The Problematic "famous file-sharing paper"

Craig Newmark has previously covered the problems with Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf's widely cited and discussed paper in the Journal of Political Economy entitled "The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis." Stan Liebowitz had found numerous errors in the paper, but was not given access to their data. Unfortunately, under Steven Levitt's editorship at the JPE, this general type of claim has arisen previously. Anyway, Craig has a follow up posting on all this. Florenz Plassmann has translated an article from Handelsblatt, a leading German financial publication. This is what Craig posts from the article:

Recently, this paper has sparked a heated discussion. The relevance of the debate extends far beyond the paper in question. It questions the reliability of empirical studies in economics, and may ultimately challenge the way in which the crème de la crème of scientific journals deals with scientific evidence.

The key question is: how can a study that is based on secret data that nobody has double-checked be printed without close examination by one of the most prestigious economics journals? This is especially puzzling because the supplier of the data has a special interest in a certain result. The study of the two economists from Harvard and Kansas is based on proprietary data on music downloads, which the authors received from the file sharing services "MixmasterFlame" and "FlameNap."

. . . .

Liebowitz knew of the filesharing study before it was published because it had been circulated as a working paper. In his letter he told Levitt that, despite repeated requests, the authors did not provide him with an opportunity to check their results. Could he please use his influence as editor of the "JPE" to make such checks possible? Levitt declined to tell Handelsblatt whether he followed up on this request.

It appears that he did not. Even one year after publication, the authors still keep their data to themselves. Oberholzer-Gee told Handelsblatt that they had to sign an agreement not to share the data to get them from the file sharing service. The authors argued that they had to "protect their sources" and declined to provide Handelsblatt with either a copy of the agreement or the name of a reference at the file sharing service who could confirm their version.

Liebowitz pressed Levitt, the editor of the "JPE," to at least correct several mistakes and ambiguities before publishing the paper.

For example, the authors write that about half the reductions in music CD sales are the result of the increase in market share of music discount stores with smaller inventories. Liebowitz argues that this cannot possibly be correct. He calculates that, even under extreme assumptions, the reduction in inventories can at most account for one-sixth of the decrease in sales. "It is unbelievable that a top-journal like the "JPE" would publish such claims without any evidence," Liebowitz complains in his letter, and he points Levitt to an entire series of additional errors or ambiguities.

Levitt forwarded Liebowitz’ letter to the authors, who ignored it—their study was published with only minor changes. Since then, file sharing services can refer to an academic paper in one of the top economics journals to defend themselves against the music industry.

In principle, like many other journals, the "JPE" requires that authors publish not only their results but also disclose the data and the methods that they use to derive them. However, this requirement does not apply to Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf—their paper was accepted before the requirement became binding. "This has nothing to do with science," criticizes Bruce McCullough, professor of decision sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia. "Without scrutiny, there can be no science," says the expert on the replicability of empirical results in economics. . . .

Given the huge coverage of this by the American press, it would be useful if someone in the American Press would write about this problem.

Thanks very much to Florenz Plassmann for translating this.

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False claims about the dangers of plastic bags

With a move to ban plastic bags in the UK growing, some are pointing out the false premises upon which the claims are made:

Scientists and environmentalists have attacked a global campaign to ban plastic bags that they say is based on flawed science and exaggerated claims.

The widely stated accusation that the bags kill 100,000 animals and a million seabirds every year are false, experts have told The Times of London. They pose only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced last month that he would force supermarkets to charge for the bags, saying that they were “one of the most visible symbols of environmental waste.”

Retailers and some pressure groups, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, threw their support behind him, and similar movements have spread across the United States.

But scientists, politicians and marine experts attacked the British government for joining a “bandwagon” based on poor science. . . . .


"Global-Warming Payola?"

JOHN TIERNEY takes on the issue of whether those who question environmental claims are doing so because they are getting paid off to do so. Tierney raises an example dealing with recycling.

Off the record, some of the executives would confide that recycling didn’t make economic sense to them, but they weren’t about to speak out against their profits — or hurt their reputations by opposing anything as popular as recycling. They were happy to join government agencies in giving money to recycling programs and environmental groups. If you wanted to sell out, there was a lot more money in going along with the majority. The few skeptics in academia and think tanks didn’t even have enough support to work full-time on the issue.

If readers insist on debating the pecuniary motives of scientists and their patrons, I’d be curious to see figures comparing how much money corporations, foundations and government agencies today give to global-warming skeptics versus how much they give to the other side. Again, I’m not suggesting that the researchers taking this money are corrupt, or that scientists will suppress the truth if it turns out the current prevailing view of climate change is wrong. If contradictions emerge, scientists will debate and revise their theories eventually. . . .

I have had similar experiences. When I was the chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission, I tried to get corporations and trade associations to testify before the Commission regarding higher environmental penalties, but no one was willing to testify even though they believed that the higher penalties were greater than the damage from the pollution. Companies that considered testifying were afraid that it would make them look like they were in favor of pollution. There were lots of people who were willing to testify for ever higher penalties.


Caucuses have so few people making decisions

Fox News was just reporting that with 91 percent of the vote reported Obama got 4,138 to Clinton's 2,876, a total of 7,014. The state had 220,012 registered voters in 2000 with Kerry getting 70,776 in 2004. Despite claims that Democrats are deluging the caucus sites, caucus goers only represent 10 percent of 2004 general election Democratic vote. Obama has enthusiasm, but not as strong regarding numbers.


Some searches on term "Coldest Winter in . . ."

I did a search on "coldest winter in . . . ." and came up with 63 hits, of which here are a few stories. None seemed to be in major US media.

1) Coldest winter in three decades claims nearly 1000 Afghan lives

2) This has been Lebanon's coldest winter in 25 years and Rafae Rafae and her family are struggling to make ends meet. . . .

