The UnAustralian

Thursday, August 14, 2003
 
Afghanistan

Now that we have Iraq to play around in, Afghanistan appears to have dropped off the map. So it's always good to see that some news on the place. On the other hand, Amnesty International's report into the justice (or lack of) system isn't so good.
| 10:31 PM
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
 
Cherry Picking

One of the common complaints about Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist is that it cherry picks what data it presents. This is pretty high up on the list of scientific sins, however, in the real world (whatever that is) it's often hard (well I find it hard) to get across what it actually means.

Luckily, Tim Lambert, has an excellent example of cherry picking, by one of the American Enterprise Institute's finest - John Lott.

In this editorial, Lott claims that:

Crime has risen significantly since the gun ban went into effect. 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. In fact, the murder rate after 1976 has never fallen back to what it was in 1976. Robberies and overall violent crime changed just as dramatically. Robberies fell from 1,514 to 1,003 per 100,000 and then rose by over 63 percent, up to 1,635.

These statistics, are quite useful for those who feel that global warming has been grossly exaggerated by the IPCC gun control laws increase crime rates (sorry, getting mixed up here).

However, what happens if we look at a graph of crime rates before and after the ban. Tim Lambert has done it for us, and it's quite interesting. A quick eyeball of the graph revels two features:

* that crime rates vary considerable year to year, and
* that the picture of Washington crime rates that Lott (and co-author Lehrer) present is not representative
of reality).

Update: Link fixed. Hopefully.
| 8:04 PM
Monday, August 11, 2003
 
Hypocrisy And Death Penalties

Neil Clark has written an article for todays Oz, on hypocrisy and the death penalty, where essentially, he accuses Tony Blair and John Howard of hypocrisy for the stance on the death penalty and their support for the war on Iraq.

And this makes me do something which I would never thought that I would do. Defend John Howard. But here goes.

Neil Clark's argument can be summarised as anybody (well technically, most people) who support the assassination of Saddam Hussein, while opposing the death penalty is a hypocrite.

I oppose the death penalty. While I opposed the war in Iraq as well, it would have been better if the initial US strike on the Iraqi leadership (specifically Saddam and his sons) had have been successful.

I can reconcile these views, because I see both of them as being in support of the most realistic humanitarian outcome possible. While it would be better to capture Saddam and co, and place them on trial (at which time, I would oppose their execution), had they died at the start of the war, then the Ba'athist government would have probably crumbed quicker, and the lives of hundreds or maybe thousands of people would have been saved. It's not a perfect scenario, but if given the choice between (a) Saddam on trial and many extra Iraqi deaths, or (b) Saddam dead in a bunker, and a lower casualty count; I'll go for (b). Of course, it would be much better if me could have option (c) with Saddam on trial, and a lower casualty count - but how realistic is this option?

Clark appears to divide the world into 3 groups; those who support the death penalty, those who oppose all state killings, and hypocrites. I would suggest that it's far more complicated than that.
| 6:40 PM