Some businesses in St. Louis let employees carry concealed handguns on the job

Other businesses that send workers on the road with cash have policies that differ from Domino's.

Deferring to state firearm law, the St. Louis Taxi Commission leaves the decision about allowing drivers to arm themselves up to the individual cab companies.

St. Louis' Harris Cab Company, in turn, leaves the decision to the discretion of the drivers.

"We don't prevent drivers (from carrying) because we want them to be safe," said manager Shermand Palmer. . . .

It is interesting that cab drivers, who I assume face more of a risk than pizza delivery men, let their employees carry guns. When it matters the most, they let their employees do it. Pizza delivery men are not as great of a target because they carry such limited money on them.

Thanks very much to AJ Troglio for this link and the other links on this story.

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For those interested in limiting gun magazine sizes

With the assault weapons ban again being discussed in the presidential campaign (e.g., Mitt Romney), there are two facts to consider.

1) Here is a youtube presentation about how quickly guns can be reloaded.

2) As an empirical fact the reloading rate for guns is largely irrelevant because the number of murders each year involving more than a few bullets fired is extremely rare.



Supreme Court Takes on Another Death Penalty Case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court said on Friday it would decide whether the death penalty can be imposed for the crime of raping a child, expanding its review of how capital punishment is carried out in the United States.

The nation's highest court agreed to hear an appeal by a Louisiana man who is the only person in the United States on death row for a crime other than murder. He is arguing the death penalty for child rape violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. . . .

There is an interesting economics point here that I wrote about in Freedomnomics. I think that the evidence strongly shows a deterrence effect from the death penalty, but the argument could be quite different for other crimes. If you already face the death penalty for rape, you might want to kill the victim to avoid witnesses. After all, what more can they do to you if you already face the death penalty? The reason that isn't clear is because committing what is considered an even worse crime will increase the probability of arrest and also increase the probability of being given the death penalty. The fact that this child rapist is the only person on death row thus makes it more likely that the possibility of the death penalty for raping a child did not appreciably increase the likelihood that he would have killed his victim.

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If you make something more costly, . . . .

Here is a simple example of economics. If you increase the cost of concentrating on driving, people will drive more slowly, be less likely to change lanes, etc.. In this case, the advent of cell phones have raised the cost of people concentrating on driving.

Compared with undistracted motorists, drivers on cell phones drove an average of 2 mph slower and took 15 to 19 seconds longer to complete the 9.2 miles. That may not seem like much, but is likely to be compounded if 10 percent of all drivers are talking on wireless phones at the same time, Cooper says. . . .

In medium and high density traffic, drivers talking on cell phones were 21 percent and 19 percent, respectively, less likely to change lanes (roughly six lane changes per 9.2-mile drive versus seven or eight lane changes by drivers not on cell phones). . . .


Iowa Curse?: Not much for Democrats

There has been a lot of discussion about how poorly the Iowa caususes predict who will get party nominations. Since 1976 when the caucus has really begun to matter, when you don't have an incumbent Republican president running half the time the caucus correctly picked the eventual nominee. For Democrats, it has been either 4 to 2 to 3 to 2 depending on whether you count uncommitteds winning in 1976 over Carter. But given that the 1976 caucus gave Carter a huge boost, I would probably count it as a correct prediction.



Iowa Campaign: $200 spent for every voter

John Fund at OpinionJournal's Political Diary notes:

This year, with a couple of exceptions such as Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, candidates went beyond participation and virtually wallowed in them. The best estimates are that some $50 million will be spent by all the hopefuls on the Iowa caucuses this year, including $30 million in TV ads and salaries and expenses for at least 700 paid staffers.

That amounts to an eye-opening $200 spent for every voter who walks into a caucus. Of course, the winners in each contest will consider their money well spent. So too will the people of Iowa who will have gotten a healthy injection of cash into their economy, an inordinate amount of attention to their political opinions and pledges of undying devotion to their state's taxpayer-subsidized ethanol industry.

With all the political advertising, I wonder whether Iowa tends to have more TV and radio stations per capita than other states and whether it has increased after 1976 when Iowa started to get to be important. I might be interesting just to study the relative change in value of TV and radio stations in Iowa before and after 1976 relative to stations elsewhere.


Re-opening the debate to arm pilots?