3) "But scientists say the northern hemisphere has endured its coldest winter in decades."

4) "With [Michigan] county in the midst of the 10th coldest winter in the last 120 years . . ."

5) "Snow in Bhagdad" "China's coldest winter in a century"

I also did a search on "coldest winter in . . . ." and "global warming" and got 22 hits, many of these though were satirical pieces.

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Nevada one of 14 states thinking of ending some gun free zones

The 3/7 article from the RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL has this story:

Nevada is one of 14 states being tracked by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for trying to pass laws or policies that would have allowed properly trained students and teachers to bring firearms into the classrooms. . . .


Boy with gun scares off burglar

The article in the Longmont Times Call near Denver can be read here:

Publish Date: 3/6/2008

Shots fired, boy scares off burglar

By Scott Rochat
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — A boy fired a gun and chased away a burglar who tried to break into a house north of the city this afternoon, deputies said.

Ryan Dohoney was home alone when he heard a burglar inside the house, 11909 Vermillion Road, at about 12:30 p.m., Boulder County Sheriff's deputies said.

Dohoney fired a shot to scare the burglar off. The burglar fired one shot, ran out the door and ran from the property, deputies said. The burglar was dressed in black and wore a mask, deputies said.

Deputies did not say who fired the first shot, though both were fired inside the house. No one was injured. . . .


Arizona Board of Regents wants to Keep Universities as Gun Fee Zones

AZCentral has this update on what is happening in Arizona:

TUCSON - The Arizona Board of Regents has approved a resolution reaffirming its position that the state's university campuses should be weapons free.

The resolution, passed unanimously Friday at the regents' meeting in Tempe, was a response to a bill advancing in the state Legislature that would allow any person with a concealed-carry permit to possess a concealed firearm on university and community college campuses.

Weapons are currently banned by law on campuses.

The bill was approved by the state Senate Judiciary Committee after it was amended to exclude K-12 schools.

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Further Harassing Smokers

Possibly someone could explain the externality from letting people smoke outside the building. This is from the Baltimore Examiner:

BALTIMORE (Map, News) - Banished smokers taking nicotine breaks outside bars in one of Baltimore City’s trendy neighborhoods are being told to move or face fines and arrest for loitering, bar owners said.

Hampden bar owners said they were shocked last week when police began warning patrons to move 150 feet away from the entrance of bars they were patronizing or face loitering charges. . . . .

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"Bill to lower gun permit age to 18 hits snag"

From KJRH in Tulsa:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A southeast Oklahoma lawmaker says he is in disbelief that the leadership of the Oklahoma House may shoot down his bill to allow 18-year-olds to get permits to carry concealed handguns.

House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, says he doubts House leaders will permit a vote on a bill to lower the gun permit age from 21 to 18.

Benge also said higher education officials are expressing opposition to another bill that would allow 21-year-old students with concealed carry permits to bring guns onto college campuses.

"Not at this time," Benge said when asked if the House would take up the bill to allow 18-year-olds to apply for gun permits.

"He can stop it. There's no doubt about that," said Rep. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, sponsor of the legislation. . . .

Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, who introduced the legislation to allow concealed guns on campus, said he understood that college presidents are raising a ruckus about his bill.

Among their arguments, Murphey said, is that his proposal could put professors in danger if a student gets angry over bad grades. . . .

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Weather Channel Founder Goes After Global Warming Scam

You can listen to John Coleman, the Weather Channel founder, here. Coleman has the interesting idea of whether Al Gore is committing fraud by selling these carbon offsets under the claim that there is no proof behind Gore's claim.

As discussed in my recent op-ed, Coleman says that this past winter world temperatures have gone down by a degree Celcius, offsetting what he says "might" have been the increase over the previous century (he is not certain that temperatures had indeed gone up by a degree). Coleman says: "This has been the coldest winter in modern history globally."

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So where do you think that the best teachers are going to go?

To the New York Times, this is an open question. The title on their article asks: "Would six-figure salaries attract better teachers?" Obviously, higher salaries mean that more teachers will apply for the jobs. The schools might not select the best teachers (public schools might hire people based upon tenure or political views or whatever. Charter schools have more of an incentive to pick the best teachers, though not as much as a private for profit operation would. From the Times:

The school, which will run from fifth to eighth grades, is promising to pay teachers $125,000, plus a potential bonus based on schoolwide performance. That is nearly twice as much as the average New York City public school teacher earns, roughly two and a half times the national average teacher salary and higher than the base salary of all but the most senior teachers in the most generous districts nationwide.

The school’s creator and first principal, Zeke M. Vanderhoek, contends that high salaries will lure the best teachers. He says he wants to put into practice the conclusion reached by a growing body of research: that teacher quality — not star principals, laptop computers or abundant electives — is the crucial ingredient for success.

“I would much rather put a phenomenal, great teacher in a field with 30 kids and nothing else than take the mediocre teacher and give them half the number of students and give them all the technology in the world,” said Mr. Vanderhoek, 31, a Yale graduate and former middle school teacher who built a test preparation company that pays its tutors far more than the competition. . . .

Unions obviously have no desire to pay some people a lot of money. Their goal is to compress wages, actually making it so that the best people will leave. Not surprisingly some express doubt about this high pay:

Yet the model is raising questions. Will two social workers be enough? Will even the most skillful teachers be able to handle classes of 30, several students more than the city average? . . .

As someone who has taught for many years, I think that a good teacher can accomplish a lot with a bunch of bureaucrats being around. If the teacher doesn't work, the key is being willing to replace them with someone else. I have no idea whether they have gotten the top pay rate correct. Nor am I sure about whether they have the other parts "right," but what is clear is that there is a huge benefit from experimenting and figuring out what works. Public schools can't do that.

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So why wouldn't this count as a campaign contribution?

My guess is that with Clinton far ahead of Obama in the Florida polls Clinton people want a Florida revote much more than Obama's. Do you think that Obama's people would donate money to have another revote in Florida with at least one poll showing Clinton up by 19 points in the state? The same pollster talked about Michigan where the two candidates were now tied. If you are a Clinton supporter, would you give money to Florida or Michigan? If it is that self serving to the candidate, why wouldn't this money count as a donation? If Obama gets ahead in Michigan, you could get Obama's people funding Michigan and Clinton's funding Florida. In any case, this article in the WSJ shows how difficult it is to regulate political donations.

With the national party and the states refusing to cover the multimillion-dollar tab for new contests, party activists are floating the idea of tapping into the flush Democratic donor network to pay for revotes. . . .

And even rerunning the primaries in Florida and Michigan may not avert a credentials fight between supporters of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, insiders predict.

But a revote funded by donors -- including unions, individuals and activist groups -- could help break the standoff between the two states and the national party. "If we were in a position where we were looking for money to fund a caucus, would we welcome someone else's cash? I assume so," says Michigan party spokesman Liz Kerr. . . .

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"Padded Lampposts Tested in London to Prevent Cell Phone Texting Injuries"

Finally, something to prevent this dreaded threat. Of course, I suppose that people could hold their arms out in front of them to provide some cushion:

People who have been injured while walking and texting on their cell phones may be in luck.

A London street is experimenting with padded lampposts to protect those not paying attention from banging into them, ITN reports.

A study conducted by 118 118, a phone directory service, found that one in 10 people has been hurt while focusing on their cell phone instead of where they were walking, ITN reports.

The test lampposts will be given a trial run in London’s East End on Brick Lane. If the trial is successful it will be rolled out in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. . . . .


Another Important Promise that Obama didn't mean

First there was the claim that Obama was making promises on trade that he didn't believe. Now there comes the fact that Obama apparently don't believe what he is claiming about ending the Iraq war.

Clinton began by pointing to a BBC interview with Samantha Power, a Harvard professor and foreign policy aide to Obama who resigned this morning under pressure after telling a Scottish reporter that Clinton was a "monster." In the interview Power says Obama's pledge to withdraw all troops from Iraq in 16 months is a "best-case scenario" proposal.

"Senator Obama has made his speech opposing Iraq in 2002 and the war in the Iraq the core of his campaign, which makes these comments especially troubling. While Senator Obama campaigns on his [pledge] to end the war, his top advisers tell people abroad that he will not rely on his own plan should he become president," Clinton told reporters, following a town hall meeting at the train depot. "This is the latest example of promising the American people one thing on the campaign trail and telling people in other countries another. You saw this with NAFTA as well." . . . . .

Boy, this is going to provide some great ad material for someone. Will Hillary use the material?

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Did McCain lose his temper on purpose?

My guess is that McCain got upset about the question regarding that Kerry Offering him the VP in 2004 in order to draw attention to it. McCain did nothing really wrong in his response, but his anger makes it sure that people will talk about it. It is too late for attention on this point to stop McCain from getting the nomination. But by raising attention it helps McCain among independents and Democrats. I think that the point of emphasizing this was to help McCain in the general election. McCain of course also faces some difficulty in breaking into the news these days with the media focusing so heavily on the Democrats. Getting angry over this question is one way to accomplish many things. I think that the point in the tape that convinced me of all this is when the NY Times reporter asks McCain "Why are you so angry?" (she honestly seemed puzzled) and McCain didn't answer her question. I don't put any great weight on him not answering the question, but on the fact that she was so surprised by his response.

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Lawsuits Coming from Texas Caucuses?

In today's Wall Street Journal's Political Diary by John Fund:

It's been over three days since Texas Democrats wrapped up the caucuses designed to parcel out one-third of their state's delegates. But a mere 41% of the caucus sites have reported their results, raising the prospect of massive confusion, possible fraud and lawsuits over whatever results finally trickle in.

Unlike the Texas primary vote, which Hillary Clinton won by four points, the caucus results point to a good showing for Barack Obama, who has 56% of the results that have been released.

But no one knows what the final caucus count will be because, amazingly, the 8,247 precinct officials who ran the caucuses are not required to phone in the results. "Texas is a large state, and this is a voluntary call-in system," says Democratic Party spokesman Hector Nieto. The official rules only require precinct officials to mail in their vote count. How 19th Century.

Indeed, the caucus system seems an anachronism in a time when voters can get instant information and easily vote by absentee or early ballot if they can't make it to the polls on Election Day. Caucuses this year have too often resulted in confusion and controversy. Nevada's caucuses degenerated into lawsuits and competing claims of voter fraud. In New Mexico's caucuses last month, voting was so chaotic that the results were not known for nine days. . . .



Earth Liberation Front Leader Convicted of Arson

Seattle's NBC King5 has the story:

TACOMA, Wash. - A jury has found Briana Waters guilty of two counts of arson in the 2001 burning of the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture by members of the Earth Liberation Front. She's accused of acting as the lookout when the ELF during the fire, which cost the university $7 million. . . .


Getting Around Minnesota's Smoking Ban

This story is too funny:

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — All the world's a stage at some of Minnesota's bars.

A new state ban on smoking in restaurants and other nightspots contains an exception for performers in theatrical productions. So some bars are getting around the ban by printing up playbills, encouraging customers to come in costume, and pronouncing them "actors."

The customers are playing right along, merrily puffing away — and sometimes speaking in funny accents and doing a little improvisation, too.

The state Health Department is threatening to bring the curtain down on these sham productions. But for now, it's on with the show.

