon of choice and I must point out Sir, that the firearms registry did not assist in solving one, nor obviously in deterring one. The reasons that the firearms registry is so highly ineffectual are, I believe obvious, but basically it affects the wrong people, law abiding citizens and not criminals. . . . .

Note on claim that we can't deport 12 million illegal aliens

I frequently hear the claim that we can't deport 12 million illegal aliens. Whatever the feasiblity of that, it is imortant to note that giving ilegal aliens what essentially amounts to a clean pass will simply encourage more illegals to come into the country. The argument is similar to why you don't let criminals generally go after they are caught.


Getting rid of standardized educational tests in California

Why is so difficult for some to understand that equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes are not the same? Is there any hope for objective standards? For whatever reason, is it clear that no matter what is done that all these different groups will necessarily do equally well on a standardized test?

A California judge suspended the state's high school exit exam as a graduation requirement Friday, saying California public schools don't fairly prepare all students -- a decision that calls into question whether the state can enforce a test of basic math and English competency for a diploma.

The ruling could allow thousands of seniors who haven't passed the controversial exam to receive diplomas in the coming weeks. But they can't be sure: State Superintendent Jack O'Connell said he will appeal quickly and seek a court order to keep the exam requirement in force until the legal battle is resolved. And for educators, students and parents, the decision deepens uncertainty about the exam's future.

The same judge could rule as soon as next week on another lawsuit that challenges whether the test can be required for graduation this year. If the exit exam is blocked in that case, the state may have to develop an alternative test -- probably allowing students to graduate without passing an exit exam for at least a year. . . . .

Hugo Chavez's police blamed "for much of the [Venezuela's] violence"

Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world and now it is claimed that Hugo Chavez's police may be responsible for much of this violence. Chavez has apparently accomplished something that had only previously been accomplished by some of the world's worst totalitarian regimes in history.

Herma Marksman, who spent nearly 10 years of her life as "the other woman" at the side of Hugo Chavez, as the military man plotted his way to power in the '80s and 90's, still recalls her ex-lover as "sweet" and "kind," but when it comes to his current rule over Venezuela, the ex-mistress uses words like "totalitarian" and "fascist dictatorship."

The professor of history, who's written two books about Chavez's politics, told the London Times: "He is imposing a fascist dictatorship. A totalitarian regime is coming because he doesn't believe in democratic institutions. Hugo controls all the powers." . . . .

Venezuela's police force has been blamed by human rights groups for much of the nation's violence and Caracas, the capital, has the world's highest murder rate per capita. . . . .

Are guns effectively banned in most US cities?

Fox News has an interesting program on Alan Korwin's work showing that the gun free school zones make it impossible for people to own guns legally in most cities. The program gave a lot of attention to someone defending the laws and it would have been useful to at least address the question whether these gun free zones actually produced any beneficial effects. I know of no studies that show that gun free zones reduce crime and I have research that indicates the opposite. Letting the defender of the laws simply claiming a benefit without any evidence was unfortunate, though I am glad that Alan was given a chance to point out the impact of these laws.

New gun lock research from Australia

There is a new report out by the Australian Institute of Criminology on Firearms Theft . While the discussion is not clearly written in the text, it was my understanding from talking to Jenny Mouzos that out of 664 firearms stolen there were five instances where stolen guns were used in "crime or violence" (two of those instances involved a suicide) (p. 11 and 59). There was apparently one murder committed with a stolen gun.

When I talked to Jenny, one question that I asked her was how many defensive gun uses there were in Australia, and she told me that it was a crime to use a gun defensively, though she didn't know more than that. She did not even know how many prosecutions there were of defensive uses (completely guessing it could be a dozen times a year that people are prosecuted), though I noted that would presumably provide a lower bound on defensive uses since not all such cases are likely to be reported to the police. The bottom line that I tried to get across to her is that while she advocates locking up guns, it is quite possible that more lives were lost from locking up guns and people not being able to use them defensively than were saved by locks making it difficult for criminals to steal guns. Unfortunately, her report completely ignores this trade-off despite our discussion. My research published in the Journal of Law and Economics on gun lock laws in the United States that explicitly analyzes this trade-off was presented at conference she attended in New Zealand earlier this year.

The report indicates that in Australia .04% of guns were stolen (1 out of every 2,500 guns). That means that .0003% of guns owned lawfully are stolen and used in a "crime or violence." Given the very expensive safes required to lock up the guns, I wouldn't be surprised if the costs of the locks alone more than offset and benefits from the regulations. Though it is not the levels but the changes in crimes with stolen guns that is the issue, that benefit is also likely to be small as the report acknowledges that there was a downward pre-existing trend in firearms stolen prior to the gun lock requirements and that it continued afterwards.

She makes a lot of strong claims that guns should be locked up, but there is really no evidence in this paper that proves that the benefits exceed the costs. To do that type of study you want to see how much these gun lock laws changed the number of crimes committed with guns or at least the number of guns stolen and compare it to the costs of those laws (fewer defensive uses, cost of locks, etc.). The report doesn't really systematically examine any of these changes or trade-offs in costs and benefits. As just noted, the closest that the report comes to any of this is to say that there was a downward pre-existing trend in firearms stolen prior to the gun lock requirements and that it continued afterwards.

Thanks to James Murray for alerting me to this study.

John McCain Pro-Gun?

I had to read this a couple of times. My guess is that there are a lot of conservatives who would voted for McCain if they could really be convinced that he had these views, but he has a lot of baggage on these topics and it really comes across as an election induced conversion (or at least a conversion back to views that he held a decade or so ago).

McCain's aides say the conservative concerns are unfounded. He has an 80-plus percent approval rating from the National Tax Limitation Committee. He enjoys similarly high marks from the Christian Coalition. His legislative record is pro-life and pro-gun, his aides say. "Has he ever not voted for a conservative jurist? There may be one or two cases," says McCain's chief of staff, Mark Salter. . . .

Despite being a genuine hero during the Vietnam war, the difficulty for McCain is that he has problems on lots of issues: taxes, campaign finance, guns, and other topics. Conservatives might be able to put up with a couple of these positions, but there are just too many for most conservatives. On guns, take McCain's links to Americans for Gun Safety. Also take McCain's regulations on Gun Shows. I personally found many of his arguments on guns quite misleading. Possibly McCain's strategy makes sense for him getting elected (that is normally take positions that are popular with the media and many liberals and then say that you are "pro-gun" during a Republican presidential primary), but either this is calculated or McCain honestly doesn't know what conservatives view as pro-gun or anti-gun. I wish that he could convince me that he would be arguing as forcefully after the Republican primaries that he is "pro-gun."

McCain on Oil

Just for the sake of discussion, I thought that I would check out how conservative McCain is on other issues, such as the claimed price gouging by oil companies.

Motorists paying up to $3.50 a gallon for gasoline castigate oil companies and their executives with a growing list of high-octane epithets: Greedy. Un-American. The new robber barons.

On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) invoked the harshest image yet. "I think they have the least PR sensitivity of any group outside of satanic cults," he said. . . .

McCain, referring to pending gasoline price-gouging legislation, said "Americans are understandably upset when they see the former CEO of Exxon-Mobil getting $400 million or something similarly obscene." . . .