URLs du Jour

2021-04-18

[Newspaper Fail]

  • Zombie Stats Ate My Brain. My Sunday paper, Seacoast Online, gave an honored spot to a column by Tanna Clews ("CEO of the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation") and Rob Werner ("New Hampshire State Director for the League of Conservation Voters"): Celebrating Earth Day with a gender justice lens. (Link goes to New Hampshire Business Review, which also published the column.)

    With a title like that, how bad could it be? Very, very bad:

    As we look towards Earth Day 2021, we’re paying special attention to the intersection of climate and gender justice. We believe that there is no gender justice without climate justice, and there is no climate justice without gender justice — yet not all feminists and environmentalists are aware of how interconnected our fights for justice are.

    Across the board, women are disproportionately affected by climate change. Women make up 70% of the global population living in poverty.[…]

    Wait, what? That can't be true, can it?

    Well, apparently nobody at Seacoast Online or New Hampshire Business Review asked that question. About five seconds into a Google search, I found a Politifact article referring to the 70% figure as "the 'zombie stat' that just won't die." Their original debunking was in response to Carly Fiorina's citing the number (and, yes, it's safe to presume that Politifact is wired to preferentially debunk Republican talking points). But:

    With those simple words -- "70 percent of the people living in abject poverty are women" -- Fiorina joined a line of people stretching nearly two decades to cite this powerful statistic. Hillary Clinton said it when she was first lady. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew used it twice in the past few months. Walmart included it in a 2012 report on corporate responsibility.

    It would be more telling if it were true.

    The deck is stacked against women in other ways, but the fact is, 70 percent of the people living in poverty are not women. Yet the statistic gets repeated and repeated -- so much that people call it the "zombie stat."

    It just won’t die.

    Here's the even more shocking bit: Politifact's orginal Fiorina-debunking was in January 2014.

    Yes, that's (… um … let me get my calculator …) over seven years ago. And back then it had already been staggering along for "nearly two decades".

    "Zombie stat", indeed.

    The very next sentence in the Clews/Werner column:

    Through rising sea levels and extreme weather events, global warming places millions of people at risk of displacement — a staggering 80 percent of whom are women.

    Yeah, I don't believe that either. Googling finds a lot of assertions about this; actual research is hard to find. My guess is that it's extrapolation from the (probably accurate) estimate that "between seventy-five and eighty percent of the world’s 50 million refugees and internally displaced persons are women and their dependent children." But that's from all causes, not "climate change".

    The column continues with the usual climate-doomsaying. I'm relatively immune, But when you lead off with bogus statistics, how seriously can I take it? A couple of remedial reading suggestions here and here. Clews and Werner are firmly in the alarmist bubble, impervious to dissent.


  • An Actually Inconvenient Truth. Brought to us by John McWhorter: The Victorians had to accept Darwin. We need to accept that cops kill white people as easily as they kill black people..

    Whenever the national media reports on a black person killed by cops, we must ask ourselves “Would a white cop not have done that if the person were white?”

    […]

    Here is why we need that mental exercise. Tony Timpa was quite white and was killed quite in the way that Floyd was, including it being recorded.

    AND white people have been killed when cops mistook their guns for tasers. I wonder why no one ever heard about this one beyond one day in Philadelphia? (Wait – there will be objection that the shot didn’t actually kill this guy. But that’s random – it could have, easily.) There are many others -- there has been media coverage this week of cases where cops made the mistake that Officer Potter did towards Daunte Wright (where the person shot died). You can be quite sure that if their authors had found that the mistake only happened when the victims were black, we’d know by now.

    This is a dog that didn’t bark and for a reason – that this week’s headlines have not been about how cops only mistake their guns for tasers when they are dealing with a black man is because … wait for it … they don’t! I suggest you take a little time and do a quick search on the cases listed by media articles like this. When the victim is black, it’s noted – big surprise – and quite often, the victim simply is not. By that I mean that often the victim was white. The journalists seeking to show that cops only mistake guns for tasers when they are confronted with a black person couldn’t find it and thus just write that officers have sometimes been “confused” while studiously leaving race out of it. Their head editors have made sure they did.

    Newsflash: Cops are human, and like all humans are prone to making horrific mistakes when in stressful, split-second situations. People who cry "racism" when the colors are properly aligned are more interested in pushing their political agenda, grabbing the spotlight, than in meaningful discussion about how to minimize tragedy.


  • Resulting in A Different Set of Inmates Running the Asylum. P. J. O'Rourke writes on America's New Pastime: The Politicization of Everything.

    Politics are dangerous to everybody. This is true if you’re scraping spray-painted obscenities off your Trump/Pence yard sign and wearing your MAGA cap at half-mast in mourning. And this is also true if you think AOC and the Green New Dealers have just dealt you a straight flush. (Flush twice – it’s a long way from Congress to your lunch bucket.)

    Of course, politics have always been dangerous. Politics are how it’s decided who controls government… Whoever controls government controls the force of the law… And the force of the law is a lethal force.

    Fail to pay a parking ticket and you’ll be fined. Refuse to pay the fine and you’ll be jailed. Try to escape from jail and you’ll be shot. Every law, every government rule and regulation, no matter how trivial or picayune, is obeyed at the point of a gun.

    That gun is called politics. And what makes politics so dangerous right now is that Americans – Left, Right, and Center (if there even is a Center anymore) – have come to believe that the answer to every question is political.

    I despair that enough Americans have the will to stuff this particular demon back into the box clearly labeled 'Necessary Evil — Do Not Release'.


