Upper class in India reacts to terrorist attack

The NY Times has this (take it as always with a grain of salt). People are upset that the government didn't protect them from the attack, but there seems to be little appreciation about how many vulnerable targets there are in India and how hard it is to put enough troops and police around to protect everyone.

MUMBAI, India — Last Wednesday, an extraordinary public interest lawsuit was filed in this city’s highest court. It charged that the government had lagged in its constitutional duty to protect its citizens’ right to life, and it pressed the state to modernize and upgrade its security forces.

The lawsuit was striking mainly for the people behind it: investment bankers, corporate lawyers and representatives of some of India’s largest companies, which have their headquarters here in the country’s financial capital, also known as Bombay. The Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the city’s largest business association, joined as a petitioner. It was the first time it had lent its name to litigation in the public interest.

The three-day siege of Mumbai, which ended a week ago, was a watershed for India’s prosperous classes. It prompted many of those who live in their own private Indias, largely insulated from the country’s dysfunction, to demand a vital public service: safety.

Since the attacks, which killed 163 people, plus nine gunmen, there has been an outpouring of anger from unlikely quarters. On Wednesday, tens of thousands of urban, English-speaking, tank-top-wearing citizens stormed the Gateway of India, a famed waterfront monument, venting anger at their elected leaders. There were similar protests in the capital, New Delhi, and the southern technology hubs, Bangalore and Hyderabad. All were organized spontaneously, with word spread through text messages and Facebook pages. . . .

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State Capitol Reporter in Pennsylvania says "Gun owners dodge tax on ammunition"

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania gun owners dodged a bullet when lawmakers failed to enact legislation that would have levied a 5-cent tax on each shell and required encoding ammunition with serial numbers and registering those numbers in a statewide database.

Introduced in February, the bill remains in the state House Judiciary Committee and will die at the end of the session on Sunday. But it could be reintroduced in January, and gun advocates expect to fight it again next year.

It's part of a growing effort nationally to target ammunition as one way to stem gun violence. Similar legislation has been introduced in 18 other states and the District of Columbia, but none of those bills have become law, said Ted Novin, spokesman for the National Sports Shooting Foundation in Newtown, Conn.

"Gun-control advocates have realized that it would be nearly impossible to achieve an outright ban on firearms, whether at the state or federal level," said Novin. "Understanding this, they have recently turned to backdoor attempts at firearm prohibition -- bullet serialization, which is a de facto ban on ammunition, is a perfect example of this legislative strategy." . . .


Media continues to beat up on Palin

Newsbusters has to pieces here and here.

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Ohio Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in Trouble for Attack on "Joe the Plumber"

Vanessa Niekamp's testimony to state legislators can be found here:

The state employee directed to run a records check on Joe the Plumber told Ohio lawmakers one manager ordered the check and another dictated an e-mail sent from her address covering up the act.

The records check came in the final stretch of this fall's presidential election, after Republican nominee John McCain made a Toledo plumber named Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher a theme in his final debate with Democrat Barack Obama.

Vanessa Niekamp, a 15-year state employee who now works for the state Department of Job and Family Services, made her statements Thursday as legislators considered a bill that would require the firing of any state employee who improperly accesses confidential personal information.

Niekamp said Doug Thompson, the agency's deputy director, ordered her to write a cover-up e-mail to the department's information security officer. Thompson entered her office, closed the door and dictated the e-mail word for word, she said.

"He appeared very upset, his neck was bright red, and he was shaking," Niekamp told the House State Government and Election Committee on Thursday.

Niekamp said she thinks Wurzelbacher is owed a public apology. . . . .



Department of the Interior announces that concealed handgun permits allowed in national parks

The Department of the Interior statement can be found here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Lyle Laverty today announced that the Department of the Interior has finalized updated regulations governing the possession of firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges. The final rule, which updates existing regulations, would allow an individual to carry a concealed weapon in national parks and wildlife refuges if, and only if, the individual is authorized to carry a concealed weapon under state law in the state in which the national park or refuge is located. The update has been submitted to the Federal Register for publication and is available to the public on www.doi.gov. . . .

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New "Study" by 300 Mayors claims to find evidence that gun regulations reduce crime

The Washington Post had an article on this rsearch today. Anyone who has read my books on crime and gun control will immediately see the problbems with this research. The study compares the average crime rates for states with and without certain laws and claims that for certain states the crime rates are lower in states with certain regulations. Many of these laws I have looked at myself using panel level data (e.g., requiring background checks on the private transfer of guns), and I couldn't find an effect.