At The Rock, a hard-rock and heavy-metal bar in suburban St. Paul, the "actors" during "theater night" do little more than sit around, drink, smoke and listen to the earsplitting music.

"They're playing themselves before Oct. 1. You know, before there was a smoking ban," owner Brian Bauman explained. Shaping the words in the air with his hands, like a producer envisioning the marquee, he said: "We call the production, `Before the Ban!"'

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One student speaks out about guns on campus

Here is one student speaking out about guns on college campuses.


Israeli Seminary Terrorist Attack Stopped by Armed Student

From Haaretz:

Yitzhak Dadon, a student, said he was armed with a rifle and waited on the roof of a nearby building. "He came out of the library spraying automatic fire ... the terrorist came to the entrance and I shot him twice in the head, he said."

A slightly different story can be found here at the Jerusalem Post:

"We heard shooting and knew that something had happened," recounted Yitzhak Dadon, 40, who studies at the yeshiva. Dadon said he cocked his handgun and went up to the roof of the yeshiva, where he saw the terrorist spraying gunfire indiscriminately at the crowd inside. Dadon said he fired two bullets at the terrorist, who began to stumble.

From the BBC:

One of the students, Yitzhak Dadon, reportedly shot the gunman twice before he was finally killed by an off-duty Israeli army officer, who had gone to the school after hearing gunfire.

"I shot him twice in the head," he told the Reuters news agency.

"He started to sway and then someone else with a rifle fired at him, and he died." . . .

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Overly Excited Voters in Milwaukee: More Votes than Voters in 2004

Here is something from Election Law:

With all the excitement over the current primaries, an important report has not gotten the press that it deserves. The Milwaukee Police Department released a report from its Voter Fraud Task Force describing what it calls the "inconsistencies" in the official records of the 2004 elections. A summary of the report will be provided to you shortly, but here are just three of many conclusions acknowledging that vote fraud is alive and well, and reasonable Republican solutions can help prevent it:
"[A]s the investigation began, numerous inconsistencies in the official records of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission became evident. The reports of more ballots case than voters recorded were found to be true. The election Commission conducted three separate counts of voters, which resulted in three different findings, none of which matched the final official ballot count reported to the Wisconsin State Elections Board." (5)
"It is the opinion of the Task Force investigators that more than any other recommendation we could make, our investigation has concluded that the one thing that could eliminate a large percentage of fraud or the appearance of fraudulent voting in any given Election is the elimination of the On-Site or Same Day voter registration system." (26)
"As an alternative, if On-Site registration is to continue in its present form, then the presentation of a government issued identification card that includes the voter's name, address (including city) and date of birth should be presented before that person is allowed to register and vote." (26)
Additional support for photo ID requirements came at the end of January when a Rasmussen Reports survey found that over two-thirds of Americans supported the requirement. The Washington Times' summary of the report is available here.
Just as the above report provides additional support for photo ID laws, former Pres. Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker urged the Supreme Court to find a "non-partisan" path to preserve the use of IDs as a way to increase election integrity.

Change in Age for Getting a Permit in Oklahoma?

The last paragraph here from NewsOK.com is pretty amusing:

Oklahomans wouldn't have to wait until their 21st birthday to get a concealed handgun license if a bill making its way through the Legislature becomes law.

House Bill 2232 by Rep. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, would lower the age to 18.

"If they're old enough to serve their country at 18, they should be able to defend themselves on their own land at 18,” Ellis said.

The measure passed the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Monday night. It now goes to the House.

If HB 2232 becomes law, 18-year-olds would have to meet the same eligibility requirements as others. They include completing a firearms safety and training course, having a valid Oklahoma driver's license and being Oklahoma residents.

If signed into law, the bill will take effect Nov. 1.

Asked by the committee if it was a good idea to allow 18 year-olds to carry handguns, Ellis replied, "In my district, they've probably already had 16 years of experience.”


Supreme Court will Make Tape of Oral Arguments For DC Gun Ban Case Immediately Available

From today's Washington Post:

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will quickly release audio tapes after the March 18 argument over gun rights.

The case from the District of Columbia could resolve whether the Constitution gives individuals the right to own guns and, if so, whether the government may still strictly regulate gun ownership, including a ban on handguns.

The immediate, same-day release of audio tapes following arguments in major cases started in the 2000 presidential election, when the justices decided appeals of the Florida recount controversy in favor of George W. Bush.

The court has twice this term provided same-day audio. It was made available in cases involving the rights of prisoners detained by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the method of execution by lethal injection. . . .

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Permit holder protects himself from Robber

Here is the story from the Toledo Blade:

Article published Monday, March 3, 2008
Victim of robbery attempt kills Toledo man

A 21-year-old central Toledo man was fatally shot Sunday night by the victim of an apparent robbery attempt, police said.

Police said Victor Wiggins, of 2433 Glenwood Ave., died at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center about 30 minutes after being shot.

The shooting occurred about 9:35 p.m. in the 1000 block of Norwood Avenue near Waite Avenue, police said.

Rahmaad Jones , 21, was sitting in an older model, custom-painted orange car on Norwood when three males approached on foot and pointed a gun at him, police said. Mr. Jones, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, had a 40-caliber pistol tucked in his waistband

Multiple shots were exchanged and Wiggins was shot twice, police said.

When police arrived, Wiggins was lying face down in the street in front of 1017 Norwood. A 40-caliber pistol was found underneath him.

Mr. Jones told police the suspects approached him, pointed a gun at his face, and he began shooting.



Appearance on VIctoria Taft's Show Tonight at 7:05 PM PDT

Victoria Taft is having me on her show tonight in Portland to talk about my global warming piece.


Appearance on Dennis Miller's Show this coming Monday

I will be on the show on Monday around 11:15 or 11:20 EDT for about 10 minutes. Fox News Channel Legal Analyst Bob Massi will be substituting for Dennis.


Democrats shout fraud at each other

From John Fund at today's WSJ Political Diary:

In Ohio, Team Clinton claims that Obama attorneys cherry-picked black precincts in Cleveland in their effort to keep certain polling places open late due to bad weather and long lines. The evidence Mr. Obama presented to a local judge was scant at best, but the judge issued a hand-written note ordering some 21 precincts to stay open. Even Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Bruner was unhappy with the maneuver, but she realized too late what was happening.

In Texas, Bill Clinton himself complained of reports of "canceled" caucuses and sign-in sheets for caucus attendees that were improperly collected before the start of last night's precinct conventions. (Sign-in sheets are only valid if signatures are collected after the caucus begins.) "Some people have been told apparently that there is going to be an effort to sign up in advance and slip the sheets in," the former president told reporters.

Indeed, the Clinton campaign went so far as to hold an 8:45 pm conference call for reporters last night in which Clinton staff members alleged that Obama supporters were locking Clinton voters out of some caucus locations. "It's truly an outrage," claimed Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson. "It's really undemocratic." . . .


Virginia Governor Tim Kaine Vetoes Bills to Keep Gun Free Zones

While Kaine ran originally as a gun guy, that has not been his approach in office. Apparently, he hasn't learned anything positive from the gun free zone attack at Virginia Tech. From the Washington Times:

RICHMOND (AP) — Two bills that could have resulted in more concealed weapons in cars and restaurants were vetoed yesterday by Gov. Tim Kaine, who cited safety concerns and the objections of law-enforcement officials. . . .

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Did Rush's request that Republicans Vote for Clinton in Texas Change Votes?

Clinton's win in Texas is being called into question by the fact that Rush asked Republicans to vote for her. If Clinton wins the nomination, it will just add to the hurt feelings and division factor among the Dems.

However, the Dallas Morning News notes:

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh had urged Texas Republicans to cross over and vote for Clinton to slow Obama. Republicans made up twice as big a slice of the Democratic primary electorate as they did in 2000 and 2004, but they were trending slightly toward Obama. . . . .

The Dallas Morning News asked the wrong question however. What would have been the Republican vote for Obama if Limbaugh hadn't done that.


Iowa Passes Concealed Carry Bill Out of House Committee

I have been informed that apparently today:

Iowa House Bill HF2092 passed out of the Public Safety Committee yesterday. This is great news and is the furthest we've ever come to becoming shall issue in the state of Iowa.

Thanks to Jason Vetter for this.


New Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: Campaign-Finance Breakdown

Bradley Smith and I have a piece on public financing of presidential campaigns:

Is 2008 the last hurrah for public-that is, taxpayer-financing of presidential campaigns? Since 1976, taxpayers have shelled out about $3 billion in current dollars to pay for presidential campaigns, including campaigns by John Hagelin, Lyndon LaRouche, Lenora Fulani, Ralph Nader, Sen. Alan Cranston, Milton Schaap, Ruben Askew, and other also rans. Funds have also paid for balloon drops at the party's conventions, negative TV ads, robocalls and more.

But this year, most leading presidential contenders refused to take the public subsidy-and accompanying spending limits-during the primaries. One exception has been Sen. John McCain. But faced with certain campaign realities, he too is now looking for a way out and is arguing that he has a constitutional right to withdraw from the public funding system for the primaries and, instead, rely on private money. Sen. Barack Obama said last year that he would accept taxpayer financing in the general election if the Republican nominee did too, but he has backed away from that promise.

All this is happening despite the fact that Republicans are nominating their champion of campaign finance reform, Mr. McCain, and a year ago Mr. Obama was lauded in the headlines and media coverage for his dedication to saving public financing of presidential campaigns. . . .

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Obama Camp Breaks in on a Clinton Campaign telephone conference with the media

Boy, this Democratic campaign is getting nasty. Now Obama campaign people have broken in on a Clinton campaign conference call with reporters. That by itself is pretty extraordinary. You can listen to the conference call here. Fox News has a discussion of what the debate between Clinton and Obama was about:

The Clinton team accused Obama supporters of seizing the caucus packets and signing up delegates early in the day, against the rules. They said Obama supporters took control of the caucuses and turned away Clinton caucus-goers in line at the door. They called the reports disturbing and undemocratic and said all options were on the table in regards to possibly taking the matter to court.”We’ve had hundreds of complaints flooding in,” said Clinton attorney Lyn Utrecht, citing comments from more than a dozen precincts in places like Houston, Dallas, Galveston and El Paso. . . .

Also, I did get a prediction correct. On 2/15/08 I predicted that Hillary Clinton would win Ohio and Texas yesterday.

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Radio interview with Dori Monson Show in Seattle on KIRO at 1:05 PST

Dori is nice enough to have me back on his show for a half hour today.


More Fallout for Obama on NAFTA

Collin Levy at the WSJ's Political Diary writes this about the NAFTA fallout:

After Mr. Obama's chief economic advisor was exposed for apparently telling the Canadian consulate that the candidate's statements on Nafta were just for show, the Canadian consulate began bending over backwards to apologize for any impression that Mr. Obama was back-channeling around voters. "We deeply regret any inference that may have been drawn to that effect," the Canadians offered profusely.

It's certainly a political first to watch the Canadian government falling over itself to assure Americans that a U.S. presidential candidate really does have Canada's worst interests at heart. For her part, Sen. Clinton seized on the incident to say Mr. Obama was playing the old game of telling ordinary voters one thing while giving the "wink wink" to more sophisticated audiences. Unfortunately for her campaign, she came up short yesterday of embodying all the Obama doubts in a soundbite to help move the needle in the last hours before Ohio and Texas vote. Where's Bill Clinton, author of the "fairy-tale" zinger, when she needs him? Nor did she hit the ball out of the park with her comment to CBS's "60 Minutes" that Mr. Obama is not a Muslim "as far as I know."

