Corruption, favoritism and cronyism in the way Los Angeles County gives out concealed handgun permits

Government officials, people with important connections, and friends of the sheriff seem to get all the concealed handgun permits in LA county.  Unfortunately, the people who need the protection the most, the poor minorities who live in high crime areas aren't the ones who are able to get protection.  From the LA Weekly:
. . . As of May 2012, only 341 people had been granted them, according to sheriff's records. Compare that with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, which had 1,754 permit holders in 2011, despite of a population of just 2 million people to L.A.'s 10 million. The Kern County Sheriff granted even more, with 3,564 permit holders in a population of 800,000 people. 
In L.A. County, records show, most of the permits go to judges and reserve deputies. But there is another group that seems to have better luck than most in obtaining permits: friends of Lee Baca. Those who've given the sheriff gifts or donated to his campaign are disproportionately represented on the roster of permit holders.  
Chuck Michel, a gun-rights attorney who has pushed for greater access to concealed-weapons permits, says practices in many "anti-gun" jurisdictions are "corrupted by favoritism and cronyism." 
Michel had not looked in depth at L.A. County's practices, but the Weekly did. Last year, theWeekly filed a public records request for all 341 active concealed-weapons permits granted by the Sheriff's Department — as well as a list of the 123 people who applied for concealed weapons over an 18-month period but were denied. (You can see the complete list of permit holders we obtained from the Sheriff's Department here.) 
Those lists contain many of the same names that appear on Baca's gift reports and contribution records. 
In fact, more than two dozen people who have given gifts or campaign contributions to the sheriff also have gun permits. More than one out of every 10 permits issued to civilians went to people on Baca's gift list. The permit holders include Michael R. Yamaki, an attorney and reserve deputy who is among Baca's best friends, as well as several people who attended Baca's 1999 wedding. . . .


Newest piece in the New York Post: "The truth on background checks"

My piece starts this way:
Gun control “deserves a vote,” President Obama said time and again in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday. Sadly, the measure Congress is most likely to pass — beefed-up background checks — may cause more harm than good. 
First, checks obviously won’t do anything about gun crime in cities like Chicago or New York, which revolves almost exclusively around illegal guns. 
But they also wouldn’t stop the mass killings Obama mentioned. The Newtown, Conn., shooter stole his mother’s guns, while the Tucson, Ariz., and other killers didn’t have records that a check would’ve spotted. 
You can see the fundamental unseriousness of this proposal just by looking at the numbers cited by its advocates, such as New York’s own Sen. Chuck Schumer. 
Schumer tells us that “48 percent of gun sales are made without a background check” and that background checks have “blocked 1.7 million prohibited individuals from buying a gun.” Both stats are just false. . . .

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Daily Caller piece: "Obama’s spending failure"

My piece starts this way:
According to President Obama, cutting government spending will “certainly slow our recovery.” Over and over again, he has described the sequester’s threatened $85 billion cut in spending out of a $3.8 trillion budget as “devastating.” But that represents a mere 2 percent cut in spending. Obama frightens people by pretending that the $1 trillion cut takes place right away rather than being spread out over 10 years. 
Sounds like more of the same. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama continually promised to “cut net spending” and make government smaller. The stimulus was promised not to “raise projected deficits beyond a short horizon of a year or at most two.” Yet, now during the fifth year of Obama’s presidency, we are told that we can’t cut spending, that we need even more government “investments.” . . .

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The piece starts this way:
Warning that we need to “get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets,” in his State of the Union, Obama kept repeating congress must vote on the three types of gun bills he supports. 
The most obvious thing that was left out of the talk was that none of the laws now being proposed would have done anything to stop the various attacks that Obama cited as justifying the laws.  Nor does the evidence show that the previous Assault Weapon Ban from 1994 to 2004 reduced crime. 
Were some of the killers mentally ill?  Undoubtedly, “yes,” but none of these individuals had previously been involuntarily committed as a threat to themselves or to others. 
Connecticut already had a strict assault weapon ban.  But there is no proposed federal or state ban that would have mattered.  . . . .

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Even in New Jersey, arming staff at schools being considered

Pretty amazing that only one person spoke out against this proposal.  Slowly but surely as this approach spreads in places such as Texas, Utah, Ohio, and New Jersey people will see that their fears about possible problems were misplaced.  From Fox News:
A school board in New Jersey has taken an initial step toward allowing a principal, who is a retired police officer, to carry a handgun in school.
Raymond Rotella would be among the first school administrators in the state to have permission if the Passaic Valley Regional School Board gives final approval next month.
Rotella served 25 years with the Little Falls Police Department before he became principal of the high school three years ago.
The Record newspaper reports only one person spoke against the policy before Tuesday's 8-0 vote. . . .