  • In Our "Shouldn't This Be Obvious" Department Joel Zinberg tells us The CDC Shouldn’t Treat Racism as a Public-Health Crisis.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was founded in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center, with a simple goal: prevent the spread of malaria. The mission soon expanded to all communicable diseases and, more recently, to areas — such as domestic violence, gun control, and vaping — that, while related to health, seem far afield from the agency’s primary purpose. Today the CDC describes its mission as protecting the nation from health threats both foreign and domestic. Now the agency appears to have expanded its mandate into progressive politics.

    In a recent statement, CDC director Rochelle Walensky asserts that there have been disproportionate numbers of COVD-19 cases and deaths in communities of color. She claims that the disparities were the result not of COVID-19 but rather of racism, which she labels a public-health crisis. Her statement echoes an American Medical Association policy recognizing racism as a public-health threat and similar declarations from 194 state and local government entities.

    But the director’s statement is inconsistent with the CDC’s current data that show little or no increased incidence of black COVID-19 deaths. At best it reflects outdated data documenting disparities that no longer exist. At worst, it reflects a political agenda in search of a justification. Whichever it is, it suggests that public-health officials, in this case the CDC, have become distracted from their core job.

    And it's not as if they've been doing that well at "their core job".


  • When Joy Reid Says You're Irrational, Just Say "So is Pi, Baby." Robby Soave details the latest from the MSNBC swamp: Joy Reid Said Vaccinated People Who Refuse To Wear Masks Are ‘Irrational.’ Fauci Didn’t Correct Her..

    On her show Friday night, MSNBC host Joy Reid interviewed Anthony Fauci, the White House's top COVID-19 adviser. Reid made the following comment.

    "I am one of the fully vaccinated," she said. "I'm fully Fauci'd. The question I have is are we really going to get to the end of it? Because, Dr. Fauci, at this point it's political. There are people who are paranoid about you. They've decided they don't trust you, they think you're trying to have the government take over their lives or put nanobots in them and Bill Gates is going to physically control them if they get the vaccine. It isn't just hesitancy, it's paranoia. You have Tucker Carlson basically saying that you're not telling the truth, if you're vaccinated there's no reason to wear a mask anymore. You have people screaming at store clerks because they don't want to wear masks. This is not rational at this point, Dr. Fauci. So I wonder, what do we do about the irrational resistance to doing the basics, getting vaccinated and wearing masks."

    And Fauci went along, "largely echoing her concerns". Robby says nay:

    The available evidence suggests that people who are fully vaccinated are essentially immune from suffering serious disease or death from COVID-19. They are also extremely unlikely to contract the virus at all, which means their odds of infecting someone else are very low. Mass vaccination is the ticket to ending the pandemic, and all advocacy efforts should be directed toward encouraging people to get vaccinated. Scaring the vaccinated back into a lockdown mindset is unnecessary and unscientific.

    Some people only follow the science that leads them where they want to go.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert leads us to a pretty good article: Artistic License. It's about the transformation of license plates from staid indicators of legal vehicle registration to little billboards. Which of course leads to… Mel Thomson:

    Thomson was a titan of New Hampshire politics in the 1970s. He served three terms as governor and he was a conservative firebrand who hated democrats. Thomson had a lot of unorthodox ideas (including wanting to arm the New Hampshire national guard with nuclear weapons) and he was obsessed with the idea of “freedom.”

    Live Free or Die,” of course, is New Hampshire’s fiery state motto. It was coined by a Revolutionary War vet, and Thomson loved it so much that, before he became governor, he worked with allies in the state legislature to get it slapped on every car in the state. In 1971, the slogan on the state’s license plate changed from Scenic New Hampshire, to Live Free or Die.

    Not everyone embraced the “Live Free or Die” slogan. At 88 years old, George Maynard still gets heated about the New Hampshire license plate. Maynard and his family joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in 1972 they moved to Claremont, New Hampshire. That’s where the trouble started.

    And you probably know the rest of the story, but it's entertainingly told. Never mind the author's sneer quotes around "freedom".

One Fatal Flaw

[Amazon Link]

Yet another entry in the "Wish I'd Liked It Better" Department. I've been hitting a lot of those lately, usually because I trusted "recommendations" from a reliable source. In this case, Tom Nolan's compilation of 2020's "best" mysteries. Really, Tom?

It's the third entry in Anne Perry's series of novels featuring young earnest lawyer Daniel Pitt; he's the son of Thomas Pitt, who has a 32-book series! There are numerous references to occurrences (I assume) in those previous books, but that's par for the course, and didn't bother me that much.

It's set in 1910 England, and Daniel is wheedled by a young woman into defending her petty criminal boyfriend against a murder charge; the forensic evidence seems to say that he bashed in the skull of another criminal while robbing a warehouse, then set a fire to cover things up.

This sounds dubious, but Daniel enlists the daughter of his firm's head, Miriam, to importune a well-known forensic scientist to testify that the damage to the victim's skull could have been caused by the extreme heat of the fire; skull bones have been known to crack in such conflagrations. Reasonable doubt is established, the boyfriend goes free…

Only to wind up dead in exactly the same way. And this time, the girlfriend is accused of the crime. And demands that Daniel defend her.

And this is when Daniel smells a rat. About time.

I found Anne Perry's style in this book irritating and repetitious. Mostly it's people talking to each other. Which is fine, but interspersed between the dialog lines are lengthy descriptions of mental states: Why did they say that? What do they think about what they just heard? What did they look like when they said it? How should they respond? This way? No, that wouldn't be proper, how about this?

And then the next bit of speech is uttered. C'mon, Anne. Just tell me what they said.

I also found the plotting to be sloppy and not particularly believable. (Perhaps I'm cranky, because I came up with a theory of what was "really going on"; which turned out to be totally wrong.)

Anne Perry is a best-selling novelist with legions of fans. So your mileage may differ. She's not my cup of tea.

(Oh, yeah, did I mention the tea? I swear, there are more words devoted to tea in this book than to crime-solving.)