Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mean Streets: Kids' verbal skills drop in bad neighborhoods

By Bruce Bower

You can take a child out of a severely disadvantaged neighborhood and move to a nicer part of town, but you can't always take a bad neighborhood's harmful effects on verbal development out of the child. That's the implication of a new, long-term study of children from various Chicago neighborhoods. Kids living in the most disadvantaged communities displayed marked declines in age-appropriate verbal ability over a 7-year span, even after moving to better areas, reports a team led by Harvard University sociologist Robert J. Sampson.

On average, children who at some point lived in neighborhoods characterized by "concentrated disadvantage" exhibited decreases of 4 IQ points on later standardized tests of vocabulary and reading skills. Comparable verbal losses occur when a child misses 1 year of school. Concentrated disadvantage consists of a high rate of welfare recipients, high levels of poverty and unemployment, racial segregation, and large numbers of female-headed households and children per household.

Exposure to concentrated disadvantage exerted harsher verbal effects on the youngest kids, the researchers say. "Taking steps to invest in neighborhoods directly, by creating safe public spaces and quality learning environments for children, is likely a cost-effective way to mitigate the harmful consequences of concentrated disadvantage," Sampson says. The new findings will appear in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sampson's group studied 2,226 children, ages 6 to 12, living in poor, middle-class, and upper-class sections of Chicago. Kids and their parents or caretakers were tracked from 1995 through 2002. In that time, about half of the participants moved from one Chicago neighborhood to another or to other parts of the United States.

Interviews with children and caretakers occurred at the study's start and twice more, every 2 to 3 years. At each interview, the children completed a vocabulary and reading test. The researchers focused on the 772 African-American children in the study. Almost one-third of the black children lived in areas of concentrated disadvantage in 1995, compared with virtually no white or Hispanic children.

About 42 percent of the black children living in the worst neighborhoods in 1995 moved to a nondisadvantaged neighborhood later on. This group still showed a 4-point decline in verbal ability. Concentrated disadvantage undermines verbal development in numerous ways, Sampson suggests. These include the lack of safe public places to play with others and minimal exposure to academic English.

Economist Greg J. Duncan of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., agrees that neighborhood disadvantage worsens the reading skills of black children in Chicago. Yet in 2006, his team reported that—contrary to Sampson's results—6- to 10-year-old black children in families given vouchers to move to better neighborhoods scored higher on reading tests within 4 to 7 years. These results emerged in Chicago and Baltimore but not in three other cities.

Sampson's analysis neglects the possibility that if smarter caretakers move to better neighborhoods, then children who move with them will be brighter—for partly genetic reasons—than those left behind, notes Linda Gottfredson, an education professor at the University of Delaware in Newark. Further research needs to track verbal ability in siblings from the same families, where some are full biological siblings and others half or less, she suggests.


Sampson, R.J., et al. In press. Durable effects of concentrated disadvantage on verbal ability among African-American children. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. Available at

Science News, Vol. 172, No. 25/26, Dec. 22, 2007, p. 388.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The racist history the Democratic Party wants you to forget


In his new book, "The Conscience of a Liberal," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman makes a strong case for his belief that the political success of the Republican Party and the conservative movement over the past 40 years has resulted largely from their co-optation of Southern racists that were the base of the Democratic Party until its embrace of civil rights in the 1960s. A key piece of evidence for Mr. Krugman is that Ronald Reagan gave his first speech after accepting the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 near Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. In the course of this speech, Reagan said he supported "states' rights." Mr. Krugman says this was code declaring his secret sympathy for Southern racism.

Others, including Mr. Krugman's Times colleague David Brooks and Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, have come to Reagan's defense, denying that he was a racist or had any racist intent in his 1980 speech. That's fine but unlikely to change the minds of those like Mr. Krugman who are determined to smear the Republican Party with the charge of racism, and who are adept at finding racist code words like "law and order" by Republicans that are completely convincing to liberals and Democrats in support of this accusation, even though they are invisible to those with no political ax to grind.

However, if a single mention of states' rights 27 years ago is sufficient to damn the Republican Party for racism ever afterwards, what about the 200-year record of prominent Democrats who didn't bother with code words? They were openly and explicitly for slavery before the Civil War, supported lynching and "Jim Crow" laws after the war, and regularly defended segregation and white supremacy throughout most of the 20th century.

Following are some quotes from prominent Democrats largely drawn from my new book, "Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past." Even with the exclusion of all quotes that contain the N-word, it is clear that many of the Democratic Party's most important historical figures have long made statements that reduce Reagan's alleged transgression to a drop in the ocean. If we are going to hold him and his party accountable for a single mention of states' rights, then the party of those listed below is far more culpable in promoting and defending racism.

Blacks "are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both of body and mind."
--Thomas Jefferson, 1787
Co-founder of the Democratic Party (along with Andrew Jackson)
President, 1801-09
"I hold that the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding states between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good--a positive good."

--Sen. John C. Calhoun (D., S.C.), 1837
Vice President, 1825-32
His statue stands in the U.S. Capitol.
If blacks were given the right to vote, that would "place every splay-footed, bandy-shanked, hump-backed, thick-lipped, flat-nosed, woolly-headed, ebon-colored Negro in the country upon an equality with the poor white man."

--Rep. Andrew Johnson, (D., Tenn.), 1844
President, 1865-69
"Resolved, That the Democratic Party will resist all attempts at renewing, in Congress or out of it, the agitation of the slavery question, under whatever shape or color the attempt may be made."

--Platform of the Democratic Party, 1852
Blacks are "a subordinate and inferior class of beings who had been subjugated by the dominant race."

--Chief Justice Roger Taney, Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1856
Appointed Attorney General by Andrew Jackson in 1831
Appointed Secretary of the Treasury by Andrew Jackson in 1833
Appointed to the Supreme Court by Andrew Jackson in 1836
"Resolved, That claiming fellowship with, and desiring the co-operation of all who regard the preservation of the Union under the Constitution as the paramount issue--and repudiating all sectional parties and platforms concerning domestic slavery, which seek to embroil the States and incite to treason and armed resistance to law in the Territories; and whose avowed purposes, if consummated, must end in civil war and disunion, the American Democracy recognize and adopt the principles contained in the organic laws establishing the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska as embodying the only sound and safe solution of the 'slavery question' upon which the great national idea of the people of this whole country can repose in its determined conservatism of the Union--NON-INTERFERENCE BY CONGRESS WITH SLAVERY IN STATE AND TERRITORY, OR IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" (emphasis in original).

--Platform of the Democratic Party, 1856
"I hold that a Negro is not and never ought to be a citizen of the United States. I hold that this government was made on the white basis; made by the white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and should be administered by white men and none others."

--Sen. Stephen A. Douglas (D., Ill.), 1858
Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, 1860
"Resolved, That the enactments of the State Legislatures to defeat the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Law, are hostile in character, subversive of the Constitution, and revolutionary in their effect."

--Platform of the Democratic Party, 1860
"The Almighty has fixed the distinction of the races; the Almighty has made the black man inferior, and, sir, by no legislation, by no military power, can you wipe out this distinction."

--Rep. Fernando Wood (D., N.Y.), 1865
Mayor of New York City, 1855-58, 1860-62
"My fellow citizens, I have said that the contest before us was one for the restoration of our government; it is also one for the restoration of our race. It is to prevent the people of our race from being exiled from their homes--exiled from the government which they formed and created for themselves and for their children, and to prevent them from being driven out of the country or trodden under foot by an inferior and barbarous race."

