The Washington Post Continues to Drink From the Right Wing Water Trough

So much for the Bush White House being the center of baloney in Washington. At least the Bush years will end. I hope Bush takes the Washington Post editorial page with him.

In a ridiculous column, Richard Cohen condemns Democrats for not defending William Bennett’s right to speech. If you recall on his radio show Bennett, “Responding to a caller who argued that if abortion were outlawed the Social Security trust fund would benefit — more people, more contributions, was the apparent (idiotic) reasoning — Bennett said, sure, he understood what the fellow was saying. It was similar to the theory that the low crime rate of recent years was the consequence of high abortion rates: the fewer African American males born, the fewer crimes committed. (Young black males commit a disproportionate share of crime.) This theory has been around for some time. Bennett was not referring to anything new. But he did add something very important: If implemented, the idea would be “an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do.”

So, Bennett refers to a reprehensible theory that more blacks equals more crime, but that’s okay because its not anything new. Of course this is the same guy who opposed safe sex education in schools at the height of the AIDS panic. Funny, Washington DC has a lower homicide (and violent crime in general) rate than at any time since 1986 (just before the crack epidemic). Just up the street, Baltimore (a city that has been majority black since the late 1970s) saw violent crime rates in 2004 that were lower than at anytime since the early 1970s.

Crime is a sport of youth. The 1986-1993 crime boom notwithstanding, violent crime tends to fall when the number of 18-24 yr old falls and rises when their numbers rise. Violent crime rose in the 1960s-the same decade the number of 18-24 year olds rose by 53% a bigger increase than all other decades of the 20th century combined. I’ll bet (which seems to happen a lot around Bill Bennett) that Bennett never read that statistic.

Cohen also accuses for the Democrats of having no ideas. Uh Richard, did you ever check out www.johnkerry.com during the campaign. Or if you can’t stop looking down your upper class DC pundit nose at Kerry, may I suggest the websites for the Center for American Progress, the Brookings Institution, aflcio.org or the Century Foundation. You’ll find six and twelve point plans for any problem you can imagine: securing loose nuclear weapons, reforming public education, promoting international trade, bolstering the military, boosting wages and unionization, etc.

Perhaps most ridiculous of all is Cohen’s charge the Dems are mimicking Gingrich by yelling “Corruption, Corruption.” Can someone give me one reason Democrats shouldn’t do this? Yeah the GOP had an idea or two in 1994, same ones they had in 1945-Cut taxes, Cut spending, cut the deficit, cut regulations on business. While Dems should never adopt Gingirich’s policies, given the fact that the GOP has controlled the Houe for 11 of the last 11 years and the Senate for 9.5 of the last 11 years, maybe Democrats are finally understanding a fundamental thruth of politics: know thy enemy (and give him a taste of his own medicine).

Why the hell do Democrats have to be so nice anyway? The media did next to nothing to refute the phony flip-flop charges against Kerry in 2004 and gave Bush a pass on his numerous flip-flops. Kerry mentions that one of Cheney’s daughters is gay and all hell breaks loose. Kerry ran a very good campaign, but like many Democrats both before and during 2004, too much time was spent trying to ge the press to like them. I say elected and unelected Dems should let the Tim Russert’s, Chris Matthews’, and Joel Klein’s of the world know we don’t give a bleep what they think.

Frankly, it’s not the Fox News’ and Rush Limbaugh’s of the world that confused the people about Kerry and the Democrats-most Americans already know those guys are to the right of Atila the Hun. Instead, Dems are hurt more by the fact that those journalists and others of their ilk too often seemed to offer confirmation by by repeating and not pointing out the lies the Right-Wing-Noise machine told and continues to tell. It’s so hard to tell that this was the same paper that broke the story on Nixon’s many scandals. If the Post of the 1970s was of the same quality of the Post of the 2000s, Watergate would just be the name of another hotel.

