2/11/2016

My newest piece at National Review Online: "Trump and Eminent Domain"

My newest piece starts this way:
Memo to The Donald: There are ways to acquire property without using government force.  
‘Eminent domain is an absolute necessity,” said Donald Trump during Saturday’s Republican presidential debate. “Without it,” he claimed, “you wouldn’t have roads, you wouldn’t have hospitals, you wouldn’t have anything. You wouldn’t have schools, you wouldn’t have bridges. You need eminent domain.” In fact, though, we would still have roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals.  
It’s a relatively new phenomenon for the government to seize property on behalf of private development projects. And yet, so very many of these projects somehow used to get done. Only one thing is certain when it comes to eminent domain: Those who have their property seized don’t get paid enough for it. 
Admittedly, trying to clear out all the homes from a certain area can be a seemingly insurmountable challenge. But there are free-market solutions.  
Suppose that Trump wants to build a skyscraper and has to tear down the houses on an entire block. The obvious approach is to buy everyone‘s house, but this doesn’t always work. Because of sentimental attachment, some homeowners will refuse even offers that far exceed the fair market value. . . .
The rest of the piece is available here

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2/10/2016

No conscience: Mother Jones Cherry-picks quotes to make Ted Nugent look anti-semitic

Click to enlarge

Would I have included a graphic with Israeli flags next to Jews who support gun control?  Probably not, because no matter what my intent I would worry that it would be misinterpreted.  Nor would I ever use the inflammatory language Ted uses, but Ted is fighting to let Jews protect themselves.  How many anti-semitics would fight with ever fiber of their being to make sure that Jews in particular have the right to own guns for protection?  The problem with people such as Mark Follman and Mother Jones is that they deliberately cherry-pick from Ted's statements to make him look anti-semitic.

The point that Ted was making is that some Jews haven't learned one important lesson from the Holocaust, a lesson that was behind the push to create the Jewish state: an attempt to create a safe place for Jews.  Anyone who takes a minute or two to read what Ted has written would know that he has one bottom line: let Jews protect themselves so that they can keep another Holocaust from ever happening.

Here is from a post that Ted also put up on Monday.  Why didn't Mother Jones quote this or at least try to explain it away?


As to the "Soulless sheep to slaughter" comment.  Couldn't Mother Jones have noted the full discussion?  See for example this discussion in the same post.


There are so many quotes that Mother Jones missed.  Ted writes in just a way that it is possible to take a short discussion out of context.  The question is why someone wants to go out of their way to take his statements out of context.  Why would anyone trust Mother Jones?

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2/08/2016

Is Hillary Clinton's Gun Control Push Backfiring in New Hampshire?

Over the last month, a quarter of all of her campaign ads in New Hampshire have focused on gun control. In rural areas of Iowa, by contrast, she did not run a single ad related to gun control. In all of Iowa, just six percent of her ads discussed guns.

But even among Democrats in New Hampshire things are working out quite as well as Hillary might have hoped.   From the Associated Press:
With each mass shooting in the United States in the past year, a debate raged about whether gun-control measures were overdue to make Americans safe.But not in New Hampshire.
The gun culture is alive and well here, and with a population overwhelmingly familiar with and comfortable with firearms, gun-control issues that have resonated across the nation barely register among voters getting ready for Tuesday's presidential primary.
"Most folks in New Hampshire, I don't want to call them pro-gun but they're comfortable with guns," said Wayne Lesperance, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. The state is legendary for its strong libertarian streak, famously boasting "Live Free or Die" on its license plates. . . .
Brita Tirrell, a New Hampshire native and 34-year-old nurse from Concord, doesn't own a gun and has no interest in them.
"Am I into violence? Nope. But am I opposed to people having them for their protection? No," she said. Asked where she ranks it in her thinking about the primary, she said, "It's at the bottom of the list." . . .

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2/06/2016

Which Republican presidential candidate has the highest probability of winning the general election?

My son Maxim and John Stossel have set up a website entitled "Election Betting Odds," where they show the probability that the candidates will win the Republican nomination and the presidency.  The problem with the current odds for winning the presidency is that what you really want are the odds of winning the presidency conditional on winning the nomination.  Looking at the odds for the candidates with at least a 10 percent chance of winning the Republican nomination, the conditional probabilities of winning the presidency are (8:30 AM EST February 6th, 2016):

Rubio 45% = 25.3%/56.7%
Trump 30% = 6.8%/23%
Cruz 28% = 3.5%/12.3%

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2/02/2016

UPDATE: Incredible winning rate of Hillary Clinton's coin flips to break caucus ties, a fifty-fifty split would have had Sanders ahead


As about 12:21 AM CST, there had been six out of six coin flips that Clinton had won to break ties.


