Monday, November 22, 2004

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics (Divorce American Style)

The Internet is now filled with claims about the low divorce rate for blue states, the high divorce rates for red states, and what it means for voters who supposedly put Bush back in office because of moral values (Hint: it begins in "hypo" and ends in "crisy."). This first appeared in the New York Times a week ago. Many of our friends have joyously pointed out this supposed inconsistency.

The only problem is that it's not true. Those calculations were done as a proportion of population, which means that states with a low rate of marriage also have a low rate of divorce. But clearly any state which has no marriages will have no divorces. Which states have low rates of marriage? Umm, the blue ones. When you properly calculate divorce rates as a fraction of marriages, the supposed correlation vanishes. Poof. Powerline Blog has a good post on this.

The person who gathered this factoid could have easily checked this (there were no citations for this statistic, either). The Left keeps asking what "moral values" means to Red America. For one thing, it means not lying -- not saying something you know to be untrue in an effort to deceive (that's what we poor Bush-voting rubes mean by "lying.")

By far the biggest loser in this election was not John Kerry, but rather mainstream media. And if they keep this up, they'll just keep on losing.

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Read Slate

Slate cites a Washington Post story as follows: "The Washington Post leads with American commanders in Iraq saying they need more troops to continue hunting insurgents." The headline reads "Troops, We Need You Again." Once again, we're short on troops! Doom is right around the corner! On the other hand, Here's the original WaPo article.
Here's the lede:

"[Unnamed s]enior U.S. military commanders in Iraq say it is increasingly likely they will need a further increase in combat forces to put down remaining areas of resistance in the country."

Note the following:
  1. Unnamed sources
  2. of an unspecified number (more than one).
  3. and an unspecified rank
  4. say it is becoming likely (not certain) that they will (in the future) need further troops.

The Post continues:

Convinced that the recent battle for Fallujah has significantly weakened insurgent ranks, commanders here have devised plans to press the offensive into neighborhoods where rebels have either taken refuge after fleeing Fallujah or were already deeply entrenched.
But the forces available for these intensified operations have become limited by the demands of securing Fallujah and overseeing the massive reconstruction effort there -- demands that senior U.S. military officers say are likely to tie up a substantial number of Marines and Army troops for weeks.

A bit more nuanced than Slate's summary, isn't it? The numbers of troops these officers are talking about is "the equivalent of several battalions, or about 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers." The current number of troops there is 138,000, so we are saying that some officers are now saying we need to increase our commitment by two or three percent. The whole thrust of the article is that these unnamed officers have come to this conclusion only in the wake of the battle in Fallujah, not that there has been an underlying lack of personnel that they have been bemoaning. Reading further in the story, different options are being considered. If they need more troops, they should get them, but this is a tactical question, not the sweeping question of war management we might think if we took Slate's summary at face value.

Friday, November 19, 2004

UN workers to condemn chief with vote of "no confidence"

Herald Sun: UN workers to condemn chief [20nov04]: "Mr Annan has been in the line of fire over a high-profile series of scandals including a UN aid program that investigators said allowed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to embezzle billions of dollars.
But staffers said the trigger for the no-confidence measure was an announcement this week that Mr Annan had pardoned the UN's top oversight official, who was facing allegations of favouritism and sexual harassment. "

Count me a union man.

Specter Survives as Chairman

Republicans are backing Specter, the New York Times reports. If Specter reverts to form, this will be devastating for Republicans in '06 and '08. Pro-life voters will not turn out.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Unteachable Ignorance of Jane Smiley.

We saw Jane Smiley's "The unteachable ignorance of the red states."
up on Slate. Here are some delightful excerpts:
Here is how ignorance works: First, they put the fear of God into you—if you don't believe in the literal word of the Bible, you will burn in hell. Of course, the literal word of the Bible is tremendously contradictory, and so you must abdicate all critical thinking, and accept a simple but logical system of belief that is dangerous to question. A corollary to this point is that they make sure you understand that Satan resides in the toils and snares of complex thought and so it is best not try it.

