Sunday, July 29, 2012

It's got a good beat, and I can dance to it.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

London 2012 Opening Ceremonies: The Queen's Entrance

Dana Perino Can’t Explain How the Bush Tax Cuts Created Jobs

Source: Veracity Stew

The gentleman speaking before Dana Perino cites job creation statistics for Presidents Clinton and Bush (who created three million jobs, not one million). Here's the full list.

Interestingly, it almost sounds as though Perino's defense of Bush is that Clinton's economic policies created the Internet bubble, and the job of cleaning up, after the bubble burst, was left to Clinton's successor, Bush.

That sounds oddly familiar.

Will 27 Republicans Say Yes to the Middle Class?

In his weekly address, President Obama said this:

If 218 Members of the House vote the right way, 98% of American families and 97% of small business owners will have the certainty of knowing that that their income taxes will not go up next year.

If the Democrats can keep their members in line, all it would take is 27 Republican Representatives to pass this bill.

The Ed Show: The Right's Weak Argument

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

My take on statistics, guns and the Constitution

Gene, you wrote that "There were a total of 9,900 gun deaths in 2009 - out of over 270 MILLION guns owned in U.S. That's 0.00004%."

(Your stat was off: it's not 0.00004% - it's 100 times greater: 0.004%. It's still a pretty small number, so your point is taken.)

Here's where statistics can mislead. If (and that's a big "if") the reason for citing the statistic was to show that guns are specifically obtained with the intent of killing people, a very, very low percentage like that would serve to disprove the point.

I'm not aware of anyone, pro or con, who's making the argument that one gun automatically equals one gun death.

What might be more illustrative is comparing the total number of murders with the number of gun murders.

If we look at 2010 (source), there were 12,996 murders in the US. At least 8,775 of those murders were caused by firearms: the number could be higher because Florida doesn't track this statistic, and Illinois' data was incomplete.

8,775 out of 12,996 - that's 67.52%

More than two thirds of all the murders committed in the US in 2010 were committed with a gun.

That's an improvement over past years: according the to Department of Justice, firearms were used in 70% of the homicides committed from 1993 to 2001. (source (PDF))

We often hear the expression "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." That's both true, and meaningless. A gun is a passive object - a weapon. More than two out of three times, when one person kills another in the US, they use a gun.

Gun advocates, quite rightly, make the case that owning a gun is a Constitutionally-protected right. They're correct to say so. What I don't hear many gun advocates say, though, is that this right comes at a price. And it's not a price the advocates have to pay themselves: other people bear the price on their behalf.

The self-evident truths identified in the Declaration of Independence are: all men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Life was listed first because without life, liberty is impossible. Without life, the pursuit of happiness is impossible. Without life, each of the rights contained within the Bill of Rights (including the right to bear arms) is impossible.

Insofar as any of our unalienable and Constitutionally-protected rights comes into conflict with life, that right must give way. The right to bear arms is not a Constitutional right to kill.

Let's go back to the original argument about very, very small percentages.

The US population on Census Day, 2010 was 308,745,538. 12,996 of that populace were killed in an act of homicide. That's 0.00421%.

We prosecute homicides. The miniscule number in comparison to the hundreds of millions of Americans is irrelevant. Why should the number of firearm homicides be rendered irrelevant?

One more thing: in addition to the 9,900 homicides, there were 36,909 reported suicide deaths in 2009. Half involved a firearm. (source)

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Choice

The Best Congress Money Can Buy

From a current article in Boston Review, Martin Gilens reports the conclusions of his research into the links between public policy and public preferences:

In most circumstances, affluent Americans exert substantial influence over the policies adopted by the federal government, and less well off Americans exert virtually none. Even when Democrats control Congress and the White House, the less well off are no more influential.

The 99ers community can definitely attest to the lack of influence we've had since the start of the Great Recession. The floor is littered with the pages of bills that were introduced, only to die in committee.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Remembering the Victims of the Aurora, Colorado Shooting

Short Sales to Existing Homeowners?

As a companion piece to the sidebar about the America Underwater project, this report (PDF link) from the Progressive Policy Institute, discussing a possible solution for underwater homeowners:

Private sector experiences suggest that a carefully conceived principal reduction program could achieve significant savings for U.S. taxpayers by reducing losses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Such a program could be enacted responsibly and fairly without fueling moral hazard — the risk that borrowers who otherwise would make their mortgage payments go delinquent in an effort to get their principal balances reduced.

In effect, Fannie and Freddie can offer "short sales" back to the existing homeowners in return for a share of their home equity. Unlike foreclosure and traditional short sales, which are to third parties and usually at a discount to true market value, this approach would help support home prices, lower future default risk, and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

Who Are The Top 2%?

Friday, July 20, 2012


Update: This USA Today report from 2009 looks back at what happened at Columbine, dispelling some of the myths and shedding light on the full extent of Harris and Klebold's murderous plans.

Columbine is a 20-mile drive away from Aurora. I'll have more on the "if only..." arguments later.

Update 2: As they have a habit of doing, The Onion tells the truth.

Update 3:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nonfarm Payroll Employment - Monthly Averages

In advance of Friday's jobs report (and our updated Stat Pack), the following chart looks at the average number of jobs added (or lost) per month. The left side of the chart shows the average monthly figure since 1979, and the right side looks at more recent years: from 2001 to the present.

It's important to see how the recent numbers have moved, in order to put Friday's report in context.


source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - Current Employment Statistics