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About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
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16 Responses to The Washington Post Continues to Drink From the Right Wing Water Trough

  1. Yep. I’ve been saying it is really good Dick died when he did. Could you imagine him not only living through the 90’s, then though Shrub’s admin? It would have killed him! If Nixon had the same MSM that has existed the last 10 years, Watergate not only have stayed a “3rd rate burglary”, it probably would have ended up being blamed on the Democrats

  2. Ron Chusid says:

    Bob Herbert also discusses Bennett’s comments. After a long discussion of how the Republicans have taken advantage of racism, he concludes with:

    “Bill Bennett’s twisted fantasies are a malignant outgrowth of our polarized past. Our job is to keep them from spreading into the future.”

    http://select.nytimes.com/2005/10/06/opinion/06herbert.html?hp

  3. Ginny in CO says:

    I’m trying to decide if this fits the information I saw on Media Matters for America.

    My understanding was Bennett told the caller that in essence, he was correct. However, in trying to say that the argument was moot because it involved immoral action, he did the ‘too much satire’ thing by saying that it would be true if you aborted all black babies the crime rate would eventually go down. THEN he said “which would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do.”

    So, on the radio show, a caller makes a statement that is basically true but with an idiotic conclusion because the implied action would be morally reprehensible. (There is a Canadian government study that showed they spend fewer health care dollars on people who smoke because they die younger, It did not lead them to promote smoking) Then Bennett makes the mistake of taking a study that did show the correlation between Roe V Wade and the delayed but sudden drop in crime, and creating his own example of a ludicrous idea that was intended to show how dumb the caller’s was.

    It was one of those kick yourself black and blue, apologize for the unintentional grief moments; which Bennett did not rise to. I think the reaction was a lot like the reaction to the CU professor, Ward Churchill, who put out the theory on the 9/11 victims. Churchill had the freedom of speech to say it, and then he had to defend it – which he did unapologetically, and he paid the price for airing something so far out and poorly thought out in his personal life and career.

    Cohen had another piece last year about some idiots who actually got a book published that proposed killing Bush would be justifiable homicide. Cohen wanted to paint these extremists as being fostered and supported by the Dems. I wrote Cohen that not only were these idiots responsible for their own insanity (not to mention the help from the publishers) I would much rather they put it on paper and let the rest of society tell them what we think of their intelligence, than have it circling around the sewers where yet other idiots might have paid the assassins.

    On the crime, blacks and abortion connection. The regression analysis on why the crime rate fell so drastically in the 90’s when the expert predictiion was for a “bloodbath”, was done by Steven Leavit. Leavitt and Stephen Dubner wrote the just published “Freakanomics” which covers that analysis and many others that Leavitt, an oddball economist, has done.

    Leavitt’s tour de force is asking questions and analysiing data so it helps determine if we did the right thing for the right or wrong reasons, or the wrong thing for the right or wrong reasons. It is, in my terminology, populist economics. Leavitt warns from the start he is not a Wall street economist or theorist. What he does do is more important by far and I highly recomment the book – it is not hard reading.

    The analysis on the correlation of the Roe v Wade decision and the ultimate drop in crime is really tough to counter. It supports the majority decisionon the ruling. That cited the ability of a woman to determine that she is not emotionally, psychologically or financially able to raise a child, should allow her to end the unintended pregnancy.

    That this prevented millions of children, who would have been at risk to be criminals, from living that kind of life is a sad reality of human existance. It makes a case that these women are not being selfish or lazy. They know their limits and are wiling to face this bitter decision and prevent more suffering.

    What Leavitt also brings up is that abortion was not illegal until around 1900. When it was outlawed, it was the poor who could not get safe illegal abortions or birth control. So to the extent that blacks have been too poor to afford health care or contraception, they have had the double whammy of not being able to terminate pregnancies that added to the problems. Leavitt has not done any analysis on what happens when you introduce good sex education and birth control options as acceptable in our society. In third world countries it has helped tremendously. Add educating girls (k -12) and the birth rate drops dramatically.

    I hope that is clearer than mud.

