Commentary

Puncturing Dreschel's Presumptions

Andrew Dreschel admits that suburban sprawl leads to increased car use – a breathtaking statement from one who supported Red Hill all the way, every way.

By David Cohen
Published February 14, 2008

"Don't you just love statistics that challenge conventions and puncture presumptions?" began Andrew Dreschel's column of January 25.

The statistics on Dreschel's mind were the ones that showed that, more than ever, we are using cars to get around – in spite of all those hypocrites (read: environmentalists, leftists, etc.) out there urging us to mount bikes, walk, and so on.

By way of illustration, he offered another set of stats. They show, Dreschel wrote, U.S. states that permit citizens to carry concealed handguns have lower rates of violent crime - a "mischievous finger in the eye of anyone who wants to ban handguns in Canada."

Like you, me, and Mayor David Miller of Toronto, for example.

Trouble is, Dreschel gave no source for these amazing stats. Digging around a little, I conclude their source is likely John Lott, U.S. economist, author of More Guns, Less Crime, and darling of the gun-totin' right below the border.

Lott's work, unsurprisingly, has come under much critical scrutiny.

Moreover, his contention that carrying concealed weapons reduces crime has been attacked by numerous critics on academic/scientific grounds. One of Lott's critics is Harvard professor David Hemenway. See his article listing many serious problems with Lott's arguments and uses of data. Here's a single example:

Lott'states that: "the few existing studies that test for the impact of gun control laws on total suicide use purely cross-sectional level data, and find no significant relationship." (p. 143). This statement is simply wrong. Lott must not have read the articles by Lester & Murrell 1982; Medoff & Magaddino 1983; Lester & Murrell 1986; Boor & Bair 1990; Yang & Lester 1991; Loftin et al 1991; or Carrington & Moyer 1994, all of which find a significant negative relationship between gun control laws and suicide rates. Lott also must have missed the various review articles on guns and suicide (e.g. Miller & Hemenway 1999; Brent 2001).

But to return to the Hammer and our love affair with cars: granted, the proof is there in the StatsCan numbers.

But we're to blame, says Dreschel. We have been jumping into our cars in increasing numbers "despite all the gum-beating we do about the environment."

In fact, we have a "two-faced, forked tongue love affair" with the car. We rev our engines while fewer of us stretch our "environmentally friendly legs."

Can you remember a Dreschel column urging us to use bikes? To take transit? To walk? To convert one-way streets to two-way? To toll the Red Hill and the Linc? To undertake a stepped-up program of painting bike lanes (as they're doing in Toronto)?

Ever?

Dreschel admits that suburban sprawl leads to increased car use – a breathtaking statement from one who supported Red Hill all the way, every way.

Then he is quick to add: "People make choices where they want to live," a sentiment that could have been cribbed from Hamilton-Halton Home Builders' Association.

And "choice is freely and happily made by many."

But the fact that we're hooked on suburban living, Dreschel says, "isn't stopping anyone from mouthing pious sentiments about combating greenhouse gas emissions."

Take that, you environmentalists.

Then comes the column's kicker: "No surprise there. It's always easier to talk things up than turn them around."

We're all talk. Andrew is in the camp of those who turn things around. Stephen Harper? Larry Di Ianni?

Or ... might this be a case a little guilt-shifting, from Andrew to us?

See also:

David Cohen is a freelance writer and a part-time teacher. He has worked as a journalist and a communications officer (promoting workplace health and safety). He served on the Dundas Town Council from 1991 to 1994.

21 Comments

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By Frank (registered) | Posted February 15, 2008 at 13:00:59

Not exactly sure where carrying concealed weapons fits with using a car but anyway... Let's not get into the whole RHCE debate again. Living near 20 and having to use it all the time, I find it much easier now, I just hope that it gets a new cross section that includes sidewalks all the way down to the beachfront and some nice boulevards.

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By John Lott (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2008 at 13:03:49

Given that there is a lot of research showing that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime, it is difficult to know what research is being pointed to. If you like to look at some of the research on right-to-carry laws reducing violent crime, please see this. As to the excerpt that you reference, the book was referring to research by criminologists and economists.

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By johnlott (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2008 at 13:14:49

The link that I posted was cut. Please see this:

http://johnrlott.tripod.com/postsbyday/R...

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 15, 2008 at 13:16:57

the simplest research is to note how many people are killed in the US with guns compared with Canada.

As for Dreschel, I applaud David for actually reading and examining his stuff in the Spec. I don't even bother reading anymore.

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By lottajohn (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2008 at 13:32:52

@johnlott:

Did you RTFA?

"One of Lott's critics is Harvard professor David Hemenway. See his article listing many serious problems with Lott's arguments and uses of data."

The "research" that "is being pointed to" is all cited in the linked Hemenway piece.