The odds of winning six out of six coin flips with a fair coin is only 1.7%.  Using the latest number of delegates on Drudge shown above at 7:00 AM EST would still have Sanders ahead by one vote if the coin flips had gone 50-50.  Sanders would still be slightly ahead by 698 to 697.

Counting the votes might be a little more complicated in Iowa.  If each coin flip determines more than one of these 1,395 delegates, then Hillary would have had to win more than 50% of the coin flips to win the race.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reported that the Des Moines Register missed some cases.
The initial 6-for-6 report, from the Des Moines Register missed a few Sanders coin-toss wins. (There were a lot of coin tosses!) The ratio of Clinton to Sanders wins was closer to 50-50, which is what we'd expect. . . .
There might have been a total of 13 coin flips with Hillary Clinton winning 7 of the six. 

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1/28/2016

Is the media selectively using pictures to help Hillary Clinton by making her look much younger than she is? Hillary Clinton's stock pictures where she is pictured with other candidates look photoshopped to eliminate wrinkles

UPDATED: Here are some pictures from CNN and ABC of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders giving speeches. I then used a computer program to estimate the ages of the candidates.  The computer program provides fairly accurate estimates of their ages.  Both pictures is be fairly accurate in estimating their ages.

The weird thing occurs when you look at the stock pictures that the different networks use for the candidates.  Here are the pictures from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CBS News, ABC News, and NBC News.  In virtually all of them it is clear that Hillary Clinton's picture has been photo shopped so that she has a plastic type look and she appears to be much younger than she is.  Some of these pictures of Hillary Clinton are clearly airbrushed, particularly CNN and MSNBC.  While Hillary Clinton's campaign might have provided some of the pictures, many are clearly taken from these news programs stock footage.  But all the pictures of Hillary Clinton show her decades younger than her true age.  By contrast, half of Bernie Sanders pictures indicate that he is older than 74.  For Martin O'Malley, 3/4ths of his pictures show that he is older than his true age of 53.

Across the news show pictures shown below, Hillary Clinton's average estimated age is 38, about 30 years younger than her actual age.  Even eliminating CNN's picture where she appears to be only 29 years old, the average for the other five news organizations puts her at 28 years younger than her actual age.  The pictures used for the other candidates create an impression that the candidates are much closer to their actual ages.  Bernie Sanders' average estimated age is 71.3, about 3 years younger than his actual age.  Martin O'Malley's average estimated age is 58, five years older than his actual age.

To put it differently, if you relied on the stock photos provided by news organizations, Hillary is by far the youngest Democrat in the race, 20 years younger than O'Malley and 33 years younger than Sanders.

Even if wants to restrict the analysis to the polling type line up that I have for four of the news organizations, the results would have implied that Hillary Clinton was now 37.8 years younger than Sanders (Hillary Clinton estimated age of 39 and Bernie Sanders 76.8) and 20 years younger than O'Malley.  So as to reduce arbitrariness and facilitate comparisons where pictures are picked for pure news shows, I have limited myself to still shots where at least two of the candidates are pictured next to each other.

Note that there are other oddities with these pictures.  For example, for CBS compare the smiling Clinton to open mouthed Sanders or O'Malley.  I have no idea whether this makes her look more sympathetic and friendly, but it is interesting just to note that almost all the other networks have pictures for these polling results of all the candidates smiling.

The point of the two pictures of Clinton at the top and the one at the bottom show that there are lots of stock pictures that the media could have picked that would have treated Clinton similar to her Democratic opponents.

ADDITIONAL PICTURES
Here are some additional pictures to help gauge the accuracy of the How-Old.net program as well provide additional information on how Hillary is treated.  Megyn Kelly is 45, but she looks like she is 47.  Lester Holt is 58, but he looks 55.  Amazingly, at least to me, Megyn Kelly looks older than Hillary Clinton's still pictures used with the polling numbers.


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1/23/2016

Visit the Crime Prevention Research Center Website


If you are interested in research on crime and gun control, you will find a lot of original research at the CrimeResearch.org website.  Please visit.

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Donald Trump's changing positions on many issues over the last year (It isn't just the massive changes over the last decade)




Everyone knows that Donald Trump has been a Democrat, Independent, flirted with Ross Perot's Reform Party (from the left), and finally running as a Republican.  But it isn't just on abortion, taxes, Obamacare, Obama's economic policies, and gun control that Trump has had radical changes in his political views.

