January 2012 Archives

Um... abortion is safer than birth?

Getting a legal abortion is much safer than giving birth, suggests a new U.S. study published Monday.

Researchers found that women were about 14 times more likely to die during or after giving birth to a live baby than to die from complications of an abortion.

It's not safer for the baby though.

(HT: James Taranto.)

Robb Willer argues that telling others about liars is useful gossip and shouldn't be condemned.

We've been doing research for several years about the ways in which reputational concerns encourage people to behave. This led us to get interested in gossip because gossip involves diffusing reputational information about people in groups. More specifically, we were interested in an apparent tension between the bad reputation gossiping and gossipers have, but how there's a lot of ways gossip has useful social functions.

We found people very readily warned the next person, passing on socially useful information to them. But what was more interesting was the emotional register of the behaviour. As people saw a person behave in a untrustworthy way, they became frustrated and their heart rate increased. But when they had the opportunity to pass a warning on, that reduced or eliminated their frustration and also tempered their increased heart rate.

It is a subset of gossip that involves warning other people about untrustworthy others. We think it is pretty common. We find generous people are more likely to engage in it and they report doing so out of a motivation to help others. It is very different from malicious gossip, which might be driven by a desire to tarnish another's reputation or advance oneself.

The Bible certainly condemns liars and lying, but is identifying a person as dishonest a proscribed form of gossip? I'd say no, as long as the revelation itself isn't done for malicious or deceitful purposes.

Proverbs 11:13 says "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret."

(HT: Gizmodo.)

Even if you're not a salesman this video will make you more ambitious.

Walter Russell Mead explains how overthrowing Gaddafi limited our options with Iran.

Meanwhile, many analysts agree that the war in Libya, brilliant and strategic though it appeared to the White House at the time, may be making our options regarding Iran more limited. The west made a deal with Gaddafi: stop your nuclear program and we will treat you with respect. He kept his end of the bargain and we dispatched him to his eternal reward. What assurances can we now give the mullahs that would induce them to believe that they will be safe without nukes?

This makes it less likely that President Obama's approach to Iran, infinitely more important for the future of US foreign policy than anything that has happened or could happen in Libya, will succeed. There is no pledge Obama could give the mullahs that can offer them the same protection that a bomb would give them; the "duty to protect" crowd does not believe it needs to honor any sort of pre-existing pledge to a leader it decides is "bad," while reserving the right to strike anyone, anywhere, anytime, should a moral mood befall us. For Iran, the lesson of Libya is that the West will tell you anything to get you to give up the quest for nuclear weapons, but none of the beautiful pledges can be trusted. At the first sign of weakness, they will intervene to overthrow you.

Thank goodness the Bush crowd and those awful neocons are gone.

Of course, as WRM notes, international diplomacy is hard and there often aren't any good options.

I'm not a fan of the "fact check" style, but it's fun when it's aimed at President Obama!

It was a wish list, not a to-do list.

President Barack Obama laid out an array of plans in his State of the Union speech as if his hands weren't so tied by political realities. There can be little more than wishful thinking behind his call to end oil industry subsidies - something he could not get through a Democratic Congress, much less today's divided Congress, much less in this election year.

And there was more recycling, in an even more forbidding climate than when the ideas were new: He pushed for an immigration overhaul that he couldn't get past Democrats, permanent college tuition tax credits that he asked for a year ago, and familiar discouragements for companies that move overseas.

I don't see any "facts" marked as "true" in the piece.

A little over a year ago I wrote about Missouri's tightening pseudoephedrine restrictions and predicted that they would cause all sorts of negative unintended consequences without significantly curbing the production of use of methamphetamine. I was right! Reduced access to pseudoephedrine has caused meth users to move to a new meth production method called shake-and-bake that is much more dangerous.

So-called shake-and-bake meth is produced by combining raw, unstable ingredients in a 2-liter soda bottle. But if the person mixing the noxious brew makes the slightest error, such as removing the cap too soon or accidentally perforating the plastic, the concoction can explode, searing flesh and causing permanent disfigurement, blindness or even death.

An Associated Press survey of key hospitals in the nation's most active meth states showed that up to a third of patients in some burn units were hurt while making meth, and most were uninsured. The average treatment costs $6,000 per day. And the average meth patient's hospital stay costs $130,000 - 60 percent more than other burn patients, according to a study by doctors at a burn center in Kalamazoo, Mich. ...

Larger meth labs have been bursting into flame for years, usually in basements, backyard sheds or other private spaces. But those were fires that people could usually escape. Using the shake-and-bake method, drugmakers typically hold the flammable concoction up close, causing burns from the waist to the face.

Why is this more dangerous method so popular?

Also known as the "one-pot" approach, the method is popular because it uses less pseudoephedrine - a common component in some cold and allergy pills. It also yields meth in minutes rather than hours, and it's cheaper and easier to conceal. Meth cooks can carry all the ingredients in a backpack and mix them in a bathroom stall or the seat of a car.

And the effect on taxpayers? Not only do we need prescriptions for cold medicine, but we're footing the bill for all these burn victims.

Burn experts agree the annual cost to taxpayers is well into the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars, although it is impossible to determine a more accurate number because so many meth users lie about the cause of their burns.

Maybe it's time to ease up on the pseudoephedrine restrictions.

Rand Simberg nails the pro-abortion left for opposing abortion prerequisites that pale in comparison to restrictions on guy buyers.

Recently, the Texas legislature passed (and the governor signed) a law with a seemingly modest requirement -- that any woman getting an abortion in the state of Texas be allowed (and required) to see a sonogram of the fetus twenty-four hours prior to the surgery.

Note what the law doesn't do. It doesn't prevent a woman from getting an abortion. It (at most) slows her down by one day from doing so, should she choose to go through with it.

Contrast this with the hoops that gun owners must often jump through to purchase firearms -- background checks, waiting periods, purchase limits within a certain amount of time. Or the requirement that they undergo training, spending money and investing time, to get a permit to carry their weapons, even in states where it is allowed. All of these are far more onerous than the simple requirement that a woman have an ultrasound picture taken of her womb, and see it.

He is correct in asserting that "pro-choice" is a misnomer: these leftists are pro-abortion. Is there some reason they're hesitant to embrace that? I'm pro-gun, not just pro-the-choice-to-buy-a-gun. Nothing embarrassing about that. Are they embarrassed to be pro-abortion?

Well, to be honest, they should be embarrassed. Abortion is abhorrent and detestable, and so are the activists who promote it and the industry that profits from it.

I didn't watch the State of the Union speech last night, but apparently I didn't miss much.

The WSJ does a great job explaining why Mitt Romney's tax rates are (and should be) low.

Start with the fact that, like Warren Buffett, Mr. Romney said he makes most of his money from investments, not wages or salary. Thus his income is really taxed twice: once at the corporate tax rate of 35%, then again at a 15% tax rate when it is passed through to him as dividends or via capital gains from the sale of stock.

All income from businesses is eventually passed through to the owners, so to ignore business taxes creates a statistical illusion that makes it appear that the rich pay less than they really do. By this logic, if the corporate tax rate were raised to, say, 60% from today's 35% and the dividend and capital gains tax were cut to zero, it would appear that business owners were getting away with paying no federal tax at all.

This all-too-conveniently confuses the incidence of a tax with the burden of a tax. The marginal tax rate on every additional dollar of capital gains and dividend income from corporate profits can reach as high as 44.75% at the federal level (assuming a company pays the 35% top corporate rate), not 15%.

James Taranto points out that inflation also gnaws away at capital gains.

In the case of capital gains--profit on the sale of an asset--there is an additional argument. If you bought stock for $1,000 in 1990 and sold it for $2,000 in 2010, you'd pay taxes on the $1,000 difference--even though part of the appreciation reflects the decline in the value of money. A thousand dollars in 1990 dollars is a bit under $1,650 in 2010 dollars, so you'd pay $150 in taxes on real (after-inflation) income of $350, an effective rate of 43%. Taxing the same income at the current top ordinary rate of 35% would wipe out almost all the gains--and this during two decades in which inflation has generally been low.

The problem isn't that capital is taxed too lightly, but rather than income is taxed too heavily.

So organizers of online internet poker are going to jail while the Department of Justice is busy authorizing states to put their lotteries online.

This kind of double-dealing (ha!) is why many people don't respect the law very much. It's sad that our government looks more like a protection racket for favored groups than a protector of liberty and purveyor of justice.

Megaupload.com is out of business, but not because their business model failed. The founder, Kim Dotcom, seems to have made hundreds of millions of dollars. His only downfall was basing his business in a country with friendly legal relationships with the US government. So, why doesn't North Korea (or another pariah nation) enter the illegal file sharing market? They'd get a huge inflow of foreign capital for minimal cost and no risk of arrest.

Mark Steyn uses the Costa Concordia and "women and children first" as a metaphor for the decline of civilization, which is fine as far as it goes. However, in the case of a literal evacuation, I'm sure it's far more efficient to load everyone based on their proximity to the lifeboats rather than their age or gender. Just imagine the chaos if the crew (or someone?) were to attempt to separate families in the midst of an urgent disaster.

In any event, more than 99% of the passengers and crew escaped with their lives. That is pretty spectacular. I don't think that a "women and children first" policy -- even if perfectly implemented -- would have done any better.

As usual the Daily Mail has the best pictures, this time of the capsized Costa Concordia. Yet another reason I will never go on a cruise.

Snail that eats fish three times its size.

(HT: Gizmodo.)

(HT: MG.)

Surgeon in Antarctic removes his own appendix.

One of the expedition's members was the 27 year old Leningrad surgeon Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov. He had interrupted a promising scholarly career and left on the expedition shortly before he was due to defend his dissertation on new methods of operating on cancer of the oesophagus. In the Antarctic he was first and foremost the team's doctor, although he also served as the meteorologist and the driver of their terrain vehicle.

After several weeks Rogozov fell ill. He noticed symptoms of weakness, malaise, nausea, and, later, pain in the upper part of his abdomen, which shifted to the right lower quadrant. His body temperature rose to 37.5°C.1 2 Rogozov wrote in his diary:

"It seems that I have appendicitis. I am keeping quiet about it, even smiling. Why frighten my friends? Who could be of help? A polar explorer's only encounter with medicine is likely to have been in a dentist's chair."

(HT: GeekPress.)

In the early 20th century Albert Kahn financed an amazing collection of color photographs.

Daniel Kahneman argues that people have different earning preferences, and that the amount a person earns is affected by those preferences.

A large-scale study of the impact of higher education... revealed striking evidence of the lifelong effects of the goals that young people set for themselves. The relevant data were drawn from questionnaires collected in 1995-1997 from approximately 12,000 people who had started their higher education in elite schools in 1976. When they were 17 or 18, the participants had filled out a questionnaire in which they rated the goal of "being very well-off financially" on a 4-point scale ranging from "not important" to "essential."...

Goals make a large difference. Nineteen years after they stated their financial aspirations, many of the people who wanted a high income had achieved it. Among the 597 physicians and other medical professionals in the sample, for example, each additional point on the money-importance scale was associated with an increment of over $14,000 of job income in 1995 dollars! Nonworking married women were also likely to have satisfied their financial ambitions. Each point on the scale translated into more than $12,000 of added household income for these women, evidently through the earnings of their spouse.

Bryan Caplan points out that the effects of these preferences seriously undermine the case for income redistribution:

By the way, I take Kahneman's evidence here as yet another counter-example to George Loewenstein's view that happiness research and leftist politics are natural bedfellows. Kahneman highlights an important, neglected reason why some people are rich and others are poor: some people care about money more than the rest of us. People who want to be rich make the choices and sacrifices conducive to that end - and on average they succeed. "People who care more about X try harder to get X and as a result get more X": This hardly seems like a "problem" in need of a political "solution."*

What about the "losers"? Bite your tongue. When you call lower-income people "losers," you're falsely assuming that we're all racing for the same finish line: material success. But to a large extent, lower-income people are just racing for other finish lines. Leftist outrage over income inequality is therefore deeply misguided. To a large extent, incomes differ because priorities differ. And if the poor don't consider their lack of riches a big deal, why should anyone else?

This begs the question: if income should be redistributed by force, should leisure time also be redistributed?

(HT: Greg Mankiw.)

Eugene Volokh argues that in the First Amendment "the press" is the freedom to use a technology, not a freedom only for members of a specific industry.

But other judges and scholars -- including the Citizens United majority and Justice Brennan -- have argued that the "freedom ... of the press" does not protect the press-as-industry, but rather protects everyone's use of the printing press (and its modern equivalents) as a technology. People or organizations who occasionally rent the technology, for instance by buying newspaper space, broadcast time, or the services of a printing company, are just as protected as newspaper publishers or broadcasters. ...

The answer, it turns out, is that people during the Framing era likely understood the text as fitting the press-as-technology model -- as securing the right of every person to use communications technology, and not just securing a right belonging exclusively to members of the publishing industry. The text was likely not understood as treating the press-as-industry differently from other people who wanted to rent or borrow the press-as-technology on an occasional basis.

That is: professional journalists have no more and no less freedom than any of the rest of us.

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