  4. beachmom says:

    Thanks for that thorough explanation, Ginny in CO. I read that chapter in Freakonomics, and there was no mention of aborting “black babies”. If Bennett had said “abort all unwanted babies”, then he would have stated the theory correctly. But by putting one word, “black”, he blew the theory and revealed his own racist views, inferring that all blacks are criminals, when that’s NOT what Freakonomics had said. Also, Freakonomics is about “how the world is” (believe me, many liberal theories are shot down in the book, too), and asks that you put your morals aside, and just consider the data. The chapter is titled “Where have all the criminals gone”, and goes on at the end to say that abortion will still end more lives than save in a reduced crime rate. Bennett missed all of this, and then added one of the most awful racist comments I have heard in ages. It’s almost like he was saying, “if I could kill all black babies, and reduce the crime rate, I would, but I can’t because that would be immoral”. Disgusting and indefensible.

  5. KJ says:

    Putting Freakonomics on the “to read” list. Thanks so much– Ginny and Beachmom– for the review.

  6. KJ says:

    Nick said: “Perhaps most ridiculous of all is Cohen’s charge the Dems are mimicking Gingrich by yelling “Corruption, Corruption.” Can someone give me one reason Democrats shouldn’t do this?”

    Because we’re so nice? LOLOL I don’t think so….. @;-)

  7. Todd says:

    KJ writes: “Putting Freakonomics on the “to read” list. Thanks so much– Ginny and Beachmom– for the review. ”

    If it were me, I wouldn’t waste your time. I read the chapter on abortion and crime rates and (as a criminologist) found the assertions and correlations to be ludicrous. If you are going to attribute the drop in crime in the 80’s and 90’s to Roe because there were “simply fewer criminals” being born, you could make the argument that the Pill in the early 60’s had more to do with it than Roe. But neither correlation, however, equals causation. I wrote more about this below, if anyone’s interested.

    http://articleofaith.blogspot.com/2005/08/freakin-foolishness.html

  8. Ginny in CO says:

    beachmom,

    I agree the Freakonomics approach is valuable for all of us. Conventional wisdom is a grab bag and we are just as capable of pet theories that we waste money on. This gets to a better means of really establishing a correlation that is pretty solidly cause and effect so that we can either stop a government (or business) program, or tweak/rework it to address the more probable cause.

    As much a s I dislike playing devil’s advocate for Bill Bennett, I still have to maintain that he was really TRYING to be totally ludicrous in his example – that was based on something factual- only to make his point to a wingnut (also illustrating that you might as well not try to reason with them). Exactly like Jonathan Swift’s infamous “solution” to the Irish famine/excess population problem: eat the babies.It is the classic example in a literature class that when you take satire over the top, you are more likely to distract the attention from the real argument. (One reason Bill Maher and other good satirists succeed is knowing where to stop)

    I’m not even sure it reveals an underlying racism as much as Trent Lott’s toast at the birthday party. That bothers me much more. And as I stated above, Bennett should have risen to the reality that it was an over the top example and apologized sincerely.

    The fact that he couldn’t do that is what bothers me the most. The insensitivity to that kind of pain – regardless of the unintentional aspect – is a human trait I consider as deplorable as racism.

  9. Todd says:

    Ginny in CO writes: “As much a s I dislike playing devil’s advocate for Bill Bennett, I still have to maintain that he was really TRYING to be totally ludicrous in his example – that was based on something factual- only to make his point to a wingnut …”

    The problem is, it wasn’t based on anything “factual”. There’s absolutely no truth to the assertion that eliminating black people would eliminate crime (as “morally rephrensible” or not as that may be). Who’s to say white people, sensing a void in criminal activity, wouldn’t redouble their efforts and drive up the rates even further? 2/3 of all crime is committed by whites, afterall.

    Hypotheticals are fine, but the premise of them has to be grounded in reality…his comment, whether in jest or not, wasn’t, imo.

  10. Ginny in CO says:

    Todd,

    I agree birth control is another part of this equation that is equally important. And sex education, and whether birth control is perceived as acceptable. I would like to see a study on what human SEXUALITY education does for conception rates. Another factor in the rise and criminal element of the subsequent generations may be related to the delay of the feminists in having children.

    I think Leavitt is quite clear on the dangers of confusing correlation with causality and this has always been a problem with statistics. I don’t have the book right now so can’t reread some of the areas.