Let me give you a simple example of the problems with using purely cross-sectional data as used in this study. Suppose that high crime rate cities are the ones that adopt the strictest gun controls (which is generally true) and that crime rates fell ((just for the sake of argument assume that is the case), but the drop is not enough so that the crime rate in these cities is still higher than the low crime rate cities that didn't adopt the laws. Looking across the cities it would appear that the cities with the gun control laws had the higher crime rates, but does that mean that gun control caused higher crime? No. Obviously in the example that we gave the opposite really happened, but looking at simple averages gave a very misleading result. The only way that you can figure out what happened is to follow those cities over time and see how their crime rates changed relative to what they were in the past and to see how they changed over time ralative to the places that didn't chnage their laws


Canadian Liberals find themselves in trouble with voters after trying to bring down Conservative Government

Backlash gives Conservatives record poll ratings:

PUBLICATION: National Post
DATE: 2008.12.05
EDITION: National
ILLUSTRATION: Chart/Graph: Jonathon Rivait, National Post /; Black &
White Photo: Chris Wattie, Reuters / Prime Minister Stephen Harper
speaks as sleet falls after his meeting with Governor-General Michaelle
Jean at Rideau Hall in Ottawa yesterday. ;
BYLINE: Norma Greenaway in Ottawa and Megan O'Toole in Toronto
SOURCE: Canwest News Service; National Post


60% back Tory hold on power, poll finds; Ipsos Reid; Majority 'truly
scared' for future of the country


Almost three-quarters of Canadians say they are "truly scared" for the future of the country and a solid majority say they would prefer another election to having the minority Conservative government replaced by a coalition led by Stephane Dion, a new Ipsos Reid poll says.

The poll also indicates Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives would romp to a majority victory with a record 46% public support if an election were held today.

The survey suggests Governor-General Michaelle Jean was in tune with public opinion when she agreed yesterday to suspend Parliament until Jan. 26. Almost seven in 10 of those surveyed on Tuesday and Wednesday gave prorogation a thumbs-up. . . .


Pretty amazing news -- Medicare and private health insurance may start paying for older people to carry a gun

From Slashgear:

Now comes word that, after some FDA pondering, the Palm Pistol has been designated a Class I Medical Device. That means that doctors will eventually be able to prescribe the weapon to qualified patients, who will then be able to claim the cost back through private or Medicare health insurance. . . .

Next step before prescriptions can be made is an application - already submitted by manufacturer Constitution Arms - to CMS contractor Noridian “for a DME (Durable Medical Equipment) Coding Verification in order to be assigned an HCPCS code”. No comment as yet from health insurers themselves.

Thanks to Gus Cotey for sending me the link yesterday.

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Theatrics, wasting valuable executive time for PR

This shows why you don't want politicians running things. Firms will have to do more of things that don't make much economic sense in order to get the proper PR.

WASHINGTON – Embattled auto company chief executives scored some points with Congress by driving — instead of flying — to the hearings on a possible federal assistance package. . . .


Footage of Terrorist shot to death in Israel

The footage can be seen here. It is amazing how many of the civilians walking around had handguns tucked under their shirts. The terrorist attack took place on a city street.

See also this:

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Israel: "Terrorist shot dead in stabbing attempt"

From the Jerusalem Post:

Terrorist shot dead in stabbing attempt
Mar 31, 2008 21:04 | Updated Apr 1, 2008 1:57

Palestinian man was shot dead after attempting to stab two Israeli hitchhikers near Shiloh, Judea and Samaria police said on Monday. Both civilians escaped unharmed.

Police spokesman Dani Poleg confirmed that the attacker was killed by an Israeli civilian who fired on him using his handgun.

The incident took place at a hitchhiking post on Highway 60, between Shiloh and the Eli Junction, on Monday evening. "We have a military report saying the assailant is now dead. Two civilians were at the scene during the attack, and one fired on the Palestinian attacker," Poleg said.

He explained that police were taking eyewitness testimonials on the scene and that the investigation was not yet complete.

An initial police investigation found that the assailant had approached the two hitchhikers with his hands in his pockets and began asking them questions in English.

Seconds later, he pulled out a knife and attempted to stab one of them. One of the Israelis drew his handgun and fired on the attacker, killing him.

A second knife was later found during a search of the assailant's body. A police sapper checked the body to ensure that he had no explosive devices.

Police said the would-be stabber was around 20 years old and came from the Hebron area. He was apparently a student at Bir Zeit University.