Still, Mr. Obama's out-of-character assault on Nafta, which was clearly a calculated strategy to deal Mrs. Clinton a knockout punch in Ohio, may have backfired. Mrs. Clinton didn't play the controversy adroitly, but late polls nonetheless suggest movement in her direction. If she loses anyway, her wheeziness in crystallizing the case against her rival will be the sound of last-minute opportunity slipping through her fingers.

Dana Milbank at the Washington Post has this:

Reporters from the Associated Press and Reuters went after him for his false denial that a campaign aide had held a secret meeting with Canadian officials over Obama's trade policy. A trio of Chicago reporters pummeled him with questions about the corruption trial this week of a friend and supporter. The New York Post piled on with a question about him losing the Jewish vote.

Obama responded with the classic phrases of a politician in trouble. "That was the information that I had at the time. . . . Those charges are completely unrelated to me. . . . I have said that that was a mistake. . . . The fact pattern remains unchanged."

When those failed, Obama tried another approach. "We're running late," the candidate said, and then he disappeared behind a curtain.

Austin Goolsbee has gotten the Obama campaign into a lot of trouble. Changing his story to the press over time has helped keep the story alive and done more damage:

It began last week, when Canada’s CTV television network reported that, in early February, a representative of the Obama campaign assured Canadian officials that they need not take Obama’s NAFTA threats seriously, that those threats were just political rhetoric intended to win Midwestern primaries. The campaign, and the Canadian government, initially denied everything. “The Canadian ambassador issued a statement saying that the story was absolutely false,” top Obama adviser Susan Rice said Thursday night on MSNBC. “There had been no such contact. There had been no discussions on NAFTA.” Obama himself, asked about the story the next day, said, “It did not happen.”

But it turned out that there had been contact, and something did indeed happen. Later news reports identified the Obama adviser as Austan Goolsbee, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago who serves as a senior adviser to the Obama campaign. Those reports said Goolsbee met with officials at the Canadian consulate in Chicago, where the NAFTA discussion allegedly took place.

The Clinton campaign picked up the story. “Has Austan Goolsbee had any contact with anyone in the Canadian government, in the Canadian embassy, or tried to send a message to individuals there to indicate that Senator Obama’s criticism of NAFTA was not sincere?” top Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson asked. “It’s a simple question.”

But it wasn’t one the Obama campaign was inclined to answer, and as the weekend began, the campaign continued to deny everything. On Friday, The New York Observer reached Goolsbee himself. “It is a totally inaccurate story,” Goolsbee said. “I did not call these people.”

Then a report from the Associated Press pulled the rug out from under Obama. The report cited a memo written as a record of the February 8 meeting between Goolsbee and a man named Georges Rioux, the Canadian consul general in Chicago. The document was written by Joseph DeMora, a consulate staffer who was in the meeting.

“Noting anxiety among many U.S. domestic audiences about the U.S. economic outlook, Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign,” the memo said, according to AP. “He cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.”

In another part of the memo, according to AP, Goolsbee repeated some of Obama’s rhetoric on NAFTA but sought to downplay its consequences. Goolsbee, according to the memo, “was frank in saying that the primary campaign has been necessarily domestically focused, particularly in the Midwest, and that much of the rhetoric that may be perceived to be protectionist is more reflective of political maneuvering than policy. On NAFTA, Goolsbee suggested that Obama is less about fundamentally changing the agreement and more in favour of strengthening/clarifying language on labour mobility and environment and trying to establish these as more ‘core’ principles of the agreement.” . . .

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So much for the scare at the Georgia College Yesterday

So much for the furor that occurred yesterday at a Georgia college:

The man suspected of carrying a gun onto the campus of Middle Georgia College surrendered to the Bleckley County Sheriff’s office late yesterday afternoon.
Lee James Baggs, III said that he has a gun permit, but it’s a felony in Georgia to have a gun on school property. Although the report of a gunman on campus caused the school to go into a lockdown, Middle Georgia College Police Chief Marshall Boan said there was never a threat.

Of course, no gun was ever found at the other schools.



New Op-ed: No Global Warming Crisis

My newest op-ed is up at Fox News. This is the first piece in what will be a regular weekly column at Fox News.

John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton all promise massive new regulations that will cost trillions of dollars to combat global warming. McCain says that it will be his first task if he wins the presidency. After consulting with Al Gore, Obama feels the problem is so imminent that it is not even really possible to wait until he becomes president.

Ironically, this political unanimity is occurring as global temperatures have been cooling dramatically over the last decade. . . .

UPDATE: At the conference in New York that I write about in the above piece, the Founder of the Weather Channel talks about the "fraud of global warming" here.

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Hawaii's Star Bulletin: Ban .50 Caliber guns because of Northern Illinois University Shooting

I suppose that it is not too surprising that the proposed law has nothing to do with the attack that is being used to spur action, but it is still surprising that they would want to ban a gun that had absolutely to do with this attack. In addition, the gun has never been used to murder someone in the United States. Anyway, here is the story:

As students returned to campus at Northern Illinois University yesterday following the deadly shooting rampage of Feb. 14, a bill that would ban civilian possession of a made-for-war sniper rifle lies dormant in the Hawaii Legislature. Lawmakers should enact the bill to prevent a shooting incident of potentially huge proportions.

NIU graduate student Steve Kazmieczak's killing of five students and wounding of 16 before turning the gun on himself brought horrific recollections of the killing of 33 students and faculty at Virginia Tech less than a year ago. Campus officials across the country are looking again at measures aimed at preventing similar disasters.