    To the very limited extent that I studied criminology and statistics, I have to defer to experts on some of this. I also know how stupidly experts can come up with cause and effect ideas that don’t hold up to new facts and further research – yet they continue to promote them DESPITE EVIDENCE OF THE HARM they cause.

    Take a good look at modern medicine – I routinely have to point out the discrepencies of what the practicing doctors do and what research has refuted to my patients, I encourage them to do their own research on it, including the reversals by major professional groups that are ignored by many older doctors too busy to keep up or challenge their comfort zone. On the other side, when evidence based outcome practices are instituted by a hospital – with significant resistence by some physicians- the better methods continue to result in fewer complications, shorter length of stay and better outcomes – at less cost.

    Effective changes in education have also been through this whole human pattern of
    change versus resistance based on emotions and power versus intelligent questioning, experimentation and application of new concepts.

    I agree Leavitt has some conclusions that may not stand up to further analysis. (Show me any field of scientific endeavor that doesn’t) What I do like is his approach. The idea of asking questions so as to analyse data to get a better idea of what may be correlated, what may be cause and effect, so we can make better attempts at solving our problems with less money is very valuble. My limited abilities with statistics and questioning have allowed me to produce similar results in nursing – conclusions opposite what the administration had come to. Sometimes to their dismay and others to their appreciation.

    Like all new approaches it needs further development and refinement. Did you have a problem with his anlaysis of the gun buy back programs? What needs to happen is for the economists who get into this kind of analysis to work with the specialists in the area to fine tune the questions and the data analysis.

    As a sociologist, I have some problems with a few of the ideas that come from a criminologist’s perspective, The fact that boy babies were not selectively aborted does not address the larger impact of fewer children on a family. The aborted pregnancies also meant the parents had more time, energy and money to spend on other children, boys and girls.

    Bottom line is the whole problem of taking an incredibly complex situation and finding the variables that impact it the most. Religion has tried to do this with some good and some bad results. As have science and government. I see this as a new approach to the problem that has potential and needs a lot of refining and integration with established knowledge from experts, not ignoring.

  11. Ginny in CO says:

    Todd,
    The longer response triggered the “awaiting moderation” hold.

    Let’s return to the comments quoted above:

    “Bennett said, sure, he understood what the fellow was saying. It was similar to the theory that the low crime rate of recent years was the consequence of high abortion rates: the fewer African American males born, the fewer crimes committed”

    Your comment is:

    “There’s absolutely no truth to the assertion that eliminating black people would eliminate crime.”

    I’m not sure why this is not coming thru. Bennett was the one who extrapolated the original assertion (which did NOT isolate blacks) that abortion had decreased the actual and projected crime rates, to what seems to me an intentionally over the top assertion on aborting black babies reducing (not eliminating) crime. Both of them, would have to be true to some extent, even if they miss the mark in how much of an effect. I think Bennett also misrepresented Leavitts conclusions when he inserted “high” in front of abortion rates.

    One of Leavitt’s other correlations is the increase in jail sentences to decreased crimes. Is that also not supported? There are solid facts on the disproportion of black inmates to white and many studies on whether blacks get as good a defense.
    Sorting it all out is mind boggling. The point is to get closer to some kind of analysis that gives us better information. There is no final answer, there are many incomplete ideas that can be developed to improve our answers and keep moving us to better methods.

    What I think this comes down to is the reality that we can only have so much knowledge of the truth at any one time. We have to accept that some ideas contain errors and keep looking for those, without throwing out the grains of truth. We also have a knowledge rate doubling at unbelievable speed.

    Knowingly or intuitively, some truth is at the basis of almost all ideas. What is important is whether we intentionally or unintentionally use that truth to implement something that is morally reprehensible or ineffective. Whether we lay out our thought and analysis for discussion, dispute and improvement, or hide it in slogans and philosophy that cover a hidden agenda.

  12. Ginny in CO says:

    On rereading Cohen’s quote, I decided to go back to the original MMFA post;

    Addressing a caller’s suggestion that the “lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years” would be enough to preserve Social Security’s solvency, radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett dismissed such “far-reaching, extensive extrapolations” by declaring that if “you wanted to reduce crime … if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” Bennett conceded that aborting all African-American babies “would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do,” then added again, “but the crime rate would go down.”

    http://mediamatters.org/items/200509280006

    Bennett never made the distinction of aborting only African- American males. That was part of Cohen’s misreading and quoting.

