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January 31, 2005

Cracks appearing in "self-esteem" orthodoxy?


Quite a remarkable op-ed in the January 25 Los Angeles Times.

Roy Baumeister is one of a multitude of researchers who for decades have pushed the idea that low self-esteem is the root of just about all of society's ills - criminal behavior, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, poor grades, drug abuse, conservatism, etc. (Just kidding on that last one, but only a little) Witness the boundless faith of John Vasconcellos, who was a California Assemblyman when self-esteem fever was beginning to spread (early 1970s):
Vasconcellos even expressed the hope that higher self-esteem would one day help balance the state budget — a prospect predicated on the observation that people with high self-regard earn more than others and therefore pay more in taxes.
It's no wonder that with this kind of potential, the educational and psychological establishment would wholeheartedly endorse and implement programs to promote high self esteem in Americans, "undeterred", Baumeister writes, "by the weakness and ambiguity of the evidence suggesting a benefit in boosting self-esteem; we all believed the data would come along in good time."

Five years ago, Baumeister and a few others were commissioned by the American Psychological Society to "wade with an open mind" through a generation of published research "to assess the benefits of high self-esteem".

What they found was the opposite of what they expected.

Low self esteem does not lead to criminal behavior; in fact, criminals tend to have high self esteem (which is part of the problem).

What about academic achievement?
High self- esteem in schoolchildren does not produce better grades. (Actually, kids with high self-esteem do have slightly better grades in most studies, but that's because getting good grades leads to higher self-esteem, not the other way around.) In fact, according to a study by Donald Forsyth at Virginia Commonwealth University, college students with mediocre grades who got regular self-esteem strokes from their professors ended up doing worse on final exams than students who were told to suck it up and try harder.
Well, what about adults and job performance?
Self-esteem doesn't make adults perform better at their jobs either. Sure, people with high self-esteem rate their own performance better — even declaring themselves smarter and more attractive than their low self-esteem peers — but neither objective tests nor impartial raters can detect any difference in the quality of work.
In general, as it relates to achievement, high self-esteem tends to lead only to self-delusion about one's abilities, while actual ability remains unchanged. It can make someone more outgoing, but, depending on one's personality, that may not be a good thing (e.g. instead of becoming more sociable, one may become a bully).

Baumeister finally cuts to the chase (emphasis added):
In short, despite the enthusiastic embrace of self-esteem, we found that it conferred only two benefits. It feels good and it supports initiative. Those are nice, but they are far less than we had once hoped for, and it is very questionable whether they justify the effort and expense that schools, parents and therapists have put into raising self-esteem.
It's remarkable enough that somebody did this research. It's even more remarkable that the researchers were honest about what they found, given the howls of outrage that are surely coming from the entrenched interests in the education and psychology industries who just removed these guys from their Christmas holiday card lists.

What's most remarkable of all, though, is that Baumeister follows the data to the logical conclusion (emphasis added):
After all these years, I'm sorry to say, my recommendation is this: Forget about self-esteem and concentrate more on self-control and self-discipline.

Recent work suggests this would be good for the individual and good for society — and might even be able to fill some of those promises that self-esteem once made but could not keep.

Look for the educational establishment to embrace Baumeister's recommendation eagerly, possibly as early as next century.

By the way, in 2002 Psychology Today reported on a "controversial" British study which echoes many of the findings of Baumeister & co.:
People with high self-esteem may be more of a threat to society than those with a lower sense of self-worth, according to a controversial 100-page report. Nicholas Emler, Ph.D., a social psychologist at the London School of Economics, found that people with high self-esteem are more likely to be racist, violent and criminal. Low self-esteem increases the risk of eating disorders, suicide and depression, but it is not a factor in delinquency or substance abuse, according to Emler.

Countless Iraqis had to wait hours to vote; claim disenfranchisement

Not. But the New York Times took the liberty of suggesting it on behalf of the Sunnis:
Participation varied by region, and the impressive national percentages should not obscure the fact that the country's large Sunni Arab minority remained broadly disenfranchised - due to alienation or terror or both.
Terror, for sure, kept people away. But if the Sunnis are feeling any alienation, it's because (a) they had thrown their lot in with Saddam and his gang; (b) they have been most supportive of the imported rent-a-thugs; (c) their religious leaders continue to fan hatred of and suspicion toward Shiites, Kurds and other people groups in the country. Disenfranchisement properly defined is the suppression of the vote through the direct action of or negligence by the government. That ain't happening in Iraq (just as it didn't happen in the U.S., but that didn't keep the Left from waving the accusation as a bloody shirt ad nauseam). The government did everything it could (short of simply handing over power) to encourage participation by all factions.