--Francis P. Blair Jr., accepting the Democratic nomination for Vice President, 1868
Democratic Senator from Missouri, 1869-72His statue stands in the U.S. Capitol.
"Instead of restoring the Union, it [the Republican Party] has, so far as in its power, dissolved it, and subjected ten states, in time of profound peace, to military despotism and Negro supremacy."

--Platform of the Democratic Party, 1868
"While the tendency of the white race is upward, the tendency of the colored race is downward."

--Sen. Thomas Hendricks (D., Ind.), 1869
Democratic nominee for Vice President, 1876
Vice President, 1885
"We, the delegates of the Democratic party of the United States . . . demand such modification of the treaty with the Chinese Empire, or such legislation within constitutional limitations, as shall prevent further importation or immigration of the Mongolian race."

--Platform of the Democratic Party, 1876
"No more Chinese immigration, except for travel, education, and foreign commerce, and that even carefully guarded."

--Platform of the Democratic Party, 1880
"American civilization demands that against the immigration or importation of Mongolians to these shores our gates be closed."

--Platform of the Democratic Party, 1884
"We favor the continuance and strict enforcement of the Chinese exclusion law, and its application to the same classes of all Asiatic races."

--Platform of the Democratic Party, 1900
"The repeal of the fifteenth amendment, one of the greatest blunders and therefore one of the greatest crimes in political history, is a consummation to be devoutly wished for."

--Rep. John Sharpe Williams (D., Miss.), 1903
House Minority Leader, 1903-08
"Republicanism means Negro equality, while the Democratic Party means that the white man is supreme. That is why we Southerners are all Democrats."

--Sen. Ben Tillman (D., S.C.), 1906
Chairman, Committee on Naval Affairs, 1913-19
"We are opposed to the admission of Asiatic immigrants who can not be amalgamated with our population, or whose presence among us would raise a race issue and involve us in diplomatic controversies with Oriental powers."

--Platform of the Democratic Party, 1908
"I am opposed to the practice of having colored policemen in the District [of Columbia]. It is a source of danger by constantly engendering racial friction, and is offensive to thousands of Southern white people who make their homes here."

--Sen. Hoke Smith (D., Ga.), 1912
Appointed Secretary of the Interior by Grover Cleveland in 1893
"The South is serious with regard to its attitude to the Negro in politics. The South understands this subject, and its policy is unalterable and uncompromising. We desire no concessions. We seek no sops. We grasp no shadows on this subject. We take no risks. We abhor a Northern policy of catering to the Negro in politics just as we abhor a Northern policy of social equality."

--Josephus Daniels, editor, Raleigh News & Observer, 1912
Appointed Secretary of the Navy by Woodrow Wilson in 1913
Appointed Ambassador to Mexico by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933
USS Josephus Daniels named for him by the Johnson Administration in 1965
"The Negro as a race, in all the ages of the world, has never shown sustained power of self-development. He is not endowed with the creative faculty. . . . He has never created for himself any civilization. . . . He has never had any civilization except that which has been inculcated by a superior race. And it is a lamentable fact that his civilization lasts only so long as he is in the hands of the white man who inculcates it. When left to himself he has universally gone back to the barbarism of the jungle."

--Sen. James Vardaman (D., Miss.), 1914
Chairman, Committee on Natural Resources, 1913-19
"This is a white man's country, and will always remain a white man's country."

--Rep. James F. Byrnes (D., S.C.), 1919
Appointed to the Supreme Court by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941
Appointed Secretary of State by Harry S. Truman in 1945
"Slavery among the whites was an improvement over independence in Africa. The very progress that the blacks have made, when--and only when--brought into contact with the whites, ought to be a sufficient argument in support of white supremacy--it ought to be sufficient to convince even the blacks themselves."

--William Jennings Bryan, 1923
Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, 1896, 1900 and 1908
Appointed Secretary of State by Woodrow Wilson in 1913
His statue stands in the U.S. Capitol.
"Anyone who has traveled to the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results. . . . The argument works both ways. I know a great many cultivated, highly educated and delightful Japanese. They have all told me that they would feel the same repugnance and objection to have thousands of Americans settle in Japan and intermarry with the Japanese as I would feel in having large numbers of Japanese coming over here and intermarry with the American population. In this question, then, of Japanese exclusion from the United States it is necessary only to advance the true reason--the undesirability of mixing the blood of the two peoples. . . . The Japanese people and the American people are both opposed to intermarriage of the two races--there can be no quarrel there."

--Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1925
President, 1933-45
"This passport which you have given me is a symbol to me of the passport which you have given me before. I do not feel that it would be out of place to state to you here on this occasion that I know that without the support of the members of this organization I would not have been called, even by my enemies, the 'Junior Senator from Alabama.' "

--Hugo Black, accepting a life membership in the Ku Klux Klan upon his election to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat from Alabama, 1926
Appointed to the Supreme Court by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937
"Mr. President, the crime of lynching . . . is not of sufficient importance to justify this legislation."

--Sen. Claude Pepper (D., Fla.), 1938
Spoken while engaged in a six-hour speech against the antilynching bill
"I am a former Kleagle [recruiter] of the Ku Klux Klan in Raleigh County. . . . The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia. It is necessary that the order be promoted immediately and in every state in the union."

--Robert C. Byrd, 1946
Democratic Senator from West Virginia, 1959-present
Senate Majority Leader, 1977-80 and 1987-88
Senate President Pro Tempore, 1989-95, 2001-03, 2007-present
His portrait stands in the U.S. Capitol.
President Truman's civil rights program "is a farce and a sham--an effort to set up a police state in the guise of liberty. I am opposed to that program. I have voted against the so-called poll tax repeal bill. . .. I have voted against the so-called anti-lynching bill."

--Rep. Lyndon B. Johnson (D., Texas), 1948
U.S. Senator, 1949-61
Senate Majority Leader, 1955-61
President, 1963-69
"There is no warrant for the curious notion that Christianity favors the involuntary commingling of the races in social institutions. Although He knew both Jews and Samaritans and the relations existing between them, Christ did not advocate that courts or legislative bodies should compel them to mix socially against their will."

--Sen. Sam Ervin (D., N.C.), 1955
Chairman, Committee on Government Operations, 1971-75
"The decline and fall of the Roman empire came after years of intermarriage with other races. Spain was toppled as a world power as a result of the amalgamation of the races. . . . Certainly history shows that nations composed of a mongrel race lose their strength and become weak, lazy and indifferent."

--Herman E. Talmadge, 1955
Democratic Senator from Georgia, 1957-81
Chairman, Committee on Agriculture, 1971-81
"These Negroes, they're getting pretty uppity these days and that's a problem for us since they've got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we've got to do something about this, we've got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don't move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there'll be no way of stopping them, we'll lose the filibuster and there'll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It'll be Reconstruction all over again."

--Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson (D., Texas), 1957
"I have never seen very many white people who felt they were being imposed upon or being subjected to any second-class citizenship if they were directed to a waiting room or to any other public facility to wait or to eat with other white people. Only the Negroes, of all the races which are in this land, publicly proclaim they are being mistreated, imposed upon, and declared second-class citizens because they must go to public facilities with members of their own race."

--Sen. Richard B. Russell Jr. (D., Ga.), 1961
The Russell Senate Office Building is named for him.
"I did not lie awake at night worrying about the problems of Negroes."

--Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, 1961
Kennedy later authorized wiretapping the phones and bugging the hotel rooms of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"I'm not going to use the federal government's authority deliberately to circumvent the natural inclination of people to live in ethnically homogeneous neighborhoods. . . . I have nothing against a community that's made up of people who are Polish or Czechoslovakian or French-Canadian or blacks who are trying to maintain the ethnic purity of their neighborhoods."

