What do high infant mortality rates really tell you?

The US and the UK have high infant mortality rates. As the Economist.com points out:

THE new UNICEF report on children in industrial countries is out. Readers will be shocked, shocked! to find out that the United States and the UK are indisputably the worst places to have been a child.

The problem with all of these reports, of course, is what computer programmers call GIGO—Garbage In, Garbage Out. They are extraordinarily sensitive to the chosen metrics. So if you think that the most important thing is for children to be as close to each other as possible in income distribution, you will decide that Danish children are living in paradise. On the other hand, if you peg material items like dishwashers, computers, and so forth as major contributors to child welfare, then the United States might be more to your taste; as the Heritage Foundation points out, the Census Bureau finds that . . .

Yet neither income inequality, nor the abundance of colour televisions, tells me what I want to know which is how happy and healthy are children in these various countries?

Even things like health statistics are fraught. African-Americans have, for reasons no one quite understands, higher levels of premature birth, infant mortality, and low-birth-weight babies, and birth complications. This is true even when obvious factors like income, prenatal care, and maternal health and age are controlled for, and substantially lowers America's performance in the statistics.

Similarly, the UN has somewhat inexplicably decided to use "deaths from accidents and injuries, 0-19", as a proxy for health among that age group, rather than the more obvious "deaths, 0-19". This statistic makes America look awful, almost entirely due to the fact that American children spend a lot of time in cars. Yet the differences run from 10 per 100,000 to 20 per 100,000, meaning that 99.98% of American children lead lives blissfully untouched by accidental death. . . . .

There is also the possibility of what is known as the Peltzman effect. Making something safer can actually encourage more dangerous behavior. Suppose that you make riding a motorcylce completely safe. What would happen to how fast that you drive? I bet that people would drive a lot faster. In general, safety features may increase or decrease the number of deaths. Airbags might reduce the number of deaths per accident, but they might also increase the number of accidents because people feel that they can drive more recklessly. You might also be more likely to accidentally kill a few pedestrians. There is always the risk that improved health care might generate a similar response. Some groups of people might respond to these changing costs more than others.

Of course, some people might engage in risky behavior generally because of the social safety net. People might be more willing to risk getting hooked on drugs because there are so many potential protections for them. But getting hooked on drugs might also mean more premature births and thus greater child mortality.


John Fund Talks to Fred Thompson About His Potential Run For President

As usual, John Fund provides a very interesting discussion:

[Thompson] is shaking up the race. Every GOP candidate is nervously watching the reaction to his possible entry. J.C. Watts, an Oklahoma congressman from 1995 to 2003, has endorsed him: "I define Fred Thompson as AC, what's AC? All class."

Fan blogs for "Law and Order" note that since the show is especially popular among women, a Thompson race could help close the GOP's "gender gap." The most pithy comment is from Craig Hammond, a former mayor of Bluefield, W.Va. He told the Bluefield News: "He's the tall timber we've been waiting for. He's the total package. He can hold the red states and pick up a few blue ones along the way." . . .

So many voters remain unsold on any of the current GOP contenders that Mr. Thompson just might trade his TV sound stage for a campaign microphone. As this is the first truly open Republican nomination fight in decades, the party might as well revel in the competition it claims to cherish in other parts of life.

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Gas price conspiracy?

I suppose that I should have expected it. I was at a gas station today, and the price was about $2.60 per gallon. Two of the other customers were extremely upset arguing that the pump price was going up at the same time that the crude oil price was going down. They were claiming that the price had nothing to do with the cost of gas to the gas company. Well, I tried to argue with them, but it was obviously futile. Just on the microscopic probability that these two gentlemen actually read my blog, the figure from gasbuddy.com shows that the price at the pump is closely related to the price of crude oil. The most obvious difference is that the price at the pump doesn't vary as much day to day as the price of crude because gas companies bear inventory costs to smooth out these price swings for their customers.



Huckabee has concealed handgum permit

Huckabee may be the only presidential candidate from either party with his own concealed handgun permit:

As someone with his own permit to carry a concealed weapon, Huckabee said he's in favor of people owning firearms to protect their families. . . .