In truth, what we saw Sunday was the people of Iraq (even a sizable percentage of the Sunnis) collectively giving the terrorists and other naysayers the finger.

(I thought I was being exceedingly clever and original with that "finger" quip, but it turns out that only a billion or so people had already thought of it [For example, here. Or here.]. Oh, well.)

The only good minority is a liberal minority

So suggests Harley Sorenson, in an attempt to explain why liberals aren't cheering the fact that President Bush has done more to elevate women and minorities to positions of power than any other president:

It is a week to do a liberal's heart good. The star of the show last week was Condoleezza Rice, a black woman. The chief supporting actor was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Jewish woman. The occasion was the ceremonial swearing in of Rice as U.S. secretary of state. Ginsburg is the Supreme Court justice who administered the oath.

This week, if all goes as planned, Alberto Gonzales will win Senate approval to become our next attorney general. Gonzales is Hispanic and was born into poverty.

And, ending yesterday, elections were held in Iraq.

For these reasons, you'd expect liberals to be jumping up and down with joy. Don't liberals support diversity and racial equality? Don't liberals support free elections in other free nations?

The answers are yes and yes. So why aren't we cheering?

Well, in a small way, we are. No matter how you might suspect President George W. Bush's motives, you have to give him credit for his actions. He's done a marvelous job of putting minorities into positions of power.

However, one could argue (and I do), that Rice and Gonzales are the wrong minorities.
You can continue reading if you like, but the remainder of Sorenson's essay is a boilerplate rehash of the Left's accusations against the Bush administration. Good grief -- he even resurrects Scott Ritter as a witness for the prosecution.

January 28, 2005

School district needs to get a C-L-U-E

Schools in Lincoln (RI) have decided that they will no longer hold spelling bees. Their reason for doing so ought to take your breath away:
The administrators decided to eliminate the spelling bee, because they feel it runs afoul of the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"No Child Left Behind says all kids must reach high standards," Newman said. "It’s our responsibility to find as many ways as possible to accomplish this."

The administrators agreed, Newman said, that a spelling bee doesn’t meet the criteria of all children reaching high standards -- because there can only be one winner, leaving all other students behind.

"It’s about one kid winning, several making it to the top and leaving all others behind. That’s contrary to No Child Left Behind," Newman said.

A spelling bee, she continued, is about "some kids being winners, some kids being losers."

As a result, the spelling bee "sends a message that this isn’t an all-kids movement," Newman said.
Read on, because it gets better (or worse, depending on your perspective). This school district has completely bought into the asinine philosophy that competition among kids is harmful to self-esteem, and thus should be avoided.

Beyond that, I had to laugh at the logic quoted above. They think that "No Child Left Behind" literally means that no child is allowed to do any better than any other.

Nonsense like this isn't limited to Rhode Island; it shows up in varying degrees across the fruited plain. It's just one of a multitude of reasons we are homeschooling our little one.

(Credit: Best of the Web)

PP president Feldt resigns, leaving behind well-oiled killing machine

Gloria Feldt's legacy, as recounted by CNSNews:
As CNSNews.com reported last week, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is performing more abortions than ever -- in fewer clinics -- and relying increasingly on the revenue generated from abortions, according to its Fiscal Year 2004 annual report.

With other services becoming marginalized in Planned Parenthood's overall business, the organization relied on abortion for 34 percent of its clinic income from July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004, up from 32 percent in Fiscal Year 2002 and FY 2003.

After a spike in private contributions two years ago, Planned Parenthood saw those donations drop 17 percent last year, but U.S. taxpayer assistance in the form of government grants reached record levels.

So close....

I normally don't like to recommend The Onion, a news satire site, due to their overreliance on vulgarity as a basis for their humor, but their piece on the Inauguration Day protests is worth a look.
The counter-inauguration protests held in Washington Wednesday were one person short of success, analysts reported Thursday.

"It's a pity that so many people who support our cause didn't make it out," said Jet Heiko, who organized the protest through his website TurnYourBackOnBush.org. "If one more person had come through for us, Bush would have had a moment of clarity and changed his entire approach to governing America."

"I guess that one person who didn't show had other plans," Heiko said.

Protesters who lined the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route and turned their backs on the president's motorcade had the stated goal of "forcing President Bush to respond to widespread criticism of his administration." To the disappointment of Heiko and his fellow protesters, Bush was able to continue to ignore widespread criticism, because of the one person who didn't show up.