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3 AM home break in stopped by sisters with gun

From Greenville, Illinois:
According to Highland Police Chief Terry Bell, a 33 year-old man allegedly forced his way into an apartment, in the 2600 block of Eagle Way Drive, about 3:30 a.m. Sunday.  The apartment is the home of two sisters, Debi Keeney and Donna Carlyle.  The man allegedly demanded money and attacked the women.  Keeney told police she pleaded with the man repeatedly to stop the attack and leave and when he did not, she shot him with a small 22 cal. revolver.  Bell said wounds show the man was shot twice. . . . .
Thanks to Anonymous for the link.


Will gun control "crowd out" other policy discussions?

A prediction from Chris Stirewalt at Fox News:
But whatever Obama talks about, it is likely to be overshadowed by his call for a gun ban in response to mass shootings and a steady tide of urban shootings, particularly in his hometown of Chicago. 
The Constitution instructs the president “from time to time” to update Congress on the state of the union and “recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. . . .


The perils of driving electric vehicles during the winter

Is 30+ degrees really that cold?  That was the first day and it was bad enough.  Over night the temperature fell to 10 degrees. This Telsa Motors car left a lot to desire.  Could you image what this trip will be like after the batteries are a few years old and are not keeping their charge as well as new ones do?  Just think, you too can have this experience for a mere $61,000 (plus tax).  From the NY Times:
But as I discovered on a recent test drive of the company’s high-performance Model S sedan, theory can be trumped by reality, especially when Northeast temperatures plunge. . . . 
I noticed that the estimated range was falling faster than miles were accumulating. . . . 
I began following Tesla’s range-maximization guidelines, which meant dispensing with such battery-draining amenities as warming the cabin and keeping up with traffic. I turned the climate control to low — the temperature was still in the 30s — and planted myself in the far right lane with the cruise control set at 54 miles per hour (the speed limit is 65). . . . my feet were freezing and my knuckles were turning white. . . .
I drove a state-of-the-art electric vehicle past a lot of gas stations. I wasn’t smiling.Instead, I spent nearly an hour at the Milford service plaza as the Tesla sucked electrons . . .  
I drove, slowly, to Stonington, Conn. . . . a total distance of 79 miles. When I parked the car, its computer said I had 90 miles of range, twice the 46 miles back to Milford. It was a different story at 8:30 the next morning. The thermometer read 10 degrees and the display showed 25 miles of remaining range — the electrical equivalent of someone having siphoned off more than two-thirds of the fuel that was in the tank when I parked. 
I called Tesla in California, and [was told] I needed to “condition” the battery pack to restore the lost energy. That meant sitting in the car for half an hour with the heat on a low setting. . . .  
After completing the battery conditioning process, the estimated range reading was 19 miles; no way would I make it back to Milford. . . .
UPDATE: "Tesla CEO accuses New York Times of printing 'fake' car review"

UPDATE: Apparently Tesla can monitor driver's behavior in unnerving detail.
. . . The most interesting tweet to me was the one captured above, where Musk refers to Tesla’s ability to monitor everything that a driver does in one of its cars — at least when it comes to the car’s operation.  “Tesla data logging is only turned on with explicit written permission from customers,” tweeted Musk. “But after Top Gear BS, we always keep it on for media.” 
(“Top Gear BS” refers to a 2008 BBC review of a Tesla car that the company also disputed and eventually sued over.) 
Thanks to more and more of our belongings being “smart” — or “tethered” as Jonathan Zittrain calls them — they’re constantly capturing data about us and in some cases reporting back to the companies that made them how we’re using them. It means your car might keep a log of how you drove it or that your Xbox might be tracking every person in the room and watching their facial expressions to decide which ads to show them. 
Tesla says it always asks for customers’ permission before doing this –even if that’s not made clear in the owner’s manual — but journalists taking a car for a free spin don’t get that same courtesy. . . . 


Homeowner holds a drugged-out intruder at gun point until police arrive

From Fox News:
An Washington state homeowner shot a drugged-out intruder who entered his home while he was asleep with his wife early Sunday.KPTV.com reports that the suspect, Brian L. Creed, entered the home and started walking down a hallway toward the homeowner, who was standing outside his bedroom door.
When the 24-year-old homeowner told the suspect to stop, Creed allegedly charged the homeowner, prompting him to fire a shot at the intruder, the station reported.
Creed then allegedly tackled the homeowner and the two were involved in a physical altercation until the homeowner was able to hold the suspect at gunpoint until authorities arrived. . . .