Some are apparently questioning whether pilots should be armed. My friend Tracy Price looks at the arguments in a new argument.

In a recent interview, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida stated: "The need for guns in the cockpit is just nearly not [sic] as acute as it once was. There are all kind [sic] of screening systems, there is now the reinforced cockpit door, there are air marshals, we now have a lots of checks and balances." Hearing this, some might ask, "Do airline pilots still need to be armed?" The answer is, "Absolutely — now more than ever."

Consider this: Arming pilots is not a new idea. In fact, airline pilots flew armed in large numbers from the dawn of commercial aviation to 1987 with no record of incident. When the federal government disarmed pilots in 1987, many pilots predicted cockpit takeover attempts — including the late Captain Victor Saracini, who, in horrible irony, was the captain of United flight 175 on September 11, 2001 when his Boeing 767 was hijacked and crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. It was the disarming of pilots in 1987 that inevitably led to the September 11 cockpit takeovers. . . .

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Late breaking surge for Fred Thompson in Iowa

Thompson is all over the radio today (Hannity and Levin) and he is supposed to be on Hannity's show again tomorrow. Talk about a hint for who they think would be best. Peter Robinson has a nice discussion on Thompson here. Thompson might be surging at just the right time here.

UPDATE: Do you want some evidence that Thompson is doing better in Iowa? How about that someone felt the need to start pushing this rumor.

GOP presidential hopeful Fred Thompson said in an in-studio interview with KCCI-TV in Des Moines that there is no truth to rumors that his campaign will fold before New Hampshire if he doesn't have a strong showing in Iowa.

"That is absolutely made up out of whole cloth," said the former U.S. Senator from Tennessee.

Thompson said a rival campaign was likely the source of that rumor.

"Can you imagine such a thing in politics?" he asked.

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DC Fires its Lead Attorney in the DC Gun Ban Case

I caution people against reading too much into this, but it is generally positive.

David Vladeck, a professor at Georgetown Law School, said Morrison's departure would be a major blow to the D.C. team that has been preparing the case.

"This is a case that requires an unusual amount of preparation because one of the issues comes back to, 'What did those folks who wrote the Bill of Rights really mean when they wrote the Second Amendment,' " said Vladeck, who is friends with Morrison and had been consulting on the case. "In addition to needing a good lawyer and appellate advocate, you need someone who has immersed himself in very complex historical sources. Alan has been doing that for two or three months by now. Whoever takes over this case will start many, many, many laps behind where we ought to be."

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Even Coral can migrate

Global warming will increase plant life and rain forests. The more plants in areas that were previously frozen wastelands means more animal life can be supported. If significant global warming were actually going to occur (and unfortunately since 1998 the world temperature has stopped rising), it would mean more animal life and more animal diversity. When arguing with people about this they say that is fine in the long run, but in the short run there will be extinctions. The most obvious response to that is that animal habitat can move, and besides we are unfortunately only talking about a degree change over the next hundred years. Coral has often been pointed to as one type of life that can't move and will be harmed by any significant warming. But that too seems to be wrong:

While scientists have warned that global warming could devastate Australia's coral reefs, there's now evidence coral may be able to migrate to cooler waters.

After analysing fossils from a warm period 125,000 years ago, the scientists have concluded that coral may move south once more to escape warming oceans.

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"Armed customer thwarts grocery robbery"

From the Indianapolis Star today.

Armed customer thwarts grocery robbery - Indianapolis Star

By Vic Ryckaert
January 2, 2008

A 51-year-old man stopped a masked man from robbing a Southside grocery store and held him at gunpoint until police arrived.

Charlie Merrell was in checkout line at Bucks IGA Supermarket, 3015 S. Meridian St., when a masked man jumped a nearby counter and held a gun on a store employee at 5:17 p.m. Monday, according to a police report made public today.

While the suspect was demanding cash from the workers, the police report states that Merrell pulled his own handgun, pointed it at the robber and ordered him to put down his weapon.

When the suspect hesitated, Merrell racked the slide on his gun to load a round in the chamber, Officer Jason Bockting wrote in the report.

The suspect placed his gun and a bag of cash on the counter, dropping some of the money, police said. The suspect removed his mask and lay on the floor. Merrell held the suspect at gunpoint until officers arrived and took him away in handcuffs.

