Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Give or Take a Million

Last night I while I was watching coverage of the Democratic convention, I saw an ad promoting an increased government role in health care. The ad depicted a woman and her father, and told the story of how her mother’s illness had driven the family into bankruptcy despite their having health insurance. At the end of the ad, text flashes across the screen saying: 1.85 Million Americans Go Bankrupt Due To Medical Bills In One Year.

Something about that number didn’t sit right with me. After looking around a bit, I found some statistics on bankruptcy in the U.S. According to those numbers, there were 850,912 bankruptcies in the United States in 2007, just under 30,000 of which were business bankruptcies. I’ll admit that math is not my strong suit, but it’s hard for me to see how you could have 1.85 million people a year declaring bankruptcy due to medical bills when the total number of bankruptcies is a million less than that. Continue reading

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August 28, 2008 Posted by | Health Care, Statistics | 7 Comments

A Little Better All the Time

I’ve got to admit it’s getting better/A little better all the time.
– Paul McCartney.

It couldn’t get much worse.
– John Lennon.

To the extent one gets one’s information about the state of the economy from television news, one might be forgiven for thinking that the United States is, economically speaking, going to hell in a hand basket made in China. Wage stagnation. Downsizing. Outsourcing. It’s not uncommon to hear people talking about how we are on the brink of a new Great Depression, if not something even worse.

According to W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm of the Dallas Federal Reserve, the real story is quite a bit different. Below, from their article, are some helpful charts making the case against doom and gloom:
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August 25, 2008 Posted by | Economy, Politics, Statistics | Leave a comment

Fair Weather Voting

Voter turn out tends to be lower in the United States than in many other developed countries, and tends to be lower in the United States today than it was in previous generations. For some, this is cause for concern, a sign that American democracy isn’t working as it should. Me, not so much. If you consider that one big motivator for voting is fear about what will happen if the wrong guy gets elected, the fact that voter turnout is lower in places like the United States and Switzerland than in other places may be a sign of the strength of our system of government, rather than a signal of its decay. It’s probably also the case that the idiosyncrasies of America’s system of government – we hold elections every two years, but only elect our President every four years – might tend to skew the result (As for why turnout might be lower now than it was prior to 1972, see here).

Until recently, I had thought that there might be another factor serving to drive voter turnout lower than what it otherwise would be: the electoral college. As Al Gore supporters know all too well, the winner in a presidential election is determined not by who wins the popular vote, but by who gets the most votes in the electoral college. In every Presidential races, there are only a small number of “swing states” that actually could be won by one candidate or the other. Most states, particularly in recent times, are “safe,” which is to say that the winner of the popular vote in that state is fairly certain. We might expect, therefore, that turnout would be higher in swing states (where people think that there votes might matter) than in safe states (where the outcome of the election is known in advance) and that this might serve to make total voter turnout lower than it otherwise would be. Continue reading

August 23, 2008 Posted by | America, Global Warming, Statistics, Voting | Leave a comment

Can A Higher Infant Mortality Rate Be A Good Thing?

You wouldn’t think so. The death of a newborn child is a tragedy, and the fact that the United States has a higher infant mortality rate than other developed countries is often cited as a serious failing of America’s health care system. But according to Dr. Linda Halderman, the higher U.S. rate is due in part to the fact that we try to save the lives of more infants than do other countries:

Low birth weight infants are not counted against the “live birth” statistics for many countries reporting low infant mortality rates.

According to the way statistics are calculated in Canada, Germany, and Austria, a premature baby weighing <500g is not considered a living child.

But in the U.S., such very low birth weight babies are considered live births. The mortality rate of such babies — considered “unsalvageable” outside of the U.S. and therefore never alive — is extraordinarily high; up to 869 per 1,000 in the first month of life alone. This skews U.S. infant mortality statistics.

Norway boasts one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. But when the main determinant of mortality — weight at birth — is factored in, Norway has no better survival rates than the United States.

Continue reading

August 22, 2008 Posted by | America, Children, Health Care, Statistics | 3 Comments

ESCR Backers Doubt McCain Support

Advocates for greater federal funding of embryonic stem cell research are worried that John McCain will do an about-face on the controversial issue if he wins the presidency.

