New op-ed piece at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review: No more sitting ducks — we must arm our soldiers on their bases

My piece starts this way:
Can mass shootings be stopped or prevented? The Obama administration's political views prevent it from even considering certain obvious solutions. 
On Tuesday the Department of Defense released its report on the Sept. 16 Washington Navy Yard shooting. But the report focuses solely on how mental illness of the assailant went unreported. 
There clearly were mistakes. The Navy did not properly report multiple troublesome incidents during Aaron Alexis' active-duty service. The government did not tell his employer about any of these problems. When the private contractor noticed instances of psychological instability, it thought that they were aberrations, not part of a pattern, and didn't report these back to the government. 
However, it would be foolish to believe that all potential mass shooters will be identified in advance. Even with better reporting practices, many will slip through the cracks. Besides, it is always much easier in hindsight to realize that people had mental health issues. Besides, mentally ill employees are not the only threat to military bases. 
Determined terrorists pose a serious threat, too. 
What should be done if the screening for mental illness fails? Or when there is a terrorist plot? 
Currently, soldiers on military bases are not allowed to carry guns. . . . 
The piece is continued here

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Video of very lively University of California at Berkeley Debate on Gun Control

The Berkeley Forum debate entitled “Guns, Crime and Freedom” included: CPRC president and economist John Lott, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Stanford professor Jack Rakove and Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  The debate took place on October 25th, 2013, but the video of the debate has only just now been released.


So much for the claims that Bitcoins are finished

(Click on figure to make it larger.)

Over the last few weeks it has been very easy to find a number of stories such as this from The Weekly Standard:
As of last week, bitcoin is probably functionally finished as a serious hope of ever achieving mass acceptance as a currency. 
Because last week, someone stole half a billion dollars worth of bitcoins from Mt. Gox, the world’s oldest bitcoin exchange. . . .
From The Economist:
THE father has been found in time for his child’s funeral. That would appear to be the sorry state of affairs in the land of Bitcoin, a crypto-currency, if recent press coverage is to be believed. On March 6th Newsweek reported that it had tracked down Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s elusive creator. And on March 11th Mt Gox, the Japanese online exchange that had long dominated the trade in the currency before losing $490m of customers’ Bitcoins at today’s prices, once more filed for bankruptcy protection, this time in America. 
In reality, things are rather different. Evidence is mounting that Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, whom Newsweek identified as Bitcoin’s father, is not the relevant Satoshi. More importantly, Bitcoin’s best days may still be ahead of it—if not as a fully fledged currency (see article), then as a platform for financial innovation. Much as the internet is a foundation for digital services, the technology behind Bitcoin could support a revolution in the way people own and pay for things. Geeks of all sorts are getting excited—including a growing number of venture capitalists, who know a new platform when they see one. . . .
The bottom line is that the market is betting that Bitcoins are worth about $600 each.  That is a long way from people thinking that Bitcoins are over. 


Sharyl Attkisson talks about how reporters and the Obama White House coordinate actions

Sharyl Attkisson was talking with Chris Stigall on WPHT when she explained how things work in Washington:
“I wouldn’t surprised if sometimes there is that level of cooperation with some questions. If I need something answered from the White House and they won’t tell me, I’ll call our White House Correspondent. They’re friendlier with the White House Correspondents in general. So the White House Correspondent may ask Jay Carney or one of his folks about an issue and they will be told ‘ask that at the briefing and we’ll answer it.’ They want to answer it in front of everybody. They do know it’s coming and they’ll call on you. 
"There’s that kind of coordination sometimes. I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s sometimes more coordination. I don’t think it’s everybody on every briefing, every day. I’m pretty sure it’s not. But I think people would be surprised at the level of cooperation reporters have in general with politicians.”

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If you were already concerned by the short distances that electric cars could cover, here is some advice

If you were already concerned about the short distances that electric cars could travel, do not go in either frigid or hot temperatures.
The average EV battery range in AAA’s test was 105 miles at 75 degrees but dropped 57% to just 43 miles at 20 degrees. Heat also sliced the cars' ranges but by not as much: The cars averaged 69 miles per full charge at 95 degrees, 33% less than in 75-degree weather. . . .
If there is a 57% drop between 75 and 20 degrees, what happens if it gets really cold?  I would assume that the distance drops even further.  If the relationship is linear, these first two observations imply a distance of only 20 miles at a temperature of zero.  My guess is that things are even worse than that as the drop off may increase with lower temperatures.


