International Pressure on Finland to Change Gun Control Laws

It was an easy prediction. The horrible tragedy just a couple of days earlier has already lead to calls for sweeping gun control laws in Finland. The government has already caved into some demands and will raise the age of purchasing a gun to 18 from 15, even though the killer was 18. I guess that the point is that some change needed to be made even if it would have had nothing to do with the tradegy. As far as I can tell, there was no discussion of any costs from raising the age.

The government said Friday it would raise the minimum age for buying guns from 15 to 18, but insisted there was no need for sweeping changes to gun laws shaped by deep-rooted traditions of hunting in the sub-Arctic wilderness.

"If you look at the rate of homicides with firearms (in Finland), the figure is very low," Interior Ministry spokesman Ilkka Salmi said. "People using guns are hunters. They live in rural areas. It's part of the life over there."

According to a government study in 2002, 14 percent of homicides in Finland are gun-related.

International gun control activists have urged the Finns to rethink their laws in the wake of Wednesday's tragedy. . . . . .

The article contains the absurd claim that Finland with 1.6 million guns and 5.2 million people ranks 3rd in civilian gun ownership worldwide. Finland does have a high gun ownership rate, but it isn't third. In any case, possibly it will cause people to realize that other countries own a lot of guns besides the US.



Oops . . . Hillary Caught Planting Questions in Audience

This has not been a good couple of weeks for her campaign. Not only did Clinton plant the questions, but the beginning of her answer made it worse by her claiming that this question was something everyone wanted to ask. If so, why did she plant it?

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s campaign admitted Friday that it planted a global warming question in Newton, Iowa, Tuesday during a town hall meeting to discuss clean energy. . . . .

"After her speech, Clinton accepted questions. But according to Grinnell College student Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff ’10, some of the questions from the audience were planned in advance. 'They were canned,' she said. Before the event began, a Clinton staff member approached Gallo-Chasanoff to ask a specific question after Clinton’s speech. 'One of the senior staffers told me what [to ask],' she said.

"Clinton called on Gallo-Chasanoff after her speech to ask a question: what Clinton would do to stop the effects of global warming. Clinton began her response by noting that young people often pose this question to her before delving into the benefits of her plan.

"But the source of the question was no coincidence — at this event 'they wanted a question from a college student,' Gallo-Chasanoff said." . . . . .

We after saying that it was an unusual event and not something that would happen again, it turns out that the Clinton Campaign had planted a question at another event:

Clinton's Iowa campaign confirmed to Fox News that one of its staff discussed questions with Mitchell before her April 2 event, but denied attempting to plant a pro-Clinton question.

Mo Elliethee, spokesman for Clinton's campaign in Iowa, told Fox that Hayler and Mitchell "had a previous relationship" and that a discussion about Clinton arose out of a normal conversation between two people who knew each other well.

"They had a previous relationship and were talking before the event and the topic of the senator's position on Iraq came up and Geoffrey said he had some questions," Elliethee said. "Chris suggested Geoffrey ask a question."

Mitchell, however, said that he and Hayler did not know each other personally before the event.

"I had no previous relationship with him," said Mitchell. "I knew his name and by name only as some who worked for Sen. Evan Bayh. But we didn't know each other and I had never met him before this event."

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Carolyn McCarthy doesn't know what is in her gun ban legislation

This YouTube video shows Democratic Representative Carolyn McCarthy evading a question on her gun ban legislation until she is finally pinned down and forced to admit that she doesn't know what is in the legislation that she is pushing. This segment from MSNBC is a little old, but it is still amusing.

Thanks to Gus Cotey.


Holman W. Jenkins Jr. on Tipgate

Holman W. Jenkins Jr. at OpinionJournal's Political Diary on "Tipgate Update"

National Public Radio continues to birddog allegations that Hillary Clinton failed to leave a tip after visiting the Toledo Maid-Rite diner in Iowa for breakfast last month. The Clinton campaign responded to yesterday's report by saying it did leave a tip -- $100 on a $157 tab. Also yesterday a Clinton staffer turned up at the diner and handed a $20 bill to Anita Esterday, the waitress who had waited on Mrs. Clinton and mentioned (in passing) to a radio interviewer that she hadn't received a tip.

The plot thickens. She tells NPR that yesterday's staffer said the tip had been included in the credit card payment. However, the credit card receipt, when examined, was apparently bereft of tip. So the staffer then opined the tip must have been left as cash with the expectation the diner crew would divvy it up. Where's the Zapruder film? Her aides were seated at tables around the diner, but Mrs. Clinton was sitting at the counter. Ms. Esterday doubts her colleagues stiffed her for her share of the tip. The restaurant's manager tells AP it may have happened.

As the truth recedes into the region of mist and shadows where many things Clinton reside, another question suggests itself: Wouldn't it have been better for the campaign simply to have said, "If we didn't leave a tip, it surely was an oversight, and we'll rectify it immediately?" What good can possibly come from quibbling with a waitress over such a trivial matter?

But the most cringe-inducing aspect was reporter David Greene, in a scripted dialogue with an NPR host this morning, bathing himself in recrimination for failing to check with the Clinton campaign before running the tip anecdote yesterday in a longer report about how campaigns impact the lives of local folks when they land in town.

Apparently, this is not the first time that Hillary has been accused of stiffing waitresses on tips.

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What "civility and bipartisanship" means

Talk on Saturday to the Fund for American Studies

I will be speaking on Freedomnomics to the Fund for American Studies this Saturday. The talk will be at that Loews Annapolis Hotel in Annapolis, MD at 1 PM.

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Huckabee worries me a great deal

Is Huckabee good on the gun issue? Sure, though I am not always happy with his ability to explain the issue. There is no doubt that he is as strong as anyone on that issue. That said, I would have a very difficult time voting for him in a general election. Among the reasons I would have a hard time is that he supports a nationwide smoking ban, "supports a mandatory cap on global-warming pollution," and "limiting the pay of corporate executives." Huckabee's discussion on health care also worries me.

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Steroids for the brain?

If we are going to ban steroids from sports, when are we going to begin banning treatments that improve people's performance in school? Of course, you might also have to ban caffeine and other drugs. But why is it worse for people to do well in sports by taking steroids than someone to do better on the SATs and thus beating out someone else for a place at a top school?

A rise in healthy people popping pills to boost performance in exams or work, raises long-term ethical and safety concerns about the effects of such treatments, British doctors said on Thursday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) wants a public debate about the risks and benefits of using drugs to improve memory and concentration, sometimes called "cognitive enhancement". . . . .


Finland: "Gun ownership high, violence low"


For everyone who has been avoiding the Sun to protect their skin: Sorry following our advice means that you will die sooner

This Supreme Court Case Could Really Cost the Economy A Lot

This could really create a lot of jobs for lawyers.

A seemingly divided Supreme Court on Wednesday debated whether the judiciary should play a role in arbitration cases, the process used by businesses to sort out tens of thousands of disputes as an alternative to going to court. . . .

Chief Justice John Roberts suggested expanded judicial review is appropriate in this instance, pointing to the fact that the two sides negotiated a contract with court review as one of its provisions. Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia suggested Mattel might be seeking more latitude than the law allows for parties to negotiate expanded judicial review in arbitration cases. The American Arbitration Association says a cornerstone principle of federal law is that arbitrators' awards are final and binding. If parties to a dispute are allowed to engage in expanded judicial review, arbitration will become a prelude to lawsuits instead of a substitute, the association said in court papers. . . . .

But this takes the cake:

The wireless industry says that in the absence of court review, parties may decide they are unwilling to "bet the company" on arbitration. The result would be a decline in the number of disputes sent to arbitration and an added workload for already-overburdened courts. . . .

As Roberts points out, if the companies wanted the option to go to court, they can put that in the arbitrarion agreement. You would need to have some explanation for why companies can't figure out what is in there interest (supposedly though this wouldn't then apply to the wireless industry). Even opening up this question up will raise the risks of using arbitration agreements.


Concealed Handgun Permit holders Stop Armed Robbers in Orlando, Florida

Fred Thompson Answers Questions on Guns for Field and Stream

Thompson has a long list of answers. Here is one on the BATFE:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives should have as its priority its efforts to combat violent crime, violent criminal gangs, and to interdict and disrupt the gun traffickers who supply violent gang members with firearms. While one way to curb illicit gun trafficking is to ensure that legitimate dealers maintain their paperwork in good order, these paperwork violations should in no way be BATFE’s focus. I would also consider giving BATFE a wider range of sanctions so that dealers’ simple paperwork violations do not result in license revocations. Finally, having a politically accountable BATFE Director, who is now subject to Senate confirmation, instead of a career bureaucrat should also help change BATFE’s priorities and make the agency more responsive. . . .

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US Troops Cheating on Medical Tests to Remain Fighting in Iraq

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Our troops are so motivated by the war in Iraq and think that it is so important that they are willing to risk permanent brain injury to stay in the field. These guys are really motivated.

Reports of cheating began surfacing in Iraq during the summer, says Col. Brian Eastridge, a trauma surgeon who supervises medical care in Iraq and Afghanistan from his office in Baghdad.

Troops had obtained copies of an older version of the test and memorized key words used to gauge short-term memory, Jaffee says. Those who fail areas of the test undergo more sophisticated exams for diagnosing brain injury.

If symptoms persist, soldiers are sent home. If symptoms get better in days or a few weeks, patients can be sent back into combat, doctors say. . . . .


Another Multiple Victim Public Shooting in Another Country

Obesity 'fuels cancer in women': Wrongly Scaring People

"Fuels cancer" sounds pretty bad. Surely the claim that just being "overweight" increases the risk of cancer is pretty scary. Back in graduate school one of the many points that I learned from Ed Leamer was there is an important difference between something that is statistically significant and something that is economically significant. The BBC claims that:

About 6,000 middle-aged or older women in the UK develop cancer each year because they are obese or overweight, a Cancer Research UK-funded study says. . . . .

Ironically, there is another study that just came out that claims simply being "overweight" lowers one's chance of getting cancer:

Being 25 pounds overweight doesn’t appear to raise your risk of dying from cancer or heart disease, says a new government study that seems to vindicate Grandma’s claim that a few extra pounds won’t kill you. . . . .

Well, let's just assume for a minute that the first scary claim is correct and also that the cancer is not the result of something that is also causing the women to be fat (e.g., depression may cause both obesity and cancer). According to the BBC article 4.5 million women are between 50 and 64 in the UK and 57 percent of those are obese or overweight. That comes to 2,565,000. Of those women, if we believe these claims, 6,000 will get cancer or any type each year (it would have been nice to know how many of them died from it, but that is another issue). Anyway, that means that 0.23 percent of these overweight or obese women get cancer each year because of their weight. I wouldn't want to be that less than quarter of one percent, but this doesn't sound like something to panic over. While there is no breakdown for the cancers "caused" by overweight, about one-third of cancers generally are said to result in death so that if true for these cancers, it means that .078 percent die. That is less than one tenth of one percent die from cancer.

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Lemuel Calhoon's Review of Freedomnomics

Email on the Death Penalty

I received this email earlier today. While I normally receive a lot of these and I don't usually paste these types of emails (I like to stick to factual arguments), this one particularly got to me.

I just read your article about whether the death penalty is a deterent.
I just want to comment that , to me, it doesn't matter if it's a deterent or not.
The death penalty IS justice ( rightful. fair and deserved punishment ) to the murderer for what was done to the victim (s) and their family. Simple_ as_ that. But.. it also needs to be
implemented, not ignored or postponed.
Our 12 year old daughter was murdered by a man in 1981, who has been on Death Row (Cal.) for 25 years with no execution date in sight. He has free meals, Cable T.V. and better medical care than we do.
Justice, for us, has failed.


University of North Dakota might be forced to remove "Fighting Sioux" Logo

Fate of University of North Dakota 'Fighting Sioux' Logo Threatens Hockey Arena

I would think that the Sioux indians would be proud to have a team referred to as the "Fighting Sioux." Will their be an objection to the Army helicopters having indian names? What is the difference? Why does the NCAA find this objectionable?