Advocacy journalism at its finest

Knight-Ridder offers up what is supposedly a straight-news story about the controversy surrounding Michael Crichton's new book, State of Fear. It takes but a few seconds of reading to see which camp the article's author, Seth Borenstein, is in; no attempt whatsoever is taken to provide a balanced view of the controversy. Quick summary: Crichton's opponents are motivated by science, Crichton's supporters are motivated by politics.

Against Crichton, Borenstein lines up "sixteen of 18 top U.S. climate scientists" who disagree strongly with the science in the novel. Only one of the sixteen is identified (a physics professor); no word on who the others were, or what their credentials are ("top" is a subjective term which, roughly translated, usually means those who agree most strongly with one's views), or how they were selected out of the multitude of qualified scientists for interview.

Sigh. Did you know that liberals consider the mainstream media to have a conservative bias?

January 26, 2005

Another conservative pundit payola scandal?

WaPo's Howard Kurtz is set to reveal that conservative pundit Maggie Gallagher, who writes on marriage issues for a living, had a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the administration's initiative. The received over $21,000 over the course of the contract. (Drudge, naturally, already has a scoop on this)

Given the scandal surrounding Armstrong Williams, this will probably hit the fan hard on Wednesday.

But is there really a story here?

Gallagher, alerted by Kurtz that the story was coming, has already published an explanation of what the contract was all about. Unless there is more to the story than Gallagher reveals, this may be much ado about nothing. But that won't prevent the media from going all out to make much ado about it.

January 25, 2005

Michael Moore reacts to Oscar snub

Actually, no word from him yet. His website is still trumpeting his Best-Picture win at the People's Choice Awards earlier this month. Said Moore:
It was a stunning moment for us.
What is even more stunning (or perhaps, concerning the source, not) is the fact that Mr. Moore is bragging about the results of a vote that is as genuinely indicative of "the people's" sentiment as online polls are. Competitions like this hinge on who can "get the vote out" better than anyone else.

Euthanasia movie headlines Oscar nominations

(Warning: Reveals despicable plot twist in a movie that is currently in theaters. If you're bothered by this, stop reading here -- although I think people need to know the facts about this wolf-in-sheep's-clothing movie.)

In this year's Oscar nominations, Hollywood apparently has decided not to take sides in the Mel Gibson v. Michael Moore debates (The Passion of the Christ received three minor nominations: Cinematography, Makeup, Original Score; Fahrenheit 911 received no nominations -- not even as Documentary). Instead, this year's awards will take up euthanasia as its cause of the moment, nominating Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby for five major awards (plus other minor awards).

This movie, ostensibly a boxing movie, favorably depicts the killing of a person (the female lead, played by Hillary Swank) who has decided that, because of a debilitating injury, life isn't worth living anymore. You can be sure that without this plot twist -- which most reviewers are glossing over (see, for example, this review in Variety) -- a boxing movie would not be receiving this kind of critical acclaim.

More commentary on this by Debbie Schlussel, Life Site, WorldNetDaily.

January 24, 2005

The first step toward ending tyranny

Boortz suggests that the first step toward ending tyranny is to do away with one of tyranny's greatest enablers:
As for George Bush, during his speech he said that "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world." Well, may I be so bold as to offer a suggestion on how to do that? Start building a new international coalition of nations to eventually replace the United Nations. Call it the "Freedom Alliance" or something like that. Membership will be open to any nation who's leaders are chosen in free and open elections, and with a government structure that guarantees a rule of law and economic liberty for its citizens. Let the United Nations be the gathering place of petty tyrants. We need something better. Now's as good a time to start as any.

High noon coming in judicial filibuster conflict

Perhaps as soon as next month.

January 22, 2005

OT: The storm appears to be passing

...the GoogleStorm, that is. This blog post from last July has several pictures of the president, and one of them has been coming up in a Google image search (although I'm not sure which search term is bringing it up). Although the picture itself was hosted on another site, the fact that my page displayed the picture was sufficient for the search. Any time somebody clicked on the thumbnail of the picture, the archive page containing the post recorded a hit (since Google displays the context of the image). I've been getting over a hundred hits per day on that archive page this week, presumably because of the inauguration.

But today, about four hours ago, the 'blizzard' abruptly stopped. That may have something to do with the fact that the July post is now loading a local copy of the photo in question -- a change I made about 2 hours before the hits stopped. Is Google so on the ball that they noticed a change in my page? Shrug. All I know is that maybe.... just maybe.... I can return to some well-deserved obscurity.