Next, they tell you that you are the best of a bad lot (humans, that is) and that as bad as you are, if you stick with them, you are among the chosen. This is flattering and reassuring, and also encourages you to imagine the terrible fates of those you envy and resent. American politicians ALWAYS operate by a similar sort of flattery, and so Americans are never induced to question themselves. That's what happened to Jimmy Carter—he asked Americans to take responsibility for their profligate ways, and promptly lost to Ronald Reagan, who told them once again that they could do anything they wanted. The history of the last four years shows that red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do—they prefer to be ignorant. As a result, they are virtually unteachable.

Third, and most important, when life grows difficult or fearsome, they (politicians, preachers, pundits) encourage you to cling to your ignorance with even more fervor. But by this time you don't need much encouragement—you've put all your eggs into the ignorance basket, and really, some kind of miraculous fruition (preferably accompanied by the torment of your enemies, and the ignorant always have plenty of enemies) is your only hope. If you are sufficiently ignorant, you won't even know how dangerous your policies are until they have destroyed you, and then you can always blame others.

The reason the Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections is simple: A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful prey—workers and consumers. The architects of this strategy knew perfectly well that they were exploiting, among other unsavory qualities, a long American habit of virulent racism, but they did it anyway, and we see the outcome now—Cheney is the capitalist arm and Bush is the religious arm.

Since Ms. Smiley is big on critical thinking, may we ask to whom she is referring when she writes "they"? Should we assume that Karl Rove rolled into town telling people to pray? We assume Smiley believes that devout belief and rational thought are mutually incompatible.

We're distrustful of someone who starts a paragraph, "here is how ignorance works." Especially distressing coming from the Party of Nuance. Then Smiley veers straight for Tinfoil Hat Country when she invokes Big Capitalists and Shadowy Religious Hucksters Conspiring in Dark Corners to Enslave America.

Would we be taken seriously if we wrote, "a generation ago, the international banking cartel decided to make use of the freemasons in their war against modern America"? We hope not. But presumably Slate readers don't blink an eye at her mild derangement.

Interestingly she doesn't think the Bush supporters in her family are ignorant (although she does accuse them of being greedy).

Her selective memory when it comes to Jimmy Carter is also telling. When he lost to Reagan, both he and Rosalyn openly derided the Reagans as immoral, doing his little Church Lady superior dance. Then again, Smiley herself seems to think that anyone who disagrees with her is a moral leper. The take-home lesson: it's fine to be self-righteous, provided you back the Democrats.

Abortion, the Glue that Holds this Country Together!

I just had a delightful lunch with dear friends, one liberal, one conservative. My left-leaning friend recycled a bit of Lawrence O'Donnell's fevered secession theorizing. He furthered added the wrinkle that if Roe v. Wade is overturned in the Supreme Court, the logic of O'Donnell's "blue states subsidize red states" talk becomes overwhelming, and secession becomes a done deal. Forget the common heritage of political freedom, ordered liberty, free speech, etc. According to this train-wreck of thought, any Union that doesn't guarantee the right of doctors and pregnant women to suction the brains out of a 8-month fetus will be de-legitimized and seen as not worth defending.

I'm waiting for NARAL to grab the title of my post for a bumper sticker. Catchy, no?

What Next?

It appears that the Battle of Fallujah has been largely won by the combined Coalition and Iraqi forces. Combined Iraqi and Coalition deaths are about fifty; the insurgents have seen over 1,200 of their men killed and another thousand or so taken prisoner. So where are our forces going next?

Mosul: US tightens its grip on Mosul (UK Telegraph).
Ramadi: Troops battle guerrillas in Ramadi (UK telegraph).
Baiji: With Mosul Now Calmer, Fighting Flares Elsewhere (LA Times).

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Safe, Legal, and Rare -- OK, We'll Take One out of Three

F.D.A. Strengthens Warning on the Abortion Pill. Seems that a California woman died of sepsis (bacterial blood poisoning) after using the mifepristone abortion pill. She is the third woman in the U.S. to die from this pill. A Johns Hopkins professor of gynecology (and, coincidentally, an adviser to Planned Parenthood) assures us that mifepristone is safer than pregnancy.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

So Nice to Find Out We Have Something In Common!