Hubris and Carbon Taxes

Greg Mankiw at Harvard takes great pleasure in the fact that surveys around the world show strong support for higher taxes to reduce carbon emissions inorder to control global warming. In some theoretical sense there is justification for this satisfaction, but the real world is a long way from what might work in theory. The basic problem is one of hubris (see my book Freedomnomics for a more complete discussion).

1) It is hard enough to get the direction of effects correct. There is a debate right now over global warming and what share might be attributable to man. Only a tiny fraction of greenhouse gases (may be a percentage point or so) is due to mankind. Of course, there are other causes such as energy output from the sun that we don't control at all. Even if we agree on manmade global warming being significant, there is still the next question of whether there is a net cost from it. Sea levels might possibly go up by a foot or so over the next hundred years, but human disease will decline and there will be more food. Probably even in the worst case scenario, a small effect on global warming has a small effect on net costs.

2) Even if we get the point estimate of the size of the externality correct, there is the problem of assuming that the government will impose the right tax. Having too high of a tax is just as bad as having too small of a tax. Why do we believe that the government will actually pass legislation that has the right tax?

3) We already have high gasoline taxes. How do we know that the level of taxes are not already too high? Possibly we should be lowering the gas tax, not raising it. Taxes on gasoline are very high as it is.

4) What is the cost of getting this wrong? The cost is that we will be poorer, and there are lots of coststo being poorer, included a lower life expectancy.

Mankiw is an advisor to Romney, which makes me worry about him some. Today is a reminder about the Democrats in the Washington Post today.

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Russell Roberts Unable to Respond to the Answer that I gave him?

In a previous post Russell Roberts asked for a single example of a useful instrument in empirical work.

So again, my question to my better-read colleagues in the profession--give me an example of a statistical analysis that relies on instrumental variables, for example, that is done well enough, that is so iron-clad, that it can reverse the prior beliefs of a skeptic. . . . .

I wrote him back:

1) I don't put a huge amount of weight often on instrumental variables, but let me give one example from my own work on giving women the right to vote. The instrument there is whether states voluntarily or were forced to give women the right to vote. We found that both types of states experienced a similar increase in government growth after women were given the right to vote. If it was simply increased liberalism by men that caused both suffrage for women and government growth, you should see that in states that reached a critical mass to voluntarily give women the right to vote, but not in others where states were forced to given them a vote.

After several responses back and forth I wrote Russell that: "The best that I can see in you response to what I wrote is 'So let me try again. Very few econometric analyses persuade skeptics.' You have a similar response on your blog. It does not appear to me that this is a helpful response nor is it very direct. Explain why my responses, particularly the instrument regarding women's voting, doesn't meet your concerns. You asked for an example and I gave you one that used an instrument. I have yet to see one paper challenge the instrument that we used on women's voting, and you provide no logical objection."


Russell asks that I not print his reply.

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A few defensive gun use stories from this week

TV News Report of Armed Self Defense

John Edwards Ad Effectively Smashes Hillary Over Inconsistencies.

Hillary Clinton is shown to be all over the map here.

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Texas Tech Students help push for ending gun free zones on campus

This is a surprise at Texas Tech? Hardly, but it is nice to see even more attention for Students for Concealed Carry. I have lost count how many stories that I have linked to on all this, but it is nice to see them getting as much attention as they did.

Some Texas Tech University students who believe concealed hand guns should be allowed on campus with proper certification are wearing empty holsters this week to protest gun-control policies.

Hoping to raise awareness about the issues surrounding the prohibition of licensed firearm possession on college campuses, students attending approximately 110 college institutions nationwide organized a protest at their respective campuses.

An estimated 6,000 members of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, the national organization of discontented gun owners, will symbolize their plight all week by donning empty holsters.

The group, however, is not advocating just any possession of weapons, he said. It designed the protests specifically to promote licensed and responsible carrying of handguns throughout all parts of campuses. . . . .