UPDATE: Well, that was wishful thinking. Sigh.

"I wish Bush (or Kerry) had said..." --- Now they can!

Someone has come up with an amusing image generator for George Bush and John Kerry. You select the pose and the background, then enter some text, and BOOM -- you get something like this:

Lots of potential for either support or mockery of these guys, but I've got to say that <whine> the vast majority of the Bush poses are much less flattering than the vast majority of Kerry's poses </whine>.

January 21, 2005

University honors teacher who killed her baby

From CNSNews:
Villanova University on Thursday will dedicate a new section of its library to a star professor and student favorite who committed suicide in August 2003 while in jail. Mine Ener was behind bars after admitting she had killed her 6-month old, Down Syndrome-afflicted daughter by slashing the baby's throat.

Ener's friends say she suffered from post-partum depression as a result of her child's intensive health care needs and the feeling that the little girl would face a lifetime of misery.
I wonder how willing they would be to celebrate Andrea Yates, who similarly did her deed as an act of mercy.

Child advocates are understandably outraged at the inappropriateness of Villanova's action:
Child advocate and parenting education expert Dom Giordano said that while it's reasonable to sympathize over the depression Ener was experiencing, it is not acceptable for Villanova University to honor her.

"A lot of women have varying degrees of postpartum depression and they don't kill their child," Giordano told the Cybercast News Service. "What they ought to do is honor her by putting this money toward a research endowment at Villanova, toward post-partum depression ... that helps get the word out about how to avoid consequences like this."

Over the top idealism?

The opinionators at the Wall Street Journal have mixed reviews for the president's inaugural speech. They agree (as do most others) that the speech was idealistic -- declaring "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world" as official U.S. policy.

But is this vision realistic?

Peggy Noonan, normally an enthusiastic supporter of the president, doesn't think so:
Ending tyranny in the world? Well that's an ambition, and if you're going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it's earth.
Her objection appears to be rooted in the Christian doctrine of the fallen nature of mankind -- that the tendency to behave badly towards others cannot be tamed apart from the transforming work of God in one's life. However much progress one appears to make in changing the behavior of tyrants around the world, all we can do is compel them to change their behavior -- we can do nothing to change their hearts.
But does this mean we should not set our sights so high? Bush may be setting an unattainable goal, but couldn't it be argued that efforts undertaken to achieve such a goal will take us much farther than we might get through the old-fashioned "realism" based foreign policy that the WSJ editorial board derides?

Payback time against Cosby?

I don't wish for a moment to minimize the seriousness of the allegations of inappropriate conduct that have been leveled at Bill Cosby, but I was wondering: is it possible that these charges would never have seen the light of day if Cosby hadn't wandered off the liberal plantation (no offense intended here, but I think this metaphor is appropriate) regarding the problems the black community in America is facing?

January 20, 2005

"The best hope for peace in our world is..."

This excerpt from today's inaugural address is an intriguing summary of the philosophical motivation behind the president's prosecution of the War on Terror:
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
Among other things, this helps to shed light on why Bush decided to deal with Iraq now, rather than wait for an imminent threat. If what Bush says above is true, then the stability of the Middle East is an essential prerequisite to the safety and stability of the U.S.

Long experience has shown that stability in the Middle East can not be achieved through the propping up of authoritarian rulers -- in fact, it can be argued that such policies have contributed to the unrest and religious extremism that have now boiled over into the rest of the world. Essential transformation is necessary -- political and cultural. The president is betting the farm on the proposition that such transformation is possible.

From a strategic point of view, Iraq was a good place to start -- partly because of the festering boil of a problem that Saddam was, but also because Iraq borders two of the other bad boys, Iran and Syria. Our game plan seems to be to gain a decisive victory -- first militarily, then politically and culturally -- and then to encourage neighboring countries to reform themselves. If they decline to play ball... well, we're already deployed on their border, and it would be relatively easy to use Iraq as a base for operations against them (as Iran no doubt knows by now).

History will judge the wisdom of what President Bush has undertaken. Given what's at stake, I admire his determination to press on in the face of worldwide opposition that would have withered a lesser man.

UPDATE: Saul Singer in the Jerusalem Post:

In laying down his revolutionary gauntlet, Bush must know that he will be derided as a hypocrite and a reckless dreamer. No American can be against the ideal of spreading democracy, but to stake national security on it, that's another matter. In front of the Capitol on Thursday, Bush called not merely for a remaking of other nations' foreign policy, but that of his United States.