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New Op-ed at Fox News: Minnesota finding 171 votes

My newest piece at Fox News starts this way:

There has already been a lot of controversy in the Minnesota Senate recount, but the finding of 171 new ballots in Ramsey county has generated real concern. The Star Tribune wrote that "Ramsey County's recount problem caught many by surprise." The Star Tribune noted the new ballots were one of two pieces of good news "boosting the prospects of DFLer Al Franken" when the vote recount was looking grim for him.

Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign said it was "skeptical about [the ballots'] sudden appearance."

All the previously uncounted ballots were discovered in Maplewood Precinct 6. Of the 171 votes, 91 went to Franken, 54 to Coleman and 26 to other candidates. The new votes increased the total votes for the Senate candidates in the precinct by over 12 percent. The percentage of votes Franken got from these new votes in this precinct were statistically significantly different than the lower percentage that he obtained from the ballots that were first counted in that precinct.

When Karen Guilfoile, Maplewood’s director of city services, was asked about whether she was surprised that such a large percentage of the ballots could be over looked she told FOX News that "We are still trying to figure out what happened. We are going back and trying to figure out exactly what went wrong. Fortunately, we have a paper trail." One possible explanation is that a ballot counter that kept jamming was replaced, but the ballots were apparently not run through again after the counter had been replaced. . . .

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Auto Companies and the threat of bankruptcy

Several times I have heard callers to radio shows talk about how the threat of bankruptcy will drive the auto industry into bankruptcy. The notion is that customers care about the firms being around when they are making their decision to buy a car and that the companies would otherwise be good investments if it wasn't for this threat driving away customers. Obviously, if it pays to make the parts, firms will supply replacement parts. But there is a simple point to also make: if the firms would really be profitable once people are convinced that the companies will be around, it would pay for someone to loan them the money to tide them over and convince the customers. The point is that it is not the threat of bankruptcy that will drive them into bankruptcy, it is the the fact that they wouldn't be profitable even if bankruptcy driving away customers that is the threat.



The Complicated rules for Registering Handguns in DC

From WTOP:

D.C. gun owners will have to re-register every 3 years
December 3, 2008 - 7:02am
WASHINGTON - The D.C. Council gave preliminary approval to regulations for registering and storing handguns.
The bill calls for owners to recertify their ownership every year, to re-register the guns every three years and to undergo background checks every six years.

Gun owners will have to store their firearms securely if there are children in the home.

The legislation also bans assault weapons and unsafe guns

"Today's vote puts the District at the forefront of using regulation to reduce gun violence, rather than the simpler, prior approach of hoping that an outright ban will be effective," said D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson.

Thanks to Amy McVey for sending me this link.

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Democrats may tax health benefits

The Boston Globe distorts McCain's plan (since the ending of the employer credit would be balanced off by an individual one), but it is still interesting that they note that the Democrats are discussing changing their position.

WASHINGTON - In the last month of the presidential campaign, it was one of Barack Obama and Joe Biden's strongest attack lines: John McCain, they warned, would "tax your healthcare benefits for the first time ever."

But now, some Congressional Democrats in charge of health reform are talking about doing just that.

They would not go as far as McCain, who wanted to end the tax exclusion entirely for employer-sponsored insurance, which excludes money spent by employees and their employers on health benefits from income and payroll taxes. . . .

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"Alderman: Residents should arm themselves"

The article is available here:

Alderman: Residents should arm themselves
St. Louis city official fed up with rising crime rate, ineffective police
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS - A city alderman frustrated with the police response to rising crime called Tuesday on residents to arm themselves to protect their lives and property.

Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe said police are ineffective, outnumbered or don't care about the increase in crime in his north St. Louis ward. St. Louis has had 157 homicides in 2008, 33 more than last year at this time.

"The community has to be ready to defend itself, because it's clear the economy is going to get worse, and criminals are getting more bold," Troupe, 72, said Tuesday.

Troupe said that when he and residents approached a district police commander last year, they were told "there was nothing he could do to protect us and the community ... that he didn't have the manpower."

Police chief doesn't support
Police did not immediately return requests for comment. Chief Dan Isom told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he understands Troupe's frustration but doesn't support citizens arming themselves.

Carrying guns, he said, is not a "recipe for a less violent community."

Mayor Francis Slay wrote in his blog Tuesday that some of the most violent crimes in Troupe's ward are committed with guns stolen from law-abiding citizens. . . .

Thanks to John Fund and Anthony Troglio for alerting me to this article.