UPDATE: I don't know what I was thinking, but a commentor corectly notes that New Mexican Governor Bill Richardson also has a concealed handgun permit. Thanks for the correction.

(Corrected typo)


Message to Bloomberg: Police volunters without guns in NYC? What are you thinking?

Given that Bloomberg is against even police carrying guns off-duty, I suppose that this isn't too surprising. Yet, if this is the policy that you are going to adopt, possibly you should also have strategy of teaching these volunteers to run away from any attacks when they occur.

NEW YORK — A gunman rampaged through a strip of restaurants and bars in a trendy Manhattan neighborhood, killing two unarmed volunteer police officers and a pizzeria employee, the mayor said.

Regular police officers then shot and killed gunman David Gavin, who had bag with a fake beard, two guns and 100 rounds of ammunition, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said early Thursday.

"Tonight was a horrible night for the New York Police Department and for our city," he said. "Two men who volunteered their time to make our city the safest big city in America lost their lives helping to keep it exactly that way."

A neighborhood resident, Tina Lourenko, said she saw the gunman and recognized him as a former employee of the pizzeria. . . .

Thanks to Robert Stevens for getting me to think about this piece a second time.

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So has Bush Transformed the Supreme Court?

Stuart Taylor has a very interesting discussion regarding two people who you would think can answer this question. Jan Crawford Greenburg things that Bush as transformed the court, but Benjamin Wittes is more doubtful. I think that Wittes is right. Conservatives need at least one more retirement of one of the liberals to make a real difference.

A year after conservative Justice Samuel Alito succeeded liberal-leaning Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a disagreement between two of the nation's best legal journalists about how much President Bush has transformed the Supreme Court prompts this challenge to Court-watchers:

What will the legal landscape look like in 10 years? Make your predictions and place your bets. . . .

In a widely acclaimed book full of revelations about behind-the-scenes battles over the Court, Jan Crawford Greenburg, now of ABC News, says that after decades of disappointment, conservatives have finally won the day. The appointments of Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts will produce a "profound and lasting alteration," Greenburg writes in Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. They and their allies will now engineer "one of the most fateful shifts in the country's judicial landscape in a generation... with repercussions as yet unimagined," she predicts.

"I'm not holding my breath," retorts Benjamin Wittes in The New Republic Online. Wittes, an author and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution who until recently wrote the nation's smartest legal editorials for The Washington Post, highly recommends Greenburg's book (as do I) for its "genuinely spectacular" reporting. But he dissents from her view that Bush has set the stage for an era of conservative hegemony. . . .

First, the gist of the Greenburg-Wittes debate: She foresees that the 56-year-old Alito will tip to the conservative side those big 5-4 decisions that O'Connor had tipped to the liberal side. In addition, she says, the 52-year-old Roberts is more persuasive, more energetic, and no less conservative than his predecessor as chief justice. Third, both new justices have such strong conservative principles and legal minds that they are unlikely to drift leftward as have other Republican appointees, including John Paul Stevens, O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter. But Roberts and Alito are also more collegial and less confrontational than conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and thus less likely to alienate their more moderate (and liberal) colleagues.

Wittes responds that an improbable number of stars must align to bring about a dramatic transformation. The Court still has only four conservatives, he points out. Kennedy, now the key swing justice, has voted with the liberals on four of the five hottest issues, as detailed below, and is only shakily allied with the conservatives on the fifth. Roberts and Alito, unlike Scalia and Thomas, have not so far acted like conservative warriors itching to mow down forests of liberal precedents. To the contrary, the chief justice says his goal is to promote greater consensus by deciding cases on narrow, relatively uncontroversial grounds.

Then there are the wild cards. While liberal Justices Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are 86 and 73 years old, respectively, Scalia and Kennedy are both 70. Who will outlast whom? And who will fill any vacancies?

A nice debate. But it's time for hard predictions. Here are mine, on the five (currently) hottest issues. . . .