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Fred Thompson on Gun-Free Zones

Generally, I thought that Senator Fred Thompson gave a very good interview on Meet the Press this morning, though I was somewhat disappointed with his answer on gun free zones. I get the impression that Thompson believes that individual property owners have the right to decide to use their own property, but I would have liked to see Thompson asked to differentiate public and private universities. I understand and support his desire that people should have the choice what rules to adopt when they own the property, but I would have been nice if he had clearly reiterated what was stated in the quote that Russert read. Possibly Thompson thought the quote was enough, but I would have appreciated something more supportive in this interview.

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Senator Fred Thompson is our guest.

Virginia Tech, last April 32 killed, terrible tragedy. You had a radio report back at that time, and I’d like to share it with you and our viewers. “Virginia Tech,” the “administrators overrode Virginia state law and threatened to expel or fire anybody who brings a weapon,” on the “campus. Many other universities have been swayed by an anti-gun, anti-self defense ideology. Whenever I’ve seen one of those ‘Gun-free zone’ signs, especially outside of a school filled with our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, I’ve always wondered exactly who these signs are directed at.”

My sense in reading that is that you would be in favor of licensed citizens of Virginia, students, including students, to carry concealed weapons on a college campus.

MR. THOMPSON: It would have to be consistent with campus rules. I don’t think that all students need to be carrying weapons on the school campus. What I would, I would feel more comfortable with, if a child of mine was on campus, when I read about these people, 30 people or so being lined up and systematically killed without anybody apparently around to do anything about it, I think some, some thought really needs to be given as to who should be properly qualified and permitted and, and armed on campuses and other places where large people gather. But...

MR. RUSSERT: But you would, you would allow a campus to bar their students from carrying concealed weapons?

MR. THOMPSON: Yeah, it, it would have to be consistent with state law and, and, and school rules. And different schools would have, you know, the, the freedom to, to have their own rules as, as, as they see fit. . . . .

The take at the National Review Online was pretty positive:

Having just watched it on the DVR, I thought it was a very, very solid performance. Ground rule double.

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Democrats in Pennsylvania in Trouble?

It looks as if Pennsylvania state politicians used state money to pay legislative aides to work on campaigns. Apparently, both parties are involved, but everything that I read indicates that it is much more of a problem for the Democrats. While the media has shown very little interest in this so far, this scandal may be the one thing that keeps the Democrats from taking complete control of the Pennsylvania state government.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg obtained a letter from House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, a Democrat from western Pennsylvania, telling recipients to keep quiet about the "extraordinary" bonuses because not everyone got one.

"I have seen in our internal investigations no evidence that behavior was illegal," DeWeese told The Associated Press. "But that's not for me to decide. That's for the attorney general and his team."

The investigation seems to have everyone in Pennsylvania's State Capitol holding their breath as witnesses are being dragged before the grand jury and both parties in the House have been hit with subpoenas.

In August, investigators seized 20 boxes of records from the House Democratic research office, touching off a separation-of-powers legal battle. On Thursday, a petition by the House Democrats seeking to block access to the records was denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. . . . .


Students for Concealed Carry Versus Gun Control Groups on Campus

Still, more of the highly symbolic demonstrations have taken place in towns or cities than on college campuses, and that’s partially an indication of who’s doing the organizing. The protest at UNC, for example, was co-sponsored by the local Million Mom March chapter and North Carolinians Against Gun Violence (NCGV) but no student groups.

At the University of Virginia, though, students organized a lie-in on Oct. 16 that coincided with the six-month anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. Spangler has also tapped Facebook to try to recruit more organizers in college; her group currently has 218 members, not an insignificant number but far less than that of many advocacy organizations on the site — including Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, which has 7,542 members. . . . .

Well, 218 to 7,542 is progress, though I suspect that we have a ways to go still.

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Stage 2 of Roger's Eagle Project

Today's task was building a path, cleaning up some graffiti, and putting up a sign for the park. The work wasn't anywhere near as physically demanding as last week, but it was fun. There were probably 8 young scouts. They were at it from 9 AM to 3 PM.