Massive 41% fraud in government free cell phone program

41% fraud?  And this from the FCC.  Might the real rate be even higher?  From the WSJ:
The U.S. government spent about $2.2 billion last year to provide phones to low-income Americans, but a Wall Street Journal review of the program shows that a large number of those who received the phones haven't proved they are eligible to receive them. 
The Lifeline program—begun in 1984 to ensure that poor people aren't cut off from jobs, families and emergency services—is funded by charges that appear on the monthly bills of every landline and wireless-phone customer. Payouts under the program have shot up from $819 million in 2008, as more wireless carriers have persuaded regulators to let them offer the service. 
Suspecting that many of the new subscribers were ineligible, the Federal Communications Commission tightened the rules last year and required carriers to verify that existing subscribers were eligible. The agency estimated 15% of users would be weeded out, but far more were dropped. 
A review of five top recipients of Lifeline support conducted by the FCC for the Journal showed that 41% of their more than six million subscribers either couldn't demonstrate their eligibility or didn't respond to requests for certification. . . . .

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More evidence that taxes effect behavior: Companies leaving California because of its high taxes and regulations

Remember these are just firms that are talking about moving to Arizona.  There are lots of other states that are more attractive to California companies, which has not only the highest income tax rate but also the highest sales tax rate and a huge regulatory burden.  So much for the revenue predictions made for California's tax increases.  From KCRA in Sacramento:
KCRA 3 has learned of nearly two dozen firms now planning to say goodbye to some of the highest taxes in the nation. 
It’s all part of a campaign launched by one of California’s neighboring states, the day after Proposition 30 passed, which triggered billions of dollars in new taxes. . . . .

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Assault weapon ban not going anyplace, but there might be a strong push for more background checks

The Hill newspaper points out how Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) are unlikely to push for the assault weapon ban.  But at the same there is a push for broader background checks.
Manchin is part of a quartet of legislators working to tighten background checks required to purchase a gun. The other members of the group are Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). . . .
What worries me is Manchin's discussion about these background checks: "What we are trying to do is have a well balanced piece of legislation which I think makes sense and do an awful lot of good."

For my concerns about the push for background checks see this discussion here.

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Some notes on Obama's State of the Union Address

More "investments" (read "spending") and no concern about the deficit (except as an excuse to raise taxes).  The call for more government spending will be based on Keynesianism claims that it will stimulate the economy.  Taxes are being pushed out of "fairness."
The president is expected to revive his calls Tuesday for government "investments" in infrastructure and education -- meaning spending. He'll focus on economic growth, while acknowledging the need to close the deficit through a combination of budget cuts and tax increases.  
"The core emphasis that he has always placed in these big speeches remains the same, and it will remain the same -- the need to make the economy work for the middle class," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.  
He declined to get into specifics, but said the speech will focus on "proposals that are necessary to help the middle class grow and to help the economy grow."  
Carney pointedly countered House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who a day earlier dismissed the idea that Washington has a spending problem.  
"Of course the president believes that we have a spending problem," Carney said. Still, he said "we need more investments that help the key industries of the 21st Century ... take root here." . . .
From the Washington Post:
When President Obama delivers his State of the Union addressTuesday evening, here’s one thing you won’t hear: an ambitious new plan to rein in the national debt. 
In recent weeks, the White House has pressed the message that, if policymakers can agree on a strategy for replacing across-the-board spending cuts set to hit next month, Obama will pretty much have achieved what he has called “our ultimate goal” of halting the rapid rise in government borrowing. 
“Over the last few years, Democrats and Republicans have come together and cut our deficit [over the next decade] by more than $2.5 trillion through a balanced mix of spending cuts and higher tax rates for the wealthiest Americans,” Obama said during his weekend radio address. “That’s more than halfway towards the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists and elected officials from both parties say we need to stabilize our debt.” . . . 
Meanwhile some "conservatives" such as William Kristol are fighting against the sequester, which seems the only way to cut government spending right now.
Sequester is only one step down a stairway at the bottom of which the stones will break beneath our feet. But it’s an important step. It’s too important a step for the Republican party to be complicit in. Its likely negative consequences are far more important than any possible benefit that could come from a small and probably temporary cut in domestic discretionary spending, or from the satisfaction of highlighting the hypocrisy of Barack Obama and the irresponsibility of Harry Reid. Barack Obama and Harry Reid may be willing to sacrifice the national interest for petty and temporary political victories. Republicans shouldn’t be willing to do so. A great political party, on matters of great moment, puts national defense, and the national interest, first. 