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By ranallig (registered) | Posted February 16, 2008 at 20:45:16

As a school teacher, I find anything Lott says difficult to take seriously after reading a quote that I found by googling 'NRA' and 'John Lott', apparently published in the Wall Street Journal: "Allowing teachers and other law-abiding adults to carry concealed handguns in schools would not only make it easier to stop shootings in progress, it could also help deter shootings from ever occurring." Enough said.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 17, 2008 at 11:45:27

haha...that's a great quote. turn our schools into an old western shoot-out. great idea!

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By Serious (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2008 at 16:16:51

Well, well...that failed Councillor from Dundas criticizes Dreschel. Cohen is very courageous to use this forum to mouth his platitudes. In fact Dreschel almost always makes sense. I have never expreienced Cohen to do so. He is predictable in his bias and ignorant in it too. I'm serious!

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By Seriouser (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2008 at 08:01:18

Wow, Serious -- a string of insinuations and zero facts: you must have attended the Andrew Dreschel school of debating. No wonder you're seduced by his column.

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By EvenMore Serious (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2008 at 10:46:55

The damning facts are contained in Cohen's diatribe. Read for yourself. Dreschel is smart and politically savvy...Cohen, well let me be kind...in his silly bicycle fits right in with the bag men of James St. North!!

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By Even Seriouser Still (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2008 at 10:49:11

Way to cop out, Serious. I guess personal attacks and smears are just easier than having to make an actual argument. You and Dreschel deserve each other.

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By hmag (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2008 at 14:53:15


EvenMore Serious said "fits right in with the bag men of James St. North!!"

That is no way to talk about our elected officials! Just because they like to hang out while enjoying a smoke outside the doors to our new civic centre does not mean they are bag men!

Perhaps you meant to call them "Yes men"...

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By EvenMoreSerious (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2008 at 08:47:07

hmag said "That is no way to talk about our elected officials! Just because they like to hang out while enjoying a smoke outside the doors to our new civic centre does not mean they are bag men!

Perhaps you meant to call them "Yes men"..."

Too funny, hmag! But no, I was referring to Cohen's faux beret and scraggly beard. He fits right in too.

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By the trouble with trilbies (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2008 at 12:11:43

"Faux beret"? Tsk, tsk. Make-believe headgear is a poor substitute for a bike helmet.

Also, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagman

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2008 at 12:27:13

Well, with so much nitpitcking (no pun intended) centred around the ephemera of the author's choice of headwear, I can only assume everyone argrees that Cohen's actual arguments are sound.

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By Curious (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2008 at 09:03:56

I don't particularly care one way or the other about this argument. But am facinated by the criticism Mr. Cohen has of Mr. Dreschel's article. In this piece, Mr. Cohen wants to argue against Mr. Dreschel, but admits he doesn't know how the columnist got his ideas. Then, in taking a giant leap of journalistic freedom and logical gymnastics, he surmises that Mr. Dreschel MUST be using a Mr. Lott as his source. Mr. Cohen then goes on to criticize Mr. Lott's work and through Lott he critizes Mr. Dreschel. Does this make sense to you?
He then even criticizes Dreschel for all the things he hasn't written about: bikes, walking etc....so you see when Mr. Cohen disagrees with you he really disagrees with things you say, things other people say and things you don't even say. Is this what Ryan wants us to applaud Mr. Cohen for?

And then, in an article about cars he invokes guns and to boot mentions Stephen Harper and Larry Di Anni. How did Benedict Arnold and Judas Iscariot escape honourable mentions?

I don't know Mr. Cohen, but am not impressed with his thinking process or his extreme dislike for people he disagrees with.

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By Serious (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2008 at 07:46:38

Curious, you make some interesting points and puncture Cohen's peresumtuous presumptions!!

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2008 at 01:03:00

Perhaps the increase in car traffic has as much to do with an aging population as anything else?

(Yet another thing to beat on the Boomers with. ;-)

I think it would require a very close inspection & an expert opinion to decide if a beret was faux or not. Maybe even a Royal Commission.

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By Curious (anonymous) | Posted March 17, 2008 at 12:57:41

Did you read today's Spectator. The good Rabbi whose words Cohen took out of context called him a stretcher of the truth, not in so many words...he was a bit more diplomatic. Advice to Cohen: Hold thy tongue! It is forked some feel.

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By gevrvgvg (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2010 at 21:01:47

cohen is ignorant. the intire point of a column is to state the authors opinion, unlike an news article, so before you start insulting peoples bias, learn what you are talking about

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By z jones (registered) | Posted April 12, 2010 at 21:16:55

the intire point of a column is to state the authors opinion

That opinion still has to be based on fact. You don't get to just make stuff up to support your opinion.

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