January 2003, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Patty Murray Explained: Washington state's senior senator drew much criticism after her recent remarks at Columbia River high school in Vancouver, Washington. As I'm sure you know, she told an honors class that Osama bin Laden was popular because:
He's been out in these countries for decades building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities and people are extremely grateful. He's made their lives better. We have not done that. How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?For me, the worst single error in those comments was her claim that bin Laden was popular because of his good works, rather than his extreme form of Islam and his attacks on the United States. For several weeks, she hid from the press until she did this brief interview with Fox News, where she said that her remarks should not be "construed". (She meant, of course, "misconstrued".)
Most critics have assumed that her original speech was motivated by a far left "blame America first" ideology. The real reason for her foolish remarks is different, though at least as discouraging. The explanation for Senator Murray's ideas can be found in this classic 1996 article by Seattle Times reporter Robert Nelson. At the time Nelson wrote the article, Murray was half way through her first term and was failing to be an effective senator, as these two key paragraphs show:
Colleagues, lobbyists and former staff members view her as indifferent to issues that can't be explained through anecdotes about her family and neighbors. Her staff has declined in experience as legislative aides specializing in commerce, trade, banking, fisheries and AIDS-related health care—Carole Grunberg, Pam Norick, Eric Ostrovsky and Jim Jones—left, saying they were fed up with her apparent lack of interest in the issues her committees consider.Let me translate those two paragraphs into something more direct: First, Murray cannot think abstractly. This is not quite the same as saying that she has a low IQ. Though the ability to handle abstractions and a high IQ are correlated, there are some reasonably smart people who do not think abstractly. Instead, it means that she can think only in terms of simple, concrete examples. Rather than being a left wing extremist, she does not think about politics abstractly enough to even have an ideology. Not having an ideology is uncommon among politicans, but not among voters, especially less educated voters. Second, Murray is unable to hire and keep staff who can make up for her deficiencies.
With these two points in mind, it is easy to understand why Murray said what she did about bin Laden. Murray believes that she makes herself popular by providing hospitals, schools, and day care centers. If bin Laden is popular, it must be because he does the same. If the United States is unpopular, it must be because we do not provide these things. Is this thinking ignorant, foolish, even childish? Sure, but that's our Senator Murray. And that's why staffers who might correct this kind of nonsense left long ago. They didn't want to work for a senator who is, in effect, a willful child.
With these weaknesses, you may wonder how she was able to get elected. Her inability to think abstractly actually helps her with some voters since she never talks over their heads. Beyond that, she's been lucky in her timing and her opponents, and she has had the help of the news media in disguising her weaknesses. In 1992, she challenged a sitting Democratic senator, Brock Adams, just as accusations of rape were about to drive him from office. (He was accused, anonymously, of drugging and raping several women. No charges were ever brought, but the publicizing of the charges by the state's most influential newspaper, the Seattle Times, led to his withdrawal from the race.) 1992 was a Democratic year and the "Year of the Woman" in Washington state, which enabled her to defeat moderate Congressman Rod Chandler, though not by an overwhelming margin. In 1998, she faced a conservative maverick, Linda Smith, and defeated her easily.
Journalists are aware of her defects, as the Nelson article showed, but, come election time, protect her with favorable stories. In 1998, the same Seattle Times that had published Nelson's devastating piece was running stories that explained how Murray had "grown". After her recent speech, the Times actually ran this silly editorial supporting her. She's a woman, a Democrat, and a safe pro-abortion vote. For most journalists, that's enough so that they can ignore the obvious, that Patty Murray is not qualified to be a senator.
There is an unfortunate consequence of the willingness of journalists to tolerate incapacity in Democratic politicians, especially if they fit a politically correct category. Too many of the elected officials on the Democratic side of the aisles, in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, simply don't belong in Congress. It is not, I think, an accident that the Democrats came close to sweeping the "not a rocket scientist" awards last year.
- 5:16 PM, 11 January 2003 [link]
Wonder Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long? Here's one answer from a respected economist. The Federal Reserve screwed up completely in managing the money supply, putting on the brakes long after the time had come for stepping on the gas.