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Many SOTU guests will be used to highlight gun control

Hidaya Pendleton, the 15-year-old majorette who had performed during the weekend of Obama's inauguration, who was killed as a result of a gang fight in Chicago isn't going to be stopped by any gun control measures being discussed.  I have a hard time seeing how her death accelerated calls for gun control.

USA Today:
The parents of Hidaya Pendleton, the 15-year-old girl killed during a random shooting last month in Chicago, will be among the guests sitting with the first lady during Tuesday night's address by President Obama to a joint session of Congress. . . . 
Hidaya's death accelerated calls for gun-control legislation; Obama is expected to discuss his legislative package to combat gun violence during his State of the Union speech. . . .
From the Los Angeles Times:
Nugent's invitation, which came from Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), was announced Monday, about the time Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced she had invited Josh Stepakoff, a 20-year-old California man who was injured in a San Fernando Valley shooting when he was a child. . . .
Among the guests will be Natalie Hammond, a teacher at Sandy Hook who was injured in the shooting; Carlos Soto Jr., whose sister, 27-year-old teacher Victoria Soto, was killed while trying to protect students at Sandy Hook; and a mother and daughter who live in Newtown, Conn., but were not involved in the shooting. . . .
From The Hill Newspaper:
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, Mark Kelly will attend President Obama’s State of the Union address as guests of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), a Barber aide told CBS News. . . .


Democrats "counting on . . . legitimate news media" to push for gun control

Vice President Joe Biden said at a press conference on gun safety in Philadelphia: “To be very blunt with you, we’re counting on all of you, the legitimate news media to cover these discussions because the truth is that times have changed."

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Mary Kissel with WSJ contributor John Lott on the Senate negotiations over gun control

The link to the page is available here.

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Weird: Obama administration orders Marines to take the bolts out of their rifles during inaugural parade

Did Google Earth error send murderer to the wrong house?


Brady Campaign and other gun control groups continue to refuse to debate

I was basically going to ignore this, but I got an email today from a student at Dickinson College named David Milstein who had been trying for many weeks to arrange a debate for me on his college.  David informed me that the gun control groups would not participate in a debate with me: 
"I tried to push for a debate format. Those on the other side have been calling organizations to debate you. A David from the Brady campaign won't debate you and a Joshua Horwitz from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has agreed to come but won't debate."
I will still end up giving a presentation at the school, but I think that it would be better for the students if they were exposed to representatives from both sides of the issue.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time recently that I have run into gun control groups being afraid to debate.  I assume that the "David" mentioned above is  David Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign.  He also said something similar on the Geraldo Rivera Radio Show on January 11th this year (listen at 6:51 into the interview):
In all honesty, if I knew John Lott was going to be on this program, I would have declined, because this isn't the conversation that the American public wants to be having.
Gross actually said a couple of times during the interview that he wouldn't have appeared if he knew that I was on the show and Geraldo said that in the future he would probably have to have us both on separately.

Overall, the interview was a mess because Dan Gross was so often talking over what I said and his volume was higher than mine so that the audience couldn't even hear that I was directly answering his question.

The Brady Campaign has also refused to participate in debating with me on television shows.

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Alan Dershowitz's continued false claims about my research and the research on gun control generally

Interview on Geraldo Rivera’s national radio show, January 31, 2013

Alan Dershowitz: We need objective scientists looking at all the variables, not looking at kind of pat points being sponsored by the NRA or supporters of the NRA, not pseudo-scientists who come to the problem with the point of view.  We need the National Science Foundation, we need other objective scientists looking at everything, looking at the relationship between the amount of guns in society and the amount of crime holding constant racial factors, financial factors, economic, all kinds of other factors.  We need to learn the truth about this.  We have to follow the facts and follow the truth.  And the truth doesn’t come from the NRA, the truth doesn’t come from alleged professors who have a point of view and who have been advocating a particular point of view about this.  It comes from objective scientists.  We need to know the truth, lives depend on it. 

Geraldo Rivera: You, John Lott, are the purported or alleged professor that Alan Dershowitz is talking about.  How do you respond? 

I have to thank Geraldo for having me back on his show.  Previously Dan Gross from the Brady Campaign said that he would no longer appear on shows to debate me, but while some shows then decide that it is best not to have me on, Rivera invited me back to discuss the issues with Mr. Dershowitz.