    Sorry I didn’t start with this.

  13. Ginny in CO says:

    Ah yes, another Cohen partial argument with an off the mark observation:

    “Democrats are aping what Newt Gingrich once did to them when he was speaker of the House, a leader of the GOP and a self-proclaimed dazzling revolutionary. His incessant cry of “Corruption! Corruption!” helped end Democratic rule of Congress,”

    Perhaps he missed Newt’s round of criticisms of the current GOP this LAST year being far worse than the Democrats they ousted under his leadership in ’94.

    I think he needs to reread his “The Lasting Art of Betrayal” column (today) -in front of a mirror.

  14. Todd says:

    Ginny, you make several intereting points, most of which I agree with and won’t reiterate.

    My read of Bennett’s quote wasn’t from this latest version of the Cohen article, but his original statement “I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” I understand he tried to slough off his comments on Leavitt’s “theory”, and that Leavitt never postulated a direct relation to African-Americans and abortion (even though my read of the chapter was that there was a borderline racist feel to it). But he didnt’ assert it for good reason…statistics show most abortions are obtained by middle class white women. That further entangles (along with failure to show sex-selection) any meaningful analysis that can be drawn from his Roe=low crime assertion.

    Plus, he nor Bennett really said what type of “crime” they were talking about. If Leavitt’s theory really were correct (given the abortion demographics) white collar crime should have gone down during that time period, instead of up.

    As to imprisonment, the argument has been made often that because of the imprisonment binge we’ve been on since the 1980’s (we doubled the incarceration rate in the 80’s and doubled it again during the 90’s), crime went down. That gets us right back to correlation = cause. Crime went down in states that doubled their incarceration rates; it also went down in states where there was no appreciable change in the imprisonment rate. It’s largely a red herring used to justify the massive prison buildup of the 80’s and 90’s.

    So why did it go down? A number of reasons, starting with a booming economy throughout the 90’s; Generation X moving through its main crime-producing years (18-25) during the period; more aggressive enforcement; crime as poltical capital. And so on. Crime is really too multi-faceted to chalk its increases or decreases up to one particular event (and again, I’d have to identify what types, street, white collar, political, government, etc.) we’re actually talking about.

    So you’re a sociologist? Where about?

  15. Ginny in CO says:

    Todd,

    It is all too multifaceted to make the leap to causes without doing something that is effective and have it work repeatedly.

    For some reason, I thought Levitt had narrowed his statistics to violent crimes. I admit to reading fast and taking fewer notes than usual. Isn’t white collar crime an older demographic?

    I also thought he was fairly solid on the mistake of making a correlation = cause without a lot more supporting evidence.

    It’s things like the prison building scam that make me look for ways to get better with combining knowledge, theory and numbers to keep from putting so much money into ineffective and harmful solutions. Even the attention that the buy back progams got take away from more important issues. Some years ago, a prison counselor came up with an insight into helping the inmates from his 14 year old daughter asking what rehabilitation meant. He realized most of them had never been “habilitated” to begin with and therefore could not be REhabilitated. Like pregnancy, I’d like to see more effort on prevention.

    I am a sociologist by education – only a BS. I did it partly out of fascination with the various classes I could take and get the degree. Psych, abn psych, child psych, criminology, stats. anthropology, gerontology etc etc. My other degree in BS (no surprise I have two?) is nursing. Where I use the sociology to the max. I work with social workers and have done a lot of case management. The other end of the career has been critical care, which is why I get a little peeved about Drs who don’t keep up.

    I am in Wheat Ridge, CO. A little town that used to be NW of Denver and now there is one street diviiding them. I work at a Communty hospital that is a benchmark Top 100 in the Nation because we have been selected so many years.

    So, wanna talk health care? 🙂

  16. Todd says:

    Ginny in CO writes: “So, wanna talk health care? ”

    Ha! Talk about your mutli-faceted problems!