cut on the bias

keeping an eye on the spins and weirdness of media, crime and everyday life

Sunday, March 31, 2002

PATIENCE, PLEASE: I'm trying to figure out how to put up links on the side, and other improvements on the site. As you may have guessed, I do not know HTML, and the number of people I have access to who do know HTML is: 0 . If you roam with your mouse arrow over the section at the left, you will see that I do have an email me button, but it's orange, because I stole it from someone else's source code and I don't know how to modify the color. And down in the links section (also lifted), there are some blanks that actually have links there, but again, for some reason they're orange so they blend in and who knows why? Certainly not me. So please be patient, and I'll get it all figured out eventually.

LIBERTARIANS AND CONSERVATIVES II: Dale Amon writes a finely-nuanced riposte to my comments Friday in response to his contention that libertarians and Republicans will never find common ground.

TERROR ATTACKS IN FRANCE, where two buildings - a synagogue and a kosher butcher's shop have been attacked this week, ostensibly because they're associated with Jews.

IRAQ INVASION SCHEDULED FOR FALL according to The Telegraph, citing an unnamed senior military officer who was in the meeting where the plan was discussed:

BRITAIN'S most senior general has secretly instructed regimental commanders to prepare for an invasion of Iraq this autumn.

General Sir Michael Walker, the Chief of the General Staff, effectively placed the Army on a war footing earlier this month when he addressed more than 30 senior officers in Warminster, Wiltshire.

His speech, to the cream of the officer corps, warned them to prepare for a major offensive against Saddam Hussein later this year.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE? The NYTimes is again spinning the Palestinian way with a flagrantly biased presentation of President Bush's response to the bombing in Tel Aviv - this before the latest bombing, in Haifa, where 14 have died and more than 30 have been injured. What did Bush say?

President Bush said today that he held Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, personally responsible for the waves of suicide bombings in Israel, and strongly sided with the Israeli government even while warning that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should temper military action to preserve a "path for peace."

And what did the Times think of that?

...he pointedly made no effort to sound evenhanded about who was to blame for the rising violence.

What is there to be evenhanded about?! Certainly the Times is making no effort to be evenhanded. Look at the words and tone of the following:

..he sidestepped opportunities to assess Israel's decision to raid Mr. Arafat's compound...

...he focused most of his comments on Mr. Arafat, suggesting that the suicide bombing attacks "aren't just isolated incidents" and maintaining that Mr. Arafat has the power to slow them down, if not turn them off...

[His comments were] also striking for their clear association of the Palestinian leader with almost daily acts of terrorism, exactly the kind of comments the White House has tried to avoid in recent weeks for fear of further undercutting the chances of resuming peace negotiations...

Mr. Bush, at times drumming his fingers on a conference table, had the demeanor of a man who recognized the limits of his powers of persuasion, and had few illusions that he had the ability to change Mr. Sharon's strategy or Mr. Arafat's use of terror.

The tone is very clear - Bush is siding with Israel and accusing Arafat, the implication is unjustly, and Bush is incompetent anyway - he's reached his limits.

But what is wrong with what Bush is not just implying, but saying openly? The violence is not evenhanded, why should Bush's response be? And if Arafat can't control the bombings, what's the point of involving him in the peace process? If he can, then they aren't "just isolated incidents", are they? And we know they aren't, because Arafat's people continue to take responsibility. And the Times is critical of Bush for diverting from the White House "line" for recent weeks - well, Mr. David Sanger at the NY Times, Bush is the president. Adjusting policy in response to new developments is called leadership. Leadership is what presidents are elected to do. You might not recognize it, but that's what it is.

And in a bizarre twist, the Times even invokes Clinton, in a critical way, in an effort to paint Bush as incompetent. This would be priceless if it weren't so pathetic and petty:

[Bush's] aides have maintained that President Clinton was overly involved in the day-to-day effort of the peace process, ultimately to its detriment.

The message is clear - back off, Bush, you're incompetent, you're taking the road your own aides criticized Clinton for taking, and you're accusing Arafat of a role in this that we're not willing to admit. I think, Mr. Sanger, we know who is incompetent, who's making the unfounded accusations, and who's providing aid and comfort to terrorists.

And it isn't George W. Bush.

HIGH POWERED DAMAGE CONTROL: Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who has admitted in recent months to repeated plagiarism in her many books - including a Pulitzer Prize winner - "has undertaken an energetic effort to salvage her reputation", according to the NY Times. Apparently this includes "working with Robert Shrum, a political consultant" for damage control. Her fellow historians aren't impressed:

...her efforts may be backfiring with some fellow historians, who object to her recent appeals that "it is time to move on" even before she has disclosed the full extent of her errors.

It's interesting that the Times is nailing Goodwin when they continue to support others who have done questionable work (see the post below about Carol Gilligan, including the comment from a reader about Michael Bellesiles). I think it's likely that the coverage of Goodwin is so widespread that even the Times can't ignore it. Also, while Goodwin's work is about beloved liberal figures such as the Kennedys and the Roosevelts, it doesn't have social engineering value as does the work by Gilligan and Bellesiles. Sometimes, apparently, the end does justify the means.

THE SATURDAY RAMBLE: Because I really don't have enough to do in my life, I'm kicking off a new weblog where I'll post a weekly slice-of-life piece, about whatever catches my eye. Don't expect anything serious. This week's entry is on girly girls and how I am not one. Check it out, or not, as you wish.

Saturday, March 30, 2002

CONGRATULATIONS, MARYLAND! And yeehaw, IU! Two excellent games tonight, although the Maryland-Kansas game made me chew my fingernails. I want to be behind Bryan and his Turtles for Monday night, but IU is hard to cheer against, with the heart they bring to the floor. I guess the main thing is... neither one is Duke. That's what really matters.

ASPARAGIRL BECOMES A ZIONIST: This is a must-read. Excerpt:

And so I'd like to extend my hearty, personal, sincere thanks to the Palestinian Authority, to Hamas and Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad and the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and of course to the Al-Aqsa Brigade, perpetrators of that charming massacre in Netanyia just the other day. You guys did what I thought was utterly impossible: you made a mostly secular American chick proud to be a Jew. [...] You gave me back a piece of my identity and heritage that was on the road to being assimilated right out of my All-American Girl life. You created a miracle; you made me give a shit. You made me a Zionist.

And for that, I really truly want to thank you guys. Personally, if possible. With a clear shot and several rounds of ammo.

After that, go read Michael Bernstein. An American Jew visiting family in Israel, he posts about the visit, about family, and then, about the suicide bombing in Netanya, the same town where he was celebrating Seder with family. Follow the site from the middle of the page and scroll up, to get a feel for the flow of life around the bombing, and reactions from Bernstein and others. Well worth your time.

A GOOD THING OR A BAD THING? The ACLU has won the first round in a fight to break the secrecy surrounding the Arab detainees here in NJ. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Why were the names kept secret? Why have they been detained so long? Is our government getting good information from them? Do they have rights since they are in this country illegally? I don't understand how revealing the names, if the people are not released, is a problem. Anyway, the names won't be revealed right away, in the best case scenario, because the Justice Department can now appeal.

NEWARK, N.J. — A judge's order to make public the names of the more than 300 people detained after the Sept. 11 attacks means the unprecedented secrecy surrounding the government's handling of the arrests may finally be coming to an end, advocates for the detainees said.

Hudson County Assignment Judge Arthur N. D'Italia on March 26 sided with the Newark chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which went to court seeking the names of detainees held in the Hudson and Passaic county jails. The ACLU argued that under state law, the names of all imprisoned persons are public information.

This is interesting to me too because I live in Hudson County, and the jail where many of these detainees are held is actually in my town, Kearny. It's not on my usual route to work, but the other day I had to take the longer route because of a fire on my normal route, and I passed the jail. It's huge, looks more like a prison. And I wondered about the detainees, and what the authorities are doing with them there. Jersey City, where I work, is where many of the conspirators from the first bombing of the WTC lived, and is also in Hudson County. Newark is right across the river from me - I can see it when I stand outside my apartment building - and it's where I go to school. I wonder, sometimes, if that means where I live is more dangerous than other places in the country. I don't feel unsafe. But then, I didn't on September 10 either.

Thanks to kill your tv for the link.

THE PILL AND CERVICAL CANCER: Charles Murtaugh has a great article that does two things at once – gives the truth about a recent study looking at a scary increase in cervical cancer, and explains why the liberal media hasn’t given it the coverage they should. It’s not just good reading, it’s important information.

I will make one little note about this comment:

… it won't please conservatives, either, because it means that the Pill itself isn't dangerous, and that it's classic use, for family planning, is still entirely valid.

Please don’t paint all conservatives with the same brush, thank you. Having a moral objection to some types of behavior doesn’t mean I, and many of my conservative friends, object to medical technology that makes life better for a lot of people.

DISMISSING A WOMAN'S VOICE: Carol Gilligan, a "feminist psychologist" whose 1982 book In A Different Voice talks about how women's voices get higher as they express a "false" femininity, has had a rough time in the academic world, according to a NY Times article today:

...trying to replicate Ms. Gilligan's findings has become a virtual social-science subfield, employing a small army of researchers — with little success.