We cannot know now whether Bush will succeed in turning his own ship of state onto the course that he has charted, much less whether allied ships will grudgingly follow or continue to drag in an almost opposite direction. We do know that he has chosen an audacious strategy of leadership, one based, ironically, on what his father derided as the "vision thing."

Second term presidents are traditionally expected to coast, anxious not to jeopardize their place in history. Not so, apparently, George W. Bush. Hold on to your hats, this may be the most ambitious second-term – or any term – presidency ever.

UPDATE: In my remark regarding the ease with which the US could stage operations against Iran & co. from Iraq, I linked to an article in which the Pentagon denied claims by journalist Seymour Hersh that we already have covert ops teams working inside Iran. Hersh hasn't really come up on my radar in the past, so I'm not very familiar with his track record, but many others are quite familiar with him. Michael Ledeen, who is practically obsessed with seeing regime change occur in Iran, spared no effort in demolishing Hersh's arguments. It's possible that the covert-ops information was deliberately leaked to Hersh by the Pentagon in an ongoing effort to rattle Iran's cage (which is also how many are seeing VP Cheney's remarks on Thursday that Israel might take unilateral action against Iran's nuclear program).

January 19, 2005

HUH? Inauguration security breach by order of federal judge?

Accuracy In Media has posted this bizarre story:
As the nation's capital prepares itself for the presidential inauguration by going into lockdown mode and placing portable Stinger missile launchers throughout the city, Americans may be stunned to learn that the District of Columbia has been forced by a federal judge to hand over intelligence data on police tactics, training, and strategies from the last inauguration to an organization with documented ties to terrorist groups and Saddam Hussein.

The District of Columbia was forced by court order to turn over this information to the International Action Center (IAC), a group involved in Thursday's protests of the second Bush inaugural through the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition. The anti-Bush groups expect as many as 100,000 will converge on the nation's capital and they intend to get as close to the presidential motorcade as possible. Some media pundits have expressed surprise that the District has offered protestors "prime real estate" along the parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue. But this is largely because of legal pressure exerted by the protesters and their radical law firms.

Given that videotaping a monument can get one arrested in the post-9/11 world, it is stunning that surveillance tapes and other security data can be handed over by court order to an anti-American pro-terrorist organization. But that is how extreme the federal courts have become.
Read on for much, much more. What's up with this?

John Kerry, the AntiW

John Kerry was one of only two dissenters in this morning's Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation vote for Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice. The other No was from Hillary ally Barbara Boxer -- apparently chosen to be the mouthpiece for the Dems on this issue.

But why Kerry? My speculation on this is that he's already running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. As in last year's campaign, he wouldn't be caught dead casting any vote that might be interpreted as an endorsement of W's foreign policy.

UPDATE: Best of the Web opines that Kerry's vote was a simple matter of sour grapes (scroll down to "The Loser Party"). Perhaps... We may be able to tell which explanation is closer to the truth by how long Kerry persists in this behavior.

UPDATE: Boortz also thinks it's sour grapes. Sigh.

January 18, 2005

Anarchists, unite! Unaffiliateds, affiliate!

Larry Bumgarner has launched the Unaffiliated Party. This oxymoronically-named party has the admittedly praiseworthy goal of making the government responsive to the citizens, rather than to the political parties, but I think Mr. Bumgarner's concept -- and his website -- need to be thought through a bit more.

For example, the following statement on the main page is absurd:
By the way: Our votes count in the election but we have to choose a party to vote for in the primary. The first thing we need you to do is to contact the elected officials and get them to allow us to vote for the person, no matter what the party affiliation, in each and every election including the primaries.
Ummm..... A primary, by definition, is an election in which the members of a given political party select their candidates for the general election. If you're not affiliated with that party, you should have no say in determining who that party's candidate will be. Okay?

Also, having "We are the absence of Political Color" as part of one's motto is a tad uninspiring, as well as counterproductive.

James Madison, optimist

As originally constructed, the relationship between the states and the central government was indeed as Madison describes here, but intervening events (such as the 17th Amendment) have completely flipped the relationship. The states now submit obsequiously to the central government.

Thus, each of the principal branches of the federal government will owe its existence more or less to the favor of the State governments, and must consequently feel a dependence, which is much more likely to beget a disposition too obsequious than too overbearing towards them.

-- James Madison
It's worth noting that Hamilton was similarly optimistic.