Media Matters defends Obama surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy against my op-ed at Fox News

My op-ed yesterday at Fox News is available here.  Well, Media Matters couldn't stay away from attacking my piece.  Below I will try to give a quick point by point response.

Linking back to a post that Media Matters had on December 17, 2012, Media Matters claims, in their typical evenhanded fashion, that I have been "thoroughly discredited."  My response to their claims is available here.  Responses to other claims against me by Media Matters are available here and here.

Here are some responses to Media Matters' current claims.
1) "Seizing on a 2013 letter that Murthy's organization Doctors for America authored after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Lott expressed concern that Murthy's group "has advocated that physicians question parents about their gun ownership and counsel them not to own guns or always to store them locked up." This type of doctor-patient counseling is non-controversial and aims to prevent gun accidents involving children. The practice is also protected by the First Amendment and attempts to regulate doctors' speech have been struck down as unconstitutional."

The point here is not that doctors can't do this type of advising, but what the implications of such advice will be.  My point is that my research finds that mandating that people lock up their guns actually encourages criminals to attack people in their homes and it increases death rates.  My op-ed makes this argument clear on two points: having people lock up their guns doesn't reduce accidental gun deaths or suicides among children and that it increases deaths from crimes.  Media Matters response is to cite a 1997 paper by Cummings, Grossman, Rivara, and Koepsell that uses panel data on accidental deaths and another is a poorly done case control study that is typical of public health researchers (Media Matters actually cites this last study twice as if it were two different studies), but they ignore that my research has discussed the earlier 1997 paper in depth and that there is a large literature on the problems with these "case control" studies (see chapter 2 here).  

Here is one of my discussions on the 1997 paper:

The Cummings et al., supra note 15, research provides evidence of a 23 percent drop in juvenile accidental gun deaths after the passage of safe-storage laws. Juvenile accidental gun deaths did decline after the passage of the law, but what Cummings et al. miss is that these accidental deaths declined even faster in the states without these laws. While the Cummings et al. piece examined national data, it did not use fixed year effects, which would have allowed them to test whether the safe-storage states were experiencing a drop relative to the rest of the country. The simple dummy variable that they use is only picking up whether the average juvenile accidental death rate is lower after the passage of safe-storage laws. One potential problem with this approach is that any secular decline in accidental gun deaths would produce a lower average rate after the law even if the rate of decline was not affected by the law. Finally, because they did not break down the results by type of gun or, as we shall do later, by a more detailed age breakdown, they never observed some of the anomalies that we will show for some categories of accidental gun deaths (for example, for handguns) actually rising after the passage of safe-storage laws. In a recent interview with USA Today, Cummings stated “that, unlike Lott, he didn’t explore the possibility that gun-storage laws actually cause crime. ‘I guess I wouldn’t have, because it seems like a very implausible connection,’ Cummings says. ‘But I guess anything’s conceivable.’ ” (Martin Kasindorf, Study: Gun-Lockup Laws Can Be Harmful, USA Today, May 11, 2000, at 8A.) 
So Cummings et al didn't even try to look at the net effect of safe storage laws on safety.
2) "Finding a government conspiracy in Murthy's nomination, Lott also argued that Doctors for America's support for allowing doctors to document gun ownership means that doctors could forward this information to the government as a 'way of registering guns.'"

Besides referring to my comment as a conspiracy theory, Media Matters doesn't really address the concern.  If doctors record gun ownership information and if this gets forwarded along with the general medical records that are being given to the federal government, the government will be able to do a simple search to see who owns guns.  It would be useful for Media Matters to explain why my point is wrong.
3) "Turning back to the topic of gun safety, Lott wrote that if Murthy is "really worried about children's safety," he should focus on other dangers to children including "a swimming pool, chemicals and medications, bathtubs, water buckets, bicycles, cars and items that can cause suffocation.  This argument is premised on the baseless assumption that Murthy has privileged discussing safe gun practices over other safety concerns. But as the Doctors for America letter cited by Lott notes, 'One of our most important tasks as health care providers is to counsel our patients about how to take care of themselves and prevent disease and injury. We counsel patients about tobacco cessation, educate them about diet, and remind them to wear seatbelts and sunscreen.'"

