How Stupid Is John Hinderaker?

Ken AshfordIraq, Right Wing Punditry/Idiocy1 Comment

Unbelievably stupid.  Listen as he (once again) tries to claim that the violence in Iraq is not that bad.

Let’s start with his conclusion — the last two paragraphs of his post:

I wrote in June that based on the data at that time, the murder rate in Iraq outside of Baghdad is about the same as American cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. With the current numbers, it looks like that would still be true.

A consensus seems to have developed that Iraq is a disaster because of out-of-control sectarian violence. That consensus is driving proposals to change our policy in Iraq, perhaps in the direction of a pull-out that could lead to truly cataclysmic violence. So I think it makes sense to step back and get a more realistic picture of the level of what is happening in Iraq: violent? Yes. A disaster comparable to a civil war? No.

Now let’s see how he comes to that conclusion, jumping to the start of his post:

My impression has been that violence in Iraq has skyrocketed since July, when I found that the murder rate in Iraq was 140 per 100,000 (the usual way in which murder rates are expressed). I was surprised, therefore, to learn this morning that rate of violence has increased only slightly:

The United Nations said Wednesday that 3,709 Iraqi civilians were killed in October, the highest monthly toll since the March 2003 U.S. invasion and another sign of the severity of Iraq’s sectarian bloodbath.

That compares to an estimated 3,500 killed in July. If 3,709 people were murdered in October, that translates to a rate of 171 per 100,000. That is a high rate of violent death. But, for purposes of comparison, the murder rate in Washington, D.C. in 1991 was 80 per 100,000. So the rate of violence in Iraq today is just over double the rate in the District during the first Bush administration. I don’t recall anyone describing conditions in Washington in the early 90s as a "bloodbath."

How to dissect this dishonest and stupid number-crunching?

(1)  First, let’s take John’s math at face value.  According to him, the October death rate for Iraq was 171 per 100,000 which is "just over double" the murder rate in Washington, D.C. of 80 per 100,000.

Apparently, DOUBLE to John means "comparable" or (quoting from his conclulsory paragraphs) "about the same".  Yup, in John’s world 2X roughly equals X.

(2)  Now let’s get behind John’s math.  You may wonder why he used "for purposes of comparison" the figures from Washington D.C. for 1991 as being illustrative of an American city.  Could it be because the homicide level in Washington D.C. for that year was DOUBLE what it is now?  Yes.  1991 was by far the most violent in all of D.C’s history when it came to homicides.

Here’s the chart — D.C. homicides were twice what they are now.


So he’s trying to compare the death rate in Iraq with the death rate of the WORST year for Washington, D.C. in recent history.  And even though the Iraq death rate is DOUBLE the WORST in D.C.’s history, he’s still trying to claim that the carnage there is comparable to that of the typical American city.

(3)  Now the coup de grace.  Hindrocket is comparing the number of deaths per month per 100,000 citizens (Iraq for October) with the number of deaths per year per 100,000 citizens (in D.C. in 1991).

So let’s make this simple and honest.  We’ll compare apples to apples. 

In 1991, D.C. had 600,000 citizens and 482 homicides that year.  That amounts to roughly 80 homicides per 100,000 citizens for the entire year.

Iraq has roughly 6,000,000 citizens, and 3,700 were killed last month.  Annualizing the 3,700 figure (which John doesn’t do), we get 44,400 Iraq deaths per year out of 6,000,000.  That translates to 740 deaths per 100,000 citizens per year — or nine times greater than Washington D.C. during its most violent year (1991) — and eighteen times greater than it is now.

Not "just double" the rate.  EIGHTEEN times.

John Hindrocket is truly stupid and/or intellectually dishonest.  It’s hard to believe he is an editor at a nationally-syndicated political magazine.

UPDATE:  Sadly, No does this better.