--Jimmy Carter, 1976
President, 1977-81
Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 2002
"The Confederate Memorial has had a special place in my life for many years. . . . There were many, many times that I found myself drawn to this deeply inspiring memorial, to contemplate the sacrifices of others, several of whom were my ancestors, whose enormous suffering and collective gallantry are to this day still misunderstood by most Americans."

--James Webb, 1990
Now a Democratic Senator from Virginia
"Everybody likes to go to Geneva. I used to do it for the Law of the Sea conferences and you'd find these potentates from down in Africa, you know, rather than eating each other, they'd just come up and get a good square meal in Geneva."

--Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D., S.C.) 1993
Chairman, Commerce Committee, 1987-95 and 2001-03
Candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, 1984
"I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say to my friend from West Virginia [Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a former Ku Klux Klan recruiter] that he would have been a great senator at any moment. . . . He would have been right during the great conflict of civil war in this nation."

--Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), 2004
Chairman, Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
Candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, 2008
"You cannot go into a Dunkin' Donuts or a 7-Eleven unless you have a slight Indian accent."

"My state was a slave state. My state is a border state. My state has the eighth largest black population in the country. My state is anything [but] a Northeastern liberal state."

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African American [Barack Obama] who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy."

"There's less than 1% of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than 4% or 5% that is, are minorities. What is it in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you're dealing with."
Sen. Joseph Biden Jr., (D., Del.), 2006-07
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary, 1987-95
Chairman, Committee on Foreign Relations
Candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, 2008

Bonus quote:
"It has of late become the custom of the men of the South to speak with entire candor of the settled and deliberate policy of suppressing the negro vote. They have been forced to choose between a policy of manifest injustice toward the blacks and the horrors of negro rule. They chose to disfranchise the negroes. That was manifestly the lesser of two evils. . . . The Republican Party committed a great public crime when it gave the right of suffrage to the blacks. . . . So long as the Fifteenth Amendment stands, the menace of the rule of the blacks will impend, and the safeguards against it must be maintained."


Saturday, December 15, 2007

What Makes a Terrorist

It’s not poverty and lack of education, according to economic research by Princeton’s ALAN KRUEGER. Look elsewhere

What Makes a TerroristIn the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, policymakers, scholars, and ordinary citizens asked a key question: What would make people willing to give up their lives to wreak mass destruction in a foreign land? In short, what makes a terrorist?

A popular explana­tion was that economic deprivation and a lack of education caused people to adopt extreme views and turn to terrorism. For example, in July 2005, after the bomb­ings of the London transit system, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “Ultimately what we now know, if we did not before, is that where there is extremism, fanaticism or acute and appalling forms of poverty in one continent, the conse­quences no longer stay fixed in that continent.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, King Abdullah of Jordan, Elie Wiesel, and terrorism experts like Jessica Stern of Harvard’s Kennedy School also argued that poverty or lack of education were significant causes of terrorism.

Even President George W. Bush, who was ini­tially reluctant to associate terrorism with poverty after September 11, eventually argued, “We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror.” Laura Bush added, “A lasting victory in the war against terror depends on educating the world’s children.”

Despite these pronouncements, however, the available evidence is nearly unanimous in rejecting either material deprivation or inadequate educa­tion as important causes of support for terrorism or participation in terrorist activities. Such explana­tions have been embraced almost entirely on faith, not scientific evidence.

Why is an economist studying terrorism? I have two answers. First, participation in terrorism is just a special application of the economics of occupational choice. Some peo­ple choose to become doctors or lawyers, and others pursue careers in terrorism. Economics can help us understand why.

The second answer is that, together with Jörn-Steffen Pischke, now at the London School of Economics, I studied the outbreak of hate crimes against foreigners in Germany in the early 1990s. Through this work, I concluded that poor economic conditions do not seem to motivate people to par­ticipate in hate crimes.

The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre’s yield of cotton. He calculated the correla­tion coefficient between the two series at –0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower. A pair of psy­chologists at Yale, Carl Hovland and Robert Sears, cited Raper’s work in 1940 to argue that deprivation leads to aggres­sion. People take out their frustrations on others, the researchers hypothesized, when economic con­ditions are poor.

While this view seems intuitively plausible, the problem is that it lacks a strong empirical basis. In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic condi­tions and lynchings in Raper’s data.

Raper had the misfortune of stopping his anal­ysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic condi­tions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added.

In 1997, Pischke and I, writing in the Journal of Human Resources, studied the incidence of crimes against foreigners across the 543 coun­ties in Germany in 1992 and 1993. We found that the unemployment rate, the level of wages, wage growth, and average education were all unrelated to the incidence of crimes against foreigners.

With evidence from hate crimes as a background, next turn to terrorism. Terrorism does not occur in a vacuum. So to start, I considered evidence from public opin­ion polls, which can help identify the values and views of those in communities from which terror­ism arises.

The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project conducted public opinion surveys in February 2004 in Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey, involving about 1,000 respondents in each country. One of the questions asked was, “What about suicide bombing carried out against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq? Do you personally believe that this is justifiable or not justifiable?” Pew kindly provided me with tab­ulations of these data by respondents’ personal characteristics.

The clear finding was that people with a higher level of education are in general more likely to say that suicide attacks against Westerners in Iraq are justified. I have also broken this pattern down by income level. There is no indication that people with higher incomes are less likely to say that sui­cide-bombing attacks are justified.

Another source of opinion data is the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, headquar­tered in Ramallah. The center collects data in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. One question, asked in December 2001 of 1,300 adults, addressed attitudes toward armed attacks on Israeli tar­gets. Options were “strongly support,” “support,” “oppose,” “strongly oppose,” or “no opinion.”

Support turned out to be stronger among those with a higher level of education. For exam­ple, while 26 percent of illiterates and 18 per­cent of those with only an elementary education opposed or strongly opposed armed attacks, the figure for those with a high school education was just 12 percent. The least supportive group turned out to be the unemployed, 74 percent of whom said they support or strongly back armed attacks. By comparison, the support level for merchants and professionals was 87 percent.

Related findings have been around for a long time. Daniel Lerner, a professor at MIT at the time, published a book in 1958 called The Passing of Traditional Society in which he collected and analyzed data on extremism in six Middle Eastern countries. He concluded that “the data obviate the conventional assumption that the extremists are simply the have-nots. Poverty prevails only among the apolitical masses.”

Finally, the Palestinian survey included ques­tions about whether people were optimistic for the future. Responses suggested that, just before the outbreak of the second intifada, the Palestinian people believed that the economic situation was improving—a judgment consistent with the fall­ing unemployment rate at the time. The intifada, then, did not appear to be following dashed expec­tations for future economic conditions.

Public opinion is one thing; actual participation in terrorism is another. There is striking anecdotal evidence from Nasra Hassan, a United Nations relief worker in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who described interviews with 250 militants and their associates who were involved in the Palestinian cause in the late 1990s. Hassan concluded that “none of them were uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded, or depressed. Many were middle class and, unless they were fugitives, held paying jobs. Two were the sons of millionaires.”

Claude Berrebi, now of the RAND Corporation’s Institute for Civil Justice, wrote his dissertation at Princeton on the characteristics of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who were involved in terrorist activities. For example, he compared suicide bombers to the whole male pop­ulation aged 16 to 50 and found that the suicide bombers were less than half as likely to come from families that were below the poverty line. In addi­tion, almost 60 percent of the suicide bombers had more than a high school education, compared with less than 15 percent of the general population.