Police Chief Boisse Correa is asking the Legislature to ban possession of .50-caliber sniper rifles in the islands. Those 28-pound rifles -- the most common manufactured by Barrett Co. -- were described in a 1999 congressional Government Accountability Office as "among the most destructive and powerful firearms sold legally in the United States." . . .


Earth Liberation Front's Violent Acts?

Great, so the ELFs are apparently burning down environmentally friendly homes. The only thing that might satisfy them is if no homes were built. Fox News has the story here:

WOODINVILLE, Wash. — Explosive devices were found inside luxury houses set ablaze Monday morning outside of Seattle, and police suspected that a well-known eco-terrorism group ignited the fires.

The multi-million-dollar development known as "Street of Dreams" in Woodinville, Wash., burst into flames in the early morning hours, and Snohomish County crews fought to contain the blaze.

The Earth Liberation Front, known for violent acts in the name of environmentalism, left a sign at the scene and was suspected to have set fire to the swanky, newly built neighborhood. . . .

The sign found at the scene bore the initials "ELF" — those of the radical environmental group — and mocked claims that the luxury homes were environmentally friendly, according to video images of the sign aired by KING-TV.

"Built Green? Nope black!" the sign said. . . . .


More on Goolsbee contacting Canadians on Trade: Misleading Voters on Trade?

After first refusing to comment and then denying that there was any such conversation, Goolsbee was nailed for talking to the Canadians. Here is my question, why did Goolsbee call the Canadians if not for what the Canadians say:

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Barack Obama's senior economic policy adviser privately told Canadian officials to view the debate in Ohio over trade as "political positioning," according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press that was rejected by the adviser and held up Monday as evidence of doublespeak by rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The memo is the first documentation to emerge publicly out of the meeting between the adviser, Austan Goolsbee, and officials with the Canadian consulate in Chicago, but Goolsbee said it misinterprets what he told them. The memo was written by Joseph DeMora, who works for the consulate and attended the meeting.

"Noting anxiety among many U.S. domestic audiences about the U.S. economic outlook, Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign," the memo said. "He cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."

Goolsbee disputed the characterization from the conservative government official.

"This thing about 'it's more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans,' that's this guy's language," Goolsbee said of DeMora. "He's not quoting me.

"I certainly did not use that phrase in any way," he said.

The meeting was first reported last week by Canadian television network CTV, which cited unnamed sources as saying that Goolsbee assured the Canadians that Obama's tough talk on the North American Free Trade Agreement is just campaign rhetoric not to be taken seriously. The Obama campaign and the Canadian embassy denied there was any inconsistency between what the candidate was saying publicly and what advisers were saying privately. . . .

More on this story from the Canadian perspective can be found here.

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Media coverage goes into overdrive as soon as there is a hint of a gun being carried on a campus: Update

Just a week ago there was another school which had lock down, though no gun was ever found. Now this:

Cops Search for Gunman on Georgia College Campus
Monday, March 03, 2008
Fox News
DEVELOPING STORY: Officials at Middle Georgia College in Cochran say the campus is in lock-down as police search for an individual believed to be carrying gun.

"We have a subject with a firearm who was seen on campus," said Trent Miller, communications officer with the Middle Georgia College police department.

A student reported seeing the man to police, he said. It is unknown whether the suspect is a student, he said. . . .

Later in the day, the Appalachian State University had another lock down today:

BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University issued a campus-wide lockdown Monday after the possible sighting of a gunman near campus.

An alert posted on the university's Web site said a white male in a black Pink Floyd T-shirt and wearing a dark jacket and ski mask was seen near campus with a small black handgun.

"The suspect is currently at large," the school's Web site said. "Police are attempting to locate the suspect at this time."

The lock down issued at 5:10 p.m. applies to all campus buildings. Another alert issued about 15 minutes later canceled classes for the night.

The school urged students and staff to report any suspicious activity or persons in the area.

Earlier Monday, police arrested a man suspected of carrying a gun onto the campus of Middle Georgia College in Cochran, about 120 miles south of Atlanta. The college was placed on lockdown as authorities combed the campus room by room. It was lifted around noon and classes resumed for the day


"international incident" with gun avoided: CNN Correspondent Ed Henry gets upset that an elderly woman has a gun for protection

Let me get this straight, there is an elderly woman with a gun who asks a stranger to leave her property. She doesn't fire the gun. She doesn't even seem to point it directly at him, just holding it in her right hand. For some reason, I also don't think that this guy understands Texas law. However, to CNN this is something on the verge of an international incident.

Next thing you know the woman is outside, no more than a few dozen feet from the journalist, demanding that he leave. "Suddenly she comes out and she says, 'Get off my property. You're trespassing,'" recalled Svensson.

Svensson was too preoccupied to notice the pistol, and was not aware that Texas law gives homeowners leeway on using a weapon when someone is trespassing on your property. All of us journalists across the street were too far away to see the pistol at first, until a Danish photographer with a telephoto lens announced to a bunch of us that there was indeed a weapon in the elderly woman's right hand.

As word spread that the lady had a gun - which she did not use - I can tell you it's a severe understatement to say White House and Secret Service officials were a bit concerned about the fact that they had just dodged an international incident. Ditto for Svensson, who was alarmed when he safely crossed the street and was shown dramatic still photos of the lady holding the gun.

"I will show the photos to my wife and children," Svensson told me. "They thought I was on a safe trip."

CNN was not able to reach the woman for comment.

–CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry



Music Stars Come Out for Candidates

The candidates that 66 music stars have endorsed can be seen here. Jon Bon Jovi, Melissa Etheridge, Tony Bennett, Elvis Costello, Madonna, Quincy Jones, Cher, Janet Jackson and Carole King have come out for Clinton. Scarlett Johansson, Dave Matthews, Stevie Wonder, Will Smith, Harry Connick, Jr., Natasha Bedingfield, Herbie Hancock, and Arrested Development are for Barack Obama.

