All Postings from December 2003

12/30/03
Information on Baghdad's corrected murder rate numbers being given wide coverage

The National Post (one of Canada's two national newspapers) as well as a large number of major papers such as the Ottawa Citizen and Vancouver Sun gave the story wide play.

But according to the U.S. Army's latest counts, Baghdad had fewer reported murders per 100,000 population in October than even New York, which federal authorities this month declared the safest city in the United States. Baghdad's murder rate was also significantly lower than that in Washington, D.C., which Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Defense Secretary, is sure to note after political opponents ridiculed him for saying as much in June.

Mark Belling, who substituted for Rush Limbaugh on his national radio show, also discussed the information in yesterday's New York Post piece on Baghdad's murder rate (subscription required).

12/29/03
Deterrence works in Baghdad

The New York Post has a very detailed discussion of the murder rate numbers in Baghdad.

The newest numbers, released by the Army's 1st Infantry Division, reveal that over the past three months, murders and other crimes in Baghdad are decreasing dramatically and that in the month of October, there were fewer murders per capita there than the Big Apple, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The Bush administration and outside experts are touting these new figures as a sign that, eight months after the fall of Saddam Hussein, major progress is starting to be made in the oft-criticized effort by the United States and coalition partners to restore order and rebuild Iraq.

"If these numbers are accurate, they show that the systems we put in place four months ago to develop a police force based on the principles of a free and democratic society are starting to work," said former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who traveled to Iraq to oversee the rebuilding of the police force.

"It shows that the enforcement is working. It shows that the coordination between the Iraqi police and the U.S. military is working. It shows that having an Iraqi face out there standing up is working. The more you stand up, the more these crime numbers are going to go down," Kerik said. . . .

John Lott of the American Enterprise Institute, who recently published an extensive analysis on Iraqi crime figures, says the numbers indicate that Baghdad's murder rate dropped from 19.5 per 100,000 people in July to a rate of five killings per 100,000 people in October.

12/28/03
Should Journalists In War Zones Carry Weapons?

An interesting piece in the WSJ (Should Journalists in War Zones Carry Weapons? 12/29) discusses journalists who carry guns for protection in Iraq (subscription required). The news story on reporters covering the Iraq war who carry guns never mentions the broader hypocrisy of the media on guns. Surely reporters, such as the New York Times reporter the piece focuses on, who feel their safety threatened, understandably want a gun for protection, but doesn�t that apply to others? The Times decision to back the reporter is also understandable. But just last week the Times had a news article criticizing professional athletes who own guns for self-protection (indeed, as typical for the Times, their reporter could not find a single expert defending the professional athletes�� decisions). In addition, reporters for the Times in Iraq are not the only ones who carry guns when their safety is threatened. Arthur O. Sulzberger, chairman for the New York Times, has had a permit to carry a concealed handgun in New York City, but the Times would fight against others being granted the same privilege.

It is too bad that we had to read about the Times reporter carrying a gun in the Wall Street Journal and not in the Times itself. Possibly then the Times would have found one expert supporting the practice.

12/19/03
Is the Supreme Court's Campaign Finance Decision Already Unraveling

My latest piece for National Review explains why part of the Supreme Court's decision on McCain-Feingold may already be irrelevant.

12/12/03
Baghdad's Distorted Murder Rate

Unfortunately, there have been a lot of incorrect information regarding the relative murder rates in Baghdad and Washington DC. My latest piece in Investors' Business Daily goes through the sources of the different numbers and explains why some newspapers have published estimated murder rates for Baghdad that were possibly 28 times higher than they actually were for October.

Update: Michael O'Hanlon, a co-author of one of the articles that I commented on in my Investors' Business Daily piece, was helpful in getting to the bottom of these claims. First, he responded quickly and was not defensive when I asked him for his sources on the Baghdad murder rate. Second, in an e-mail he told me that he had himself tried to contact the Defense Department to obtain their estimates on the number of murders in Baghdad. Unfortunately, as often occurs with bureaucracies, they did not get him the information that he requested. In a recent e-mail exchange that I had with him he indicated: "you were more successful, and I commend you for that." (Link to a copy of the e-mail from O'Hanlon has been disabled at his request.)

12/11/03
Ohio on verge of passing concealed handgun law

On Wednesday night the Ohio Senate voted 25-8 and the Ohio House 69-27 to a compromise bill establishing a right-to-carry law. The governor has threatened to veto the law, but both houses have well over the 60 percent of the vote necessary to pass the legislation.