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Woman shoots multiple times the attacker who broke into her home

Here is a defensive gun use from Highland, Illinois.  From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
A 55-year-old woman shot an intruder multiple times early this morning after the man allegedly pushed his way into her apartment and began assaulting the woman and her sister, according to police. . . . 
The woman told police that the man began to assault her and her 47-year-old sister. She said she pleaded with the man to stop and get out of the apartment. 
"When he failed to comply, she shot him multiple times with a small derringer" pistol, Bell said. 
Bell said the man was shot in the living room area of the apartment. Both women were treated at the scene and released. . . . 
Police confiscated the derringer that Bell referred to as "old school."
Thanks to Tony Troglio for this link. 

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Nancy Pelosi will bring student from Newtown to Obama's State of the Union, but what would the proposed rules have done to stop that attack?

Newtown continues to be used as a prop for more gun control, but what proposal being put forward by Democrats would have prevent the attack if it had been in effect?  Can anyone explain to me which proposed regulation would have stopped the attack?  Yet, Nancy Pelosi will bring student from Newtown as a prop for Obama's State of the Union.

"Universal background checks" -- The killer didn't buy the gun.  BTW, would this rule have stopped any of the attacks this last year?  No.  Of course, even if one of these killers would have been prohibited from buying a gun, that is not the same thing as saying that they would have not gotten a gun.  When people have 4 months of planning and have the time to put together dozens of bombs they don't even acknowledge how difficult it can be to stop such a person from getting weapons.  As Jamie Fox at Northeastern University correctly writes: "Most mass murderers do not have criminal records or a history of psychiatric hospitalization. They would not be disqualified from purchasing their weapons legally. Certainly, people cannot be denied their Second Amendment rights just because they look strange or act in an odd manner. Besides, mass killers could always find an alternative way of securing the needed weaponry, even if they had to steal from family members or friends."

Assault weapon ban -- The gun used in the Newtown attack wasn't even banned under the Connecticut Assault Weapon Ban.  It wouldn't have been banned under the feature set that would ban guns under the Feinstein bill.  New sales of the Bushmaster would have been banned by name under the Feinstein bill.  Of course, banning guns by name and not objective features shows how arbitrary the law is.

Magazine size -- Even if you somehow believe that magazine size would have altered the rate of fire in the Newtown attack, the key point there is that it took 10 minutes between when the first 911 call was made and first responders showed up outside the school.  

UPDATE: Here are a couple other relevant facts on these points.  From the Hartford Courant:
"It's just weird [that he popped in earplugs] given what he was about to go do," a source said. "It's not like he had to worry about long-term protection of his hearing because he had to know he wasn't coming back out of the building." 
As police wrap up at least the crime-scene portion of their investigation into Lanza's murderous spree that left 26 people dead in the school, including 20 first-graders, the earplugs are not the only evidence that shows Lanza might have carried habits either from the shooting range or the virtual world of video games into his real-world massacre. 
Lanza changed magazines frequently as he fired his way through the first-grade classrooms of Lauren Rousseau and Victoria Soto, sometimes shooting as few as 15 shots from a 30-round magazine, sources said. . . .

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Obamacare unraveling

Two op-ed pieces here and here provide useful discussions on Obamacare.

You can see why: If the lowest-cost family plan (again, two adults and three kids) is to run a whopping $20,000, and if the employee’s contribution is limited to $3,800, the employer’s tab would be $16,200 — adding about $7.40 an hour to the cost of that employee. Wisely, the IRS announced on Jan. 30 that employers won’t have to pay for dependents. 
But the Congressional Budget Office’s much-cited prediction that ObamaCare would leave only 30 million people uninsured by 2016 was based on the assumption that kids would be covered by employers. At the very least, employers insuring their workers for the first time to avoid the penalty are unlikely to do that. 
So how will the kids be covered? They won’t. The IRS shocked the law’s advocates by announcing that the insurance exchanges won’t provide subsidies for a child whose parent is covered at work. 
Nor will these parents be penalized for not insuring their children — the IRS will kindly consider the kids exempt from the mandate. 
Also exempt are millions of people who’ll stay uninsured because their state is wisely choosing not to loosen Medicaid eligibility. . . . .
and this
So, Lambert says, the ACA’s penalties are too low to prod the healthy to purchase insurance, even given ACA’s subsidies for purchasers. The ACA’s authors probably understood this perverse incentive and assumed that once Congress passed the ACA with penalties low enough to be politically palatable, Congress could increase them. 
But Roberts’s decision limits Congress’s latitude by holding that the small size of the penalty is part of the reason it is, for constitutional purposes, a tax. It is not a “financial punishment” because it is not so steep that it effectively prohibits the choice of paying it. And, Roberts noted, “by statute, it can never be more.”As Lambert says, the penalty for refusing to purchase insurance counts as a tax only if it remains so small as to be largely ineffective. . . .