Guns, wind, and fiscal cliffs.

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View 755 Thursday, December 27, 2012

The media seem determined to mock the NRA for the view that “the main deterrent to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” but I see no error in the statement. As to the suggestion of having armed personnel at the schools, surely that is a local matter. In Los Angeles the immediate policy reaction of the Mayor and Chief of Police was to instruct patrol officers to once a day at some random time go to each school campus in their patrol area. I don’t know if we have enough resources to implement this, but we can hope so, and it certainly seems like a reasonable idea.

I also note that had the active duty officers at Fort Hood been wearing sidearms, far fewer people would have been harmed when Major Hassan smuggled in a pistol and began firing randomly at his comrades in what is officially described as a work place incident rather than a terrorist act. I recall that my youth, officers and senior non-commission officers were always armed when they went out in public: it was just part of the uniform. In England the Sam Brown belt and Webley revolver were a common sight in the World War II era. Given the size and weight of the Webley the Sam Brown belt was very nearly necessary. Now one might limit this to combat branch officers and sergeants, in which case the argument is that if you trust these people to lead your kids into harm’s way you have no business saying they are not trustworthy enough to be armed in public.

When I was a University of Washington campus policeman for a short time, that officially made me a Washington State Policeman, and it was understood that even off duty we were law enforcement officers. We were permitted to carry weapons off duty although I did not. I don’t recall any untoward consequences of this policy (nor any advantages either). It does seem reasonable to find ways to put good guys with guns in places that bad guys might bring guns.

Of course what most people want is another law. Once guns are banned, I presume we will have to worry about regulating hatchets and machetes.

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We daily lurch toward the fiscal cliff, and no one makes any practical suggestions.

I know how we could save $12 Billion a year with a positive effect on the economy, without having to do a thing: let the subsidy to wind power generation expire. It was abolished ten years ago with 31 December 2012 as the expiration date. It costs $12 billion in direct subsidies. The amount of energy generated by wind is small, but letting the subsidy expire won’t cause any shut down of existing mills. Windmill operating costs are low enough that once built they can make some profit – but not enough to amortize the capital costs of building them in the first place. But the ones we have are already built. The end of the subsidy will actually bring about a drop in the costs of energy. Lower energy costs are always a better economic stimulus than any “stimulus program” ever has.

I have no predictions about what happens next. My guess is that Obama will allow us to go over the cliff, and thus expose every American family to a couple of thousand dollars tax hike; then he will come as the savior with the “Obama Tax Cut” which will be essentially the restoration of the expiring Bush Tax Cuts applied to 95% of the population. Everyone will cheer Obama and curse Bush.

I suspect though that we will get emergency legislation to restore the wind power subsidies as part of the Obama Tax Cut. I sure hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

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I have dental appointments. Managed to knock out a tooth when I fell and bashed myself a few days ago. All’s well, I am more embarrassed than hurt, and the swelling has gone away on my lip leaving me with no more than a magnificent black eye. And it’s lunch time.

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For those interested in more information on wind energy subsidies, former Senator Gramm has a Wall Street Journal article at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324481204578179373031924936.html?mod=googlenews_wsj including some specific numbers.

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I have been looking for federal employees whose jobs should be redundant in that we don’t need done that which they are doing. Some are doubly redundant – we’d be better off if they weren’t doing it. One group are those who hounded Dr. Peter Gleason to his death over his peer-reviewed articles pointing out a useful off-label use for Xyrem, whose label use is for narcolepsy. The six federal agents who handcuffed him and the entire prosecutorial team involved might be better employed as bunny inspectors.

The government does a lot of expensive things that either don’t need doing or which actually cause more harm than good. It would make a certain amount of sense to identify these and leave them out of appropriation bills. The money saved might not be very great – although the wind energy subsidies certainly involve real money, a hundred billion here and a hundred billion there really does add up to real money – but even a few million saved is worth saving. Particularly if the effect is to stem the flow of information. As it happens I knew the Glendale dentist whose speculations about the effects of aspirin on his patients led to Big Medicine reconsidering aspirin’s use in heart cases; and I was witness to some of the humiliating treatment he received at medical conferences when he simply tried to get them to consider his theory.

In my judgment the FDA assumes that American citizens are dolts, not free citizens, and assumes powers it should not have. I can very well appreciate the usefulness of enforcing truth in labeling. I can defend the notion that the FDA can require drug dispensers to say “The use of this product for purposes other than those listed as approved is done at the risk of the patient, and we think this stuff is likely to kill you or do something awful to you. Just as I can accept that if a product advertises itself as genuine snake oil it ought to contain oil squeezed out of a snake. I have no objection to labels that say The FDA believes that if you take this stuff you are out of your ever-loving blue-eyed mind, and God have mercy on your soul. But to jail a doctor for telling a medical conference that he has evidence that the stuff is useful is a job not worth doing.

You can’t protect free people from everything. Attempts to do so can lead to bad results. But then science fiction readers have thought about this for a long time.

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