Sorry Media Matters, but the cases that I raised were not ones that were in Murthy's list, and I raised them for precisely the reason that they represented much greater risks in the home than the guns that Murthy is so fixated on.  For car accidents, the risk exists even when children are wearing seat belts.  If Murthy really wanted to advise parents of all the risks in the home and if he did it in order of risk, it would be a long time before he got to accidental gun deaths for children.  From what I wrote at Fox News:
If Murthy really worried about children's safety, his time would be better spent advocating that doctors ask patients about other, greater dangers lurking around the children’s and their playmates' homes: a swimming pool, chemicals and medications, bathtubs, water buckets, bicycles, cars and items that can cause suffocation. . . . 
4) Media Matters then cites Tim Lambert, a computer scientist from Australia, to bolster their claim that my research can't be trusted, but they ignore that Lambert has been caught by a computer scientist at the University of Maryland making numerous false claims and fabricating discussions that were supposedly by me.
5) "Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Lott wrote, "Accidental gun deaths involving children are especially horrible, but they are fortunately rare." Defining "rare" is subjective, but it is worth noting thatMother Jones used news reports to identify 84 children aged 12 and under who died in gun accidents in a one-year period in 2012-2013. The New York Times has reported that official figures on gun accidents involving children are undercounted "because of idiosyncrasies in how such deaths are classified by the authorities." Relative to other nations, accidental gun deaths involving children are not rare in the United States, where the CDC found children are nine times more likely to die in accidents compared to other high-income nations."

The New York Times and Mother Jones articles depend on very unreliable initial news stories.  The CDC has much more detailed data on these cases and they have information that might not have been revealed until later in the investigation.  For example, in the case of an accidental shooting, the adult responsible might try to blame a child in the home for the tragedy because they believe that a young child will not be punished while the adult could end up in jail.

My results might be different in part because I use the cases identified by CDC and the New York Times and Mother Jones rely on initial newspaper stories.

6) "In a final dubious claim, Lott wrote that "states that have mandated that people lock up their guns didn't see a reduction in accidental gun deaths or suicides for children or teenagers," citing his own research on the topic. But according to three studies published in The Journal of the American Medical Associationsafe storage laws were associated with reductions in youth accidents and suicides."

See point number 1 above.  Note also that the last two links in this paragraph are actually to the same paper.
7) "This figure is dated because of the NRA's largely successful effort dating to the 1990s to prevent the CDC from researching gun violence."

Of course, this claim is also false.  The 1996 budget amendment didn't stop the CDC from doing research and indeed government funded research from a public health prospective has increased dramatically since then.  Over all, the number of medical journal articles on firearms either stayed the same or rose.  Bloomberg only got his claim that the number of medical journal papers on firearms fell because he was actually measuring firearms papers as a percentage of all medical journal articles.  Both firearms research and non-firearms research rose, but non-firearms research rose by a larger amount.

Because of Media Matters past altering of their posts without acknowledging that they have done so, here are screen shots of their current discussion.



Multiple victim public shooting in Turkey: "7 Shot Dead in Turkey After Fired Worker Takes Hostages"

From NBC News:
Seven people were shot dead in Turkey on Wednesday after a man returned to his office after being fired and took his colleagues hostage, local news agencies reported. 
The man turned the gun on himself during the incident at the Turkish Statistical Institute in the eastern province of Kars, officials told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency and others. 
"Someone who was dismissed from his job ran amok and killed six people, before committing suicide," Kars Governor Eyup Tepe said in a statement reported by the Dogan News Agency. . . . 
the hostages were killed before the units arrived at the scene, the Dogan News Agency reported . . . .
Turkey already has strict gun control laws.
In Turkey, only licensed gun owners may lawfully acquire, possess or transfer a firearm or ammunition. Applicants for a gun owner’s license in Turkey are required to prove genuine reason to possess a firearm, for example, hunting, target shooting, collection, personal protection, security. The minimum age for gun ownership in Turkey is 21 years.  An applicant for a firearm license in Turkey must pass a background check which considers criminal, mental, domestic violence, medical, and addiction records.  In Turkey gun owners must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm license every five years.


"Fifth-grader’s ‘finger gun’ suspension stands"

This case is truly bizarre in that the student pointed a "lookalike firearm” at another student in class and pretended to shoot.  The lookalike gun was said to be the 10-year-olds finger.  From the Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio):
A Columbus schools hearing officer has upheld the suspension of a fifth-grader who pretended his finger was a gun in class.
Nathan Entingh was suspended for three days from Devonshire Elementary School after he pretended to shoot another student. The incident made global news, and Nathan’s suspension was widely criticized as an over-reach of zero-tolerance policies against weapons in schools. The principal said Nathan’s hand had become a “look-alike firearm.”
Yesterday, a hearing officer upheld the suspension but offered to change the offense to committing a “volatile act,” school district spokesman Jeff Warner said. The boy’s grandfather, Bill Entingh, said he turned that down and plans to appeal the ruling to the school board. If that doesn’t work, the family’s next resort will be the courts, he said.
Warner said Bill Entingh is not the boy’s legal guardian and that the district doesn’t recognize his standing to make those decisions. . . .


Fed government raids gun parts stores despite court order

From the local Fox station in San Diego:
With a search warrant in hand, federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confiscated computers, customer lists and the questionable polymer 80 percent lower receivers from four Ares Armor store locations throughout San Diego County over the weekend. 
“There were women and children inside our retail establishment when the (ATF) agents came in with guns drawn,” said Ares Armor Executive Officer Dimitrios Karras. “They came into our firearms manufacturing facility saying, ‘Arms up!’  like they were invading Iraq.” 
The raid happened three days after Ares owner was granted a temporary restraining by a judge to stop ATF agents from searching their stores. 
The ATF confirmed they were investigating the stores for federal firearm violations stemming from the sale of a new plastic version of the 80 percent lowers, which gun enthusiast use to build their own AR-15 rifles. . . .

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Department of Defense report on Washington Navy Yard Shooting completely ignores problems with gun-free zones

The Crime Prevention Research Center has a discussion available here on what was completely missing in the Department of Defense report.



Pizza delivery driver protects herself with her permitted concealed handgun

Story from Fayetteville NC:
. . . Ashley Marie Hurd, 26, a driver for Domino’s Pizza, took the order to a house on the 200 block of Stuart Avenue about 10 p.m., a police report said.
When she arrived, a man was standing outside, and she told him how much the bill was, said Lt. Todd Joyce, Fayetteville police spokesman.
As she was doing so, Joyce said, a second man, wearing a dark-colored jacket, came around from the side of the house.
The man put something to the back of Hurd’s head and demanded money, Joyce said.
“Unbeknownst to them, she had a weapon,” Joyce said. “She pulled out a gun, and when she did, the suspects fled and they didn’t get anything.” . . .

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Politicians rush to tax e-cigarettes. Is taxing nicotine patches next? Are they doing this to make it more difficult to quit smoking or out of ignorance?

Is it just me or are others wondering why it is primarily Democrats who want to regulate what we put in our bodies so much?  E-cigarettes deliver nicotine just like the nicotine patches do, but they may be a more attractive substitute to those who want to quite smoking because they involve other actions that remind smokers of the sensations that they have when they smoke.  Presumably no one would want to put a tax on nicotine patches, but why do they then want to put a tax on e-cigs?  From Fox News:
. . . But lawmakers in more than two dozen cash-strapped states are racing to regulate them as a new source of revenue. For some, this means tacking on an excise tax -- which is a fee on a specific product, and often dubbed a "sin tax" when applied to socially shunned products like cigarettes.  Minnesota has led the charge and is currently the only state that’s got a specific tax policy for e-cigarettes on the books. The 2012 decision subjects vapor inhalers to a 95 percent tax that is stapled to the wholesale cost of the product. . . .
In his 2015 budget proposal last month, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pitched a plan to hike taxes on electronic cigarettes to match the rate of regular cigarettes -- about $2.70 per pack.
Supporters say increasing taxes will keep them out of the hands of children and teens.
But critics argue treating traditional cigarettes the same as e-cigs will hurt small businesses and strip smokers of the incentive to quit. . . .
But to some, like New Jersey Democratic Assemblyman Dan Benson, taxing e-cigarettes is not only a fiscal responsibility but also sends an important message to would-be smokers.
“If e-cigarettes are taxed less than regular cigarettes, we’re sending a message out there that they’re somehow safer, and I think the jury is out on that,” he recently told a New Jersey radio station. . . .
Nicotine is a very well studied chemical and it is no more dangerous than caffeine.  Here is a useful comparison of the two products.  Nicotine isn't the same as tobacco in terms of its ability to cause cancer.
Nicotine occurs naturally in all tobacco products, including snuff, cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco. It is the psychoactive substance responsible for tobacco's mood-altering effects, as well as its addictive properties. 
Caffeine is present naturally in tea, coffee, cocoa beans and herbs like guarana and yerba mate. It is often added to soda, energy supplements and weight loss products for its stimulating effects and can be found in a number of over-the-counter allergy medicines and pain relievers. 
Both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants. They speed bodily functions and bring about temporary feelings of enhanced energy and vitality in most users. 
Caffeine is consumed mainly for its energizing effects. It temporarily fights fatigue and improves mental focus, resulting in improved mood and concentration. It constricts blood vessels to help relieve allergy symptoms and headache, hence its inclusion in many over-the-counter medications. Other effects may include insomnia, jitteriness, nausea and rapid heart rate.  
Like caffeine, nicotine constricts blood vessels and speeds heart rate and cognitive functioning. It attaches to acetylcholine receptors in the brain, often leading to additional effects like appetite suppression, nausea and dry mouth. Nicotine is highly addictive and can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that make it extremely difficult to quit. . . .
As far as addiction goes, nicotine might be similar to alcohol.  Why is it that Democrats are the ones that one to regulate what we put in our bodies? 


In case you thought that Obama was already dramatically breaking his promise to be transparent, it is getting much worse

AP Photo
The Associate Press article is available here.



While Democrats are outraged about the Koch brothers spending $30 million so far on campaigns, Tom Steyer pledges $100 million to back Democrats on Global Warming

While Harry Reid keeps going to the floor of the Senate to denounce the Koch brothers, the Kochs were notable donors to Democrats up to 2012, and in 2011, the DSCC asked the Kochs to donate them. But now the Senate Democrats are claiming the Kochs are evil giving $ to Republicans. From Politico:
Those donations from Koch Industries Inc. Political Action Committee, or KochPAC, include nearly $200,000 to Democratic candidates and committees as recently as 2010 — including a $30,000 donation to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. . . . 
But Reid’s fellow Democrats collected KochPAC money as recently as 2012.
Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas took $10,000 from KochPAC in 2012. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has taken $55,000 in Koch money since the 2000 cycle. Former Senate Democrats Max Baucus, Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson took Koch cash in 2010. And Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York got $1,000 in the same year. 
Since 2000, KochPAC has given more than $1.4 million to Democratic candidates, leadership PACs and party committees, according to numbers compiled by Congressional Quarterly’s Moneyline. 
The DSCC even asked the Kochs to donate in 2011 . . .
Harry Reid and others don't seem to ever bother to mention the money that the Steyer brothers, Michael Bloomberg or George Soros are spending to support Democrats.  Just one of the Steyer brothers alone is planning on spending $100 million.
Steyer, a former hedge fund manager turned environmental activist, made waves when he announced in February that he would funnel at least $100 million to make climate change the top issue in the 2014 midterms – a sum that includes $50 million of his own money and $50 million from donors. . . .
Steyer spent almost $8 million in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race.  If Tom Steyer is going to be consistent, he isn't going to be able to support some of the Democrats in tough races.
Twenty-eight Democrats and two left-leaning Independents, including Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his top lieutenants, are scheduled to speak in shifts until about 9 a.m. Tuesday. The event is not a filibuster, nor is it related to any legislation. The intent is to urge a divided Congress and nation to “wake up” on this issue.  Some notable Democrats, however, are no-shows: Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. . . . 
But that was six days ago.  In the last day or so, it appears that Kay Hagan's position may be somewhat confused.  From the Washington Examiner:
Sen. Kay Hagan took to the Senate floor Thursday to call for congressional action on climate change. 
"This is a pressing problem that needs to be addressed and too often gets pushed to the backburner," the North Carolina Democrat said.
The overture was of note because Hagan is in a tight re-election contest in a red-leaning state. She and other Democrats in a similar situation were absent from an all-night climate event involving more than two dozen Democrats speaking on the Senate floor earlier this week.
"This current path is unsustainable, and we must take steps now to slow and stop the effects of climate change," Hagan said. "This is a challenge that will need to be addressed from many different directions." . . . 
Tom Steyer won't be spend money against Democrats, even those who oppose his position on climate change.
Begich is a top energy Democrat, who sides with his Republican colleague from Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, more often than his party on energy issues. (His support for the Keystone XL pipeline is one example.) Still, AFP wants Begich ousted along with other vulnerable Democrats.
Steyer, for his part, won't back Begich — but he won't hurt him either.
According to Lehane, the same goes for the vulnerable pro-energy Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), who has come out in favor of Keystone XL, crude oil exports, and offshore energy revenue sharing. . . .
Of course, Bloomberg has given $2.5 million to Harry Reid's Senate Majority PAC, but Reid isn't going to give back his money.



Even Democrats are referring to Obama as "Nixonian"