Jitka Malecková and I performed a similar study of militant members of Hezbollah, a multifaceted organization in Lebanon that has been labeled a ter­rorist organization by the U.S. State Department. We were able to obtain information on the biogra­phies of 129 deceased shahids (martyrs) who had been honored in the group’s newsletter, “Al-Ahd.” We turned translations by Eli Hurvitz at Tel Aviv University into a data­set and then combined it with information on the Lebanese popu­lation from the 1996 Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs Housing Survey of 120,000 peo­ple aged 15 to 38.

These deceased mem­bers of Hezbollah had a lower poverty rate than the Lebanese population: 28 percent versus 33 percent. And Hezbollah members were better educated: 47 percent had a secondary or higher education ver­sus 38 percent of adult Lebanese.

This is also the case, apparently, with al-Qaeda. Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) case officer, has written a book titled Understanding Terror Networks. He found that a high proportion of mem­bers of al-Qaeda were college educated (close to 35 percent) and drawn from skilled professions (almost 45 percent). Research on members of the Israeli extremist group, Gush Emunim, that Malecková and I conducted, also pointed in the same direc­tion. Perhaps most definitively, the Library of Congress produced a summary report for an advi­sory group to the CIA titled, “The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why?” which also reached this conclusion—two years before 9/11.

Why are better educated, more advan­taged individuals more likely than others to join terrorist groups? I think of terrorism as a market, with a supply side and a demand side. Individuals, either in small groups or on their own, supply their services to terrorist organizations.

On the supply side, the economics of crime suggests that people with low opportunity costs will become involved in terrorism. Their costs of involvement are lower—that is, they sacrifice less because their prospects of living a rich life are less. In other domains of life, it is those with few oppor­tunities who are more likely to commit property crime and resort to suicide.

However, in the case of the supply of terrorists, while consideration of opportunity cost is not irrel­evant, it is outweighed by other factors, such as a commitment to the goals of the terrorist organi­zation and a desire to make a statement. Political involvement requires some understanding of the issues, and learning about those issues is a less costly endeavor for those who are better educated. I argue that better analogies than crime are vot­ing and political protest. Indeed, better educated, employed people are more likely to vote.

On the demand side, terrorist organizations want to succeed. The costs of failure are high. So the organizations select more able participants—which again points to those who are better educated and better off economically.

One of the conclusions from the work of Laurence Iannaccone—whose paper, “The Market for Martyrs,” is supported by my own research—is that it is very difficult to effect change on the supply side. People who are willing to sacrifice themselves for a cause have diverse motivations. Some are motivated by nationalism, some by religious fanati­cism, some by historical grievances, and so on. If we address one motivation and thus reduce one source on the supply side, there remain other motivations that will incite other people to terror.

That suggests to me that it makes sense to focus on the demand side, such as by degrading terrorist organizations’ financial and technical capabili­ties, and by vigorously protecting and promoting peaceful means of protest, so there is less demand for pursuing grievances through violent means. Policies intended to dampen the flow of people willing to join terrorist organizations, by contrast, strike me as less likely to succeed.

The evidence we have seen thus far does not foreclose the possibility that members of the elite become terrorists because they are outraged by the economic conditions of their countrymen. This is a more difficult hypothesis to test, but, it turns out, there is little empirical sup­port for it.

To investigate the role of societal factors, I assembled data on the country of origin and tar­get of hundreds of significant international terrorist attacks from 1997 to 2003, using infor­mation from the State Department. I found that many socioeconomic indicators—including illiteracy, infant mor­tality, and GDP per capita—are unrelated to whether people from one country become involved in terrorism. Indeed, if anything, measures of economic deprivation, at a country level, have the opposite effect from what the popular stereotype would predict: international terrorists are more likely to come from moderate-income countries than poor ones.

One set of factors that I examined did consis­tently raise the likelihood that people from a given country will participate in terrorism—namely, the suppression of civil liberties and political rights, including freedom of the press, the freedom to assemble, and democratic rights. Using data from the Freedom House Index, for example, I found that countries with low levels of civil liberties are more likely to be the countries of origin of the perpetra­tors of terrorist attacks. In addition, terrorists tend to attack nearby targets. Even international terror­ism tends to be motivated by local concerns.

Additional support for these conclusions comes from research I conducted on the nationalities of foreign insurgents in Iraq. Specifically, I studied 311 combatants, representing 27 countries, who were captured in Iraq. Although the vast majority of insurgents are native Iraqis, motivated by domestic issues, foreigners are alleged to have been involved in several significant attacks. I looked at the char­acteristics of the countries insurgents came from, and, importantly, of the countries with no citizens captured in Iraq. It turned out that countries with a higher GDP per capita were actually more likely to have their citizens involved in the insurgency than were poorer countries.

Consistent with the work on international terrorist incidents, countries with fewer civil lib­erties and political rights were more likely to be the birthplaces of foreign insurgents. Distance also mattered, with most foreign insurgents com­ing from nearby nations. The model predicted that the largest number of insurgents—44 percent—would have emanated from Saudi Arabia, a nation not known for its protection of civil liberties but with a high GDP per capita.

The evidence suggests that terrorists care about influencing political outcomes. They are often motivated by geopolitical grievances. To under­stand who joins terrorist organizations, instead of asking who has a low salary and few opportunities, we should ask: Who holds strong political views and is confident enough to try to impose an extrem­ist vision by violent means? Most terrorists are not so desperately poor that they have nothing to live for. Instead, they are people who care so fervently about a cause that they are willing to die for it.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

In the Diaspora: Race to the bottom

Surging nativism in the US presidential campaign brings to mind the demagoguery of Father Coughlin


As the Great Depression dragged toward the end of its first decade in 1938, Father Charles Coughlin released the latest issue of his newspaper Social Justice. It reprinted that most notorious and persistent of anti-Semitic tracts, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Coughlin's decision to disseminate the spurious conspiracy tale to his millions of followers was not just the same old Jew-hatred, even if part of his financing came from Henry Ford. It marked Coughlin's transformation from an ardent New Dealer, who had coined the phrase "Roosevelt or Ruin," to a divisive demagogue.

The through-line from Coughlin the social democrat to Coughlin the biased provocateur was populism. The same ideology that had led him earlier in his public career to attack corporate power and unmediated capitalism, to champion labor unions and activist government, also enabled him to search for a scapegoat. Jews doubly sufficed, being portrayed by Coughlin both as interlopers in a Christian nation and as the stealthy "money changers" and "international bankers" prolonging the Depression for their own profit.

The genuine anxiety and despair of American workers gave Coughlin his opening to present - eureka! - the alien enemy. I STARTED thinking about Coughlin and his grim evolution as I followed the last two presidential debates, one each for the Republican and Democratic candidates. As a Jew in particular, with a certain inherited seismograph for such things, I sensed the tremors of a modern-day version of expedient, insinuating blame, this time for immigrants, Hispanic immigrants especially.

The current election season in America should have provided cause for genuine self-congratulation about our national tolerance. The two leading Democrats are, of course, a woman (Hillary Clinton) and a mixed-race half-African partly raised in the Muslim world (Barack Obama). The fact that Clinton and Obama are battling so intensely for African-American votes shows that the era is over when whites would rarely vote for a black and blacks would rarely vote against one, irrespective of merits.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the Christian Right's veto power over any nominee has seemingly been broken. Rudolph Giuliani has led in many polls despite his longtime support for abortion rights and his shall-we-say checkered record of personal morality. Even Pat Robertson endorsed him. Whether or not Giuliani wins the nomination, he has shattered the conventional wisdom about abortion and "family values" being the litmus tests for any GOP contender.