Summarizing Taylor's predictions in the rest of the piece:

Abortion: not much of an effect
Race: could go either way
Religion: "Alito and Roberts will probably strike down fewer holiday nativity scenes, Ten Commandments displays . . ." Otherwise not much change.



Concealed Handgun Permit Holder Stops Robbers

Nice example of when a permit holder from another state stops a crime because he was able to legally carry due to reciprocity.

Bridgeton, Missouri 3/13/2007

Florida conceal-carry permit holder staying at the Motel 6 in Bridgeton foils an armed robbery attempt on the part of convicted felon Ricardo Crossland (above), and one other man who is still at large.

The Florida man, only identified as a 23-year old (good job, KSDK, for keeping a CCW permit holder’s name secret; you ought to teach the Roanoke Times a thing or three), willingly surrendered his legally owned and carried pistol to Bridgeton police, presumably for evidence and to help apprehend the other suspect, thereby proving the left’s hysterical contention that CCW permit holders or advocates are a bunch of wild crazy gun nuts.

Missouri’s CCW provisions allow permit holders from any other state to carry in Missouri. The reverse is not always true.

As for Mr. Crossland, he now faces state charges of robbery and armed criminal action, and perhaps Miss Hanaway can look into a Federal rap of felon-in-possession. The decline and fall of Bridgeton continues.

For the original news story go here.

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More on "The Great Global Warming Swindle"

Reaction to "The Great Global Warming Swindle" from a weather forecaster:

"Last week I mentioned the British documentary on global warming, "The Great Global Warming Swindle." If you go to Google and type in that title and then click video in the tabs, it will offer a link to the one-hour, 15-minute film.

Unlike Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth," where he mainly lectures with a PowerPoint presentation and shows graphs and data, this film is based almost entirely on interviews of well-recognized experts. Climatologists, oceanographers, meteorologists and other scientists present their views on just what is going on with the planet. The film also explains how the political aspect of global warming began in 1984. It also gives a hint to the incompleteness of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming. . . .

I am currently working on a short thesis of sorts with my thoughts on global warming and will post that soon on my blog at www.weathersystems.com. I have said for years that global climate change goes in cycles due to natural causes. I still believe that from every scientific fact that I have come across.

In the new documentary the scientists give good explanations about the CO" issue and imply that the sun is the main culprit in our climate change cycles. They also show that man causes a very minute amount of CO" gases compared to oceans, volcanoes, forests, plants and animals. Referring to Gore's film, they state that he was correct with the deposits of CO" in ice core samples, but what he didn't say is that the high amounts of CO" occurred decades after a warming period, not before. And the melting Greenland glaciers used as an example in his film in have stopped flowing into the sea and are actually building up ice once again in 2006.

Where was the media before Gore got his Academy Award:

The New York Times [NYT] fires a shot today at Al Gore and his Academy Award-winning global warming film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” saying it involves “hype” and shoddy science.

“Hollywood has a thing for Al Gore and his three-alarm film . . . So do many environmentalists, who praise him as a visionary, and many scientists, who laud him for raising public awareness,” the Times reports. “But part of his scientific audience is uneasy . . . these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous.”

The Times quotes geologist Don J. Easterbrook, addressing the Geological Society of America: “I don’t want to pick on Al Gore. But there are a lot of inaccuracies . . . we have to temper that with real data.”

James E. Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a Gore adviser, told the Times, “Al does an exceptionally good job of seeing the forest for the trees,” but his work has “imperfections.” He singled out Gore’s dire prediction of more, deadlier hurricanes as exaggerated.

The Times cites a recent U.N. report’s prediction of a maximum 23-inch ocean rise this century, while Gore claims the ocean will rise 20 feet over an unspecified time, flooding entire cities. . . . .

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Draft Thompson Website


Clip of Fred Thompson on Fox News Sunday

You can see Fred Thompson on Fox News Sunday here. He comes across very powerfully in the interview. My guess is that he will remind many of Reagan.

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Film on Global Warming "Swindle"

BBC film on "The Great Global Warming Swindle." This is an excellent film, though I will say that I found the discussion about who paid what to whom to buy their support not very useful. I would have definitely cut it out.