(Quote credit: The Federalist's "Founders Quote Daily")

January 17, 2005

Attack of the feminist knitters

Once again, the Left defies parody.
Wombs on Washington: A pro-choice crafting group using their skillz for good.

Conception [No pun appears to be intended here - Tim]: Created by a feminist knitter, who expressed her frustrations with the conservative Supreme Court and the possibility of Scalia as the new chief justice; "I may as well cut out my womb and leave it on the steps of the supreme court."? A suggestion of knitting a representation of her uterus from a popular pattern was suggested, and a campaign for Women's Rights was born!

Basics: Women and men from across the country will knit, crochet, sew, and otherwise create a "womb" (or vaginas, coat hangers, whatever they feel necessary) to have dumped on the steps of the Supreme Court building. The intent is to be HEARD by our government. Also involved might be a letter-writing campaign and local womb-drops AFTER the main events, as well as this concept working into V-day celebrations and tours.

By their bracelets shall ye know them

Boortz (scroll down to "Blue Bracelets") lists some of the reasons why he thinks those "Count Me Blue" bracelets are a great idea:
1. The blue bracelets will easily identify people who believe that America is great because of its government instead of freedom.

2. The bracelets will identify people who believe that any price paid for freedom is too much, and that living peacefully as a slave is better than fighting to be free.

3. The bracelets will identify people who believe in the mob, and not in the individual, and who have enlisted wholeheartedly in the war against individualism.

4. We will be able to identify the people who believe that America should be a country of equal results rather than a system that guarantees equal opportunity.

5. People who believe that the government should own and control our retirement accounts will be identified by that flash of blue on their wrists.

6. We will be able to recognize those who believe that accomplishment should be punished while laziness and poor decision making should be rewarded.

BuyRed....er, I mean BuyBlue.org

BuyBlue.org has released version 2.0 of The List -- a well-designed, well-organized guide for conservatives who want to steer their money away from companies that act as conduits to leftist causes.

Well..... that may not be what they intended, but hey -- when the Left performs a valuable public service, let's give credit where credit is due.

January 15, 2005

Michael Moore's ego: A renewable energy source

Collin Levey, in a TCS article on Michael Moore's latest film project (a jihad against HMOs and pharmaceutical companies):
Michael Moore is at risk of becoming a figure most similar to Ralph Nader -- the man whose candidacy last election he opposed as that of an ego-driven spoiler. Sound familiar? Messrs Moore and Nader both make good news copy and have a knack for articulating issues in a way that speaks to the left base of the Democratic Party. But their talent for self-promotion undercuts the political viability of the issues they claim to promote.
Moore is also similar to another popular figure:

"It's all about me!"

January 12, 2005

Latest red-meat-causes-cancer study is more junk science

Before you panic about the latest food scare -- a study purporting to link consumption of red meat with colon and rectal cancer -- you might want to take a bite or two of common sense from this Center for Consumer Freedom article.

As in many junk-science consumer scares, the results in this study were "cherry-picked from largely inconclusive evidence." But that's not the only reason to be suspicious:

The red-meat-causes-cancer scare story is further undermined by several additional factors:

  • Despite an increase in the relative risk of cancer in a small proportion of the author's findings, the actual risk -- even at high rates of consumption -- is still very low. Even one of the study's co-authors corroborates this point in today's Wall Street Journal, which reports: "Dr. [Eugenia] Calle explained that actual risk is relatively small."
  • The authors relied on a questionnaire that asks participants to report how much red and processed meat they consumed over the course of the previous year. These surveys are notoriously unreliable. A JAMA [Journal of the American Medical Association] editorial accompanying the study notes that "case-control studies of diet, in which patients with cancer and a control group are asked about their diet years in the past, can be misleading."
  • One survey used by the authors failed to ask how many servings of meat were eaten each day. Another survey didn't ask about family history of cancer, which is critical in predicting the disease.
In other words, the research was sloppy, and the results were twisted. Next!

UPDATE: Steven Milloy over at JunkScience.com also has a few choice words for this study and its researchers.

Talking Newt

There is suddenly a growing buzz about the potential for a 2008 presidential run by Newt Gingrich. Of course, the talk is suspiciously timed to coincide with the promotion of Gingrich's new book, Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract With America.

I have a lot of respect for Gingrich's economic ideas. I was an enthusiastic supporter of his Contract With America in 1994, and I still think many of the reforms proposed therein are worth a try at some level of government (although not necessarily at the federal level). Some CWA ideas have finally become law, such as the elimination of the "marriage penalty" from the income tax tables.