All these causes for relief, and even optimism, however, have been outweighed by the surging role of nativism in the campaign. Virtually every major candidate except John McCain has backed away from his or her own admirable position on immigration - Huckabee's program of merit scholarships for undocumented immigrant students while he was governor of Arkansas; Giuliani's principled refusal as mayor of New York to poke into residents' immigration status. The Democrats fall over each other insisting on the necessity of English as the national language while the Republicans scramble to outdo each other with plans to seal the Mexican border.

None of these candidates exactly fill the Coughlin role - that part belongs to the pseudo-journalist Lou Dobbs - but all have plainly decided to appeal to the worst angels in the American national character. With middle-class income stalled for years, with a major recession looming thanks to the subprime mortgage scandal and the Bush administration's reckless spending, somebody has to be blamed, and that somebody is the illegal immigrant, invariably Hispanic.

Campaign 2008 is a race to the bottom, morally speaking. Yet the campaign also keeps reminding us that illegal immigrants are the elephant in the room, the presence nobody wants to acknowledge. Mitt Romney has recently had to concede that illegal immigrants did some of the landscaping outside his Massachusetts mansion. Mike Huckabee's progressive record on immigration as governor of Arkansas reflected the economic and demographic reality that Hispanic immigrants, with or without papers, are filling the state's many jobs in the poultry industry. Only a candidate with no prospect of winning dares to speak logically. In the Democrats' debate in Iowa last week, Joseph Biden pointed out that in every wave of immigrants coming to the United States the generation of American-born children has become fully fluent in English.

The even more quixotic Dennis Kucinich noted that the founding documents of Ohio, his home state, were written in German. The process of assimilation happens for practical reasons - going to school, looking for a job, asking directions. It happens through the pervasive influence of popular culture, as any immigrant who learned the language by having the TV or radio on all day can attest.

EVIDENTLY, the leading candidates (again, with McCain as the valorous exception) believe there is no downside to bashing illegal immigrants, since by definition they do not vote. I think they misread the way the millions of immigrants who have become citizens in the past decade or two hear their calumnies. These fully legal Americans encounter suspicion and bigotry that has been set loose, indeed made socially permissible, by the attacks on illegal immigrants.

The headway that Ronald Reagan made with socially conservative immigrants, both Hispanic and Asian, was squandered in 1992, when the Republican Party was suffused with Patrick Buchanan's rhetoric of culture war.

George W. Bush's popularity with Hispanic voters began to erode in the 2006 midterm elections. This year, however, the leading Democrats have felt the need to prove their nationalist credentials by criticizing free trade and globalization, which is just another way of saying that our problems are due to outsiders and open borders.

It will be an exercise in contortion to watch Clinton, Obama or John Edwards, whoever winds up the nominee, straining to appeal to immigrant voters in the general election while still pandering to the people who think Mitt Romney's landscaper is the cause of everything that ails the body politic.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Winston Churchill: The 'secret' brother

Winston Churchill's brother was airbrushed out of history, his father was unfairly vilified and his scandalous mother cheated her sons out of their inheritance – a new book rewrites the troubled story of one of Britain's greatest families, says historian Andrew Roberts

Hundreds of books have been devoted to the life of Winston Churchill but there are still many unexplained aspects of his family's story.

Now a fascinating new book by the husband-and-wife historians John and Celia Lee, who were granted unique access to the private papers of Winston's nephew, the late Peregrine Churchill, is set to challenge common misunderstandings about the family dynamic.

In particular, reintroducing Winston's little-known younger brother, Jack, into the story, has proved to be the key to appreciating the truth about several mysterious aspects of the astonishing tale of the Spencer-Churchills. The myths that grew up around them were not, it seems, only peddled by envious detractors or credulous gossips.

Jack, the father of Peregrine and born six years after his more famous brother, has largely been forgotten but he is vital to understanding this complicated family. His low profile is partly due to Winston himself. Much of the writing about his childhood draws upon his autobiography, My Early Life. This hugely readable and amusing story, published in 1930, was how he wanted the world to see him, but it needs to be read with a critical eye.

In one extraordinary passage Winston describes how, on a holiday in Switzerland, he and ''another boy" climbed out of their boat to swim in a lake. The boat then started to drift away, leaving both in danger of drowning. Through great exertion, Winston managed to secure the boat and rescue the ''other boy". According to Peregrine, Jack was that other boy; but why would Winston not make this clear?

The Lees believe it seems to be one of several examples of Winston ''airbrushing" Jack out of the story. Yet there is no question that the brothers loved each other dearly. The evidence is there in the letters they exchanged throughout their lives. This is despite the fact that Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill's letters to Winston show that as he turned into a rather naughty and underachieving schoolboy, his exasperated parents frequently held Jack up as an ideal role model. The younger brother was consistently successful and well-behaved at school.

One of the accepted truths about the Churchill family is that Lord Randolph was a neglectful father because of his stressful political career and his Victorian attitudes towards child-rearing. It has even been claimed that he positively disliked his children, who were 20 and 14 when he died, aged 45 in 1895, supposedly from syphilis. (The Lees claim he was suffering from an undetected brain tumour.)

This caricature of an uncaring father is swept away by the Lees' study of the correspondence Lord Randolph maintained with his sons and with others about them throughout his frenetic but short life.

In fact, if anyone should be criticised it is their mother Jennie (née Jerome), an exuberant American socialite who, as the new book reveals, effectively robbed her sons of some £16,800 of income that was rightfully theirs – the equivalent of about £850,000 today.

Lord Randolph had made his will in 1883, leaving his estate in a trust fund for the benefit of his wife while she lived, and for his two sons and their children after her death. But he also inserted a clause that said if Jennie were to marry again, "his sons or their children should have access to the trust fund in order to help his or her advancement in the world".

Yet the Lees have discovered that Jennie deceived her sons about the true nature of Lord Randolph's will to fund her extravagant and hectic social life through a series of ruinously expensive loans.

For years Winston and Jack were led to believe that their father had left no provision for them in his will, except that they would inherit a small trust fund after the death of their mother. Jack craved a career in the Army but was forced to become a partner in a City firm for financial reasons, and even had to delay his marriage to the beautiful Lady Gwendeline Bertie because he lacked the money to marry.

It was only in February 1914 that the truth was discovered. Wrestling with his mother's chaotic finances as she divorced her second husband, George Cornwallis-West, Jack took the opportunity to read his father's will in detail. He was astonished to find that he and Winston could have claimed up to £600 a year each (around £30,000 today) from the trust fund since Jennie's second marriage in 1900. Jennie had systematically expropriated her children's inheritance for 14 years.

In a restrained but forceful letter of rebuke to his mother, Jack let her know how pained he was at her dishonesty: ''We had always thought that Papa was very wrong in not making any provision for us during your life," he wrote. ''It makes a considerable difference finding that Papa's will was not made – as we were always led to suppose – carelessly and without any consideration for us. It is quite clear that he never thought that while you were single you would be unable to pay us an allowance, and the clause in the will covered the situation – which did actually arise – of your remarriage."

Jennie's spendthrift habits were essential in her quest for social supremacy. Much of this quest, the authors argue, involved making herself available to Edward, Prince of Wales, as his ''favourite" during the 1890s.