While saying that he is a conservative, he has attacked Republicans as being "captives of their right wing."

 Take changes over the last year:

-- Medicare: 

On October 25, 2015 on ABC News:
on ABC News’ "This Week” where Trump said he agreed with Carson’s plan to replace the 50-year-old Medicare system with health savings accounts (HSA)."I’m OK with the savings accounts. I think it’s a good idea,” Trump said Sunday. “It’s a very down-the-middle idea. It works. It’s something that’s proven.”
On the question Sunday about whether he agreed with Carson’s idea that "Medicare probably won’t be necessary,” Trump said, "It’s possible. You’re going to have to look at that. But I’ll tell you what; the health savings accounts, I’ve been talking about it also. I think it’s a very good idea … it’s an idea whose probably time has come.”
On MSNBC (liberal audience) on October 27, 2015
"Ben [Carson] wants to knock out Medicare. I heard that over the weekend. He wants to abolish Medicare,” Trump said of Carson’s comments that Medicare “probably won’t be necessary” under his health care plan.
Trump added: “Abolishing Medicare, I don't think you'll get away with that one. It's actually a program that's worked. It’s a program that some people love, actually.”
The Washington Post has a long list of quotes from this year on Trump’s plan to defeat the Islamic State, Trump’s plan for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States,
 Trump’s plan for tax reform, Trump’s plan for the nuclear deal with Iran, and Trump’s plan for “Obamacare.

There is a good reason that a lot of conservatives and libertarians are very concerned about Trump's candidacy  (see this discussion at NR).


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Now Donald Trump is openly moving towards being part of the establishment. What will happen after the election?

Trump is now saying that he is moving towards being with the establishment.  Can you imagine how much more Trump will change once he gets the Republican nomination?
"I think they're warming up. I want to be honest, I have received so many phone calls from people that you would call establishment, from people — generally speaking ... conservatives, Republicans — that want to come onto our team. . . . You know what? There's a point at which: Let's get to be a little establishment." 

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1/21/2016

The Republican "Establishment" views Ted Cruz, not Donald Trump as the Threat

UPDATE: After all the blow back that I got on Twitter about this post, it is amazing that Trump is now saying that he is moving towards being with the establishment:
"I think they're warming up. I want to be honest, I have received so many phone calls from people that you would call establishment, from people — generally speaking ... conservatives, Republicans — that want to come onto our team."
Original: Nate Silver at 538 explains that he thinks Trump is much more likely to be the Republican nominee because the Republican establishment seems to be fine with Trump winning.  From Nate's discussion:
But so far, the party isn’t doing much to stop Trump. Instead, it’s making such an effort against Cruz. Consider: 
  • The governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, said he wanted Cruz defeated.
  • Bob Dole warned of “cataclysmic” losses if Cruz was the nominee, and said Trump would fare better.
  • Mitch McConnell and other Republicans senators have been decidedly unhelpful to Cruz when discussing his constitutional eligibility to be president.
One doesn't have to look very far to see how Trump would protect vested interests.  While Ted Cruz will end the massive ethanol subsidies, a bold move for someone running in Iowa, Donald Trump did the opposite: he called for higher ethanol mandates.  This is the reason that Governor Terry Branstad is attacking Cruz. From The Hill Newspaper:
The event came hours after Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told voters in the first state to choose presidential candidates that they shouldn’t vote for Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), one of Trump’s most potent challengers.
Branstad cited Cruz’s opposition to continuing the ethanol mandate after 2022, saying Cruz is “heavily financed by Big Oil.” 
Trump welcomed Branstad’s comment. 
Cruz has “been mixed in the subject, he goes wherever the votes are, so he all of the sudden went over here, and then all of the sudden, he got slapped,” Trump said. “So it’s very interesting to see.” 
Trump was generally very supportive of the ethanol law, saying he is “100 percent” behind the ethanol industry, a powerful force in Iowa. . . .
When Ben Carson did the economically responsible thing and challenged tax deductions in the current code, something that would challenge many vested interests, Trump attacked Carson.