But does Newt know what he is getting himself into? For starters, the Left and its wholly-owned subsidiary, the mainstream media, have never forgiven him for his role in ousting the Democrats from control of the House of Representatives after four decades of dominance. If you think George W. Bush is getting savaged by the MSM, just wait until Newt throws his hat into the ring.

For starters, we must remember that the Left delights in trumpeting the moral flaws of the champions of the Right. I can imagine the primary season in 2008, when pundit after pundit sneeringly takes note of how the "religious right" is willing to overlook Gingrich's messy 1999 divorce, which the MSM was happy to use to torpedo talk of a 2000 run.

Sigh. Maybe I'm being overly cynical this morning, but I've been around long enough to know that whatever the merits of Gingrich's economic ideas, the message itself will be completely lost in the debate over the messenger.

UPDATE: To nobody's surprise, Steve Forbes is also promoting Newt's new book.

January 10, 2005

Why feminists are despondent

From a January 9 Associated Press story:
America's feminist leaders and their critics agree on at least one current political fact: These are daunting times for the women's movement as it braces for another term of an administration it desperately wanted to topple.

"The next four years are going to be tough, so we must be tougher," National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy recently told supporters. "Our health, our rights, and our democracy are teetering on the brink."
To AP's credit, the article is reasonably balanced:
Beyond Washington, meanwhile, women are making impressive professional gains — as big-city police chiefs and university presidents, for example. They now comprise roughly half the enrollment in U.S. medical schools. And though a wage gap persists, woman now earn 80 percent of what men do, compared to 62 percent in 1980.

"Feminist leaders have failed to keep up with the times," said Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, whose writings are often critical of groups like NOW.

"Women have achieved parity with men in most fields," she said. "You'd think the feminists and women's studies professors would be celebrating, but in many ways they've never been more despondent."

Another conservative analyst of women's issues, Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women's Forum, said feminists "have increasingly marginalized themselves" by embracing an agenda that doesn't reflect most American women's priorities.

"They see government as the answer to all problems — as the national health care provider and day care provider," Lukas said. "And they have made unfettered access to abortion the absolute centerpiece of their movement... Their 'March for Women's Lives' last year seemed like a celebration of abortion."
Lukas and Sommers have it absolutely right. The modern feminist movement is not about gender equity or civil rights -- it's about abortion.

January 9, 2005

Greenpeace, WWF reverse course, millions of dead not amused

Nicholas Kristof is quite sensibly pushing for the increased use of DDT to fight malaria (although he opposes its use in the US). Occasionally we hear lonely voices like this. But who would have thought that some environmentalist organizations would agree with him (or at least appear to)?

Kristof spoke with representatives of Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund to get their reaction. To his surprise, rather than hearing the expected opposition to his proposal, he found that these organizations appear to have no objection to the use of DDT for malaria eradication:
But Richard Liroff, [WWF's] expert on toxins, said he could accept the use of DDT when necessary in anti-malaria programs.
At Greenpeace, Rick Hind noted reasons to be wary of DDT, but added: "If there's nothing else and it's going to save lives, we're all for it. Nobody's dogmatic about it."
Nobody's dogmatic about it? Mr. Hind is either lying, or he is unfit to be a Greenpeace spokesman.

As JunkScience.com notes, both organizations have been active in the campaign for the global abolition of the use of DDT, and their websites show no indication of a change of heart. So what to make of these quotes?

We've seen forty years of the environmentalist movement being "dogmatic about" banning DDT. Millions of malaria victims would be quick to agree, if only they had lived.

January 7, 2005

China acts to correct gender imbalance

It was inevitable that China's one-child policy would lead to a gender imbalance:
Traditionally, sons have been more valued as a way for the family name to continue and as a means for parents to be cared for as they get older.

Government figures show 119 boys are born in China for every 100 girls — a gap blamed largely on parents aborting baby girls to try again for a boy under the country's one-child policy.
The government recognizes this as a looming demographic disaster, but instead of revisiting the one-child policy, they have opted to outlaw gender-selection abortions.

I'm not sure how this will be enforced -- for example, there are other legitimate reasons for prenatal gender detection, and sympathetic doctors may be willing to help families come up with alternate justifications for their abortions -- but I do think that the law is a tiny step in the right direction.