From soon after Lord Randolph's death until early 1898, the prince regularly visited Jennie at her house, 35a Great Cumberland Place, where she lived mostly alone. Winston was with his regiment in India; Jack was either at Harrow or living with a family in France to learn the language. ''Tum Tum", as Jennie called the 20-stone prince, would send her billets-doux announcing that he would call at five ''for tea". He made particular reference to a geisha dress he wished her to wear for him, which the Lees identify as a kimono that slipped off easily.

When Jennie finally found herself ousted as the prince's ''maîtresse en titre" by the beautiful Alice Keppel, she sought solace by promptly seducing George Cornwallis-West, widely believed at the time to be the prince's illegitimate son. When Alice gave birth to a child by Edward, Jennie married George, a handsome man born in the same year as her elder son. It was to prove a happy match until he fell in love with the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell.

After that Jennie devoted much of her time, and money, to advancing the career of Winston into politics, while guiding Jack away from the Army and university and into the drudgery of a City office where he was intended to ''make millions" for the rest of the family.

Jennie's scandalous lifestyle has fed many other Churchill myths, in particular concerning her behaviour both before and during her marriage to Lord Randolph. Only recently, a newspaper article headlined "Was Winston Illegitimate?" referred to the widespread belief that Winston was born just seven months after the marriage. Given that such premature babies were unlikely to survive in 1874, Jennie must have been pregnant at the time of her wedding.

Celia Lee seems to be the first author who has bothered to make the simple calculation that the period from the wedding day to that of the birth was 230 days – one day short of the 33 weeks of normal pregnancy. Babies born at that stage are perfectly viable, so another scurrilous story is exploded.

It also seems likely that Jennie was unable to carry her babies to full term because her second son was also brought into the world early. Jack's health was precarious and early on a close family friend, John Strange Jocelyn, 5th Earl of Roden, was called upon to stand as godfather. For this act of kindness, he is routinely cited as Jack's father.

In fact he is only one of several men other than Lord Randolph rumoured to be the father, including the 7th Viscount Falmouth and Count Charles Kinsky. These stories are all examined in turn by the Lees, and the likely sources and reasons for their persistence investigated and refuted. Lord Randolph made enough enemies in his political life and, it seems, among the family of one of his wife's sisters, Leonie Leslie, to spawn a sustained campaign against his character.

Lord Randolph's life appears to show that he had no doubt about his sons' paternity; on the contrary he went to a great deal of trouble to secure a good future for them. He was increasingly disappointed with Winston, who seemed incapable of applying himself to the work necessary for his advancement in the world, but none the less steered him into the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, where he did begin to prosper.

He also arranged interviews for Jack with Field Marshal Lord Roberts, and put him into the Army Class at Harrow. Although Jack's chance of a long-term Army career was later denied him, the younger Churchill was able to join the yeomanry cavalry, the Oxfordshire Hussars. He also served in the South African Light Horse during the Boer War, and on the Western Front and at Gallipoli in the First World War.

Jack Churchill emerges from this fascinating book as an engaging and honourable man who dealt well with the mixed blessing of having a very great man as an elder brother. He was a constant support to Winston, and was able to shield the family from some of the worst effects of the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, although Winston never referred publicly to this.

Jack also did an enormous amount of research work to assist in the writing of Winston's biography of Lord Randolph Churchill – again, there is not a word of this in the acknowledgements.

Winston would comment on how Jack, who died in 1947, liked to wear military uniforms, but seems never to have reflected on how his younger brother's chosen profession was sacrificed to Winston's advancement. While there was no deliberate malice in any of this, the Lees believe he could be quite thoughtless about his brother.

The Lees rightly conclude that Winston Churchill is the ''Greatest Briton" by inherent right and acclaim, but they add that he was sustained through life by a loving, good-natured and resilient brother, whose story is told here in full for the first time, along with a fine array of hitherto-unseen family photographs.

The Lees have done Churchillian history a great service with their diligence, throwing light on a part of the story that has not hitherto been fully understood.


Thursday, October 25, 2007


Dems credited with starting group that attacked both blacks, whites


The original targets of the Ku Klux Klan were Republicans, both black and white, according to a new television program and book, which describe how the Democrats started the KKK and for decades harassed the GOP with lynchings and threats.

An estimated 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites died at the end of KKK ropes from 1882 to 1964.

The documentation has been assembled by David Barton of Wallbuilders and published in his book “Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White,” which reveals that not only did the Democrats work hand-in-glove with the Ku Klux Klan for generations, they started the KKK and endorsed its mayhem.

“Of all forms of violent intimidation, lynchings were by far the most effective,” Barton said in his book. “Republicans often led the efforts to pass federal anti-lynching laws and their platforms consistently called for a ban on lynching. Democrats successfully blocked those bills and their platforms never did condemn lynchings.”

Further, the first grand wizard of the KKK was honored at the 1868 Democratic National Convention, no Democrats voted for the 14th Amendment to grant citizenship to former slaves and, to this day, the party website ignores those decades of racism, he said.

“Although it is relatively unreported today, historical documents are unequivocal that the Klan was established by Democrats and that the Klan played a prominent role in the Democratic Party,” Barton writes in his book. “In fact, a 13-volume set of congressional investigations from 1872 conclusively and irrefutably documents that fact.

“Contributing to the evidences was the 1871 appearance before Congress of leading South Carolina Democrat E.W. Seibels who testified that ‘they [the Ku Klux Klan] belong to the reform part – [that is, to] our party, the Democratic Party,’” Barton writes.

“The Klan terrorized black Americans through murders and public floggings; relief was granted only if individuals promised not to vote for Republican tickets, and violation of this oath was punishable by death,” he said. “Since the Klan targeted Republicans in general, it did not limit its violence simply to black Republicans; white Republicans were also included.”

Barton also has covered the subject in one episode of his American Heritage Series of television programs, which is being broadcast now on Trinity Broadcasting Network and Cornerstone Television.

Barton told WND his comments are not a condemnation or endorsement of any party or candidate, but rather a warning that voters even today should be aware of what their parties and candidates stand for.

His book outlines the aggressive pro-slavery agenda held by the Democratic Party for generations leading up to the Civil War, and how that did not die with the Union victory in that war of rebellion.

Even as the South was being rebuilt, the votes in Congress consistently revealed a continuing pro-slavery philosophy on the part of the Democrats, the book reveals.

Three years after Appomattox, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting blacks citizenship in the United States, came before Congress: 94 percent of Republicans endorsed it.

“The records of Congress reveal that not one Democrat – either in the House or the Senate – voted for the 14th Amendment,” Barton wrote. “Three years after the Civil War, and the Democrats from the North as well as the South were still refusing to recognize any rights of citizenship for black Americans.”

He also noted that South Carolina Gov. Wade Hampton at the 1868 Democratic National Convention inserted a clause in the party platform declaring the Congress’ civil rights laws were “unconstitutional, revolutionary, and void.”

It was the same convention when Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the KKK, was honored for his leadership.

Barton’s book notes that in 1868, Congress heard testimony from election worker Robert Flournoy, who confessed while he was canvassing the state of Mississippi in support of the 13th and 14th Amendments, he could find only one black, in a population of 444,000 in the state, who admitted being a Democrat.

Nor is Barton the only person to raise such questions. In 2005, National Review published an article raising similar points. The publication said in 1957 President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, deployed the 82nd Airborne Division to desegregate the Little Rock, Ark., schools over the resistance of Democrat Gov. Orval Faubus.