Gerhard Schröder eulogizes Yasser Arafat: "he regrets that 'it was not granted to Yasser Arafat to complete his life's work.'" Hmm, his life's work? Driving Israel into the sea and killing all Jews? I suppose it's uncharitable to point out what Schröder's predecessor considered his life's work or struggle six decades ago.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Newsday is scared

The editors of New York Newsday are frightened by the remote prospect of a reversal of Roe. L'affaire Specter has them trembling. Good.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The New York Times > Health > I Beg to Differ: A Diabetes Researcher Forges Her Own Path to a Cure

Interesting Times article shows potential for cure for diabetes. The catch? It doesn't involve stem cells, and the drug that would be used is cheap.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Following Fallujah

Found an excellent blogger who is covering Fallujah pretty devotedly: The Adventures of Chester (here's his Atom XML feed). The news so far leads us to a very cautious optimism.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Peter and Paul

Peter Singer turns on Paul Krugman regarding the advice for Dems to visibly "value faith." (Actually, Nick Kristof was far more explicit about this -- Krugman was typically banal and anodyne). The delicious ironies multiply past all count. The in-fighting has officially commenced.

Of course, we've already established that Singer (admirably) refuses to act on his "rational beliefs" when it comes to his mother. He should consider that before he offers advice. He was very defensive about his payment for his mother's very expensive medical treatment, and I agree that that is a private matter for him. But he should consider that if even he can't act consistently in accord with his supposedly rational world view, expecting voters to do so is a losing proposition.

The gnashing of teeth -- music to my ears.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Fallujah Offensive Begins

CNN and FoxNews detail the start of the Fallujah ground offensive: Iraqi and U.S. troops have moved into the western part of the city, seizing a hospital and securing two bridges. May God bless and keep these soldiers fighting to preserve liberty in 2 countries.

Friday, November 05, 2004

"The Roe=Scott Code"

Writing in the Nation, Katha Pollitt misunderstands the relationship between Roe v. Wade and Dred Scott for anti-abortion advocates. The Scott decision did not simply state that the Constitution allowed slavery. Few argued that, certainly not Lincoln. Rather, the decision held, in Lincoln's summary, "first, that a Negro cannot sue in the U.S. Courts; and secondly, that Congress cannot prohibit slavery in the Territories." It determined this without any Constitutional warrant. Anti-abortion advocates argue that in a similar way, Roe held that the unborn have no legal standing as persons, and that neither Congress nor state legislatures can prohibit abortion. In a similar manner, these holdings could not be located in the actual language of the Constitution or in its legislative history.

Stop Specter Now

National Review Online urges us to contact our Senators and let them know that we do not support Specter for chairman of the judiciary committee.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Military Attack 'Wrong Way to End Fallujah Revolt'

As I readthis article in The Scotsman (Military Attack 'Wrong Way to End Fallujah Revolt'), there seems to be some internal division in the Iraqi interim government regarding the impending battle in Fallujah. Interim PM Allawi is preparing for it, whereas interim president al-Yawer is opposed to a military assault. My guess is that the attack is a foregone conclusion, and that Allawi will give the go-ahead.

Michael Moore Gets Results!

According to the MEMRI (you know them, they do lots of translations of Arabic media):

The tape of Osama bin Laden that was aired on Al-Jazeera on Friday, October 29th included a specific threat to "each U.S. state," designed to influence the outcome of the upcoming election against George W. Bush. The U.S. media in general mistranslated the words "ay wilaya" (which means "each U.S. state") to mean a "country" or "nation" other than the U.S., while in fact the threat was directed specifically at each individual U.S. state. This suggests some knowledge by bin Laden of the U.S. electoral college system. In a section of his speech in which he harshly criticized George W. Bush, bin Laden stated: "Any U.S. state that does not toy with our security automatically guarantees its own security."

Compare this with Michael Moore's 9/12/2001 rant:
Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes' destination of California--these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!

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