January 5, 2005

Frist fires a shot across the Dems' bow

Given Senate Democrats' shameful behavior regarding judicial nominations in the last session, it's understandable that some GOP senators had been pressing Senate majority leader Bill Frist to "go nuclear" -- initiate a rules change that would prohibit filibustering judicial nominees -- on the first day of the new session. Frist ended up showing more restraint than I might have, but I can see the wisdom in what he did.

In the session's opening speech, Frist explicitly outlined the inappropriate behavior of the Senate Dems. This was a step up from the no-confrontation approach of the last session.

He didn't stop there, though. In light of the fact that the Dems had a new leader (Reid), he was willing to believe for the time being that they are ready to turn over a new leaf. He would not invoke the rules change at this time, but he reserves the option of doing so if the Dems refuse to change their ways. This is an explicit threat that goes far beyond the milquetoast grumbling we saw before.

Frist is not, as Human Events claims, caving in to the Democrats.

Not yet, at least. By issuing this very public warning, the Republicans will likely have public opinion more solidly behind them when the Dems resume their mischief (as they almost certainly will).

But, just as Frist reserves the right to reassess his decision in light of ensuing events, so do I reserve the right to reassess my opinion that trace amounts of backbone may be appearing in the Senate GOP leadership.

January 4, 2005

State Department Republican Underground

The Diplomad is a blog run anonymously by some subversive conservatives in the State Department, where (in the words of the bloggers) "being a Republican can be bad for your career -- even with a Republican President!"

These folks have been having a field day with the way the United Nations has been 'handling' the tsunami crisis. For example:
Well, dear friends, we're now into the tenth day of the tsunami crisis and in this battered corner of Asia, the UN is nowhere to be seen -- unless you count at meetings, in five-star hotels, and holding press conferences.

Aussies and Yanks continue to carry the overwhelming bulk of the burden, but some other fine folks also have jumped in: e.g., the New Zealanders have provided C-130 lift and an excellent and much-needed potable water distribution system; the Singaporeans have provided great helo support; the Indians have a hospital ship taking position off Sumatra. Spain and Netherlands have sent aircraft with supplies.

The UN continues to send its best product, bureaucrats. Just today the city's Embassies got a letter from the local UN representative requesting a meeting for "Ms. Margareeta Wahlstrom, United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-afected countries." Wow! Put that on a business card! And she must be really, really special because she has the word "coordinator" twice in her title!
The Diplomad gives us a most undiplomatic peek into the absurd, tangled mess that is the State Department (as well as its sister foreign-service bureaucracies around the world). Looks like a worthwhile read for a perspective that you won't find anywhere in the MSM.

It's not over yet in Washington state gov. race?

From today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer (emphasis added):

Thousands of "mystery voters" in the counties of King, Pierce, Snohomish, Clark and Kitsap appear to be Republican Dino Rossi's best prospect for challenging the legitimacy of the closest and most contentious gubernatorial election in the state's history.

The state Republican Party yesterday called on county election officials to explain what the GOP says is a nearly 8,500-vote discrepancy between county vote tallies and the number of people credited with actually voting in the election.

"People ask me what would fraud look like? It would look like this," said state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance.

When N people voted, but N + 8,500 votes were tallied, it surely does appear that some monkey business was going on.

Looks like I may need to add another step to the Democrat's formula for victory.

January 3, 2005

Dreaming of the demise of the academic Left

Mike Adams "dreams" about when the Left started* to lose its stranglehold on academia -- 2007, when state after state began to abolish tenure:
The most profound effects of the abolition of tenure occurred indirectly. There were not many professors fired in the wake of that historical national movement. Scores of professors predictably quit, or retired early, in protest. Others simply became more productive overnight. But, more than anything, the number of people seeking jobs in public higher education declined. And that ended up becoming the principal benefit of the abolition of tenure.
Read the whole essay to see how Dr. Adams envisions the effects of tenure abolition on the various university departments.

Could it be this simple? What are the chances that anything like this would ever happen?

* Sorry about the use of future-past tense here -- after all, Dr. Adams is looking back on something that hasn't happened yet!

January 2, 2005

MSM still misleading public on disaster aid

Headline in today's Washington Post for an article regarding the ongoing tsunami disaster relief efforts:
Japan Becomes Top Donor With $500 Million Pledge
Of course, the reality is that Japan is the top cash donor. When all forms of assistance are considered -- including services and tangible goods -- the US government far outpaces others. And that's not even counting the private generosity of the American people.

I hate having to belabor this point (it's really twisted to play "I'm more selflessly generous than you are"), but the mainstream media (MSM) continues to push the false idea that America is being stingy.