Further, three years later, Eisenhower signed the GOP’s 1960 Civil Rights Act after it survived a five-day, five-hour filibuster by 18 Senate Democrats, and in 1964, Democrat President Lyndon Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act after former Klansman Robert Byrd’s 14-hour filibuster, and the votes of 22 other Senate Democrats, including Tennessee’s Al Gore Sr., failed to scuttle the plan.

Dems’ website showing jump in history

The current version of the “History” page on the party website lists a number of accomplishments – from 1792, 1798, 1800, 1808, 1812, 1816, 1824 and 1828, including its 1832 nomination of Andrew Jackson for president. It follows up with a name change, and the establishment of the Democratic National Committee, but then leaps over the Civil War and all of its issues to talk about the end of the 19th Century, William Jennings Bryan and women’s suffrage.

A spokesman with the Democrats refused to comment for WND on any of the issues. “You’re not going to get a comment,” said the spokesman who identified himself as Luis.

“Why would Democrats skip over their own history from 1848 to 1900?” Barton asked. “Perhaps because it’s not the kind of civil rights history they want to talk about – perhaps because it is not the kind of civil rights history they want to have on their website.”

The National Review article by Deroy Murdock cited the 1866 comment from Indiana Republican Gov. Oliver Morton condemning Democrats for their racism.

“Every one who shoots down Negroes in the streets, burns Negro schoolhouses and meeting-houses, and murders women and children by the light of their own flaming dwellings, calls himself a Democrat,” Morton said.

It also cited the 1856 criticism by U.S. Sen. Charles Sumner, R-Mass., of pro-slavery Democrats. “Congressman Preston Brooks (D-S.C.) responded by grabbing a stick and beating Sumner unconscious in the Senate chamber. Disabled, Sumner could not resume his duties for three years.”

By the admission of the Democrats themselves, on their website, it wasn’t until Harry Truman was elected that “Democrats began the fight to bring down the final barriers of race and gender.”

“That is an accurate description,” wrote Barton. “Starting with Harry Truman, Democrats began – that is, they made their first serious efforts – to fight against the barriers of race; yet … Truman’s efforts were largely unsuccessful because of his own Democratic Party.”

Even then, the opposition to rights for blacks was far from over. As recently as 1960, Mississippi Democratic Gov. Hugh White had requested Christian evangelist Billy Graham segregate his crusades, something Graham refused to do. “And when South Carolina Democratic Gov. George Timmerman learned Billy Graham had invited African Americans to a Reformation Rally at the state Capitol, he promptly denied use of the facilities to the evangelist,” Barton wrote.

The National Review noted that the Democrats’ “Klan-coddling” today is embodied in Byrd, who once wrote that, “The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia.”

The article suggested a contrast with the GOP, which, when former Klansman David Duke ran for Louisiana governor in 1991 as a Republican, was “scorned” by national GOP officials.

Until 1935, every black federal legislator was Republican, and it was Republicans who appointed the first black Air Force and Army four-star generals, established Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a national holiday, and named the first black national-security adviser, secretary of state, the research reveals.

Current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said: “The first Republican I knew was my father, and he is still the Republican I most admire. He joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did. My father has never forgotten that day, and neither have I.”

Barton’s documentation said the first opponents of slavery “and the chief advocates for racial equal rights were the churches (the Quakers, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.). Furthermore, religious leaders such as Quaker Anthony Benezet were the leading spokesmen against slavery, and evangelical leaders such as Presbyterian signer of the Declaration Benjamin Rush were the founders of the nation’s first abolition societies.”

During the years surrounding the Civil War, “the most obvious difference between the Republican and Democrat parties was their stands on slavery,” Barton said. Republicans called for its abolition, while Democrats declared: “All efforts of the abolitionists, or others, made to induce Congress to interfere with questions of slavery, or to take incipient [to initiate] steps in relation thereto, are calculated to lead to the most alarming and dangerous consequences, and all such efforts have the inevitable tendency to diminish the happiness of the people.”

Wallbuilders also cited John Alden’s 1885 book, “A Brief History of the Republican Party” in noting that the KKK’s early attacks were on Republicans as much as blacks, in that blacks were adopting the Republican identity en masse.

“In some places the Ku Klux Klan assaulted Republican officials in their houses or offices or upon the public roads; in others they attacked the meetings of negroes and displaced them,” Alden wrote. “Its ostensible purpose at first was to keep the blacks in order and prevent them from committing small depredations upon the property of whites, but its real motives were essentially political … The negroes were invariable required to promise not to vote the Republican ticket, and threatened with death if they broke their promises.”

Barton told WND the most cohesive group of political supporters in America now is African-Americans. He said most consider their affiliation with the Democratic party long term.

But he said he interviewed a black pastor in Mississippi who recalled his grandmother never “would let a Democrat in the house, and he never knew what she was talking about.” After a review of history, he knew, Barton said.

Citing President George Washington’s farewell address, Barton told WND, “Washington had a great section on the love of party, if you love party more than anything else, what it will do to a great nation.” “We shouldn’t love a party [over] a candidate’s principles or values,” he told WND.

Washington’s farewell address noted the “danger” from parties is serious.

“Let me now … warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally. … The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism,” Washington said.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Did Fonda's Videos Give People Arthritis?

Dr. Emily Senay Found That Workout Tapes From The '80s Are Now Costing Boomers

It was an exercise revolution and an unparalleled convenience: the ability to do aerobics at will from the comfort of your living room.

Lead by actress Jan Fonda, the 1980s was the age of exercise videos. But now many of the people who used them to get in shape are finding that they actually took a toll on their bodies.

Sheila Wares remembers the high impact aerobics well — and still keeps a library of titles under her television, although they've all been banned from her VCR thanks to a bad knee.

"It's amazing when you think about your knee and how much it affects so much of everything when it comes to exercise, even with yoga you know," she told The Early Show medical contributor Dr. Emily Senay. "Try and do a downward dog on a knee that won't cooperate."

According to Wares' doctor Jennifer Solomon, she isn't alone. Many baby boomers are experiencing this problem. She sees many patients with similar over-use injures at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery.

"These are the people who did the aerobics classes five or six days a week, the high impact aerobics, the step aerobics with three tiered steps," said Dr. Solomon, a physiatrist. "These are the people who thought they were doing the right thing and following the trend of the '80s."

Dr. Solomon says the repetitive nature of high impact aerobics has had an adverse affect on many of the once devoted Fonda fans like Wares.

"They have knee problems," she said. "They all have early arthritis, or have terrible arthritis where they can't go up and down stairs."

Today, Dr. Solomon said these high impact exercise techniques are basically defunct because we now know how to exercise smarter.

"You go into any health club and take a look at their schedule you'll see that step aerobics is no longer there. High impact activity is no longer there," she said. "People are now into core stability and power workouts, which is less stressful on the joints."

Today the only exercise Wares gets are the daily walks with her dog Maxine, which is far from the high level of activity she used to enjoy.

"You were under the impression that you were doing the right thing and keeping yourself healthy," she said, "but it turns out to be a cruel irony in the long run, and did the opposite of what you were striving for."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pygmy elder faces eviction

IN a "heartless" move, the 105-year-old elder of Australia's "lost tribe" of Aboriginal pygmies faces eviction from her far north Queensland home.

Lizzy Woods – who relies on a wheelchair, is blind and suffers dementia – is the mother of 10 children and the oldest surviving matriarch of the Jirrbal rainforest people.

She has been classified as a "living treasure" and is the sole surviving link to the pygmy "white cockatoo" tribe – most of whom stood less than 122cm (4ft) tall – of the Misty Mountain region near Tully.

Sitting in the humble three-bedroom Ravenshoe house she has called home for nearly 25 years, she told The Courier-Mail yesterday she was angry at the impending eviction.