NY Times predicts a lot of new gun control laws

The New York Times has this warning on guns:

The gun lobby has long intimidated politicians with its war chest and its trumpeted ability to deliver single-issue voters, especially in tight races. After this year’s election, those politicians should be far less afraid and far more willing to vote for sensible gun-control laws ... We hope the trend continues. To fight crime and keep Americans safe, this country needs sound gun-control laws. To pass those laws as president, Mr. Obama will need strong Congressional support. . . .


New Fox News Op-ed: Guns: India, Toys "R" US, and Football Players

This new piece for Fox News will be up later today:

Banning guns is in the news. India practically bans guns, but it didn’t stop the horrific Muslim terrorist attacks this last week. A football player concerned for his safety violates New York City’s tough gun control regulations by carrying a concealed handgun, and people call for everything from banning NFL players having guns to demanding that he serve many years in jail.

Where is the sympathy or debate in either case over letting people defend themselves? Given that the terrorists smuggled their machine guns in with them, would anyone argue that India’s extremely strict gun licensing and artificially high prices for guns help prevent the terrorist attacks? In fact, the reverse is more likely the case.

Would Plaxico Burress, the New York Giant’s receiver who was arrested yesterday, really have been safer just trusting the police to protect him? . . .

UPDATE: Follow up on the Toys "R" US part of my piece:

The two men involved in the shooting at Toys R Us in Palm Desert on Friday did not have licenses to carry concealed weapons, according to police officials.

The men, Alejandro Hernandez Moreno, 39, of Desert Hot Springs and Juan Carlos Meza, 28, of Cathedral City, died in what witnesses to the shooting described as a gruesome confrontation.

Sheriff's officials reiterated Tuesday that Moreno and Meza fatally shot each other.

When police arrived at the scene, they reportedly found one handgun near each of the dead men.

That the men were not authorized to carry concealed weapons is not unusual — few Riverside County residents have “concealed carry weapons licenses, ” authorities say.

“There's an underground black market economy for weapons throughout the state, throughout the region,” Indio Police Chief Brad Ramos said. “I'm concerned in Indio. I'm concerned in the Coachella Valley. I'm concerned in the state. It is something that concerns me.”

Last year, 734 county residents were licensed to carry concealed weapons, according to the California Department of Justice.

The license allows a person to carry a loaded pistol, revolver or other firearm that's capable of being concealed on that person.

It's not easy to get a concealed carry license. Private citizens must prove a demonstrated need for special protection and meet strict requirements.

“I can't just go in there and say I need a permit for protection,” said Ben Guitron, Indio Police Department spokesman. “Not in California.”

Thanks to Carl Johnson for sending me this update.

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New Fox News Op-ed: Government as Employer

My newest piece at Fox News starts off this way:

With the media and Democrats referring to the nation's financial crisis as the "worst financial crisis since the Depression," the economy keeps on showing signs of resilience. Weren't Christmas sales supposed to be down this year? But Black Friday's sales were not down, they were not even flat, they were up 3.5 percent over last year's.

Promising a recovery plan for Main Street, last week President-elect Obama vowed "creating and saving 2.5 million jobs - jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing our schools, and creating the clean energy infrastructure of the twenty-first century." . . . .

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More info on gun free zone in Mumbai

The WSJ has a detailed discussion of the attacks at Mumbai here:

The hotel had metal detectors, but none of its security personnel carried weapons because of the difficulties in obtaining gun permits from the Indian government, according to the hotel company's chairman, P.R.S. Oberoi. The gunmen raced through the marble-floored lobby, past the grand piano into the adjoining Verandah restaurant, firing at the guests and shattering the windows. . . .

Trivia: I kept on wondering to myself during the news coverage on all this where is Mumbai in India. Decades ago I was very up on learning where everything was. In any case, it turns out Mumbai is the new name for Bombay.

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A history of Indian gun regulations

Abhijeet Singh provides a brief discussion of the history of Indian gun regulations here (more detail is available by following the link):

To trace the roots of India's anti-gun legislation we need to step back to the latter half of the 19th century. The British had recently fought off a major Indian rebellion (the mutiny of 1857) and were busy putting in place measures to ensure that the events of 1857 were never repeated. These measures included a major restructuring of administration and the colonial British Indian Army along with improvements in communications and transportation. Meanwhile the Indian masses were systematically being disarmed and the means of local firearm production destroyed, to ensure that they (the Indian masses) would never again have the means to rise in rebellion against their colonial masters. Towards this end the colonial government, under Lord Lytton as Viceroy (1874 -1880), brought into existence the Indian Arms Act, 1878 (11 of 1878); an act which, exempted Europeans and ensured that no Indian could possess a weapon of any description unless the British masters considered him a "loyal" subject of the British Empire. . . .