McCain’s presidential campaign has sought to win over religious conservatives and other factions, including activists who oppose abortion rights and stem cell research.

Rep. Mike Castle (Del.), the chief Republican sponsor of stem cell bills vetoed by President Bush, said he wasn’t sure whether a President McCain would sign stem cell research legislation.

“Based on his votes in the Senate, the answer to that is yes,” said Castle, an early supporter of McCain who endorsed the Arizona Republican senator in February 2007.

“The question becomes: Will the pro-life movement be able to persuade him otherwise between now and the election?” said Castle, who supports abortion rights. Continue reading

August 21, 2008 Posted by | Abortion, Election, Politics | Leave a comment

Democrats Move Left on Abortion

After a week in which the Democrats have been renegotiating their abortion platform, Mr. Obama was supposed to provide a voice of clarity, and above all moderation, for the party. His middle-of-the-road views were supposed to appeal to independent-minded Catholics and evangelicals who agreed with Democrats on some issues, but couldn’t pull the lever for him if he was too radical on abortion.

It didn’t work out that way. Add Mr. Obama’s recent admission that during his time in the Illinois legislature he voted against a law protecting babies who survive an abortion procedure, and it seems as if the Democrats have accomplished the impossible: They have moved to the left on abortion. Continue reading

August 20, 2008 Posted by | Abortion, Election, Politics | Leave a comment

Who Are You Going to Believe, Me or Your Lying Eyes?

If you’ve spent any time in the Catholic blogosphere during the past year, you’ve probably heard about Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama’s opposition to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, a bill that would have recognized premature abortion survivors as “persons” entitled to protection under the law. In 2001, Obama was the only Senator to speak against the bill, though he ultimately voted “present” on the bill passage according to an agreement worked out with Planned Parenthood. In 2003, Obama voted to kill the bill, which was then before the Illinois State Senate Committee of which he was chairman. A similar bill passed the U.S. Senate unanimously in 2002.

Senator Obama has always claimed that his opposition to the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Act was based on differences between it and the federal bill. The Illinois bill, Obama claimed, did not contain a provision present in the federal bill that ensuring that it would not upset the right to abortion. Last week, however, the National Right to Life Committee produced documents showing that the bill Obama voted against in 2003 did include a “neutrality” provision identically to the one in the federal bill. Continue reading

August 19, 2008 Posted by | Abortion, Election | 1 Comment

A Message for Senator Obama

If knowing when babies get human rights is really above your pay grade then you aren’t qualified to be President.

August 18, 2008 Posted by | Abortion, Election | 1 Comment

Shooting for Love

The scene is a familiar one now at the Olympic shooting hall: Matt Emmons and Katerina Emmons, hugging and smooching after yet another medal.

Matt took center stage Friday, winning the silver in the 50-meter prone rifle. That makes three medals in all this year for the husband and wife – Katy won gold and silver in her two rifle events.

“You can’t do much better than a gold and a silver,” Matt Emmons said. “We’re a team. The more medals we get as a team, the better. I don’t care who wins them.”

They met at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, after Matt squandered a big lead at the end of the three-position rifle event. He had fired at the wrong target, an unimaginable mistake, and Katy wanted to offer condolences.

They were married last year and have split time between his country and hers. Matt is an American; Katy is from the Czech Republic.

More.

August 15, 2008 Posted by | Guns, Marriage, Sports | Leave a comment

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

It’s rather old, I know, but I found this transcript of an internet chat involving Koko the “talking gorilla” unintentionally hilarious. Some excerpts:

HaloMyBaby: Is Koko aware that she’s chatting with thousands of people now?
LiveKOKO: Good here.
DrPPatrsn: Koko is aware.
HaloMyBaby: I’ll start taking questions from the audience now, our first question is: MInyKitty asks, Koko are you going to have a baby in the future?
LiveKOKO: Pink
DrPPatrsn: We’ve had earlier discussion about colors today
LiveKOKO: Listen, Koko loves eat
HaloMyBaby: Me too!
DrPPatrsn: What about a baby? She’s thinking…
LiveKOKO: Unattention
DrPPatrsn: She covered her face with her hands….which means it’s not happening, basically, or it hasn’t happened yet.

Continue reading

August 15, 2008 Posted by | Animal Rights, Weirdness | Leave a comment