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Newest op-ed the New York Post: "What Bernie Sanders misses about the rise in campaign cash"

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John Lott has a new piece in the New York Post:
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders thinks that millionaires and billionaries buy elections. 
He hammered away during Sunday’s Democratic debate, complaining about people “pouring unbelievable sums of money into the political process.” 
According to estimates made by the Center for Responsive Politics, $3.77 billion was spent on elections for federal office during the 2014 midterms. 
Sanders blames this on the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, prohibiting the government from restricting independent political spending by unions, corporations and advocacy groups. But the growth rate in campaign spending long predates that case, and has actually slowed down since that decision. 
There was only a 4 percent increase in spending from the 2010 to the 2014 midterm elections. So much for Sanders’ “explosion.” 
In fact, this rate of growth was unusually small — much smaller than the 31 percent average growth that usually took place between midterm congressional elections from 1998 to 2010. 
So what really causes political spending to increase over time? The answer won’t make Sanders very happy. 
The truth is that government expenditures and campaign expenditures have increased in tandem. Total campaign spending soared from $1.6 billion in 1998 to $3.77 billion in 2014. Federal government spending rose at virtually the same rate, going from $1.65 trillion to $3.9 trillion. 
With more at stake, it makes sense for there to be an even bigger fight over who controls the federal government. If federal spending still amounted to 2 percent to 3 percent of GDP — as it did a century ago — people likely wouldn’t care as passionately about the outcome of most elections. 
In the Journal of Law and Economics in 2000, I looked at the years 1976 to 1994 and studied spending on gubernatorial and state legislative campaigns. Almost 80 percent of the increase in campaign spending could be explained by the growth of state governments. . . .
The rest of the piece is available here

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1/12/2016

MIT develops new incandescent light bulb that is cheaper than LEDs

From the UK Telegraph:
Researchers at MIT have shown that by surrounding the filament [in the traditional incandescent bulb] with a special crystal structure in the glass they can bounce back the energy which is usually lost in heat, while still allowing the light through. . . . 
Usually traditional light bulbs are only about five per cent efficient, with 95 per cent of the energy being lost to the atmosphere. In comparison LED or florescent bulbs manage around 14 per cent efficiency. But the scientists believe that the new bulb could reach efficiency levels of 40 per cent. . . . 
But if the new bulbs live up to expectations they would cost under 50p a year to run and even improve health. . . .

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My newest piece at the Daily Caller on Obama's false statements during his CNN Townhall

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John Lott's newest opinion piece at the Daily Caller starts this way:
I wish that I had been able to go to CNN’s town hall with President Obama. But Thursday night’s event was invitation-only. 
Still, Anderson Cooper, the moderator, challenged the president a few times. But the president just made one false claim after another. 
When rape survivor Kimberly Corban asked why she shouldn’t be able to carry a gun to protect herself, Obama said his current executive actions won’t make it harder for her to purchase a firearm. He claimed, he isn’t proposing anything that “prevents you or makes it harder for you to purchase a firearm if you need one.” 
Obama’s proposed expanded background checks will make guns more expensive, perhaps prohibitively so for poorer people. In DC, where Obama was speaking from, expanded background checks add about $125 to the cost of transferring a gun. 
After the event, CNN brought in conservative commentators such as SE Cupp. However, they failed to understand the issues here. It’s not just that the laws won’t do any good — they will also come with some real costs. These laws won’t stop mass public shootings, but they will hurt law-abiding citizens.  
Then came the issue of expanded background checks leading to a national gun registry. Anderson Cooper said that people are afraid of having their guns taken away and asked, “Is it fair to call it a conspiracy?” “Yes, it is fair to call it a conspiracy,” Obama said, seemingly intimidating Cooper into dropping the subject. . . .
The rest of the piece is available here.

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1/08/2016

Very damning: Hillary Clinton clearly knew that she was sending secret information via insecure emails and that she knew it was wrong

From Fox News:
In response to Clinton's request for a set of since-redacted talking points, Sullivan writes, "They say they've had issues sending secure fax. They're working on it." Clinton responds "If they can't, turn into nonpaper [with] no identifying heading and send nonsecure."Ironically, an email thread from four months earlier shows Clinton saying she was "surprised" that a diplomatic oficer named John Godfrey used a personal email account to send a memo on Libya policy after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi. . . .
These two paragraphs are very damning.  They show both that she knew she was telling people to send secret information in a way that wasn't secure, that her previous statements that the secret material wasn't labeled may have been because she thought she could hide that it was secret and protect her from liability (she is wrong legally even if she thought this excuse could confuse the issue), and finally that she called out others for doing what she was doing.

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Newest Fox News piece: "Obama and guns: Eleven false or misleading claims from the president's remarks this week"

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My newest op-ed at Fox News discusses some of the errors in Obama's talk on Tuesday.
With tears in his eyes, President Obama pulled out all the stops in pushing his new executive orders on gun control this week.  A Washington Post headline exclaimed, "President Obama’s amazingly emotional speech on gun control.”  But the president also tried to appeal to people’s minds with a barrage of factual claims. 
Unfortunately, the president’s remarks had a large number of errors.  Here are 11 of the false or misleading claims that the president made. 
1. “But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close.” 
Last year, both France and the US had four mass public shootings.  France suffered more casualties (murders and injuries) from mass public shootings in 2015 than the US has suffered during Obama’s entire presidency (532 to 396).  And this occurred despite the US being five times more populous than France. 
But it isn’t just the horrific year that France had last year.  Far from being well below the frequency found in US, other European countries actually have a worse problem.  From 2009 through December 2015, eleven European countries experienced mass public shootings at a greater frequency than did the US, after adjusting for population.  These countries include Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. 
President Obama’s statement is clearly false. 
2. Five years ago this week, a sitting member of Congress and 18 others were shot at, at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. It wasn’t the first time I had to talk to the nation in response to a mass shooting, nor would it be the last. Fort Hood. Binghamton. Aurora. Oak Creek. Newtown. The Navy Yard. Santa Barbara. Charleston. San Bernardino. . . . with common-sense gun safety measures we can reduce gun violence a whole lot more. . . .  Number one, anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions.” 
Obama claims that expanding background checks to include any private transfers of guns will reduce mass public shootings.  But he offers no evidence.  Not one mass public shooting during Obama’s administration would have prevented by these checks. . . .
The rest of the piece is available here.

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1/01/2016

Expanded background checks discussed in the Sunday Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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Colin McNickle has this piece in the Sunday Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Oh, what an indictment, eh? Well, not exactly.
The Times, which on Dec. 5 ran a front-page editorial (the first since 1920 when it took Republicans to task for nominating Warren G. Harding for president) against guns, was citing a study by Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. But as gun scholar John Lott Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, pointed out for me last week, “cherry picking” results tend to give you the results you're predisposed to seek.
As Mr. Lott found, in an exhaustive 2014 review of Mr. Webster's research, the results are more complicated than simply looking at what the average murder rates were before and after rescinding the Missouri law.
“While it is true that the murder rate in Missouri rose (about) 17 percent relative to the rest of the United States after the law was changed, it had actually increased by 32 percent during the five years prior to the change,” Lott then wrote.
Thus, the real question for researchers to consider, according to Lott, is why “the Missouri murder rate was increasing relative to the rest of the U.S. at a slower rate after the change in the law” — after the comprehensive background checks were scotched — “than it did prior to it.”
But the bottom line remains this: “Imposing the law raised murder and robbery rates,” Lott told me. “Removing the law lowered them.” . . .
The issue of cherry-picking is much broader than this.  The question is if you have 20 states that have had these expanded background checks, why pick only one state to look at?  If Missouri enacts this law in 1981 and rescinds it in 2007, why only look at when it is rescinded?  The proper way to examine this question is to look at it the way Lott did in the third edition of More Guns, Less Crime as it examined all the states that have adopted or rescinded these types of laws between 1977 and 2005.  Those estimate showed no benefit in expanded background checks reducing violent crime.

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My newest piece at Fox News: "Open carry comes to Texas: Why the Lone Star state will be safer in 2016"

Open Carry Picture
John Lott's newest piece at Fox News starts this way:
With about 900,000 concealed handgun permit holders in Texas, there is a good chance that someone next you in a Lone Star State grocery store or restaurant is carrying a concealed handgun.  Starting Friday, Texas will join 44 other statesthat already allow people to openly carry handguns throughout the state.
Amidst today’s threats of terrorism and mass public shootings, it is a good thing when we enable people to legally carry guns and protect themselves.
Under the new law, a person will need a concealed handgun permit to be able to openly carry a gun.
If the experiences of other states are any guide, few people will actually openlycarry their handguns.  Moreover, businesses can still prohibit guns or request that they be concealed.  However, the Chief Financial Officer of Kroger (America’s largest supermarket chain), has just said that the company will allow open carry. He says that the company hasn’t encountered any problems with open carry.  Other supermarket companies such as Whole Foods, Randall’s, and H-E-B, will be posting signs banning open carry. They will still be allowing concealed carry.
These bans may be short lived.  When Texas originally passed concealed carry in 1996, many stores initially posted signs banning concealed carry. With a few years, those signs all but disappeared.
An odd nuance in Texas law has led to much national attention in the last couple of years.  Before Friday, people were allowed to openly carry rifles, just not handguns.   No problems ever occurred, but simply the additional handling required for carrying rifle as opposed to keeping a holstered handgun, certainly created concern that something might go wrong.
Some, such as Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown advocacy group, put pressure on companies to ban openly carried rifles.
Hillary Clinton also chimed in: “The idea that you could have an open carry permit with an AK-47 over your shoulder walking down the isles of a Supermarket is just despicable.”
Starbucks, Jack in the Box, Chipotle, Wendy's, Applebee's, Chili’s and Sonic’s all “respectfully request” that customers not openly carry guns.  More importantly, however, they still allow people to carry a concealed gun. . . . .
The rest of the piece is available here.
Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at Thursday, December 31, 10.46 AM
Even before our piece was listed on Fox News' front page, it was the most read piece in the opinion section.
Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at Thursday, December 31, 8.25 AM
Here is an interesting video on discussing the practical differences in carrying open versus concealed.

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12/31/2015

What is ahead for Russia

As you read this, please keep in mind that the price of oil from the Urals was down to $34.58 at the end of 2015.  With price of oil down from the $50 per barrel that the Russia government was predicting when they drew up spending for 2016, the deficit will have grown from 3% to 4% of GDP, but that assumes a constant GDP.  Assuming that GDP falls by 10 percent (given that the current oil price is the best predictor of what it will be and the numbers given below), that implies that the deficit will rise to 4.4% of GDP.  A 10% further drop in GDP as well as the costs of the war in Syria and the large military expenditures by Russia, could greatly reduce per capita real income.  Interestingly, unlike US policies, the Russian government has dramatically cut back on government spending.  Otherwise, they would be even much worse shape.  Note this recent drop is on top of the 50% drop that had occurred in 2014.  From the WSJ:
After plunging from more than $100 a barrel to nearly $50 a barrel last year, U.S. oil prices fell 30% in 2015 to $37.04 a barrel. Brent, the global benchmark, fell 35% to $37.28 a barrel.
From the UK Guardian:
Vladimir Putin goes into 2016 with record approval ratings but the shakiest economic outlook since he took charge. In the 15 years he has been at the helm, 2015 was the first year that real wages registered a decline, something that did not happen even during the 2008-09 financial crisis. 
Oil and gas exports make up about half of the Russian budget, and the rouble ratehas been strongly linked to the price of oil. . . . 
The [Rubble] regained some of its value by spring, but falling oil prices in autumn have caused it to fall back to lows similar to those it experienced in late 2014. . . . 
Last October, Putin said that if the price of oil fell below $80 a barrel, the world economy would crash. A range of other top Russian officials made similar statements, in effect ruling out the possibility that oil could fall below $70. 
Some analysts say the rouble is still overvalued, and the current oil price should theoretically push the rouble down further. This is necessary to balance the budget: the fewer dollars Russia receives for the oil it sells, the higher the exchange rate needs to be for the budget to receive the requisite amount of roubles. For the budget to balance at 65 roubles, not far off the current rate, the price of oil should be $70, a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch report found.  
For ordinary Russians, it could be a tough year ahead. Those who were used to travelling abroad have already had to scale back as the rouble made the cost of visiting foreign cities prohibitive; and rising food prices have made it harder to balance the books for many families. 
The 2016 budget, fixed in October, requires oil to be at $50 in order to run a 3% deficit within “acceptable” rouble rate limits, meaning if the price does not rise soon, cuts will need to be made or reserves spent. The war in Syria is an extra cost, and the announced increases in military spending are not likely to be reversed. . . .
Some other somewhat out of date data is here:
When oil prices drop, Russia suffers greatly. Oil and gas comprise over 60% of Russia's exports and make up over 30% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). The effect of the 2014 oil price collapse on Russia's economy was fast and devastating. Between June and December 2014, the Russian ruble declined in value by 59% relative to the U.S. dollar. At the beginning of 2015, Russia, along with neighboring Ukraine, had the lowest purchasing power parity (PPP) relative to the U.S. of any country in the world. A declining PPP lowers living standards, as goods purchased using the native currency become more expensive than they should be. Moreover, Russia does not receive much of an economic benefit from lower pump prices as the U.S. does, as Russians consume much less oil and gas than Americans. Less than 30% of the Russia's oil production is kept for domestic use; the rest is exported. . . . 
Some graphs here show how much the value of the Rubble has fallen relative to the US$ since the beginning of 2014 and 2008.
Here is the drop in the Rubble even compared to the EURO.


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