Merrell had a valid permit to carry the handgun, police said. . Police recovered an unloaded .380-caliber handgun from the suspect and $779 in cash, according to the report. Dwain Smith, 19, was arrested on initial charges of robbery, criminal confinement, pointing a firearm, battery and carrying a handgun without a license. . . .

Thanks very much to Darren Cooper and Scott Davis for sending me this link.

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"Pizza deliveryman who shot robber had gun permit"

A Domino’s pizza deliveryman who shot and killed a would-be robber in Pagedale has a valid permit to carry a weapon and appears to have acted in self-defense, according to St. Louis County police.

UPDATE: This is disappointingly true:

The pizza delivery driver who fatally shot a robber last week could have faced discipline over the incident had he not resigned, a Domino's spokesman said Wednesday.

Although the driver was being praised by bloggers with comments such as "Score one for the good guys," many corporations, like Domino's, prohibit armed employees. . . .

I assume that at least part of this due to expectations of liability. This in turn effects insurance rules. If the legal set up were changed, I think that many firms would start to let employees carry guns.

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Global Warming Petition

Scientists are being asked to look at a petition regarding global warming and consider signing it. The petition can be found here. The text of the petition is as follows:

We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.

The website also has a 12 page summary of the scientific research on global warming and a letter by Frederick Seitz, Past President, National Academy of Sciences.

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Another (very long) review of Freedomnomics

Economist WIlliam Sjostrom has a very nice review of my book up on his website. It was very nice of him to take this much time to review it.

The short version: my doubts are small. Read it, read it, read it, and, oh yeah, read it.


Giuliani On Gun Control

Obviously this old youtube clip is relevant given the current primaries and Giuliani arguing that he supports gun ownership, but the reason for linking to this is that Giuliani is making the old argument about treating gun ownership like we treat cars. In fact, if we had the same rules for guns that we have for cars, we would be deregulating gun ownership. The reason is simple. You don't need a license to own a car on your own property. The various regulations on cars only apply once you take the car off of your property, but once you meet those regulations you can take your car anyplace in the United States. If guns were treated similarly, there would be no regulations, no licensing, no safety requirements as long as you kept the gun on your property. (By the way, you can transport a car off of your property, but you just can't drive it without the license.) The driver's license would be like a right-to-carry permit, but if the permit was like the driver's license, once you got it you would be able to take your gun with you any place in the US.

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Why Romney's changing positions will be so harmful

Even conservative editorialists at places like The Union Leader in New Hampshire and The Boston Herald find his flip-flopping offensive.

It is not just issues like guns and abortion (this piece also hits him for his changing position on immigration). I have no problem with him learning on issues, but it is getting pretty obvious that Romney is an extremely poll driven candidate. Here is a decade ago arguing against cutting farm subsidies and here he is more recently saying how essential farm subsidies. Here he is saying that strict gun control helps protect Americans' safety, but now he is a defender of gun rights. (Personally, I am not sure that he knows what the current gun control laws are.) Here used to oppose Boy Scout policy on homosexuals.

The thing that is important is not what his stands used to be nor what they are now (though I am very bothered by his current stand on global warming), but that they change so much on so many incredibly different things. My book, Freedomnomics, has a long discussion about why it is difficult for politicians with these changing positions to get elected.

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"more young black men in prison than in college" -- False

What Obama Got Wrong
Friday, December 14, 2007; Page A14

WHAT HE GOT WRONG: "I don't want to wake up four years from now and discover that we still have more young black men in prison than in college."

-- Barack Obama, rally in Harlem, Nov. 29

Obama has repeated this false claim to predominantly African American audiences, even after The Washington Post pointed out the mistake to his campaign. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 106,000 African American men ages 18 to 24 were in federal or state prisons at the end of 2005. An additional 87,000 were temporarily held in local jails in mid-2006. According to 2005 census data, 530,000 African American men in this age group were in college.

Black male college students outnumber black male prisoners even if the age group is expanded to 30 or 35. The Obama campaign has not responded to several requests for statistical data to support the senator's remarks, and it has not explained a similar claim that he made to an NAACP audience on July 12.