India became independent in 1947, but it still took 12 years before this act was finally repealed. In 1959 the British era Indian Arms Act, 1878 (11 of 1878.) was finally consigned to history and a new act, the Arms Act, 1959 was enacted. This was later supplemented by the Arms Rules, 1962. Unfortunately this new legislation was also formulated based on the Indian Government's innate distrust its own citizens. Though somewhat better than the British act, this legislation gave vast arbitrary powers to the "Licensing Authorities", in effect ensuring that it is often difficult and sometimes impossible for an ordinary law abiding Indian citizen to procure an arms license. . . .

This changed towards the mid to late 1980s, when the Government, citing domestic insurgency as the reason, put a complete stop to all small arms imports. The fact that there is no documented evidence of any terrorists ever having used licensed weapons to commit an act of terror on Indian soil seems to be of no consequence to our Government. The prices of (legal & licensed) imported weapons have been on an upward spiral ever since - beating the share market and gold in terms of pure return on investment. Even the shoddy domestically produced guns suddenly seem to have found a market. Also since the Government now had a near monopoly on (even half-way decent) arms & ammunition for the civilian market, they started turning the screws by pricing their crude public sector products (ammunition, rifles, shotguns & small quantities of handguns) at ridiculously high rates - products that frankly, given a choice no one would ever purchase. . . .

While I had seen this, I appreciate Erik Gregg emailing me about the piece.

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Abortion and a woman's mental health?

A longer discussion of the study can be found here.

The University of Otago study found women who had an abortion faced a 30 percent increase in the risk of developing common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. . . .

the findings have implications for the legal status of abortion in New Zealand where over 90 percent of terminations were authorised on the grounds that proceeding with the pregnancy will pose a serious threat to the woman's mental health. . . .

I haven't read the study, but my concern is that the same factors that caused the woman to have an abortion might be related to whether she has mental health problems. It seems like a difficult problem to disentangle.


Obama to push some really disappointing international treaties through the Senate

These four treaties alone should engender some controversy. This article is from the SF Chronicle:

President-elect Barack Obama's pledge to restore the United States' international standing extends far beyond front-page topics such as closing Guantanamo and banning torture, into areas as diverse as nuclear testing, the rights of women and people with disabilities, and military and commercial activities in the world's oceans.

As a candidate, Obama promised to seek Senate ratification of long-stalled treaties on a nuclear test ban, women's equality and the law of the sea, and to sign a U.N. convention on disability rights. He also vowed to reverse President Bush's policies on global warming and join negotiations toward a long-term treaty on greenhouse-gas emissions.

The global warming talks, which face a deadline of December 2009, are a rare example of an international accord that has captured public attention, largely because of Bush's opposition to mandatory emissions limits. Most treaties stay below the political radar, with often-complex subject matter, nebulous constituencies and a two-thirds majority requirement that can leave them languishing in the Senate for years.

The American Society of International Law, an association of academics, officials and business leaders, sent questions on treaties to Obama and other presidential candidates during the primaries. Scholars from the organization differed about Obama's prospects for getting treaties ratified, but said they liked his attitude. . . .

"The Obama campaign talked about the international rule of law and human rights, working with our allies, suggesting it will take the treaty process quite a bit more seriously than the Bush administration did," said David Kaye, who heads a human rights program at UCLA Law School and was a State Department attorney for a decade. . . .

"Promoting strong international norms helps us advance many interests, including (nuclear) non-proliferation, free and fair trade, a clean environment, and protecting our troops in wartime," [Obama] told the international law society. "Because the (Bush) administration cast aside international norms that reflect American values, such as the Geneva Conventions, we are less able to promote those values abroad."

Focus on four pacts

Obama cited three treaties he would concentrate on ratifying: the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Last December, Obama cited a fourth treaty that he said he would sign and ask the Senate to ratify, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Missing from his to-do list, at least so far, are the International Criminal Court - which could subject U.S. officials and military personnel to prosecution - and treaties banning land mines and cluster bombs. All three would face Defense Department resistance, and Obama has said he would consult with military commanders before deciding whether to ask the Senate to ratify the International Criminal Court. . . .

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If Congress is going to behave like a bank, how come banks won't lend the auto companies money?

The AP has this quote from today:

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said she's willing to consider an auto bailout, but not before she Congress gets a clear accounting of the companies' financial situation.

"We need to behave like a bank," McCaskill said. "And we need to make sure that we get all of those internal financials and that we feel comfortable that this is a good investment for the American taxpayer." . . .