Something amusing can be seen here:
MINNEAPOLIS - A North Pole expedition meant to bring attention to global warming was called off after one of the explorers got frostbite.

The explorers, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen, on Saturday called off what was intended to be a 530-mile trek across the Arctic Ocean after Arnesen suffered frostbite in three of her toes, and extreme cold temperatures drained the batteries in some of their electronic equipment. . . . .

More evidence that the sun is the cause of temperature changes:
Sun Blamed for Warming of Earth and Other Worlds . . . .

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Happy Washingtonians Celebrating D.C. Circuit Court Decision on Guns

The picture is of Franklin Raff, who sent it to me.


Notes on the D.C. Circuit Court's Decision on Banning Guns

Here is the write up that I have at today's National Review Online:

John R. Lott Jr.
For several decades, D.C.’s gun ban has served an important educational purpose. With the nation’s strictest gun-control laws, gun-control advocates have been embarrassed that the city has frequently had the highest murder rate of any large city in the U.S. This was hardly the case prior to the ban. Yet, the D.C. Circuit Court striking down the ban will prove just as embarrassing because the long predicted surge in violent crime will not occur.

Surely the ban cannot be blamed for all the District’s crime problems. The police department has had severe problems over hiring standards as well as management and morale issues.

But the long-term changes in crime rates before and after the ban are difficult to ignore. In the five years before Washington’s ban in 1976, the murder rate fell from 37 to 27 per 100,000. In the five years after it went into effect, the murder rate rose back up to 35. During this same time, robberies fell from 1,514 to 1,003 per 100,000 and then rose by over 63 percent, up to 1,635. The five-year trends are not some aberration. In fact, while murder rates have varied over time, during the 30 years since the ban, the murder rate has only once fallen below what it was in 1976.

D.C.’s experience strongly suggests that gun bans disarm only law-abiding citizens while leaving criminals free to prey on the populace.


Roanoke Times publishing list of Virginia permit holders

About 2 percent of Virginians, 135,789 of us, have concealed handgun permits. . . .

As a Sunshine Week gift, The Roanoke Times has placed the entire database, mistakes and all, online at www.roanoke.com/gunpermits. You can search to find out if neighbors, carpool partners, elected officials or anyone else has permission to carry a gun. . . . .

One of the benefits of concealed handguns is that criminals don't know who is going to be able to defend themselves, so even those who have no plans of carrying a concealed handgun benefit from the fact that others do so. Now if a criminal wants to attack someone all a criminal has to do is look up the name of a potential victim and see if they are able to defend themselves. I have one question for Christian Trejbal (the writer of the piece): Does he put a sign up in front of his home reading "This is a gun free home"? Probably not, and for good reason.

Thanks to William Taggart for alerting me to this newspaper article.

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Global Warming Fears May Result in Imposing Autobahn Speed Limits

Fred Thompson for President

My guess is that if former Senator Thompson decides to run for President, he has a better than even chance of winning. I think that he would have all the benefits of Giuliani without almost any of the costs. My one concern regarding Thompson is his support for campaign finance reform, but beyond that I think that he would be a great candidate. Newt would also be great, but I worry that he would find a general election race much more difficult. If Thompson entered the race, I don't think that Newt would run.

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Review of Clayton Cramer’s terrific new book, "Armed America"

Here is a new book review that I have in Sunday's New York Post.

Did you know that in New York City, through 1969 virtually all the public high schools had riflery teams?

Thousands of students carried their rifles on subways, buses and streets on their way to school, when they went to practice in the afternoon and on their way home. And until 1963, all commercial pilots were required to carry guns and were allowed to carry guns until 1987.

Gun laws have certainly changed over time.

Today towns such as Kennesaw, Ga., Greenfeld, Idaho and Geuda Springs, Kan., which all require residents to own guns, are considered the oddity. But Clayton Cramer’s terrific new book, "Armed America," shows that, in fact, gun ownership has been deeply woven into this country’s since the colonial period. . . .

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Vote Fraud in New Jersey