-- Michael Dobbs

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Compact fluorescent lights likely to cost much more than they save

CFLs contain mercury. If one breaks in your home, Kazman says, EPA guidelines suggest you open windows and leave the room for at least a quarter of an hour before trying to clean up the mess. And for God's sakes don't use a vacuum, which could disperse the poison into the air. Even when they're intact, U.S. News happily tells us, "the bulbs must be handled with caution. Using a drop cloth might be a good new routine to develop when screwing in a light bulb."

I really wonder whether people have thought of these bulbs being used in real world use. How will be dispose of them? Will people actually keep them on for 15 minutes after they have been turned on? Suppose that you just want to temporarily turn on the light when you go into a room. What about the time costs of people having to come back a second time to turn it off? What about the costs of people's time waiting for these lights to warm up? What about the fact that people might have to turn on more lights because these new bulbs don't produce as much light? This has to be one of the dumber regulations in a long time.

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In Defense of Waterboarding

Here is some excellent cost-benefit analysis of waterboarding by Mark Bowden, the author of Blackhawk Down.

No one should be prosecuted for waterboarding Abu Zubaydah.

Several investigations are under way to find out who ordered the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes, apparently an effort to cover up evidence of torture. Leaving aside for a moment the wisdom of destroying the tapes, I'd like to take a look at what was allegedly done to Zubaydah, and why.

When captured in Pakistan in 2002, Zubaydah was one of the world's most notorious terrorists. The 31-year-old Saudi had compiled in his young life 37 different aliases and was under a sentence of death in Jordan for a failed plot to blow up two hotels jammed with American and Israeli tourists. The evidence was not hearsay: Zubaydah was overheard on the phone planning the attacks, which were then thwarted. He was a key planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, was thought to be field commander of the attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors on the USS Cole, and was involved in planning a score of other terror attacks, successful and unsuccessful. He was considered to be a primary recruiter and manager of al-Qaeda training camps.

He was, in short, a highly successful, fully engaged, career mass murderer. Think back to those pictures of workers crouched in windows high up in the burning World Trade Center towers, choosing whether to jump to their death or be burned alive. This was in part Abu Zubaydah's handiwork. . . .

Bowden's piece was greatly criticized and he wrote this response:

Many readers found this outrageous. I received the usual cascade of comment from the Sandbox School of Argument, the name-callers and those whose idea of persuasion is to state their own opinion loudly - lots of capital letters, bold type and underlinings. Several responders belong to the Ostrich School; they won't be reading this because they have forsworn reading anything I ever again write, presumably on the assumption that if you ignore opinions you don't like, they go away. . . .

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Thompson trying something different: "something more substantive"

John Fund at OpinionJournal's Political Diary notes:

Peter Robinson, a former speechwriter for President Reagan who is now at the Hoover Institution, notes that Mr. Thompson is trying something no other GOP candidate this year has done: appeal to Democrats. His key passage begins: "You know, when I'm asked which of the current group of Democratic candidates I prefer to run against, I always say it really doesn't matter. These days all those candidates, all the Democratic leaders, are one and the same. They're all NEA-MoveOn.org-ACLU-Michael Moore Democrats. They've allowed these radicals to take control of their party and dictate their course.... This election is important to salvage a once-great political party from the grip of extremism and shake it back to its senses. It's time to give not just Republicans but independents, and, yes, good Democrats a chance to call a halt to the leftward lurch of the once-proud party of working people."

Certainly the other GOP candidates might argue with Mr. Thompson's claim that his track record and approach make him the best candidate to win Democratic votes in the general election. Rudy Giuliani would be expected to put blue states such as New Jersey and Connecticut in play, and John McCain has proven support among some independent voters. But Mr. Robinson gives Mr. Thompson credit for trying to change the tone of the last days of the Iowa caucuses to something more substantive: "We have here a serious man, making a serious case -- and doing so in the context of a campaign that has otherwise descended into mere caterwauling."

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Czechs upset at having to pay less than $2 for a doctor's visit

The Czech healthcare system undergoes a minor revolution on 1 January as patients are asked to pay a small fee each time they visit their doctor.

The move is part of a widespread reform of the health sector unveiled by the centre-right government.

It is far from popular - a number of leading figures are calling on Czechs not to pay up.

Czechs enjoyed free healthcare during four decades of communist rule and in the past 17 years of capitalism.