But this comment is near the end of an article that begins with a long admiring presentation of her work focusing on support from that social science giant Jane Fonda, who realized that her voice began dropping about the time she embraced feminism in 1971. (Fonda has given Harvard $12.5 million for a gender studies center in Gilligan's honor, although Gilligan now teaches at NYU Law School.) The first serious dissent is given in the sixth paragraph - and is deliberately set up to undermine the credentials of the critic:

Some scholars worry that Ms. Fonda may be wasting her money. "It concerns me that Jane Fonda was maybe misled and didn't understand what she was funding," said Christina Hoff Sommers, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington and a former philosophy professor at Clark University.

Ms. Sommers, who has built a career out of accusing feminists of making exaggerated claims about female disadvantage and victimization, is one of Ms. Gilligan's most dogged critics.

The Times very clearly identifies Sommers as a conservative who's primary activity is debunking feminists - the implication being that she tears things down, and thus is suspect in her criticism here. By opening the balance section of the article this way, the writer - Emily Eakin - sets a tone of dismissing the criticism as an attack, not a serious scholarly enterprise. The article slips in a quote from another academic saying there must be "intuitive" value to the work, although he then says other academics have had "difficulty confirming her work".

Then another several paragraphs detail Gilligan's new work, again admiringly. Look at the words used by Eakin: "shore up her case", "painstaking detail" - supportive characterizations. Admitting that Gilligan's new work derives its support from "literary" sources rather than scientific method, Eakin nonetheless puts forward uncritically Gilligan's contention that a tone change in Anne Frank's diary as she lives longer in hiding is not a result of fear, maturity and the natural censorship of personal vs public writing, but rather that it is "an unconscious accommodation to a patriarchal culture that continues to reward female docility and acquiescence".

So what do the critics say, and what do they do? Well, we don't get there without another effort to shield Gilligan from the criticism by basically accusing the critics of jealousy, and Gilligan as suffering only what all popular academics (like Cornel West, maybe?) suffer:

With its literary emphasis, Ms. Gilligan's book is provocative, suggesting that there are some aspects of human behavior that cannot be captured by conventional research. But her close readings are unlikely to sway many of the social scientists who have long been skeptical of her work. Indeed, Ms. Gilligan finds herself in the same position as other scholars who have been inducted into popular culture: her academic reputation has not followed the same skyward trajectory as her public prestige.

...her work has attained the status of public gospel...She gained a devoted popular following and racked up impressive commendations — including a 1996 Time magazine citation as one of "America's 25 most influential people" and a 1997 Heinz Award for upending "the paradigm for what it means to be human."

And while she was racking up these accolades, the social science community was busy doing good science revealing that Gilligan does bad science:

Ms. Gilligan was accused of using unorthodox interview methods, of lacking control groups and of failing to publish her data in peer-reviewed journals...trying to replicate Ms. Gilligan's findings has become a virtual social-science subfield, employing a small army of researchers — with little success...psychologists at the University of Wisconsin reviewed more than 200 studies of gender difference and self-esteem in an attempt to identify a general trend. They found that boys tended to score higher on standard measures of self-esteem than girls, though by a small margin. Moreover, they found no evidence of a "drastic decline" in teenage girls' self-esteem.

If Gilligan's research was not in line with the Times ideology, I think it unlikely that a social scientist like her with these clear and serious methodological failings would get such a warm and admiring review. And I doubt that they would dismiss a woman's voice as they do Summers's if she agreed with them.

Friday, March 29, 2002

EASTER, PASSOVER, MASSACRE - Three religions and three geographical regions come together in Mark Steyn's holiday weekend column. An excerpt:

Christ's Last Supper was the first day of Pesach, the same ritual those Israeli diners were observing on Wednesday when a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated himself, killing 20 and injuring almost 200...the terrorist struck, as the New York Post's John Podhoretz put it, "at the very core of what it means to be a Jew". It made explicit, as if that were necessary, that this particular "liberation struggle" puts a premium on being anti-Jew rather than pro-Palestinian.

Just as revealing was the reaction from the European media. In the American press, you read things like: "An observer to the bomb-blast scene described a dead young girl, perhaps 10 or 12, lying on the ground with her eyes open, looking as if she was surprised." For Europe, on the other hand, the main significance of this development was that it was "unhelpful" to the "peace process". Before I'm accused of being more upset about dead Jewish than dead Muslim kids, let me say that I take people at their own estimation: in the Palestinian Authority schools, they teach their children about the glories of martyrdom; indeed, the careers guidance counsellor appears to have little information on alternative employment prospects; at social events, the moppets are dressed up as junior jihadi, with toy detonators and play bombs. It's not that I place less value on Palestinian lives, but that Chairman Arafat and his chums in Hamas do. So does Saddam Hussein, whose government (the subject of an admiring article in this week's Spectator) gives $25,000 to the family of each Palestinian suicide bomber. So does the Arab League, which at last year's summit passed a resolution hailing the "spirit of sacrifice" of the Palestinian "martyrs" and thus licensed Wednesday's massacre. As for the "peace process", those Europeans who, just a few months ago, were urging the Americans to cease operations for Ramadan evidently feel no compunction to demand from Chairman Arafat and his dark subsidiaries any similar "bombing pause" for Passover.

DALE AMON, JUST WHERE DO YOU GET OFF? One of the Libertarian Samizdata folk bought a common misconception today (or perhaps he’s owned it a while, and just dusted it off). Keying off an article by Lee Bockhorn at Weekly Standard, and cheered along by Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, Dale Amon lays out his apparently primary objection to conservativism as expressed by the Republican party – they are anti-sexual, while Amon is pro-sexual. Freedom, that is.

Over the years I’ve seen many cartoons, and read amusingly wink-wink-nudge-nudge articles, depicting Republicans as strait-laced, sexually-constipated people who wouldn’t know what to do sexually if they actually had to take their clothes off and leave the light on (and likely not much more capable with the lights off). If a person happens to be a Christian, especially a fundamentalist Christian, the caricature is of someone not just incapable, but disapproving. The implication is, if you restrict sexual activity to people who are legally married to each other, then you can’t be a sexual being yourself. It’s just unnatural to have that restraint; holding a sexual philosophy with a moral underpinning that includes limits based on situational context is antithetical to freedom, and likely indicates sexual repression rather than intellectual assessment and moral discipline. It's "anti-sexual".

The philosophy espoused by Amon says, basically, that all sexual activity is fine. Well, as long as it’s consensual. Oh, and you take personal responsibility for the results. Wait a minute – that sounds like a moral underpinning including limits based on situational context. So Amon does draw some lines, which means his objection can’t be to drawing lines – his objection is to where those lines are drawn. He doesn’t like things “rammed down his throat”, and thinks others should be able to do their own thing as long as they don’t touch his choices. With that mentality, what right does he have to interfere with my choices about who I have sex with, whether or not it’s consensual? As long as I’m not having sex with him without his consent, it shouldn’t be any of his business. In a purely no-interference world, he could have no objection to a man whose sexual partner – his “wife” – is a 30-pound dog named Lady Buble. He could have no objection to the Afghani tradition of “beardless boys” - a euphemism for under-age sex partners “kept” by some Afghan men. And maybe he doesn’t – I wouldn’t presume to draw his lines for him.

And he does have lines, which makes his attitude at best disingenuous. He uses a silly overstatement by Bockhorn to make his case; I was annoyed by the bias evident in Bockhorn’s comment, well before seeing Amon’s use of it, and its hyperbole is a poor foundation for any solid argument. And Bockhorn doesn't even compare apples with apples - he doesn't say the sexual freedom espoused by Democrats (which is overstated) is matched equally by sexual repression in Republicans. Amon is the one who pulls from the quote that Republicans are "inherently anti-sexual". If Amon wants to find a real objection to conservatism other than the fact of drawn lines, that’s fine. If he wants to say that he objects to where the lines are drawn, that’s fine too. We can discuss how each of us came to draw our lines, and what basis was used. But that's not what he does; he builds a straw man and then tears it down.

Here's the reality: Believing there are appropriate and inappropriate contexts for sexual activity that should be socially enforced is not inherently "anti-sexual", and no more or less than what Amon does. Maybe conservatives and libertarians are more alike than he thinks.

HOLLYWOOD, THE OSCARS AND HATING AMERICA: Mark Steyn looks at the Academy Awards from a British/European perspective and finds little reason for accolades - but he's wickedly insightful as to why:

Around the world, everyone's watching American movies -- and they all hate America.

Sometimes they actively hate it, sometimes they just quietly despise it. But, if decades of exposure to the healing balm of Tom Hanks and his fellow "artists" have really united the world, it would appear to be mostly in the cause of anti-Americanism. Somewhere right now, in a council flat in the English Midlands, in Frankfurt or in Rotterdam, an Islamic terrorist is sitting in a Yankees cap, Disney T-shirt and Nike sneakers plotting to blow up the White House... the post-9/11 Oscars, the one participant who expressed any love of country was a Briton, a Tory and occasional Conservative Party speechwriter. How did he get past security?


SLIDELL, Louisiana (Reuters) -- Two people left a 15-mile-long- trail of doughnuts after they took a Krispy Kreme truck from a parking lot and fled, police said Thursday.

They abandoned the truck when they were spotted by police responding to reports of a dangerous driver who was losing his doughnuts.

"I don't know if it was a need for transportation or if they just had the munchies," (Slidell police spokesman Rob Callahan) said.

Well, it was Krispy Kreme....

OPENING THE HEART II: Yesterday I linked Martin Devon's reaction to the attack in Netanya. Today, via Asparagirl, I found Pejman Yousefzadeh's wonderful post from last week about his parents' emigration from Iran, and how he as a first generation American of Iranian descent feels about his country. He expresses amazement at the bounty of courage and talent in this country, and wonders from whence it comes. Pejman, it's here because people like your parents came here, and have for centuries, and continue to - and raise up people like you. An excerpt of his post:

My parents did not leave behind the only life they knew to come to a defeated and dying country. They came to one which is continually reborn, which is continually sanctified in the reflected glory of the highest and most noble products of human thought, which continually reminds its citizens, its friends, and its foes of the meaning of greatness. I refuse to believe otherwise.

SIC'EM: NoWatermelons has a very interesting, innovative and wonderfully un-PC solution to the Al Qaeda situation. Take his word, tho:

Warning - the following violates the Geneva Convention, human bodies and generally accepted standards of taste and subject matter.

Don't miss the link to the Pershing solution. Priceless.

CHARLOTTESVILLE SHOWS ITS PRIORITIES: I posted Wednesday about the racial attacks on whites and Asians by black teenagers in this University of Virginia town, and how the locals were smothering in moral equivalence - holding a bake sale to pay for both the victims' medical expenses and the attackers' defense fund. Reader John Rosenberg reports that the local newspaper has the divvy - proceeds are divided up 30% to victims, 70% to attackers.

Apparently crime does pay, in Charlottesville - if you're black.

(No link for the paper - it has a website, but this isn't on it. Cite is The Hook, 3/28/02, p. 5.)

YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS: The humanitarian agencies in Afghanistan are upset at the US – not because it isn’t offering aid, but because it is. They say the US soldiers dressing in civilian clothing (even though the article notes the soldiers are difficult to mistake as anything but military) puts their people at risk, and that the US is not doing the “nation building” types of projects they think the US should. The Afghan government is grumbling too, saying “too little, too late”. No one seems happy with the US efforts, but they would be even more unhappy if nothing was being done at all. What they’re really upset about is that the US military is providing assistance by its own priorities and plans, not according to the desires of the agencies themselves.

CHILLING: Reuters via Yahoo has a photo of Wednesday's suicide bomber. The face of evil in Palestine.

IT’S ABOUT THE WINS, STUPID: Men who coach the big program women’s college basketball teams are being gradually squeezed out, and their teams are (in their judgment) subject to rigged tournament brackets to limit their impact, according to some big name male coaches of women’s programs in today’s NY Times. The women coaches and their associations deny it (of course):

The Women's Basketball Coaches Association takes the position that the best coach should be hired, regardless of sex… (but) Auriemma [Uconn’s coach who is seeking his third national championship this year] believes that if he were a 31-year-old man seeking a head coaching job today at UConn, as he was in 1985, he would not be hired "in a million years."

There’s some stacking of stats in this article. The point of contention is hiring in the top jobs, but the article continues to sweep in all women’s college sports in comparing numbers of women vs men coaches:

The percentage of women coaching female athletes in all sports declined to 44 percent in 2002 from 45.6 percent in 2000 and is at its lowest representation ever, the recently released study said.

Only the high-profile sports of women's basketball and softball have female head coaches at more than 60 percent of universities. In all N.C.A.A. divisions of women's basketball, the percentage of female coaches is currently 62 percent, down from 79 percent in 1977.

What’s wrong with that? Well, there are many factors that could have an impact on who coaches – if you take in all sports, then you’re including little basketball teams at small colleges somewhere in middle America, and there just may not be any women available or qualified to coach in that environment. It’s not appropriate to use these numbers without at least acknowledging that the statistics could be skewed for reasons other than a preference for hiring men. And notice this, about the big teams:

There are no male coaches of women's teams in the Pacific-10 and the Big Ten Conferences, and there is only one male head coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

So it's not as if women are closed out in the big women's programs. The real agenda is neatly buried in the middle of the article:

There are no female head coaches of men's basketball teams in Division I, the top level of competition. Women hold about 2 percent of coaching jobs in all male collegiate sports…

"This is a heated debate because until the gate swings open on the men's side and women are hired to coach men's programs, the score is never going to be even," said Beth Bass, the chief executive officer of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.

So it’s a score card, an equality thing – we’re going to be resistant about men coaching women until as many women as men coach men. Even that is questionable – I think there would be resistance to hiring men equally in women’s programs even if women were prominent coaches in men’s sports. But the most interesting thing about this article is what isn’t included.

Who wins?

That’s the big point in big programs. Coaches come and go based on their win/loss record, not whether they wear pantyhose. Win/loss is the state of the game in the men’s programs, and it should be in the women’s as well. It’s true that there is a resistance to women coaching in men’s programs – Pat Summit at the University of Tennessee is in her 13th Final Four, and has won 82% of her games, a better record than almost any coaches of big programs, male or female. A mid-major men’s program might hire her, but it’s unlikely that a big name men’s program would. But that could be a combination of things, including a concern about whether a woman could impose her will as a coach successfully on a group of aggressive, competitive males. (This is not, in my judgment, a criticism of the men - it's more along the lines of a biological truth.)

But this article does not have any analysis of outcome, does not look at win/loss records overall between male and female coaches, in any sports, despite its crucial role in decisions about coaches. And I don’t think it is an accident – the women’s coaching advocates aren’t about results, they’re about quotas. If the women won as much or more than the men in the big programs, over all, I think that would have been included in the article. It’s disingenuous to leave it out and continue to insist that it’s only about a glass ceiling for women. And there is another comparison missing - how much slack do women's programs get when women are coaching? I think it would be interesting to compare win/loss records of the male coached teams vs the female coached teams, overall (if that's the sample we want to draw from), and see how long poor records are tolerated from female coaches vs male coaches.

This article introduces a serious subject, but the treatment is heavily skewed through selective inclusion of information. Just like with other "inequity" discussions, the NYTimes and the advocates for the "downtrodden" don't want all the facts on the table. They just want the ones that support their argument, and introduction of any others are derided as "prejudice".

Thursday, March 28, 2002

NOBEL NONSENSE: I'm probably the last kid in the blog reading it, but I just discovered P.J. O'Rourke's article in the March edition of The Atlantic Monthly, nicely hoisting a group of Nobel prize winners with their own petard. More than 100 Nobel laureates signed a convoluted, politically correct bunch of nonsense, which O'Rourke includes in full "with parenthetical exegesis by someone too dumb ever to get a Nobel, or even a MacArthur genius grant." An excerpt:

NL: If, then, we permit the devastating power of modern weaponry to spread through this combustible human landscape, we invite a conflagration that can engulf both rich and poor.

PJO: (Oh, I don't know. We just did that in Afghanistan, and so far it's working pretty well.)

PJO (later): Of course, it's always tempting to make fun of the Nobels. (Sidelight: Alfred Nobel owed his wealth not only to the invention of dynamite [vid. "combustible human landscape," above] but also to investment in his brothers' successful exploration for oil in Azerbaijan [vid. "combustible human landscape," above].)

You'll love it all.


DAILY Telegraph editor, Charles Moore, has demanded the immediate release of the paper's Zimbabwe correspondent, who is held by the country's police...

Mrs (Peta) Thornycroft was led to believe she had been charged with "publishing false statements prejudicial to the state" under the widely condemned new Public Order Security Act. But her lawyer has since told the Telegraph that she has not been formally charged...

Mrs Thornycroft, 57, was arrested yesterday in Chimanimani, on the Mozambique border. She had travelled to the town to investigate reports of widespread political violence and a campaign of retribution against the opposition.

I know many journalists run these risks constantly, but this worries me. I feel that journalists the world over are more at risk in countries with wicked regimes because of the murder of Daniel Pearl - more specifically, our relatively mild response to it. The Pakistanis are in possession of 28-year-old British-born Ahmed Omar Sheikh, accused of master minding the Pearl kidnapping and murder, although US officials seem to think he will be extradited eventually. I don't like "eventually" here - I think regimes like that in Zimbabwe will see it as license to shut down foreign journalists with relatively few true consequences, once the initial verbal distress is expressed. And why is Pakistan keeping Sheikh?

Pakistani officials have said that their government may have resisted handing over Mr. Sheikh immediately because of pressure brought by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, Pakistan's central spy agency, which may fear that he would reveal links between the agency and extremist Muslim groups in Pakistan.

I get very angry at journalists and media outlets that abuse public trust by flagrant bias arrogantly masquerading as neutrality, but that doesn't alter my firm belief that a vital cornerstone of democracy is a free press. We need to keep a watchful eye on this situation, and support Britain in obtaining Mrs. Thornycroft's release. And we need to make sure that Sheikh does come to the United States, to stand trial, and to reveal what he knows whether or not Pakistan's spy agency likes it. This is another battle we can't lose.

CHARLOTTESVILLE II: Yesterday I told you about the beatings of white and Asian students at the University of Virginia, beatings done by black teenagers who admitted that race was a factor in their victim selection. Today, Emmy Chang at NRO gives her take, and adds some details. Thanks to Philip Murphy at The Invisible Hand for the original heads up and the NRO link.


"...(T)his is not a question of revenge. This is about the moral right, indeed moral obligation, of Israel to adopt a pre-emptive defensive stance against an enemy who is inspired by a behavioural conduct that is beneath a pack of animals."

MEDIA BIAS ROUNDUP: MediaMinded takes care of business with several good posts.

THIS IS TRUTH: Martin Devon opens his heart about the Israeli conflict and how he feels he has to respond, and why. I cried.

As a Jew, as a person, as a being of light I do not want to be a butcher. I don't want to take life. But there are bad men that want to kill me. Worse, they want to kill my daughters...

God damn it - I don't want to kill them. Why must they make me choose between them and me?

My mom doesn't understand why I own a gun. She doesn't understand why I belong to the NRA or go to the range. What does a good Jewish boy need with that. It will only bring trouble. Mommy, trouble is already here. It has always been here. If I don't choose, it is still a choice. THEY have chosen. They choose death...

If Arafat forces me to choose to kill them, I will.

Read it all.

EERIE: From Crown Prince Abdullah's speech to the Arab League summit in Beirut:

In spite of all that has happened and what still may happen, the primary issue in the heart and mind of every person in our Arab Islamic nation is the restoration of legitimate rights in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.

Those who follow the intifada of our brothers in Palestine, which has the support of all Arabs and Muslims, realise that steadfastness will not wither, that bravery will not retreat and that justice will prevail. Every person in Palestine understands that the way to liberation is either through steadfastness and struggle, or a just and comprehensive peace. It is incumbent on the Israeli government to understand this and embark on a new path, and that is the path of peace...

The time has come for Israel to put its trust in peace after it has gambled on war for decades without success.

Emphasis mine. This is considered a call to peace?

PARIS GUNMAN COMMITS SUICIDE, and the French continue to blame his behavior on guns.

He supposedly jumped from the 5th floor of the police station. That just makes me...wonder.

ARROGANT AND WRONG: The NY Times apparently refers to its staff in a news analysis by Serge Schmemann, which says about yesterday's bombing:

But there were also those who thought the bombing might just provide the vicious jolt needed finally to call a halt to the bloodshed.

The "vicious" part I'll agree with. But who are the "those"? No one is identified. Could it be Schmemann and the Times editorial staff? Think about it.

The next section discusses the Summit and its "failings" (ridiculously slanted as well), then says:

But the history of the Middle East conflict also show that the most brutal moments sometimes become turning points, and there were signs that this might be one.

What is the sign?

For one thing, the Palestinians issued an unusually prompt and stern statement about the attack, warning that the Palestinian leadership "will not be lenient towards the parties that claimed responsibility for it, and will take all strictly legal measures to bring the perpetrators to justice."

That suggested that Mr. Arafat might be prepared to take on Hamas, whose military wing claimed responsibility for the attack.

So dozens are injured, 20 are killed, and the Times identifies as a "turning point" that the Palestinians broke into a slow walk to respond, with a tepid "We're annoyed (as soon as we stop cheering, we will try, at any rate, to look that way), and if we find you (HIDE! HIDE!) we're going to, um, give you a ticket or something!" And that is all the evidence offered for a "turning point", and none is offered to support their claim of a "history" of such "turning points". Then the Times, in a startling bit of honesty that empties their argument and shows that the only ones who really think this could be a positive turning point is their writer and their editorial staff, says:

But previous promises from the Palestinian leader to curb Hamas have proved short-lived.

Oooooookkkk... so we're believing them now for what reason? This is the history you mentioned above? A history of broken promises?

Then the Times laments that Israel is likely going to be intractable about this (as if that's a bad thing):

Even if he does act, Mr. Arafat appeared unlikely to be able to deter an Israeli retaliation.

And why would that be? Is it more than even the broken promises of the past? Well, actually, yes:

Most attacks in recent weeks have been carried out not by Hamas, but by the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Mr. Arafat's own Fatah movement. Mr. Sharon has blamed all terror attacks, no matter who carries them out, on Mr. Arafat.

So it is Arafat's people who have been directly responsible for much of the recent violence, and his promises to curb Hamas have always been broken. And the Times has the cojones to worriedly tsk tsk at Mr. Sharon for blaming Arafat?

Next the Times gives Arafat their blueprint for what he should do next (psssstt Yassar, are you listening? We can support this, so be a good boy and go this way, ok?):

But at least Mr. Arafat now had a pretext to start cracking down on terrorism without appearing to bow to Israeli or American demands. He could argue that Hamas, and other terror groups, were acting also against Arab interests.

That's right. The killing of 20 innocent Israelis during their most sacred time of the year gives Arafat the cover he needs to avoid accusations of bowing to infidel demands. Why, he doesn't even have to say the killing was bad in itself! Just that the timing was off, or something, which jeopardized Arab interests. Whew. It's a good thing it happened, isn't it? Because it's crucial in all this that Arafat save face!

And the administration comes in for its own instructions from the Times, who dug through the expert pile to find an old Carter-era ideologue to be their mouthpiece:

That, experts agreed, required a far higher level of involvement by the president himself, and a far clearer sense of what the administration wanted to achieve.

"In the past, an absence of strategy was sustainable," said Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. "Now the situation is too inflammatory to be sustained."

The plural part of the experts apparently means "yeah, us too!" from the Times, in chorus with Brzezinski. Now - wait for it - we find out where the bad attitude in all this is:

The wild card now appears to be Israel and its response to the attack.

Yes, Arafat is on board with his history of supporting terrorists and breaking promises, the US is on board with the admonitions of Brzezinski, all we need now is for Sharon to set aside his bloodthirsty insistence on responding just because his people keep getting ripped to shreds when they try to do inciteful things like celebrate a religious holiday. And then the Times warns Israel that Arafat isn't to be pushed around:

Mr. Arafat would not agree to any cease-fire while he was under fire, or if there was any suggestion that he was bowing to pressure.

Remind me again why we care what Arafat thinks? Oh, I forgot. WE don't - it's the Times that's sitting in his pocket, blaming the Israelis because their people keep dying. And the final admonition:

But Mr. Sharon has made clear he is not in a mood to hold off. The prime minister openly crossed the Americans when he declared he was not prepared to allow Mr. Arafat to travel, and his government has let it be known that it is ready to resume major military operations in Palestinian territories should the cease-fire effort fail.

Sharon is such a bully! He's going to retaliate against Arafat and Palestine, openly defying the Times, er, the Americans, just because the killings of his people go on and on and on, Arafat makes no genuine effort to stop it, his promises mean nothing, and he would rather see more die than risk losing face. This is an outrageous characterization by the Times.

None of this attitude by the Times is new, but it becomes more and more reprehensible as the bodies pile up. I think it gives aid and comfort to the Palestinian terrorists. It's sickening, arrogant, and absolutely pathetic "journalism" from a newspaper that claims journalistic neutrality.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

WHERE'S MY WHITE-OUT? Reader Jason Skiles makes a good catch from a Tuesday post:

The (El-Al) plane was not shot down. It eventually landed in Algiers and after several weeks of negotiations, all the passengers and hijackers went free.

But, he said, it was the last hijacking. So the point is still good - don't blink.

(I seem to have a blink thing lately. Basically, don't do it, ok? And everything will be fine.)

H&R BLOCK BLINKED? Another search on the NRA/H&R Block connection revealed that the tax preparer may have backed off its plan to offer customers the opportunity to donate to non-profits as a part of its tax preparing service. The NRA was among the organizations customers could select, and gun control activists had lobbied H&R Block fiercely to get the policy changed. H&R Block is admitting nothing, and I couldn't find anything about it on their website.

After I send H & R Block a few emails in support of the NRA, I guess I'll have to go back to TurboTax Online again this year.

WHO DID YOU SAY WAS ESCALATING? The Sydney, Australia, Morning Herald has a decided bent toward the Arabs and Palestinians:

A traditional Arab headdress will be placed before an empty chair and the disembodied voice of Yasser Arafat will be relayed by satellite from the West Bank bunker where Israel has him pinned down...

A hardening of Israeli hostility towards Mr Arafat - including a public request for the United States to support forcing the Palestinian leader into exile - make it increasingly difficult for the meeting to find even a short-term circuit breaker...

These developments are a dangerous setback in the search for peace, but also for Washington's hard-edged new policy for the region. The Arab leaders have boxed the US into seeking a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before they deal with its drive to make Iraq's Saddam Hussein the next big target in its war on terrorism.

If this summit is a failure, as some observers now predict, the outcome for the region is grim. It would probably mean that the Israelis would continue to escalate their renewed military campaign in the occupied territories, and that the US would probably go it alone, without Arab support for an attack on Baghdad.

Emphasis mine. Why is it we care that Arafat isn't at the summit? Let's think about his empty chair... then let's think about the 20+ empty chairs in Israel tonight, the torn and shattered chairs with blood on them, the 100+ injured. Now, how is it that the Arab leaders have "boxed" the US until the solution to Israel-Palestine is found? It seems the solution is to turn the Israeli fighting dog loose, and if the Arab supporters of Palestine get savaged, well, if you can't run with the big dogs, stay under the porch. Then, what was that about the US going it alone without Arab support? Let's count how many times we've gone with Arab support....... Ok, done.

Enough is enough in Israel. Enough is enough with Arafat. And this reporter should go walkabout while the US and its allies - including Australia - make the world safe for his profession.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand (CNN) -- Former New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange has claimed that ex-U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle threatened to have him "liquidated" over his country's anti-nuclear policy in the 1980s.

The extraordinary allegation -- first made in an interview with New Zealand's One News broadcast Tuesday night -- has been rejected as "preposterous" by the U.S. Embassy in Wellington.

"We would hate to challenge the memory of a former prime minister, but the suggestion that former vice president Quayle threatened to kill him is preposterous," a spokeswoman told CNN.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, believes it is "pretty unlikely" the former United States vice-president, Dan Quayle, threatened to have her predecessor, David Lange, killed for his government's anti-nuclear stance.

THE MAN HAS NO SHAME: Jesse Jackson is a disgusting headline grabber, and a lot of other things that you can't say on the radio:

... Jesse Jackson is contemplating involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and has had "private conversations" with both sides about the possibility, according to Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition office.

Jackson initiated the idea and the telephone conversations with the two sides, according to sources familiar with the conversations.

State Department officials said the department has not been informed about Jackson's offer and reacted skeptically about whether it would really happen.

They can't control private citizens' travel but they can certainly "suggest" to the parties that any involvement in mediation efforts aside from that being offered by the Bush administration right now would not be appreciated, State Department sources said.

Anyone who tries to use the deaths of innocents to advance his career should be summarily drummed out of the human race. Jackson crossed that line a long time ago.

(Update: And yes, I did remove the "rev" designation deliberately. I don't think any human deserves that title, and a man whose greed and ego have made him less than human surely doesn't.)

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH IN ISRAEL: All I can say is - yeah, what he said.

BLOGGING THOUGHTS: I dived into this blogging thing full bore, and I’m loving it. It’s such a joy to me that all of you are reading it, too. The emails I’ve gotten are clearly from people I’d love to talk to over dinner – smart, interesting, funny. Now I have to figure out how to keep up the pace and do everything else too. For those of you who don’t know, I work full time and also am a doctoral student in criminal justice. I’m in the beginning stages of putting together my dissertation proposal on police and the media, so you’ll be seeing a lot more of that kind of thing. I’d love to just blog all day, but the landlord and my professors would get testy. I haven’t quite hit a rhythm yet here; I want to have a system, and a daily goal of blogging a certain amount. I want to blog several times a day so you have fresh food for thought throughout. I want to do some longer writing, and some original articles on criminal justice issues, which will likely be posted on my “writings” page. Somewhere in there I should probably sleep.

When I was in my 20s, I worked for two years at a newspaper where I did a weekly column. I remember some weeks sitting at the computer staring at the screen thinking, “What on earth can I write about?” I did some good writing, but I did a lot of pretty sad writing too, and I wish I had the opportunity back. I feel now I have that opportunity again, and it’s exhilarating. So stick with me, and I promise we’ll have a good run.

Thank you, so much, for reading cut on the bias.

(and yes, i really do prefer not to use capital letters when typing my name or the name of the blog, and generally when typing "i". it's an electronic e.e. cummings thing, i guess.)

GOD BLESS THE CANADIANS (AND SMITE THE WHINERS): HappyFunPundit is just top notch stuff all around, but I can’t figure out how they keep getting insider information that totally bypasses the mainstream media. The lead from a recent dispatch, posted by Steve:

Reacting to charges that soldiers are "taking too much pride in their work" and being "vain and boastful" about the number of enemies killed, military authorities in the US and Canada have revealed the existence of special units, known as Combat Infantry (Loathing, Self) Joint Operation Yunits, on the ground in Afghanistan. These groups move throughout combat zones and take the mickey out of any combat teams that are maybe getting just a little too full of themselves. Following is a transcript of video footage released by the Pentagon showed some CILSJOY ops after the fighting at Tora Bora.

Although the CILSJOYs trainers are Catholic and Jewish, I want to volunteer my mom (“You just go on to the ballgame and have fun, Susanna, I’ll just stay home here and do these dishes I told you to do hours ago!). Really, Mom, I love you!

On a more serious note, Dan nails it on how we must approach the war, and clues us in that it’s only the politicians in Canada who are totally lame – the military are high-grade. I knew this. A good Canuck friend of mine has written two (as yet unpublished) Tom Clancy-ish novels featuring the Canadian military, and he could rattle off times, dates, and numbers of men involved in battle after battle where the Canadian military proved its valor and skill. So… God bless the Canadians, we’re glad you’re in this with us.

RACISM OR ROOT CAUSES? BIAS ON NPR: Several white and Asian students at the University of Virginia have been attacked by local black teenagers since January, and on Friday NPR ran a piece about the attacks and the community's response. It was, at best, equivocal, and at times almost laughable - their primary source for objections to the attacks was an organization affiliated with David Duke and the KKK. Philip Murphy at The Invisible Hand, who called my attention to it, points out how both the community and NPR strained not to blame the black attackers for vicious racism - even though, apparently, one of the attackers said they deliberately chose people who looked white. He has a link to the NPR story, which is worth listening to.

I tried to find articles about this through Google, so I could see how it is being treated in the print media, but since the attacks were in January and the arrests in February, the articles had already expired on the local newspaper websites. I did search the New York Times too, and found nothing on it at all - I suspect, had the attacks been white teenagers on black and middle-eastern students, I would have found ample coverage in the Times.

I'll keep an eye on this; should be interesting. By the way, the "concerned" community held a bake sale to raise money for the victims' medical costs... and the attackers' defense.

REPARATIONS FOR ALL OR FOR NONE: It's a cyclical thing, this seeking for reparations, and it's back again. This time, New York slave reparations activist Deadria Farmer-Paellmann has filed a $1.4 trillion lawsuit against several corporations, "claiming to represent all of the United States' 35 million African-Americans."

Has any reputable organization - university, even polling firm - done a survey to find out what the "street thoughts" on this are? Does she have a right to speak for all Americans with some African heritage? Or is this only a fringe movement that gets periodic coverage because of its provocative premise?

One website in support of reparations - I think predating this latest round - points out this information:

In 1988, Congress apologized to Japanese Americans interned in camps during World War II and authorized payments of $20,000 each to roughly 60,000 survivors. Canada followed with its own apology and a $230 million reparations package to Japanese Canadians...The German government has paid $60 billion to settle claims from victims of Nazi persecution. Various groups of Eskimos, Native Americans, Aleuts and survivors of a 1923 massacre in a predominantly black Florida town have also received restitution--combined, more than $1 billion. In Australia, the government has apologized for its treatment of Aborigines after an official inquiry called it genocide. Compensation is being negotiated.

So yes, there is precedent. But what do each of these groups have in common? They or their direct, identifiable ancestors were the ones harmed. And even these examples don't tell the whole story. From an article yesterday in the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald:

Aboriginal communities needed to show more results for the effort and resources that had been put into trying to improve them, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Philip Ruddock, said yesterday.

The tangle of issues raised by a demand for reparations spreads long tentacles, and I think it's a shrewd ploy for Farmer-Paellmann to go after corporations - we in the US have been trained through the tobacco company lawsuits, the Enron scandal, all the attacks on "corporate America greed", to see corporations as deep-pocket, malevolent entities disconnected from impact on our daily lives. What hurts corporations, the mantra of liberals seems to run, is good for America. So Farmer-Paellmann is just taking a leaf from that book, trying to redirect attention from the truth - whatever the corporations pay, we consumers pay. And if this lawsuit wins, it's going to be more corporations, and then the government. It's not going to end anytime soon. This is the first salvo.

But, truly, if there is a discrete, identifiable harm and a discrete, identifiable subject of the harm, then maybe there is a case for reparations. But how do you separate that out? A friend of mine made several good points about how complex it becomes: His father's family has been in the United States for over 150 years; his mother came here from another country when she married his father. On his father's side, he lost a great-great-great grandfather and two uncles in the Civil War, fighting with the North - so, he says, his family lost people who could have made money, could have produced more children, etc., suffered direct harm, as a result of a war fought partially to end slavery. So, say his "part" of the reparation payment would be $100. Since his mom's family wasn't here then, that should justly go to $50. And how to put a price on the loss of life and potential? It's something the efforts at reparation try to quantify, so it should be quantified for him too. So the descendents of slaves owe him for his ancestors losing their lives to bring the end to slavery - three lives. What cost? $10 each per descendent? $20? But if you go with $20, then now he's owing $50 and should receive $60 and who's going to pay him, now, that difference?

But wait, isn't he benefiting from work done by slaves, for which they weren't paid? Yes, but so are the descendents of the slaves, even if you accept that they are not benefiting as much as other groups. So you would need to look at the relative harm - he has benefited, say, 10% or 25% or 50% more because one half of his ancestry is American of Anglo-European descent. And what about the generalized benefit of living in the United States versus Africa? Would it be reasonable to calculate what the average person in Africa has vs what the average African slave descendent in America has, and use that as a part of the reparation formula?

Another difficulty is identifying which people should benefit and how much. It isn't as if, in the case of the interned Japanese-Americans, it could be tracked that the family owned this property and it was taken so therefore this harm calculates to this amount, and this person is a direct descendent of the person who lost the property, so he/she should receive the money. First we would need to determine which people have no ancestors who were slaves, and whether they suffered specific harm because of the culture resulting from a history of slavery in this country. The next tier are people who have varying degrees of slave ancestry - 10%, 25%, etc. I think it unlikely we would find many if any at all that have 100% ancestry from slaves or slaveholders. Can you imagine the mess it would be to parse these issues? What about a Halle Berry - if her black father was descended from slaves, and her white mother from slaveholders, would that not be a wash?

And then we move to reparations for others. My heritage is Irish, and a lot of Irish workers were exploited by corporations. Am I going to receive reparation from that? I'm a woman, and opportunities to advancement were blocked to my sex for centuries; where is my reparation? I am white, and for decades, affirmative action has lessened my opportunities. Is that going to be part of the reparative calculation? Are we going to deconstruct our society, looking for harm, in a hunt for gold?

Another concern of mine, that I have not seen discussed much elsewhere, is the psychological fallout of having this discussion in our country. It's being pushed forward by people who wish to be separate from the American culture as a whole, to create their own (and in their view, superior, not equal) culture, but that is not proven to be the desire of the majority of blacks. How can an extended, hotly contested discussion of who gets what, who was harmed when and how much, who is evil and who is oppressed, be a benefit for any race in our society? How can this do anything but increase tensions and set groups against each other when the long-stated goal is harmony and peace? I know this concern won't be shared by those who use anger to achieve their ends, but I find it reprehensible.

IF IT AIN'T BROKE, SAY IT IS ANYWAY: Inmate labor is making a difference in rural towns across the South, according to this article, and everyone loves it. Apparently the NY Times can't stand a totally positive story, because the headline on the front website page says this:

Towns With Odd Jobs Galore Turn to Inmates
The use of prisoners for manual labor has increased around the country, but not everyone agrees that the rise is an entirely positive trend.

Who is the "not everyone"? Here are the only even marginally negative things said in the article:

Not everyone agrees that the rise in inmate workers is an entirely positive trend.

"It's a way to get nasty work done for free," said Malcolm C. Young, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a research group in Washington.

But as a form of restorative justice, Mr. Young said, "it's doing something constructive and it gives something back to the community."

Nationwide, inmate labor sometimes arouses resentment from unions and local contractors.

That's it. A quote from an official who then says something positive, and a passing comment about it "arousing resentment" - but no quotes or further discussion from unions or local contractors.You'd think from the headline that the bulk of the article, or at least half, was negative.

As for the subject of the article itself, this type of inmate work - no chains, no efforts at humiliation - falls right in line with a rehabilitative corrections philosophy. It's a good idea. Even if the Times finds disse...uh...oh... ok, they didn't. They just said they did.

BLOOD PASTRIES AND FREE PRESS: NY Times columnist Tom Friedman believes a free press in Saudi Arabia would be a good thing even though much of what would be said – initially – would be anti-American and anti-Israeli. It’s in the context of a report on a poet, Abdul Mohsen Musalam, who was tossed in jail for a published poem criticizing Saudi judges – the same poet who recently said to Friedman that “the source of all the problems today (is) that "the Jews control America”.” (I couldn’t find this column because it is apparently back in the “pay stacks”.) Friedman said he walked out of the newspaper as a result of that remark.

Friedman notes the disgusting “blood pastries” propaganda piece recently published in an Arabic paper, and basically says we’d have more of the same with a free press because Arabic leadership has diverted anger at themselves from their people into anger at the US and Israel, as a protective measure. But a free press is an essential component of democracy, and you can’t clean a festering sore without lancing the infection. We can’t turn our heads in disgust and walk away; we need to let it pour out in a free press because once these ideas are presented in a context where they can be openly challenged and debated, there is greater opportunity for neutralization and, eventually, healing to a healthy discourse. A free press would be a tremendous advantage in that battle. Friedman closes with:

…context matters. Change the context of how people live and you change everything. And the current Arab context sure isn't working in our favor. Just read the newspapers.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

DON'T BLINK: Reader Lauren Coats writes in with comments about the Burnham kidnap/ransom situation and the reason why we can't blink:

Unfortunately (it grieves my humanitarian side), the only way to stop this kind of thing is, initially at least, very hard to do. Go after the kidnappers to kill regardless of consequences to the hostages.

In the 70's, Arab terrorists hijacked an El Al liner and the(y) demanded the usual. The Israelis shot it out of the sky, and all aboard were killed. But, and it's an important (point), no El Al aircraft has been hijacked again; there's nothing to be gained by it.

These people are evil, not stupid.

And that's the problem. Our country is so caught up in moral relativism that we have a diminished capacity to confront real evil when we are faced with it. I would sooner put our soldiers at risk to rescue the hostages than pay ransom and risk many more of these kidnappings, and maybe worse, in the future. They aren't stupid, they're evil, and the only way to end evil is to kill it.

TARGETS I AND II: James Lileks hits both sides of the spectrum in today's Bleats - a trip to Target (I prefer Wal-Mart; Tar-jay is a bit upper crust for me) where he rescues his daughter from sugar overload and brings sunshine into the life of a help-phone woman by sharing the location of dehumidifier filters, followed by a wonderful takedown of Arabs trying to accuse Americans of demonizing Arabs by portraying them as terrorists in movies. Well, movie. Because they can only think of one. Lileks thinks of lots where Slavs, the CIA, the IRA, the Chinese, just about everybody, are the bad guys, and he's never ever tried to throttle the busboy at the Chinese restaurant after seeing one of those movies.

YELLOW (PAD) FEVER: Andrew Cockburn busts Michael Bellesiles again for his shoddy historical research on guns in Arming America, and takes note of something you read here in late February:

Call it the year of the yellow notepad. Doris Kearns Goodwin, ejected from Parnassus, from Pulitzer jury service and kindred honorable obligations, sinks under charges of plagiarism consequent, she claims, upon sloppy note-taking on her trusty yellow legal pads.

Michael Bellesiles, taking heavy artillery fire for knavish scholarship in his Arming America, says that his notations from probate records central to his assertions about gun ownership in eighteenth-century America were on legal yellow pads that were irreparably damaged when his office at Emory sustained an inundation in 2000, the year his book was published.

My take on it:

I have discovered the connection between the data and plagiarism woes of historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Bellesiles.

Legal pads.

My explanation goes more into how the legal pads contributed to the historians' downfall, but Cockburn does a nice job of pointing out the current state-of-debate over Bellesiles, who looks like he's going down. It's about time.

Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR GUN: Well, I had my hopes all up that finally an organization was formed to advocate for the poor, misunderstood gun. When I saw the name "Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse", I had visions of them distributing flyers with instructions for proper gun treatment, fanning out across supermarket parking lots to put bumper stickers reading "Sarah Brady Is A Hypocrite" and "Have You Hugged Your Gun Today" on unwitting cars, and filing lawsuits against the Democrats for slander and libel against guns. Can't you see it? Press conferences detailing how guns save lives, the oppression suffered at the hands of hypocritical talk show hosts, and the mischaracterization by prominent historians.

But no... it was a false hope. A look at their website reveals they really mean abuse by people using handguns. Actually, I think they mean all guns, but maybe MAHA reads nicer than MAGA. No matter, they still do society a favor by alerting us that H&R Block has "blood on its hands" from a "deal with the devil":

H&R Block has made a deal with the devil. In a newly formed partnership, H & R Block will make a donation to the NRA every time an NRA member has his or her taxes done at H & R Block...H & R Block must share responsibility for the violence that results from having more guns in the hands of terrorists, criminals and children.

They even manage to indicate that the NRA and by association H & R Block are worse than the 9/11 terrorists:

As a result of the NRA's senseless opposition to even the most urgently needed gun safety measures, Americans continue to be shot and killed at an alarming rate. For example, more Americans have been killed by gun violence since September 11, 2001 than died in those terrorist attacks.

MAHA suggests its followers join us and raise your voice against H & R Block's greed and irresponsibility. I think I'll do just that. Well, contact H & R Block anyway, and thank them for letting me make my own decision of what organization to support through their program. And, courtesy of MAHA, I know precisely how to go about it:

Here's how you can let H & R Block know how you feel about the NRA

- Call H & R Block Corporate Headquarters at 816-753-6900 and ask to speak with President Mark Ernst, or fax a letter to 816-753-8628. Also, call your local franchise.

- Write them a letter at H & R Block, World Headquarters, 4400 Main St., Kansas City, Missouri, 64111.

- Log on to H & R Block's web site ( to send them an email (or use dappleby@HRBLOCK.COM).

I recommend you contact H & R Block immediately, or better yet, get your taxes done there and contribute to the NRA. After all, if you don't fight handgun abuse, who will?

SELF-DEFENSE IS MORALLY INDEFENSIBLE, at least in Great Britain, as So Solid Crew rapper Ashley Walters found out:

Yesterday, the 19-year-old father of two was sentenced to 18 months in a young offenders' institution for possessing a firearm….

Why did he say he had it?

After his acting career took off as a child, Walters - known as Asher D - became a regular victim of muggers and bullies…

On one occasion he was stopped on the way home from school by two children, who "kidnapped" him and tried to force him to mug an elderly woman.

At 15, he was set upon by two men and stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle… (He) was threatened with a gun two years ago after a gang of youths stoned his car…

"The gun being put to my head was the last straw. Obviously having possession of a gun is illegal [but] I was scared for my family's safety and my own safety," he said in a taped police interview played to the court.

I think I’d want protection too. But instead of blaming Great Britain’s gun controls for the fact that criminals have guns but private citizens can't, the rapper and his family cry mea culpa:

…(H)is mother said. "I don't condone him for possessing a firearm. I know he knows that is wrong. But I do understand his fear."

Outside court, a spokeswoman said Walters and his family hoped the case would encourage young people to "reflect upon their values and behaviour, and examine the culture that is now all too commonplace".

The culture they mean is the culture of violence in the ‘hood, but what they need to reflect upon is how Britain is creating a society of victims by legal restrictions on and moral outrage toward self defense.

PAYING RANSOM TO AL QAEDA? FoxNews says we have:

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government facilitated a ransom payment to Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in the Philippines last week for the release of an American couple but the two have not been freed, Fox News has learned.

The couple have been in captivity since May of last year. These terrorists beheaded another American, and efforts to free this couple have been unsuccessful. Is the payment part of a larger ploy or just a straightforward effort by the US to obtain their release?

News that the government facilitated the ransom payment comes just one month after State Department officials announced a change in longstanding U.S. policy of not paying ransoms to kidnappers. At the time, officials said the new policy reflected the possibility such payments could be used to help track down the hostage takers.

I have to agree with the Heritage Foundation that it sends the wrong message. I am very sympathetic to the Burnhams, and we should expend every effort to rescue them, but paying ransom shifts power to the kidnappers. We can't afford that.

Monday, March 25, 2002

COULD THE UNION TRIBUNE CONTRIBUTE TO INCREASED SUICIDE RATES? An earlier post today discussed whether the coverage of Filipino teenager suicides by the San Diego Union Tribune could in fact contribute to an increase in the number of those suicides. A 1988 study by David Phillips and Lundie Carstensen indicates “yes”.

Phillips and Carstensen looked at the effect of suicide stories in the media on the actual occurrence of suicides following the printing or broadcasting of the story – i.e. the likelihood of copycat suicides, which is called the Werther effect after a character in a Goethe novel. Their study found that suicides did increase significantly after such stories, and the age group affected the most were teenagers. In fact, based on their statistics, news stories of suicides were a factor in nearly 200 suicides (by people of all ages) in California over a 17 year period. On average, teen suicides increased by 22% during each of the eight days following a widely covered suicide.

While that does not in any way say that the Union Tribune stories caused suicides to occur, it does strongly indicate that journalists are playing with people’s lives when they pursue certain stories. Does the production of a video encouraging families to discuss suicide offset the likelihood of copycat suicides in the wake of media coverage of suicide? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

(The Phillips/Carstensen study was published in 1990 in The Media and Criminal Justice Policy: Recent Research and Social Effects, edited by Ray Surette PhD and published by Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, Springfield, IL.; pp. 63-72)

ACTS OF CONGRESS: Fresh Air’s Terry Gross tonight managed to interview author Kevin Conley for 30 minutes about the specifics of breeding racehorses without ever using the word “intercourse”. The conversation is nearly laugh-out-loud funny in places as the clearly embarrassed duo struggle to talk about how to determine whether a mare is ready to be bred (teaser stallions are used), how a stallion behaves before “addressing” the mare (sniffing the flanks is apparently a favorite), and how the million-dollar-plus family jewels are protected from the damage a well-placed female hoof could cause. Conley, an editor at The New Yorker, researched his book, “STUD”, in the horse farms around Lexington, Kentucky, and the interview is an interesting glimpse into the luxurious business of big animals having sex for money. They loosen up enough by the end of the interview for Gross to ask Conley if his own libido had been heightened by such intense exposure to testosterone and frequent “acts of congress”.

He responded only by noting that he is now the father of a four month old baby.

SEED THE CLOUD, REPORT ON THE STORM II: One of the roles of journalism is to identify trends and explore where they came from; it should be a discovery process, but in today's media it sometimes is a manufacturing process. A newspaper has a slow news day, a reporter is told to do an article on some perennial issue like crime, or homelessness, or teenage angst, and suddenly that story becomes a hot topic again - not because the situation has changed, but because attention is drawn to it. And sometimes attention can cause behavior as well as highlight what already exists. It's one of the paradoxes of research, and a responsibility journalism rarely acknowledges.

Today I came across an article on a video about Filipino teenage suicides in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

A new way has been found to wake up Filipino-American parents to the disturbing reality of teen suicides: through video images.

A newly released 28-minute documentary, "Silent Sacrifices: Voices of the Filipino American Family," has prompted Filipino-American parents and their teen-age children to talk, many for the first time, about the prevalence of suicidal thoughts and attempts among the community's youngsters.

This is a good thing, to help families discuss something that is difficult in the best circumstances, and extremely hard when the surrounding culture is not amenable to that kind of openness. But how was the problem identified? Was there a surge in Filipino teen suicide? Did the government or a university release a study on it?

Filipino teen suicides entered that community's conscience when the The San Diego Union-Tribune published an article about the high rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts in 1995, counselors said.

Subsequent youth risk behavior surveys conducted by city schools every two years have shown more Filipino teens reporting having seriously considered attempting suicide than other teen-agers.

A larger percentage of Filipino-American youngsters also made plans to attempt suicide compared with other teen-agers.

The article from 1995 is not in the online archive, so I can't say how the Union-Tribune came to know about the "high rates", but since it does not mention a study with that conclusion it seems likely the article was researched and developed by the U-T staff - and it's very apparent that they are proud of themselves. The problem with this is that reporters don't usually work within the confines of scientific method, which means their conclusions can be at best skewed and at worst very wrong. The article acknowledges that even the schools' survey isn't the best science:

Jack Campana, director of city schools' support services, cautioned that the surveyed population is small, entailing large margins of error.

"Large margin of error" in a very small sample can mean the difference between a huge problem or a very small one; without serious study, how can we know? As discussed in my recent post on gun-related teen suicides, a huge percentage increase in a small population can mean a tiny increase in actual numbers - if you have 100 Filipino teens and 1000 non-Filipino teens in a high school, and a 1% suicide rate in both, that means 1 Filipino and 10 non-Filipinos died. A doubling of the Filipino rate results in the same net number of additional suicides as a 10% increase in the non-Filipino rate - 1 in each - although when you refer only to rate increases it sounds like a crisis brewing in one area and a status-quo in the other.

It's not an "oh, well" issue, either - this article indicates that as a result of the earlier U-T attention to the issue, the concern about suicides has heightened among teens as well as their parents. If this is true (and not just another artifact of the attention given it by the newspaper), is it possible that teens who didn't previously consider suicide now find it among their options as something others like them have done? Could journalistic attention to a problem actually exacerbate the problem?

I think it is a very real possibility, and while I'm not saying Filipino teens are more suicidal in San Diego as a result of a Union-Tribune article, I do think that media-constructed stories about sensitive issues such as this have potential for serious harm.

ARTHUR ANDERSEN FIGHTS BACK: The Arthur Andersen website has an interesting section attacking the attackers in connection with the Enron scandal. The headline on the page:

Injustice for all
One indictment. 28,000 Andersen men and women. All put at risk. It’s simply unjust.

Down the left side of the page is a list of nine employees, with their names, locations, positions, years with Arthur Andersen, and this: Hours worked on Enron: 0.

It's interesting if for no other reason than to see a lot of lawyers and public relations people earning their high salaries, spinning and constructing arguments. The tone is very aggressive; no conciliation there. It's obvious that Arthur Andersen believes it is fighting for its life.

I haven't followed the Enron thing closely so I can't say if Andersen is rotten at its core, but definitely it needed peeling back. After reading some on this page, I'll be tracking this to see what happens.

FIDEL IN THE BATHROOM POUTING: This newsflash from HappyFunPundit, which has amazing insider information, or at least they say they do.

IS CHRISTINE STOLBA INSANE? Dr. Stolba, a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, has released an analysis of some textbooks and syllabi from women’s studies programs around the country. According to FoxNews, her study finds that the materials present the following image:

The modern woman is plagued by stereotypes imposed by a male-dominated society, which keeps her relegated to rearing children, keeping home and working in low-paying, menial jobs…

"It is a truth universally acknowledged in women's studies textbooks that women have been and continue to be the victims of oppression," wrote Stolba. "Women's studies textbooks support a large number of factual inaccuracies. Many of these are deliberately misleading sisterly sophistries."

The response from at least one women’s studies professor?

"Those people are insane," Jacque Kahn, the assistant director of the women's studies program at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, said of the IWF. "[They are] conservative, white, upper-middle-class women who indeed have a lot of successes. But in our classes, we teach about women of color, women from different countries and backgrounds, who have a long, long way to go."

What could be the source of Dr. Stolba’s insanity? Is it evident in the study itself?

What Dr. Stolba did is a common academic research method called “content analysis” – taking a range of materials and analyzing the content to determine something about the content compared across the materials. The methodology section of Dr. Stolba’s study is sparse, stating that the textbooks were selected based on frequency of use, and the course outlines were chosen from a Women’s Studies database at the University of Maryland and available online sources and represent 4 percent of the nation’s women’s studies programs. It would have been good to include more about the methodology, but it certainly is both a common method and a reasonable sample. The only possible complaint is that the sample could be purposive (chosen to result in a certain conclusion), but that’s not Dr. Kahn’s complaint. She doesn’t address the quality of the study’s methods. And it would take some proof, anyway, to make that case.

Is Dr. Stolba an appropriate person to do the study? From the author biography in the study’s publication:

Ms. Stolba holds a PhD in History from Emory University, where her studies focused on American Intellectual History and Women’s History.

Sounds like the credentials of someone who might be a professor in a Women’s Studies program, so it seems that Dr. Stolba’s bona fides are in order and, in fact, probably are similar to those of Dr. Kahn (who’s credentials are not available on her program’s website).

Could it be that Dr. Stolba, as a woman who is white, successful and upper-middle-class, just doesn’t get it? (I'm going along with Dr. Kahn's assumption that she is white - there's no photo of Dr. Stolba on the website and I didn't see a reference to her race. I'm sure Dr. Kahn knows Dr. Stolba's race, and wouldn't make a biased assumption about her race based on her ideology).

As it turns out, Dr. Kahn is herself a white woman. As an assistant director of a program at a major university, she is definitely successful in her career and likely also is upper-middle-class. So apparently those circumstances don't automatically result in insanity.

So what is the problem?

The mission statement from Dr. Kahn’s program gives a hint; Dr. Kahn’s characterization of the IWF makes it clear:

The Women's Studies Program's mission is to provide an educational environment that promotes an awareness of and appreciation for differences created by gender, race, ethnicity, class, global location, and sexual orientation.

No mention of an awareness of and appreciation for differences created by political and/or philosophical ideology. Which leaves room for the only real objection Dr. Kahn has:

"[They are] conservative…”

And thus, apparently, insane.

STATE ORDINATION OF JOURNALISTS? Moira Breen links several articles hitting on various aspects of the who-has-rights-as-a-journalist discussion; her mini-commentary is priceless.

This business of defining who is and is not a journalist based on who can get professional print or broadcast media credentials is ridiculous and tantamount to state censorship. Isn't the whole point of "freedom of the press" about the importance of making sure the most people can have access to the best information? Narrowly defining "journalist" flies in the face of this philosophy.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

VILLAINIZATION OF CHRISTIANS? Bryan Preston at JunkYardBlog thinks that Christians are a convenient target for Americans of different political stripes looking for an enemy to excoriate, including those who should be political allies in at least some contexts, like libertarians. I think his characterization is too harsh, but it does happen. It got me thinking about the odd disconnect that any political villainization of Christians is.

I opened an essay about this issue with the above paragraph, but it became too long for posting there, and the topic is, in a way, not exactly in the mission of this particular blog. So I have posted the essay on my auxiliary site, writings, for any of you who wish to read the whole thing. Some additional excerpts:

...The argument isn’t that all moral perspectives are equally valid; I don’t think that’s true. I’m saying that it is disingenuous for a libertarian (or anyone else) to say that a Christian who makes moral assessments of behavior is behaving in a way different from the libertarian. And since laws are mostly about making assessments of what behaviors are and are not appropriate in society, any law (including laws protecting individual rights from abridgement by individual or collective power) is by definition an imposition of morality...

It is ultimately a shame that this ideological warfare is waged between groups that are, in many ways, natural allies – such as libertarians and many “kinds” of Christians (and there is more intersection between the two than many libertarians I’ve seen online seem to want to acknowledge). The fault lies on both sides...

BACK ON TRACK: I've been gone all day, to church and then to drive my visiting Texas friends around Manhattan. It was one of those days when my car seemed a part of me and I flowed in and around Manhattan traffic like a taxi driver (but with much cleaner language). Exhilirating and fun, which was good because I drove a total of 4 1/2 hours with only one 20 minute stop for pizza at Broadway and Grand. After depositing my visitors and their extensive collection of liberated NYC merchandise at LaGuardia, I finally got home about 5 p.m. It was a fun week-long visit, but it's nice to have the place back to myself again. And to be able to post again, now that Blogger is back up. Which I will. Soon.

GUESS WHO’S SIDE THEY’RE ON? The Tampa Tribune’s wrap-up of the Florida state legislature’s just-ended session begins this way:

TALLAHASSEE - One lawmaker was forced to sponsor a bill he deeply opposed. After it passed the House, he wandered to the rear of the chamber and sobbed.

There were two heart attacks: Legislative aide Scott Sokol survived; lobbyist Marvin Arrington, 43, died.

In the first week of the 2002 Legislature, a shoving match broke out in a Capitol men's room between a lobbyist and a dog track owner on opposite sides of a gambling issue.

On the final day, Friday, the chief of Senate security had to break up another scuffle between two more lobbyists.

A short time later, Gov. Jeb Bush, House Speaker Tom Feeney and Senate President John McKay … toasted each other and pronounced the session a success.

Apparently the governor (GW’s brother, if you’re the one person in the country who doesn’t know) and his buddies were happy that legislators and lobbyists were sobbing, dying and fighting as long as the governor’s agenda was accomplished. I don’t follow Florida politics, so I can’t say how each side fought for or spun various issues. But the newspaper’s presentation of this legislative session has got to be one of the most slanted and ugly pieces of “journalistic” writing that I’ve seen in a while, and it’s not labeled commentary although it very obviously is.

The next several paragraphs of the article detail what the legislators didn’t do – with no discussion of who blocked what, but the clear implication that the governor’s people were the bad guys. Then some categories are broken out for further attention. Two excerpts:

Big Business, Big Winner

The biggest winner in the legislative sweepstakes this year turns out to be the business groups that fought and defeated a bill that would have taken away their sales tax breaks…

``They betrayed everything they said they believed in,'' said Rep. Doug Wiles, D-St. Augustine. ``All in the name of getting Feeney a congressional seat.''

Feeney is House Speaker and a Republican.

Mixed Environmental Bag

…An amendment that would restrict citizens from challenging projects that could harm the environment was added to the Everglades restoration bill.

Under the new law, legal challenges must be filed by someone who lives in the county where the permitted project is being built. Environmental advocacy groups can intervene only if they have at least 25 members in the county.

``The most anti-environmental, most controversial, most offensive bill of the session has been attached to this very good Everglades bill,'' said Susie Caplowe, lobbyist for the Sierra Club.

Imagine that – having to actually live in the county where a project is before you can oppose it. Why shouldn’t I, a New Jersey resident, be able to oppose development in the Everglades? Ludicrous that I can’t, just because I don’t live there, I don’t own property there, I don’t spend money there and I don’t have to live with the results of the development. Notice who’s against the amendment.

Finally, the article contrasts the ending of the two houses of the legislature:

In the final hours of the regular session, the House resembled a fraternity keg party.

``We're having fun in the House,'' said Feeney, who later cracked open a bottle of beer handed to him in the Capitol rotunda. ``I think there are some senators who wish they were over here right now.''

...The Senate, meanwhile, spent its final hour in an introspective debate.

South Florida Democratic Sen. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz...attempt(ed) an override of Bush's veto of her crib safety bill…Palm Harbor Republican Jack Latvala said Wasserman- Schultz had been treated shabbily by the governor's office.

Bush showed a lack of respect for the Senate as an institution, Latvala said, adding it was no surprise coming from someone who had not held elective office until becoming governor.

Emphasis mine. Notice that the article closes with a slam against Gov. Jeb Bush by someone in his own party, after contrasting the Republican House Speaker as drunken frat guy with the serious Democratic woman as bipartisan child advocate.

The reporting in this piece is pathetic, and the bias is rampant. It is not straight news – it is commentary and should be labeled as such. There is little effort to balance the one-sided presentation of the material, and what effort is there is given in short, abrupt asides after paragraphs of the reporter’s preferred side.

The sharks are in the water for Jeb Bush and the Republicans, and The Tampa Tribune is spreading chum.