- 7:48 AM, 10 January 2003 [link]
Computers Don't Help British Schools: Over the past five years, the British government has spent a billion pounds to install a million computers in British schools, with no significant gains in learning, according to a new study. (They are using the American "billion", 1,000,000,000, I am sure, since the British "billion", 1,000,000,000,000, is implausibly large in this context. Allowing for the difference in population, that would be like the United States spending roughly 7.5 billion dollars.) The computers are not much used, which may be just as well, since the students made the largest gains in subjects where they were least used. (I should add that, in time, I think we will learn how to use computers productively in classrooms, though we have yet to do so. Sometimes the annoying "more research needed" conclusion is correct.)
More mathematicians would help. The British have a milder form of the problem common in the United States, too few mathematicians for the math classes. According to this article, one fourth of those teaching math in secondary schools do not have the credentials for it. As in this country, those qualified to teach math can often find much better paying jobs in the private sector. Pay differentials for math (and science) teachers are very difficult to get past union and bureaucratic barriers in the United States, and I suspect the same is true for Britain.
- 7:07 AM, 10 January 2003 [link]
How Nixon Desegregated Southern Schools: Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz describes how President Nixon brought the South to finally accept school desegregation. It's an impressive story, with a hero the New York Times couldn't bring themselves to name in the headline, which reads "How a Republican . ."
- 9:19 AM, 9 January 2003 [link]
Not Fit to Print, 1: For some time, I have been planning to start a series of posts on news that the New York Times does not consider fit to print. My first example of their selection bias is small, but significant. In each Congress, the first votes taken in both the House and Senate are votes to organize the bodies. Usually these are straight party line votes. In fact, votes to elect the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader are often used to identify the parties of Congressmen and Senators, where that is in question. If a Congressman voted for Hastert, he will be considered a Republican, for Pelosi, a Democrat. In Tuesday's vote, four Congressman, elected as Democrats, did not vote for Nancy Pelosi in the election for Speaker. Three of them, Ralph Hall (TX), Ken Lucas (KY), and Charles Stenholm (TX), voted present. Gene Taylor voted for Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania. Given the close balance between the two parties, this is a significant defection. The New York Times did not even mention the four dissenting Democrats in their story. If four Republicans had defected from Hastert, would they have ignored that story? I doubt it.
- 8:17 AM, 9 January 2003
Update: The Wall Street Journal has more information on the vote in their second item from "Best of the Web". Note that the last time there were four dissenters on the vote for Speaker, Gingrich's 1997 election, the leader was gone shortly. Note also the curious bit of vanity Pelosi showed by voting for herself, against tradition.
-7:27 AM, 10 January 2003
Further Update: I corrected a minor mistake and added some information to the original post.
- 9:17 AM, 15 January 2003 [link]
Economic Recovery Through Public Works: Economist Brad DeLong calls for increased spending on public works to speed the recovery in this post.
Given the limited efficacy of tax cuts as a stimulus, we should probably be focusing on spending programs—building up our public capital stock.This idea seems sensible at first glance. If the economy is slow, why not speed up the construction of, for example, a highway that you plan to build anyway? You may even save a bit of money by scheduling your construction in slack conditions when contractors are hungry for work. About ten years ago, I ran across an article in the Public Interest magazine that explains why this apparently sensible idea, which has been tried by every recent administration, including Reagan's, does not work in practice. It simply takes too long to start these additional public works. By the time they are under way, the economy has recovered on its own. Some planners, seeing this, have suggested that the government keep a "bank" of projects ready to go, and accelerate their start dates in a recession. This too seems plausible, this too has failed in practice. With this long record of failure, we have to conclude that increasing public works spending, under current political and legal conditions, is simply too slow a way to stimulate the economy.
- 8:25 AM, 9 January 2003 [link]
Subsidize Terrorists, Ignore Refugees: Claudia Rosett finds that the United Nations does both, subsidizing Palestinian terror and ignoring the refugees fleeing from North Korean famine. Here's the column with the details. Note that in both cases, the UN helps a tyrant stay in power. Most of the money for these policies comes from the United States and the European Union.
- 7:57 AM, 9 January 2003 [link]
Don't Miss Daniel Drezner's lucid analysis of the North Korean problem. I do wonder about a point he doesn't mention. The negotiating successes occurred before 1994, when the current dictator succeeded his father. How, I wonder, is Kim Jong-il different from Kim Il Sung? Is he crazier? More reckless? Or even more open to new ideas? Tactics that worked with the father may not work with the son. (By the way, if you want to get a feel for this regime, you will want to read Nicholas Kristof's column describing the speakers in every home carrying the words of the leader.)
- 5:36 PM, 8 January 2003 [link]
God Does Not Play Dice with the universe, asserted Einstein when he rejected the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. Most theorists since have concluded Einstein was wrong. Now, "Nobel laureate Gerard 't Hooft of Utrecht University has begun to outline a way in which its apparent play of chance might be underpinned by precise physical laws". You can find sketch from Nature magazine of his thinking here, with a footnote directing you to 't Hooft's theoretical article, if you happen to be able to read physics at that level.
- 3:43 PM, 8 January 2003 [link]
Timothy Noah of Slate says the Democrats should be glad Daschle is not running for president, since his lobbyist wife has serious ethical problems. Among other things, her lobbying stuck the taxpayers with an airport scanner that doesn't work. There is simply no way for the wife of the Senate Majority Leader (or Minority Leader) to avoid conflicts of interest in lobbying Congress, even if she only works the House. Last July, I assigned this story to the Washington Post. So far, they have not taken it up.
- 7:33 AM, 8 January 2003 [link]
Ricin in London: Here's the best background story I have seen on the discovery of the deadly poison in a London apartment. Presumably the terrorists wanted it for assassinations. Their most likely targets, in my opinion, were British political leaders, but they may have intended it for moderate Muslims.
- 7:17 AM, 8 January 2003 [link]
The Socialism of Fools: In this column from the Times of London, Michael Gove examines the left's anti-Americanism and concludes that, as has been said of anti-Semitism, it is the "socialism of fools". He rightly draws attention to our reluctance to get involved in overseas conflicts, hardly the characteristic of an "imperial" nation:
The truth is that the US has been painstakingly slow to involve itself in foreign conflicts. It hung back from involvement in Bosnia and Kosovo until it was clear that Europe could not manage alone. It refrained from dealing properly with al-Qaeda when that network attacked US embassies in 1998 and, even after 9/11, it waited until a huge international coalition had been assembled before striking back. In Iraq, it refrained from finishing off President Saddam Hussein in 1991 out of deference to its Arab allies. And with North Korea, it has practised diplomacy in the face of nuclear provocation since 1994, out of respect for its regional allies. Even now, in dealing with the dangers posed by Iraq and North Korea, the diplomatic route is followed out of deference to others.Thank you, Mr. Gove. And thank you, Tony Blair, for being willing to confront this predjudice.
- 6:53 AM, 8 January 2003 [link]
Reducing Palestinian Violence: Last year, Daniel Pipes predicted that Ariel Sharon's tough response to the campaign of Palestinian attacks on Israelis would reduce the violence. In this column, Pipes reviews the evidence and finds that violence has declined over the last year, as he predicted. Here are the numbers: "Attacks dropped by a third from the year's first quarter to its last (from 1,855 to 1,246)—and fatalities fell by more than half (from 157 to 70)." Even more important, Palestinians are giving less support to the tactics that have brought them defeat and misery. Despite this evidence, you will still see claims, like the one in this Guardian column, that "only negotiation and a fair deal for the Palestinians can bring peace, not Mr Sharon's militarist tactics". The evidence of the last few years shows, unfortunately, that negotiations with Arafat bring violence, and that "militarist tactics" reduce the violence. Wishing won't change that unpleasant fact.
- 10:04 AM, 7 January 2003 [link]
Richard Cohen, a liberal columnist for the Washington Post, fills in part of Deroy Murdock's argument that Democrats have used race in politics, by mentioning Al Gore's disgraceful use of race during the 2000 campaign. Kudos to Cohen for making an argument that does not often come from the left.
- 9:45 AM, 7 January 2003 [link]
Whatever Turns You On: North Korea, under a brutal dictatorship, has been cheating on the agreement it made not to develop nuclear weapons. This poses serious problems for the world, since North Korea has been willing to sell its weapons to anyone with cash. Left wing columnist Eric Margolis is, mostly, delighted by this development. As he puts it in this column, ". . . we confess a measure of amusement, even sneaking professional admiration, for North Korea's "Dear Leader", Kim Jong-il, for playing a really mean game of Pyongyang bluff poker". (Margolis is either using the royal "we" to refer to himself, or confessing to having tapeworms that share his political views.) Amusement and professional admiration seem an inappropriate reaction to a man who has starved millions of his own people and now threatens nuclear war. Bush haters like Margolis are so pleased by the problems this poses for the Bush administration that they neglect the central point: This is bad for everyone, especially the long suffering people of North Korea. For Margolis, that does not matter much.
While I am cleaning up after Margolis, let me note some errors in the column. It is unlikely that many South Koreans "regard the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang as the standard-bearer of Korean nationalism". Most hope for re-unification, but they know about the disaster Kim has been for their kin across the border. His estimate on the forces required for an American war with North Korea and the likely casualties are unlikely under any plausible scenario. A united Korea would be less of an economic competitor to Japan than South Korea now is, since re-unification would be so expensive, as the German case shows. Historically, China has not always "respected Korean independence". The Chinese campaign in 1530 is "remarkably similar" to the Mao's intervention in the Korean War, only if you neglect such trivia as the fact that the Chinese won in the first war and were defeated in the second.
- 9:17 AM, 7 January 2003 [link]
You're Another arguments often turn into an apologies or even justifications for the original offense. Deroy Murdock avoids that trap in this survey of racism in the Democratic party. After mentioning examples from Bill Clinton to Al Sharpton, Murdock ends with this sensible advice:
Yes, Republicans should search their souls on race. South Carolina's Bob Jones University, which banned interracial dating until recently, no longer should be a station of the cross en route to the GOP nomination. More Republicans should understand that the Confederate flag telegraphs slavery and sedition to blacks, among others. Republicans always should sell their message of freedom in black neighborhoods; they never will win black support without asking for it. Republicans should do these things because they are right, whether or not Democrats overcome their addiction to race baiting.Exactly right. And, I do hope, for the sake of the country, that the Democrats overcome their addiction.
- 2:10 PM, 6 January 2003 [link]
What Would Mohammed Drive? Here's the cartoon that got Doug Marlette in trouble, along with his explanation. Maybe I'm insensitive, but I think it's funny.
- 1:55 PM, 6 January 2003 [link]
Not in Our Name: So say many American leftists, and so say, almost in those words, German neo-Nazis. This Los Angeles Times article (by way of FrontPage Magazine) describes the sympathy many German neo-Nazis have for both Saddam's regime and Islamic extremists. Their most important leader, Udo Voigt, told a Muslim rally:
I think I speak in the name of all German nationalists when I say, if it comes to a great clash [between civilizations], we will not stand at the side of America.There are some enemies I am proud to have. I am not as surprised as Fleishman about these connections. Hitler, after all, recruited Muslims for his army and made many efforts to turn those in the Middle East and elsewhere against the British.
- 10:23 AM, 6 January 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: This Martin Kramer reply to Michael Ignatieff's Sunday New York Times article on the new American "empire". Kramer shows how Ignatieff repackaged "every trendy calumny against Israel" from an April article he wrote for the Guardian, taking the edge off them for the editors at the Times. The idea, so common on the left, that Israel can gain peace by concessions to the fascist Palestinian Authority may have been plausible at one time; recent history shows that it is idiotic, as do studies of opinion in the areas Arafat controls.
- 9:24 AM, 6 January 2003 [link]
Muslim Slavers raided Europe for slaves almost from the founding of Islam. And this continued far later than many realize. According to historian Robert Davis, "in the 250 years from 1580 more than a million Europeans were kidnapped for slavery or ransom". This article describes the finding of one of the raider's ships off Britain, and sketches some of the historical background. (The Guardian gives "University of Ohio" as Davis's academic affiliation. They probably mean Ohio University, which does have a historian by that name.)
The Muslim raiders often sailed as far north as Britain and Ireland, and, even, in one case, Iceland. We know about the Iceland raid from a captured Lutheran minister, who was later ransomed. (He felt insulted when his maid fetched a higher price in the slave market than he did.) So far as I know, there is not yet an organized effort to extract reparations on behalf of these slaves.
- 9:04 AM, 6 January 2003 [link]
The Underestimated Grant: General Grant was the most successful commander on either side in the United States Civil War, yet he is often described as a mediocre butcher. Author Gordon C. Rhea is correcting the record, as this article explains. Grant's reputation was damaged by Southern historians, writing after the war, who gave Grant too little credit. I would add that anyone interested in military history should study Grant's Vicksburg campaign, a classic of strategy.
- 10:06 AM, 5 January 2003 [link]
Why Are Journalists So Often Wrong About Christmas Sales? Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi explains why, for example, the New York Times printed a front page story on December 27th story saying that "experts yesterday declared this year's holiday season the worst in many years". "Experts" may have said so, but they were almost certainly wrong. All the sales data is not available, and journalists are poor at evaluating it. As Farhi notes, retail sales have increased 129 out of the last 130 months, so it is a good bet that they increased last December as well. (I think he means seasonally adjusted sales, by the way.) Here's the full story, with Farhi's prediction that we will continue to see these bogus stories.
- 9:49 AM, 5 January 2003 [link]
A Crusade? Yes, says Dennis Mullin in this Washington Post opinion piece. If, that is, you are using "crusade" to describe the attacks by Muslims on their non-Muslim neighbors. You will not see much in this piece that I have not discussed here, particularly in What Would Mohammed Do?, but it is encouraging to see a mainstream newspaper discussing this pattern of attacks by Muslims frankly.
- 9:31 PM, 5 January 2003 [link]
Environmentalists Are Fibbing about plans for the grizzly bear, according to the biologist in charge of the recovery plan. The Natural Resources Defence Council claims that there is political pressure to take the grizzly bear off the endangered species list. The biologist, Chris Servheen, says:
I am the grizzly bear recovery coordinator and have been so for 22 years. Nobody has given me any political pressure to do anything about delisting. That's not even on the table right now.This story from Montana of deception by environmentalists will not make the New York Times, I can predict with complete confidence.
- 3:50 PM, 4 January 2003 [link]
The Poetic Burglar: Writing poetry is enough reason to keep a burglar with 31 convictions from serving any time for his latest offense, according to the foolish British judge who released him. The tabloid Sun has the story. Sadly, they have no samples of the burglar's poetry, perhaps because his verses are often obscene.
- 3:34 PM, 4 January 2003
Update: For the curious, this Telegraph article has a sample of the burglar's poetry. I am not a literary critic, but, if the example is typical, I would say that Shakespeare, Byron, and T. S. Eliot have nothing to fear.
- 9:18 AM, 5 January 2003 [link]
British Arms Ban: In a decision with an eerie parallel to the easy treatment of burglars, the British government is now blocking the export of most arms to Israel, as described in this Times article. In both cases, Britain has chosen to make it easier for the attackers, British burglars and Palestinian terrorists alike.
- 8:17 AM, 4 January 2003 [link]
Learn From American Mistakes is the unsolicited advice I would give to the British. Thirty years ago many American judges reacted to rising crime by decreasing both the penalties on crime and the likelihood that penalties would be imposed. Our crime rates soared. Now, as this Telegraph editorial describes, their Lord Chief Justice Woolf is making the same error, by giving many burglars an immunity from prison sentences. That approach will produce, as it did here, "confident criminals, passive policemen and a frightened populace", which will combine to make the crime rate there even worse.
We have also learned, the hard way, that ignoring petty crimes and misdemeanors leads to an increase in major crimes. As William Tucker reminds us, in this column, the New York crime rate was reduced when the police "began cracking down on small offenses, concerning themselves with public order as well as major felonies". You can prevent murders, New York learned, by agressive enforcement of the laws against burglary, illegal drinking, and even beating subway fares.
Tucker reminds us of another point that the Lord Chief Justice ignored. The principal victims of violent crime tend to be poor people, especially poor black and Hispanic men. Woolf may be able to protect his own home against burglars, but a poor immigrant from Jamaica will be unable to afford the same alarms and guards.
- 8:09 AM, 4 January 2003 [link]
The Strange Case of John Edwards: Now that the North Carolina senator has declared his candidacy for president, it is time to say the obvious: He is unqualified by education, experience, and accomplishments to be president. The presidency is an executive office, which requires a different set of skills than those that make a person a good advocate or even a legislator. An executive must prepare and administer a budget, rather than just haggle over one. An executive must hire and fire on a large scale, unlike a legislator, who must manage a small staff. There is nothing in Edwards' career that shows he would make a good executive.
There is no single course of study for political executives. There are two substitutes that American voters have often considered useful, a business degree, like the MBA, and officer's training of the kind one can get from the service academies or other parts of the military. Senator Edwards has a law degree, which is almost useless for executives. Some business executives do have law degrees, but they almost never become executives until they have had years of business experience.
There is no single path to executive experience. One can gain it as an officer in the military, as a business executive, especially the head of a business, as an appointed official like a Cabinet officer, or, best of all, as an elected official like a vice president, a governor, a mayor, or even the head of a school board. Senator Edwards has never held any of these executive positions. He has zero years of executive experience, but is applying for the top executive job.
Although legislators do not get direct executive experience, they can show in other ways that they are qualified to be executives. Some legislators demonstrate their fitness for executive office by writing important legislation. In four years in the senate, Edwards has not written any. According to his own web site, his biggest accomplishment in that time was work on a "Patient Protection Act", which passed the Senate, but not the House. (Critics described it as a gift to trial lawyers like, for example, Senator Edwards.) Some legislators show their fitness by their work as a committee chairman. President Truman was tapped for vice president partly because of his Senate committee's work in detecting waste and fraud during World War II. Senator Kefauver of Tennessee became a plausible candidate for president through his work exposing organized crime. Senator Edwards has never been a committee chairman. Some legislators, like Bob Dole, become plausible as executives through their experience as a party leader. Senator Edwards has never held a party leadership position. Other legislators become plausible as executives by embodying the important ideas of the time. Lincoln, who served in the Illinois legislature and, briefly, in the House of Representatives, is the obvious example here. Through his campaign debates with Senator Douglas and other speeches, he came to be the obvious choice to represent the Republican party. If Edwards has any significant ideas, they are not apparent.
No relevant education, experience, or accomplishments. Would you hire this man? I wouldn't, but we may. Though he is manifestly unqualified to be president, he might well be a strong candidate. As every political junkie knows, since John Kennedy in 1960, the Democrats have been able to win the presidency only when they ran southern candidates. Edwards has the ability to appear moderate while taking hard left stands. He is glib and pleasant on television, an important asset. He is quite good looking—some even say he could be a star in a "boy band", a judgment I am unqualified to make since I am not a 13 year old girl.
Even his years as a rich trial lawyer, or as Ari Fleisher puts it, as an "ambulance chaser", may not hurt him as this article explains. (By the way, if he wins the nomination or appears likely to, expect more movies from Hollywood about heroic trial lawyers, like "Erin Brokovitch".) Hood goes farther than I would in saying that being a lawyer is an asset to a candidate, not a liability, but it is true that Edwards represented many plaintiffs that most Americans would find sympathetic. He may not be qualified by any rational standard, but he may be electable, and that, for many Democrats, is enough. Many Democrats charged, with some justice, that Dan Quayle and George W. Bush were too inexperienced for the positions they sought. So far as I can tell, none seem to think the same is true of Edwards, even though he has less experience than either man, and no significant accomplishments as a public official.
- 7:15 AM, 4 January 2003 [link]
Rising British Gun Violence: After a horrific incident in which a gun man killed children at a school in Dunblane, the British enacted some of the toughest controls on guns in the world. Since then, gun violence has risen sharply in Britain as Theodore Dalrymple describes here. As he notes, this was predicted at the time the legislation was passed:
The inexorable spread of firearms has continued quite undisturbed by the Dunblane gun law, just as critics of that law said it would.At one time, I favored moderate restrictions on guns. There are still some that I think might make some sense. On the whole, though, I have concluded that gun bans are ineffective and maybe even counter-productive, just as the gun nuts have said all along.
- 9:16 AM, 3 January 2003 [link]
Estonia, Russia: Sheer incompetence is an even larger problem in the news business than bias. This morning, as I was watching the morning news on the Seattle Fox affiliate, Q13, I saw an astounding example. The anchor, Tony Ventrella, a former sports reporter, read with some surprise a story on Estonia's worry over its low birth rate. The idea that a country might have too low a birth rate seemed entirely new to both him and his co-anchor, Christine Chen, even though it has been discussed for decades by demographers. Neither showed any awareness of the fact that nearly all the European countries have fertility rates below replacement. To illustrate the story, there was a map of Russia, with "Estonia, Russia" on it, at about the location of Moscow. Whoever drew up the map thought that Estonia was a location in Russia. Words fail me.
- 9:01 AM, 3 January 2003 [link]
Routine Anti-Americanism, Example 1: For some time, I have been arguing that one of the handicaps we have in the war on terror is the routine anti-Americanism in much of the British press. (Israel has a similar, but far worse, handicap, as I have mentioned a number of times.) Journalists at Reuters, the BBC, the Guardian, and the Independent have an enormous influence on world opinion with their often slanted coverage. Here's the first example, in what will be a series, to illustrate my argument. The Guardian, citing a once secret British report, claims that, in the Korean War, American guards did not always follow the Geneva convention in dealing with their North Korean captives. How, specifically? The guards were rough, they once removed a prisoner's insignia, they called the prisoners names, and they were slow to deliver mail. After 50 years, these do not seem like major human rights issues. Nonetheless, the Guardian leads with this: "US troops guarding communist captives in the Korean War violated the Geneva convention . .."
A careful reader of the whole story will learn that the violations were trivial, that incompetence was a far worse problem, and that, even in the camp, the Communists were far worse to their own people. Most readers, however, will see the article and get the impression, as the Guardian intended, that Americans were brutally violating the rights of the prisoners.
- 8:35 AM, 3 January 2003 [link]
Another Genocide? This brief New Republic article contains a chilling quotation. The world press has given the most attention to Robert Mugabe's campaign against the white farmers of Zimbabwe, but the black Matabele people have suffered far more from his misrule. Now, one of his cronies says that Zimbabwe would be better off with just 6 million people, half of its present population. It is not hard to see a connection between that statement and the famine being inflicted on the Matabele.
- 1:32 PM, 2 January 2003 [link]
Law School and Success: The Instapundit's posts on students who email and surf the net while in class remind me of a curious finding I saw some years ago. Good grades in law school were negatively correlated with incomes for lawyers. The correlation was not strong, but it did suggest that the market does not reward lawyers in the same way law professors do. This finding may be a little stronger than it seems at first glance, since good grades in law schools would probably open some lucrative doors. Over their careers, the poorer students must do things to make up for that initial handicap.
- 1:18 PM, 2 January 2003 [link]
Here's to Your Health! On New Year's Eve, the New York Times published this article on the benefits of moderate, and I repeat, moderate, drinking for the health of men over 40, and women over 50. A drink or two a day is the best single thing people in those groups can do to reduce their risk of heart attacks, better even than vigorous exercise. Best of all, of course, is to do both. The Framingham study put the decrease in risk at 28 per cent, not a small amount. That decrease translates directly into longer life:
Among more than 100,00 California adults, moderate drinking after age 40 was associated with reduced death rates during every subsequent decade of life—in some people by as much as 30 per cent.You can look it from the other side, too. A study of 80,000 American women found that:
Not drinking at all was as bad for the heart as morbid obesity.These health benefits have been found in people who drink beer, wine, and hard liquors. There are interesting chemicals in red wine and beer that may have some added advantages, but the alcohol is the important ingredient.
Alcohol helps in several different ways as this sidebar explains. It lowers "bad" cholesterol (LDL) and increases the "good" cholesterol (HDL). Like aspirin, it thins the blood and helps prevent damaging clots. It may help prevent diabetes, since moderate drinkers average a little thinner than non-drinkers. Both beer and wine contain high levels of anti-oxidants, which may have other health benefits.
There is one well known difficulty about this for non-drinkers. People who do not begin drinking when they are young often have difficulty starting later in life, when the health benefits become important. They may not care for the bitter taste of hops in beer, or the tannin in red wines, especially the cheap ones. They might want to try some of the alcoholic drinks that don't require much getting used to. Most will find the sweeter white wines, like Riesling or Semillon, easy to drink. There are sweet sherries that almost everyone likes. And, there are mixed drinks that don't have much bite.
- 1:02 PM, 2 January 2003 [link]
Happy New Year! (A day late, after I decided to take a very minor vacation from posting. The predictions are still coming, but not today, and maybe not even tomorrow.)
- 12:15 PM, 2 January 2003 [link]