Thursday, September 20, 2007

Aerial Conspiracy Theory: Breaking the Numbers Down

The other day at Hullabaloo, a commenter mentioned something along the lines of "Ever notice how only Democrats die in plane crashes?" Being as I'm a lifelong fan of aviation and a longtime fan of both statistical analysis and conspiracy theories, I thought I'd do a little research and see what I could find.

Notes on Methodology: I'm attempting to use the best sources I can find online, and taking out all the data from 1920-1960, because most of the earlier entries involve either aviation pioneers, wartime pilots, or similar confounding factors. I'm also not going to be making any speculations about the cause of any trends I might find.

US Politicians Killed in Aviation Incidents
Broken down by year and party affiliation

Donald Grant NutterRepublican1962
Clement Woodnutt MillerDemocrat1962
(small plane)
de Lesseps Story MorrisonDemocrat (Mayor of New Orleans)1962
Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr. (Hale Boggs)Democrat1972
Nicholas Joseph BegichDemocrat1972
(Disappeared, presumed killed)
George Washington CollinsDemocrat1972
Jerry Lyle PettisRepublican1975
Jerry Lon LittonDemocrat1976
(private plane)
Ralph Frederick Beermann Republican1977
Lawrence Patton McDonaldDemocrat1983
(Aboard the Korean Airlines jet shot down by the Soviet military)
Jim WaltermireRepublican1988
George Thomas LelandDemocrat1989
Larkin I. SmithRepublican1989
(private plane)
Henry John Heinz IIIRepublican1991
(small plane)
John TowerRepublican1991
George Speaker MickelsonRepublican1993
Ronald Harmon BrownDemocrat1996
Charles B. YatesDemocrat2000
Melvin Eugene Carnahan Democrat2000
Paul David WellstoneDemocrat2002

Totals and Statistics

Number of Republicans: 8 (40%)
Number of Democrats: 12 (60%)

Risk Factors: Rural, small/private planes

Lifetime odds of being killed in an aircraft incident (US population average, deduct for frequent flyers): approximately 1 in 5,000


"Politicians killed in plane crashes,", Friday, October 25, 2002.

"List of people who died in aviation-related incidents, Politicians," Wikipedia.

" Politicians Killed in Aircraft Accidents and Disasters," The Political Graveyard.

"What are the odds of dying?," National Safety Council.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Missing the Point -- There Aren't Good Guys Here

Spotted at Rick Perlstein's place, under the unlikely title "E. coli conservatism hits the nursury" [sic]*, link in original to source is broken:
In an attempt to raise the nation's historically low rate of breast-feeding, federal health officials commissioned an attention-grabbing advertising campaign a few years ago to convince mothers that their babies faced real health risks if they did not breast-feed. It featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples.

Plans to run these blunt ads infuriated the politically powerful infant formula industry, which hired a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby the Health and Human Services Department. Not long afterward, department political appointees toned down the campaign...

I've seen other writing on the subject, most of which seems to dwell on the pressure against the ads having come from the formula makers' wanting to secure their profits.

Okay, but everyone's kind of missing the point here: Isn't using in-your-face pictorial ads to imply, nay, outright state "breastfeed or else [dire thing here]," rank emotional blackmail?! Further, isn't the point here that the Bush administration, while claiming first and foremost to represent the vaunted "culture of life,"** has done nothing to make it easier for mothers of newborns to nurse? No tax incentives for employers offering flex-time and parental leave, no publicly-funded parental/maternity leave, no living-wage laws, no increases in social benefits for nursing mothers, nothing.

And yet, they feel perfectly justified in producing ads that outright blame mothers for not nursing, even though they're utterly in favour of making it as impossible as possible for everyone outside of the upper class to reasonably do so. It's actually rather like their attitude towards pregnancy, only continuing after birth. As Mosh Pit Mom said in an entry titled "u cannot has cheezburger":
[E]nough with the mother-shaming, you jerks. Seriously, enough is enough. I have absolutely lost all track of what all isn’t safe to do, eat, have, wear, think, own, drink, or smoke while you’re knocked up. It seems that as long as they can keep on adding to that list, every single time a woman has a baby with some sickness or disorder, they can turn around and point their fingers at the mother, who had that one piece of salmon nigiri at 4 months gestation or that half glass of wine on her birthday at 7 months or went to listen to her favorite band and breathed a little secondhand smoke at 8 months and they can blame her.

This initiative is just more of the same -- it makes women's bodies public property by inviting everyone from the state on down to pass judgement on what the womb-carrier in question must've been or must be doing to produce a child with [insert condition here].

I'm really stunned that nobody much is picking up on this, preferring instead to go after the "evil corporation" angle. Evil corporations do undoubtedly exist, and I don't really have much sympathy for manufacturers of baby formula, especially after their disastrous "PR initiatives" in the developing world, but on the other hand, it is kind of good that they managed to blunt the force of these ads somewhat.

Of course, it would be better overall if there were actually pro-breastfeeding ads, instead of fearmongering, scare-tactic ads. However, given that the Bush Administration's means of relating to women is malign paternalism cloaked in blandly pro-women rhetoric, I guess that would be too much to hope for.

* Is that supposed to be some weird pun on "usury"?

** Which means, of course, pre-birth but nothing afterward, and don't mind us if your kid has a bullet with his/her name on it eighteen or twenty-one years in the future.