12/10/03
It�s definitely time to get over Florida

The ruckus over the 2000 Florida vote continues. My latest piece on National Review Online tries to debunk the various myths on the Florida vote.

Headlines this weekend recited the old line "Dems accuse Bush of stealing the 2000 election." Former U.S. Representative Carrie Meek received a wildly enthusiastic response from delegates to the Florida Democratic convention with calls that "We should be ready for revenge!" Retired General Wesley Clark told delegates he fought for democracy and free elections in Vietnam and Europe only to see "the taking" of the presidency by Republicans in 2000. Senator John Edwards said, "We had more votes; we won!" Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts said: "None of us are going to forget." More vaguely, Senator Joe Lieberman claimed that Bush "stretched the truth" to get his way in 2000. Of course, Terry McAuliffe was beating the same old drum. They should all get over it.

I go through 1) The myth of the flawed voting machines & Democratic disenfranchisement, 2) The myth that African Americans were incorrectly placed on the convicted-felons list at a higher rate than other groups, and 3) The myth that Gore would have won if recount had only been allowed.

12/7/03
I told you so: The ultimate way around the campaign finance regulations

Price controls are futile. They don't reduce the price of a product, but merely change the form that competition takes. The rent-seeking inherent in campaign donations is similar. I have long argued that even if all expenditures by independent groups were outlawed there are still other ways that can't be stopped for those groups to get their message across. A simple example involves just buying up a newspaper or a television station. Because of the first amendment the government can't regulate the content of a news program. The owner of a station could simply put out news stories that were more favorable to the candidates they preferred. It is very strange that we would outlaw an ad by a company or interest group, but otherwise allow that interest group to buy a TV station and put on a "news" segment that favored a particular candidate. It now appears that the NRA is seriously discussing buying a television station to do precisely that.

Hoping to spend as much as it wants on next year's elections, the National Rifle Association is looking to buy a television or radio station and declare that it should be treated as a news organization, exempt from spending limits in the campaign finance law.

"We're looking at bringing a court case that we're as legitimate a media outlet as Disney or Viacom or Time-Warner," the NRA's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, told The Associated Press.

"Why should they have an exclusive right to relay information to the public, and why should not NRA be considered as legitimate a news source as they are? That's never been explored legally," he said in an interview. . . .

If the NRA were to be considered a media organization, it would be free to say what it wanted about candidates at any time and spend corporate money to do so, such as for commercials.

The group, financed in part with corporate money, is now banned under the campaign finance law from running ads, just before elections, that mention federal candidates who are on states' ballots.

12/4/03
Nice piece detailing some of the unexpected problems produced by public financing of political campaigns

John Fund has a typically well done piece at opinionjournal.com. Here are two of his examples:

New York's financing system has already produced a windfall for Abraham Wasserman's family and friends. Mr. Wasserman ran for a Brooklyn City Council seat last month on the Conservative Party line and finished last with 368 votes. The New York Post reports that he raised some $16,000 from friends and relatives whom he listed as "campaign consultants." According to the Post, "Wasserman pocketed a handsome $62,000 gift, courtesy of the city taxpayer"--some of which he used to pay the "consultants" who had donated money in the first place.

And here's a good reason to check "no" on your 1040: The Federal Election Commission has just announced that perennial crackpot candidate Lyndon LaRouche will soon get a check for $840,000. That's more money than Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich or Carol Moseley Braun--all of whom have at least the pretense of being serious candidates--will get.

The commercialization of education in China

The Wall Street Journal today has an interesting article on the front page about children in China today (subscription required). One paragraph especially stood out about the privitization of education. Even so-called communist China apparently has a more competitive education system than we do:

"Next spring, Bella and her classmates will undergo exams and interviews for junior high school, a process that will scatter and stratify them at schools throughout the city. With the commercialization of education, good private schools have proliferated. Bella will have to take a separate exam for each one where a single exam previously sufficed for entry into the state-run system. Tuition is an increasing burden as the government cuts back funding. Bella's parents say they spend a third of their income on her, or about $4,000 a year. When Bella goes to junior high, they intend to sell their smaller apartment to help fund her tuition."

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Appalachian law school attack

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Lyonette Louis-Jacques's page on Firearms Regulation Worldwide

The End of Myth: An Interview with Dr. John Lott

Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

An interview with John R. Lott, Jr. author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

Some data not found at www.johnlott.org:

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper