Archive:

January 2007, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Kay Hymowitz Knows Something About American Marriages:  She discusses some of her findings with Kathryn Lopez of the National Review here.
About four percent — tops — of college-educated mothers are unmarried when they have their children.   Even more surprising: The large majority will avoid divorce and raise their children with their father.  The divorce rate among college-educated women plateaued about 1980 and has even gone down since then.  It's less-educated women who are more likely to become single mothers — both through divorce and non-marriage.

To return to your question about the state of marriage then: It's doing pretty well — though not great — among college-educated Americans.  But when it comes to those with less education, marriage is a mess.  Hence the subtitle of my book: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-marital Age.
As you might guess, they have something to say about the Sam Roberts article I discussed here.  In particular, Hymowitz mentions some of the findings and statistics that Roberts ignored.
As James Q. Wilson has joked, by now the evidence is now so powerful, even sociologists admit that children growing up with single mothers are at greater risk of just about every problem you can think of — poverty, depression, school failure, delinquency, early pregnancy, and so on.
. . .
Thirty eight percent of single mothers are poor; compare that to fewer than eight percent of married couples in poverty — many of them recently arrived, low skilled immigrants, by they way.   The median income for black married couples is just about the same as for white couples.  Married couples amass far more wealth than their single counterparts; a study by a Ohio University economist reported that married couples increase their net wealth by about 16 percent per year; after 15 years they have 93 percent more net wealth than single and divorced individuals.  Robert Lerman of the Urban Institute has found that even the lowest income couples are better off than their single peers, with fewer spells of hardship and more help from extended family.
There wasn't a hint about any of that in Roberts' article.  Not a hint.

(You can find Hymowitz's book here, another interview here, and an article in which she summarizes her findings here.  Among other things, she argues that the marriage gap is responsible for growing inequality in the United States.)
- 5:04 PM, 24 January 2007   [link]


Can We Win In Iraq?  Sure.

Oh, you want to see more of an argument?  Though it really does seem that simple to me, I will make an argument for those who are getting too much of their news from the "mainstream" media.  There are according to news reports, about 50,000 insurgents, as the "mainstream" media likes to call them, opposing us in Iraq.  (I prefer "terrorists" to "insurgents", because they so often target civilians.)  Broadly, they are divided into two groups, Baathist supporters of the old regime, with the support of, at most, twenty percent of the population, and terrorists from outside, with the support of, at most, ten percent of the population.  Neither of these groups has the slightest hope of defeating any significant American force in battle.  Nor can either stand, in the long run, against the Iraqi forces that we are training to defeat them.

There's a comparison that may make this simple argument even clearer.  In World War II, the United States played the largest part in defeating imperial Japan, while simultaneously aiding Britain and the Soviet Union in defeating fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.  Our enemies then had millions under arms, supported by some of the largest economies in the world.  Our population is now almost twice as large as it was during World War II and our economy is almost ten times as large.   (For some numbers on the economic strengths of the belligerents during World War II, see this Wikipedia article.)  To believe that we are incapable of defeating the much weaker enemies we now face is to ignore these facts.

So, of course we have the capacity to win in Iraq.  But do we have the will?  Samuel Morison's point, which I have quoted before, deserves repeating:
Military and absolutist regimes are undoubtedly well fitted to get the jump on an unsuspecting or unprepared enemy, but the history of modern warfare proves that they cannot win over representative governments in the long run, provided the people behind those governments have the heart to sustain initial punishment, and both the will and resources to fight back.
We have the resources.  President Bush has the will, but it is doubtful that a majority of those in the House or Senate do, after last November's election.  But because we have already made significant progress, and because it is difficult for Congress to micro-manage military operations, President Bush will, for the time, control matters, though within narrower constraints than before.

As of now, I would say that the odds still favor an American victory in Iraq, though not as strongly as they did last October.

(Some, having learned the wrong lessons from Vietnam, think there is some magic in guerilla warfare.   Again, history shows that they are wrong.  Most guerilla movements since World War II were defeated.  For examples, see the successful wars against Communist guerrillas in Greece, Malaya, and the Philippines.  Guerilla wars do tend to last longer than other wars, but they almost never require all-out mobilization for victory, so they cost much less per year than conventional wars.

And many Americans do not believe we should win in Iraq, as the troubling answers to that Fox poll showed.  Whether we should win is a separate question from whether we can, though the two are often confused, sometimes deliberately.)
- 10:55 AM, 24 January 2007   [link]


Worth Reading:  Jeff Jacoby looks at what the declared presidential candidates have to say about Islamist terrorism.  Republican candidates call for forceful action; Democratic candidates avoid the subject.
Barack Obama launched his exploratory committee with an online video that mentioned the economy, healthcare, vanishing pensions, college costs, and the fractiousness of partisan politics.  His only nod to national security was a passing reference to the war in Iraq, which he opposes.  But 9/11 and its aftermath?  The worldwide jihad?  The global conflict between democratic freedom and Taliban-style repression?  Not a word.

Hillary Clinton's highly praised kickoff video likewise included nothing about the overriding threat of our time.  Her website does contain a speech she gave at the Council on Foreign Relations last October, but it is filled with vague rhetoric about diplomacy and international conferences and how we must address the "troubled conditions terrorists seek out."  New Yorkers don't need to be told "that we are in a war against terrorists who seek to do us harm," Clinton says.  But if she recognizes that the future of the civilized world depends on winning that war, she shows little sign of it.

What is true of Obama and Clinton is more or less true of Edwards, Richardson, and the others
Sometimes silence says a great deal.  It is hard not to conclude that the Democratic candidates either have no strategy for the war with radical Islamists, or think that describing their strategy would not help them become president.
- 7:49 AM, 24 January 2007   [link]


Chuckle:  Near the end of this article on the reactions to last night's State of the Union speech, Tom Shales claims:
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) was caught by cameras reading the speech, too, but he looks so venerable and distinguished by now that it's hard to get a bad picture of him.
Shales may have forgotten pictures such as this one.  (Actually, given Kennedy's weight problems and the effects of alcoholism, I would say that it is hard to find a flattering picture of him.  But his appearance, is not, by a long way, his largest defect, so there is no reason to say much more about it.)

Did Shales write that because he agrees with Kennedy politically?  Quite possibly.
- 7:22 AM, 24 January 2007   [link]


Uncertainty On Climate Predictions:  If you have read my disclaimer on global warming, you know that I take a moderate position on the subject.  And that I am skeptical about how good the predictions on climate change can be, given the limits of current climate models.  (And perhaps the inherent limits in those models.)

Recently, some climate scientists, by no means global warming skeptics, have been making similar arguments.
In their efforts to capture the public's attention, then, have climate scientists oversold global warming?  It's probably not a majority view, but a few climate scientists are beginning to question whether some dire predictions push the science too far.

"Some of us are wondering if we have created a monster," says Kevin Vranes, a climate scientist at the University of Colorado.

Vranes, who is not considered a global warming skeptic by his peers, came to this conclusion after attending an American Geophysical Union meeting last month.  Vranes says he detected "tension" among scientists, notably because projections of the future climate carry uncertainties — a point that hasn't been fully communicated to the public.
Uncertainties is a nice way of saying that climate scientists don't really know what our climate will be like in the next century, though some have been implying otherwise

If the article is correct, then those expressing this skepticism are more likely to be the younger (and perhaps untenured) climate scientists.  And, for what it is worth, one of Vranes' colleagues, Roger Pielke Jr., says that there is pressure on scientists to conform to the views of the global warming alarmists.  If that is true — and the field has become so politicized that we must be cautious about all such claims — then the news stories we see on global warming may not reflect the real views of many scientists.

(It is infuriating, of course, to be told that our models are not good enough to predict, in detail, what future climates will be like.  Infuriating, but, in my view, inescapable, at least for now.)
- 10:30 AM, 23 January 2007   [link]


"Leaky" Leahy Wants To See Even More Of Our Secrets:  In 1987, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy was forced off the Senate Intelligence committee after he leaked secrets.   That was not the first — or the last — time that Leahy was accused, credibly, of leaking secret information.  And his enemies charge that Leahy even threatened, in writing, to use illegal leaks to derail programs he disagreed with.  (This is, alas, not implausible, though putting such threats in writing is, to say the least, unusual.  Leaks are used, far too often, as weapons in our political wars.  And by both parties, though Democrats may do it more often than Republicans.)

Now I learn, by way of the American Thinker, that Leahy is introducing legislation that will let him look at even more of our secrets.  Leahy has shown that he is not a man who can be trusted with secrets.  I hope the very narrow Democratic majority in the Senate includes a few members who understand that.

(A cautionary note:  Although it is well established that Leahy is a leaker, I can not verify every example in either the American Thinker post or the NewsMax article.  None of them seem implausible to me, but I would be cautious about citing some of the examples, without corroboration.)
- 9:46 AM, 23 January 2007   [link]


Reporter Admits Bias:  And gets disqualified from Scooter Libby's jury.
One potential juror identified herself as an arts reporter for The Washington Post (reporters covering the trial agreed to keep the jurors' names private).

She told the judge, Reggie B. Walton, that as a journalist, she would like to think that she could set aside her personal feelings and concentrate on the facts in the case, as a journalist should.

But with Mr. Cheney, she could not.  She said he put his business interests ahead of those of the country.  She said she did not trust him and would have a hard time believing anyone who was associated with him.

If that wasn't enough to disqualify her, she also said that she was not sure that she could resist yakking about the trial to her colleagues at The Post or to her boyfriend, who is also a Post reporter.   "I'm a gossip," she said. Judge Walton dismissed her.
There are two possibilities.  Either the reporter was telling the truth and she is too biased to look at the facts in this case, or she was not telling the truth, perhaps to avoid jury duty.  If she is too biased to be a juror, then she is also too biased to be a reporter.  If she lied under oath, then she is too dishonest to be a reporter.

In either case, the Post should fire her immediately, since it is obvious that readers can not trust the stories she writes.

(Clare Feldman had the essentials of this story days ago.  As some other bloggers have done, Feldman has decided to cover a story directly, so that she does not have to rely on media reports.  It shows something about the distrust that she (and many others) have for the "mainstream" media that she would take on such a time consuming task.)
- 6:53 AM, 23 January 2007   [link]


Linux Is Getting Big:  How big?  This New York Times article, on efforts to standardize Linux, has an estimate:
So while Linux is distributed free, a sizable market has grown up around it.  The yearly sales of Linux-related hardware, software and services is more than $14.5 billion, according to estimates by IDC, a research firm.
(It is incomplete to say that Linux is distributed free.  Companies such as SUSE (now a division of Novell) sell their own distributions.  There are a whole set of books on Linux which contain a DVD with one or more Linux distributions on them.  Some hobbyist magazines regularly include copies of Linux distributions, or Linux related software, with each issue.  And there are companies which sell cheap copies of the major distributions.  So Linux can be free, but often isn't.)

Not bad for something that started as a student project.

(As I have said before, I don't recommend Linux for everyone, though I use it myself.  I do recommend that anyone who really wants to learn about computers spend some time experimenting with Linux.   And, though this may seem odd, I also recommend Linux for some who know nothing about computers and don't want to learn.  If they have someone else who can set up a system for them, and check on it from time to time, they will be able to do the routine computer tasks, sending email, browsing the net, and so forth, about as easily as they could on a Windows machine — and somewhat more safely.

Here's more on Linux, from my usual source, Wikipedia.  And if you are curious about recent developments, you might want to look at DistroWatch, which tries to keep track of the changes in the many flavors of Linux.)
- 4:59 PM, 22 January 2007   [link]


What About The Children?  That question is often abused, but it isn't a bad question.  In fact, it is often a fine question, and it is sometimes the essential question.

Above all, it is the essential question when we think about how families should be organized.   A society will continue only if its families raise enough children and transmit the society's values to those children.  And so when we discuss how families should be organized, we should begin with the question: What about the children?  That seems obvious to me, perhaps even painfully obvious.

But it is not obvious to everyone; in particular it is not obvious to everyone who writes for the New York Times.  You can see that in two recent articles, one by Sam Roberts and one by Allen Salkin>

The Roberts article got the most attention, because he claimed that "51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000".  (To get that number, he had to do some fiddling with the numbers; for a discussion of some of that fiddling, see this Jeff Jacoby column.)

In the article, Roberts gave a number of examples of women who are not married — and say that they are happier that way.  He gave no examples of women with the opposite view, though all of us have known such women.  And those who have looked at statistical comparisons know that married people are generally happier than those who are not married.

But what struck me even more about Roberts' article was the absence of children.  One daughter is mentioned, but Roberts never asks the essential question:  Is the trend that he believes he sees good for children?  If I had to guess, I would say the question — the essential question, as I said — does not even occur to him.  For Roberts, the purpose of a marriage is to make a woman happy (and perhaps a man, though he never really discusses that).  If it doesn't fulfill that purpose then, for Roberts, there is no reason for the marriage.

Unlike Roberts, Salkin is positive about marriage, or at least one peculiar marriage between cartoonists Robert and Aline Crumb.  (Those of a certain age will recall weird cartoons by one R. Crumb; those of a certain age who were exposed even more to hippies than I was may recall cartoons by Aline Crumb.  I can't say I ever thought he was a great talent, though I was impressed by his ability to earn a good living by displaying his neuroses.)

The Crumbs, it turns out, are now living in France, where they moved to escape American crowds and, as Salkin describes it, "fundamentalist Christian influence" on their daughter.  (Would open bigotry toward any other group draw such easy acceptance from the New York Times?  I doubt it.)

Salkin tells us, in more detail than I need, that the Crumbs have an "open marriage".  And Salkin is just fine with that, describing it as "that brave (and largely discarded) institution of the 1960s".  (He's wrong to say that open marriage was an institution of the 1960s, and he is also wrong to say that open marriage has been largely discarded, though fewer discuss it openly.)

But Salkin, like Roberts, never asks the essential question:  Is this "brave" open marriage good for thei Crumbs' daughter?  Again, if I had to guess, I would say that the question never occurs to him.

We know more now about raising children than we did in the 1960s — mostly thanks to the disastrous failures of so many "brave" experiments.  In general, children do best in traditional families.  Roberts and Salkin appear not to know that simple fact.  And I suspect that others at the New York Times share their ignorance.
- 3:56 PM, 22 January 2007
More:  Jennifer Roback Morse has more criticism of the numbers in Roberts' deceptive article, and of his indifference to the effects on children.)
- 10:02 AM, 23 January 2007   [link]


Worth Reading:  Flemming Rose and Bjorn Lomborg challenge Al Gore — and Al Gore ducks.
Al Gore is traveling around the world telling us how we must fundamentally change our civilization due to the threat of global warming.  Last week he was in Denmark to disseminate this message.  But if we are to embark on the costliest political project ever, maybe we should make sure it rests on solid ground.  It should be based on the best facts, not just the convenient ones.  This was the background for the biggest Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, to set up an investigative interview with Mr. Gore.  And for this, the paper thought it would be obvious to team up with Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," who has provided one of the clearest counterpoints to Mr. Gore's tune.

The interview had been scheduled for months.  The day before the interview Mr. Gore's agent thought Gore-meets-Lomborg would be great.  Yet an hour later, he came back to tell us that Bjorn Lomborg should be excluded from the interview because he's been very critical of Mr. Gore's message about global warming and has questioned Mr. Gore's evenhandedness.  According to the agent, Mr. Gore only wanted to have questions about his book and documentary, and only asked by a reporter.  These conditions were immediately accepted by Jyllands-Posten.  Yet an hour later we received an email from the agent saying that the interview was now cancelled.  What happened?
They don't know for certain why Gore ducked.  It may be that he does not want to face people who are familiar with the evidence, for example:
He considers Antarctica the canary in the mine, but again doesn't tell the full story.  He presents pictures from the 2% of Antarctica that is dramatically warming and ignores the 98% that has largely cooled over the past 35 years.  The U.N. panel estimates that Antarctica will actually increase its snow mass this century.  Similarly, Mr. Gore points to shrinking sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere, but don't mention that sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere is increasing.
What makes this even more extraordinary is that Lomborg is not a global warming skeptic, in the usual sense of the phrase.  Anyone who has read his fine book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, knows that Lomborg believes the world is warming, and that human activity is a principal cause of the warming.  But Lomborg does not believe that preventing all the warming is worth what it would cost, especially when there are so many better things on which to spend the money.  And the amount of money Gore wants to spend is not trivial; Flemming and Lomborg cite a UN estimate of $553 trillion over the next century.

That kind of money does seem worth a brief debate.

(What projects make more sense to Lomborg?  He explains in his most recent book, How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place.  I have yet to read it, but plan to.

As always, when I mention global warming, I urge you to read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.)
- 10:14 AM, 22 January 2007   [link]


Another Routine Case Of Vote Fraud:  Committed, naturally, with absentee ballots.

There aren't enough details in the story for me to say much about this New Jersey case, but I do find it significant that the vote fraud occurred in a primary battle between Democratic clubs.  As I have mentioned before, prosecutors are more likely to take on vote fraud cases when the fraud occurs in primaries, because then the prosecutors can't be accused of being partisan.
- 3:14 PM, 20 January 2007   [link]


Fort Rock:  After visiting Crater Lake, I headed back north on route 97 to LaPine.  From there, I took a side trip southeast on route 31 to Fort Rock.

Fort Rock exterior

It does look like a fort, doesn't it?  But it wasn't built by men, but by a volcano.  In prehistoric Fort Rock Lake.  The Roadside Geology of Oregon explains:
Fort Rock is a peculiar volcano that looks from the air like a giant doughnut with most of one side munched off.  It was originally a complete ring of volcanic ash created when basalt magma got into the wet muds of the lake bottom and powered a jet of steam that blew molten basalt into the air in a cloud of tiny shreds.  The eruption must have looked at night like an enormous geyser.  The bits of basalt settled around the vent to make a ring of volcanic ash set as an island in the shallow waters of the lake.  The waves eroded the outside of the ring and cut the steep cliffs that make Fort Rock look like a ruined castle. (pp. 254-256)
And the waves finally munched through one side.  You can walk through the gap created by the waves and see many unusual rocks, including this pillar.

Fort Rock interior

Unlike Crater Lake, Fort Rock doesn't draw many visitors.  I was the only one there on that September day, unless you counted the jack rabbit.

The area around Fort Rock has many other volcanic features, notably Hole-in-the Ground, a volcanic crater formed by a steam explosion.  I skipped that, but wish I hadn't, after looking at it using Google Earth.

(You can find a large picture of Fort Rock here, a spectacular aerial picture in this Wikipedia entry, and some data on Fort Rock at this Forest Service site.  That ring is almost a mile across.

You can find the earlier posts from my 2006 disaster area tour here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

You can find the last post from my 2005 disaster area tour, with links to all the other 2005 disaster tour posts, here.)
- 1:26 PM, 20 January 2007   [link]


Bad News From A Fox Poll:  Here's the poll question:
Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush announced last week to succeed?
And here's the troubling answer:  Of the respondents, 22 percent said that they did not want the plan to succeed — and 34 percent of the Democrats said they did not want the plan to succeed.   (Another 15 percent of Democrats were undecided.)

We don't know for certain why more than one in five Americans hopes that Bush's plan fails.  Perhaps they are in the grip of Bush Derangement Syndrome.  Or perhaps they believe that the United States is a guilty nation that deserves punishment.  Or perhaps they think that the Democrats will gain, politically, if the plan fails.  Some may even have a decent reason for holding a view that seems, on the surface, to be completely disgusting, but it is hard to imagine what it might be.

(By way of Betsy Newmark.

A minor technical point:  The answers probably would not have been quite so bad if Fox had omitted Bush's name from the question.  At least a few of the respondents meant, most likely, that they disliked President Bush, not that they wanted the killing to continue in Baghdad.)
- 2:43 PM, 19 January 2007   [link]


Fidel Castro Will, Unfortunately, Not Be Hanged:  But the Cuban dictator is, according to reports in a Spanish newspaper, dying a miserable death.  Bob Tyrrell is pleased by that.
The cadaverish dictator shuffling in place is a perfect metaphoric rendering of Castro's Cuba over these many decades.  He took his country from prosperity and a place at the head of Latin America in material terms to the bottom.  In practically every material measure his country is a slum.   In terms of freedom it is one vast jail.  Had he, when he came to power after the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista's seven-year dictatorship, made good on his promise to return Cuba to the democratic condition in which it had existed in the 1940s, his country today would most likely be the richest and freest country south of our borders, and possibly Castro would be in the pink and deserving of the accolades now paid him by the American left's rich and fatuous.

According to reports in the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Castro and "his entourage" rejected the conventional medical approach to his intestinal disorder.  Instead they opted for a surgical procedure that is to medicine what Castro's socialism is to economics, to wit, brute stupidity.  Consequently, after the botched operation his body filled with feces and infection — again a poetic touch.
And it may be primitive, but so am I.  He has caused so much suffering — and not just in Cuba — that he richly deserves his current condition.

(Castro's Wikipedia biography is absurd.   They say, for instance, that: "Castro is described by opponents as a dictator[6][7] while supporters see Castro as a charismatic liberator.[8]"  Right.  One could also say that Hitler was described by opponents as a dictator while supporters described him as a charismatic liberator of Germany.   (And some did.)  Almost everyone on the left would realize that the second statement is absurd, but far too many on the left do not realize that the first statement is equally absurd.

The Heritage Foundation has a useful index of economic freedom.  According to the index, Cuba has more economic freedom than North Korea — and less economic freedom than 155 other countries.)
- 8:46 AM, 18 January 2007   [link]


Remember Ike Brown?  He's the black leader in Mississippi who is accused of of suppressing white votes.  As I said after his indictment, I found his ordinary vote fraud more interesting than the more sensational charges.  Today, his trial starts and the Washington Post tells us about some of the illegal actions he is charged with.
The federal lawsuit enumerates an array of illegal maneuvers in Noxubee County elections engineered by Brown.  They include recruiting ineligible black candidates, excluding whites from Democratic Party meetings, manipulating voter registration rolls and collecting improper absentee ballots, partly through teams of notaries who visit homes to help people vote.

In a 1999 Democratic primary for sheriff, for example, the margin of victory for Brown's preferred candidate was only five votes.  A judge ruled that a new election should be held because 52 ballots, most of them from absentees, were found to be invalid.

Brown, as chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee in the county, did not fulfill the judge's order, telling the local paper, the Macon Beacon, that someone would have to file a lawsuit to compel him to do so.  No one did.
Except for the racial angle, this sounds all too familiar to anyone who has studied vote fraud in the United States.  For example, we see, once again, absentee ballots being used for vote fraud, because they do not require secret voting.  (In the past, political machines often "assisted" voters in very large numbers, for the same reason.)  We can guarantee ballot secrecy, or we can have wide use of absentee ballots, but we can not do both.

And the brazen indifference to the letter of the law and even a judge's orders are also common in vote fraud cases.  Those who commit vote fraud usually know that their crimes are unlikely to be prosecuted and that, even if convicted, they are unlikely to go to jail.
- 7:04 AM, 17 January 2007   [link]