But from 1 January, Czech patients will be asked to pay 30 crowns (£0.83; 1.1 euros) for each visit to the doctor, and 60 crowns for each day spent in hospital. . . . .

If $1.50 dissuades someone from going to the doctor, you have to wonder how badly they had to go to the doctor. It is pretty obvious that they shouldn't be wasting the doctor's time if they don't value the service at $1.50 or so. Clearly, this $1.50 is much too low.

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Somebody please provide an economic justification for these different government spending items

Some of the spending in the new Federal budget that congress enacted. Where is the federal issue in these spending proposals? I don't see the externality issue for the Lobster Institute. Where is the national concern with managing beavers in North Carolina or rats in Arkansas? As far as bees go, why isn't it a simply question of supply and demand (see Freedomnomics for a discussion about how the market solves free-riding problems in this problem)?

Next time you go out for seafood, remember the $188,000 lawmakers sent to the Lobster Institute in Orono, Maine. Then there was the tidy sum to the pest-control industry in the form of $2.5 million to fight grasshoppers and Mormon crickets in Nevada and Utah; $223,000 to manage beavers in Raleigh, N.C.; $3.7 million to combat termites in New Orleans; $244,000 to conduct bee research in Weslaco, Texas.

Congress, which spends millions battling roaches and rodents in the Capitol, has a thing about bugs. It can't spend enough on them: $353,000 to battle the Asian long-horned beetle in Illinois; $234,000 to help an American laboratory in Montpellier, France fight the olive fruit fly; $113,000 to go after rodents in Arkansas.

This is just a sampling of the 11,331 "earmarks" (a 426 percent increase over last year) that this Congress snuck into its annual appropriations bills and accompanying reports for fiscal year 2008 -- nearly 10,000 of them in the omnibus bill alone. Want more?

-- $700,000 for a bike trail in Minnesota.

-- $200,000 for a post office museum in downtown Las Vegas.

-- $1 million for a river walk in Massachusetts.

-- $150,000 for the Louis Armstrong Museum in Queens, N.Y.

-- $200,000 for the Hunting and Fishing Museum in Pennsylvania.

-- $113,000 for rodent control in Alaska.

-- $4 million for a Beverly Hills veterans' park.

-- $37,000 for the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

-- $8.8 million for the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium at Eastern Kentucky University.

-- $2.4 million for renovations in the Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston, W.Va.

-- $250,000 for construction work at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser, Wash.



Fred Thompson's Closing Message for the Iowa Caucuses

A compelling closing message from Fred Thompson before the Iowa Caucuses can be found here.

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Brought to you by Campaign Finance Regulations: Bloomberg's Presidential Run

My book Freedomnomics goes through the impact of campaign finance regulations, but one of the bigger impacts is how it has worked to give wealthy candidates an advantage. I won't go through all the arguments here, but one simple point is that if Bloomberg spends $500 million or $1 billion as has been discussed, donation limits mean that there is no way that even the combined Democratic and Republican expenditures can match that.

Buoyed by the still unsettled field, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is growing increasingly enchanted with the idea of launching an independent presidential bid, and his aides are aggressively laying the groundwork for him to run.

On Sunday, the mayor will join Democratic and Republican elder statesmen at the University of Oklahoma in what the conveners are billing as an effort to pressure the major party candidates to renounce partisan gridlock.

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Push in Texas to Repeal Gun Free Zones for Colleges

For a discussion of the current push in Texas see here.

Thanks to Scott Davis for this link.

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65 Year Old Concealed Handgun Permit holder Stops 5 Armed Robbers

Gun-packing man, 65, fights off 5 thugs


ORLANDO, Fla. -- A Central Florida man who collects cash for parking at a church fought off five armed men who had ambushed him and demanded cash.

The 65-year-old victim, who did not want to be identified, said he was collecting cash in the Parramore area before an Orlando Magic basketball game when someone put a gun to his head.

He noticed that that he was surrounded by four other men as well.

The man said he pretended to reach into his jacket for cash but instead pulled out his hidden gun and opened fire.

The men fled during the shooting and it was not known if any of them were hit by bullets.

The victim said he had a permit for the concealed weapon.

He said he has been a victim of crime before.

"A couple of years ago, eight teens attacked me with a pipe trying to rob me," the man said.

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