On the Republican side there was Ted Nugent for Mike Huckabee; Donnie and Marie Osmond and Pat Boone for Mitt Romney; Gretchen Wilson, Trace Adkins, John Rich, Ronnie Dunn, and Sara Evans for Fred Thompson; and Burt Bacharach for John McCain. I think that I got all the 66 stars who were for the Republicans, so that leaves 10 for Republicans 56 for Democrats.


Campaigning for Clinton, Steinem goes over the top

So will Hillary Clinton disown Gloria Steinem's discussion about John McCain?

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem took to the stump on Hillary Clinton’s behalf here last night . . .

Steinem raised McCain’s Vietnam imprisonment as she sought to highlight an alleged gender-based media bias against Clinton.

“Suppose John McCain had been Joan McCain and Joan McCain had got captured, shot down and been a POW for eight years. [The media would ask], ‘What did you do wrong to get captured? What terrible things did you do while you were there as a captive for eight years?’” Steinem said, to laughter from the audience.

McCain was, in fact, a prisoner of war for around five-and-a-half years, during which time he was tortured repeatedly. Referring to his time in captivity, Steinem said with bewilderment, “I mean, hello? This is supposed to be a qualification to be president? I don’t think so.”

Steinem’s broader argument was that the media and the political world are too admiring of militarism in all its guises.

“I am so grateful that she [Clinton] hasn’t been trained to kill anybody. And she probably didn’t even play war games as a kid. It’s a great relief from Bush in his jump suit and from Kerry saluting.” . . .


Some REALLY bad economics on global warming

From the Marginal Revolution:

A simple idea for fighting global warming

Repeal the [should have read: "Institute an"] antitrust exemption for the airlines and approval all of their mergers, no matter what.

Higher P, lower Q. And maybe some groups outside the traditional green coalition would support such a change.

By no means a full solution, but maybe better than doing nothing.

Posted by Tyler Cowen

This post makes multiple serious errors. It assumes that mergers create inefficiencies. While it is surely possible that mergers can raise prices, it is also quite likely that mergers increase efficiency, ensure that products can be produced more cheaply, and lower prices. Indeed, mergers can both lower production costs but still increase prices if the increase in monopoly power is large enough. But I know of no real evidence that mergers tend to increase prices. Despite what Tyler is claiming, I know of no reason to believe anti-trust enforcement is competent at determining which mergers increase efficiency and which ones do not. If Tyler thinks that the government is particularly good at discerning mergers that are efficiency creating and those that aren't, he should point to it. Indeed, George Stigler argued that the Sherman Act was passed to protect less efficient firms from competition by more efficient ones (Stigler, George J. 1985. "The Origin of the Sherman Act," Journal of Legal Studies, 1985, 14:1-11). At least as far back as Demsetz's 1973 paper, economists have provided evidence that increased firm size is most likely to arise from increased efficiency (Demsetz, Harold. "Industry Structure, Market Rivalry, and Public Policy." Journal of Law and Economics 16 (April 1973): 1-9).

While not errors of the same magnitude of simple poor logic, it is too bad to see that Tyler accepts the assumption that we need to do something more about global warming.

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So much for claims that there is no vote fraud

There seems to be all sorts of people willing to supply false IDs to potential voters. If this school can print up "utility bills" to give "students from out of state," who can't print up utility bills to give potential voters? Obviously students whose residency is in another state are not eligible to vote. If the students had changed their residency, there wouldn't be any problem for them to vote.

School Sends Blank Utility Bills To Help Students Vote

Friday, Feb 29, 2008 - 03:20 PM

By Associated Press
OBERLIN, Ohio -- Oberlin College has come up with a creative way for students from out of state to show they reside in Ohio, so they can vote.
The college in northern Ohio is sending out dummy utility bills to dorm residents. There are no charges for students to pay for their phone and high-speed Internet connections, but there's a bold-faced note at the bottom saying the statement can serve as proof of ID at a polling place.
The arrangement got a blessing from the state's top election official.
Colin Koffel from Madison, Wis., says he and other out-of-state students at Oberlin were frustrated when the state's new voter ID requirements took effect in 2006. But he says they can now register to vote and go to the polls without jumping through complex hoops.

UPDATE: Some have claimed in the comments that the school's policy is just "a creative solution" to help legitimate voters vote. The problem is that most people who get utility bills really do have Ohio as their state of residence. Students are different. At a school like Oberlin (a private school), my guess is that the vast majority of students are from out of state and have kept their residency in their home states. If they had gone through the process of getting a driver's license and other things to change their residency, they wouldn't need to have this utility bill to vote. For those whose residency is in another state, these utility bills makes fraud much easier in that they can easily vote in two states, but even if they are not doing that, they are still not legally able to vote.


States for and against the view that there is an individual right to own guns

31 to 5 sounds pretty lopsided, but when you look at the map you get a better idea how lopsided those numbers are. Those who oppose an individual right to own guns are (with the exception of Hawaii) all in a very small section of the country. By contrast, from the Northeast to the South to the Midwest to the Mountain States and to the West, there are states that support the view that people have a right to own a gun. The surprise is that states such as Vermont, Maine, Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee and North Carolina didn't join in also, though I think that there is a Democratic Attorney General effect that explains what happened in those states. All the states that argued that there is not an individual right have Democratic Attorney Generals. All but one of the states that chose not to take sides have Democratic Attorney Generals (Wisconsin is the one exception). Most Democratic Attorney Generals are either neutral or against recognizing an individual right. My guess is that if those AGs were Republicans, we would have even more than the 31 states that signed onto the brief that people have a right to protect themselves.

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