"They are making me homeless," said the 110cm-tall elder, surrounded by some of her five generations of offspring. "I was born in the rainforest. I grew up chasing kangaroo and picking berries off the trees. I belong here. This is my land.

"The pygmy tribe – that is my mob. And this is the place I have chosen to die."

Outraged locals have condemned the move as "heartless".

The Cairns and District Regional Housing Corporation, which owns the house, served notice on Mrs Woods and her carer son, Warren, to leave by August 6. But that has been stayed, pending a complaints panel decision, until September 4.

Corporation chief Jack Szydzik said Mrs Woods was living in a "high-risk" environment.

"This is one of those horror-story drunken brawling party houses and, after three years of warnings, we have had enough," Mr Szydzik said.

He said up to 25 people stayed and partied at the house, where $90,000 had been spent on maintenance in four years.

"It's a terrible thing for the old lady; but we can't get the others to modify their behaviour. And it is not fair that the rest of the whole neighbourhood is held to ransom," he said.

Anthropologists of the 1930s investigated reports of a lost pygmy-like tribe living in the Misty Mountain rainforest.

Photos emerged of child-size adults, carrying wooden swords and shields. Experts have been divided as to whether the tribe are true pygmies, with prehistoric links to African rainforest dwellers, or simply small people.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Inexactitudes of Tod Lindberg's the Political Teachings of Jesus

Comment by Wayne Lusvardi:

In Tod Lindberg's new book The Political Teachings of Jesus, the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount are turned upside down and then inside out in a beguiling example of the social gospel of the Evangelical Left. Lindberg's sincere book could be misconstrued as somethng out of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, although Lindberg is a far cry from being the incarnation of the devil. His book falls more into the category of apostasy and heresy than demonology. A synopsis of Lindberg's book can be found here.

The Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount are contained in the Gospel of Matthew in the Christian New Testament. A number of blessings are issued by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount which inverts the standards of the world that are used to judge happiness (beatitudes means happiness).

Lindberg develops a set of eight "Anti-Beatitudes" to help us see the political implications of the Beatitudes in the Christian Gospels (Lindberg writes there are nine Beatitudes when there are only eight). Lindberg's eight "Anti-Beatitudes" are thus "Anti-Blessings." His focus is not so much to clarify the political implications of each blessing, but to issue curses upon those who disagree with his politics. Each of the above blessings sound beguiling and contain an element of truth. Below are the blessings contained in the Beatitudes in contrast with Lindberg's Anti-Beatitudes (or implied Curses) in parentheses:
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit (Cursed are the "rich," "prosperous," "privileged," and "arrogant"). Lindberg says that the opposite of those who are poor in spirit are those who are of a "privileged class," who are "arrogant in their righteousness," have a "sense of superiority" and are "prosperous." Where does Lindberg find the above terms? Certainly not from the Beatitudes. He is injecting his own social class and political bias into this first blessing.

The first of the Beatitudes "blessed are the poor in spirit" transcends all human conceptions of social class because even the rich can obviously be poor in spirit. In fact, even Jesus says "it is difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God" (Matt:19:24). This must mean that the rich, possibly even more than the poor, are "poor in spirit." Anyone who has dealt much with ultra-wealthy families can testify that rich and poor families are more alike in their unhappiness than they are dissimilar (i.e., Tolstoy, Anna Kerenina).

2. Blessed are those who mourn (Cursed are those "who have cause for rejoicing"). Once again, Lindberg's juxtaposition of the words "mourning" and "rejoicing" are not reflective of Christ's words in the whole of the Gospels. Lindberg is not clear here, but what he appears to be driving at are those who rejoice rather than mourn at the death of a person; or possibly rejoice over a scandal or failure of a politician. If so, this Anti-Beatitude has true political implications.

The Gospels do not contain any sanction against rejoicing. In Luke 10:20 for example Jesus is quoted as saying "rejoice that your names are written in heaven." And in Romans 12:15 the Apostle Paul coincidentlly writes: "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Joy is a Christian attitude. Lindberg's sanction against those who rejoice is more of a reflection of an "inexactitude" than a "beatitude."

3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Cursed are the "overbearing"). Curiously, Lindberg uses the word "overbearing" here rather than bully, tormentor, or even terrorist. Anyone who is in a position of authority, a policeman, a tax collector, a soldier, a teacher, a social worker, a nurse, is going to have to be "overbearing" at times to accomplish any good. To Lindberg, it is apparently impossible for a person who exercises any kind of authority to be blessed or to be a Christian.

Alhough Lindberg's politics are solidly conservative, perhaps even Neo-conservative, anyone reading this Anti-Beatitude might reasonably get the false impression that the Sermon on the Mount is an anti-authoritarian message which legitimates some sort of extremist libertarian or anarchist politics. Even Jesus' political calculus had a tinge of Machiavellian realpolitik (see below).

4. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Cursed are the "complacent on account of their privileges and who defend them vigorously"). Once again, where does it say in this Beatitude that blessings should not flow to those who are propertied and who defend their property rights? This is what is called a non sequitur -- a statement that does not logically follow from what preceded it.

And where is the connection between "unrighteousness" and having "privileges?" Can the righteous ever be privileged? This sets up a false syllogism where only the unprivileged can be righteous. If the Beatitudes are only for the underprivileged how can they have universal appeal? Here Lindberg preaches a crude sort of proto-Marxism of the Proletariat.

5. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy" (Cursed are the "unforgiving" and the "cruel" and "exploiters"). Surely, Jesus implored his followers to forgive "seventy times seven." But what is the "political" implication in the statement to be merciful and forgiving? Should we commute the prison sentences of every heinous murderer, terrorist, and assassin in mass? Lindberg does not say.

Modern society could not exist if every debt was forgiven. Taking things from the religious realm into the political realm as Lindberg does is going too far. It also assumes that man is all-knowing enough to know who to forgive? Witness the number of criminal recidivists after having their sentences commuted by parole boards. This is another example of an Inexactitude rather than a Beatitude.

6. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Cursed are "the cunning in pursuit of their private gain"). Lindberg's take on this Beatitude is that it is the actions of man, rather than God, that purifies a person. The entire thrust of the Gospels and the Letters of Paul are that man cannot by good works, or false piety, or false purity, inherit the Kingdom of God. As it is written in I John 1:7: "the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." Lindberg seems oblivious to the political framework of Jesus ("be cunning as serpents and innocent as doves").

The point Lindberg seems to be making is to demonize private gain no matter what good comes from it. Lindberg's disparagement of private gain can be construed as a code word for the endorsement of socialism.

7. "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Cursed are "those who act to create or aggravate conflict"). Conflict is not synonymous with peace. It is impossible to live a conflict free life except if one is a vegetable, and even then there is the survival of the fittest against pestilence. Jesus said "he didn't come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matt. 10:34). Lindberg seems to be alluding that only pacifists can be blessed, a dubious proposition both empirically and theologically.

8. "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness" (Cursed "are those doing the persecuting;" and "when people insult you...because of me...(they are) seeking to put down Jesus's teaching and those who follow it"). Contra Lindberg, Paul says to "bless those who persecute you" (Romans 12:14).

By the standard of the above anti-Beatitude, one can only guess that this critical review would be perceived as a sign of persecution of Lindberg and those of like mind. In fact, this review might be considered a sign of the righteousness of one's cause.

Oddly, Tod Lindberg is a political conservative, editor of conservative publications such as Policy Review, the Washington Times, and Hoover Institute research studies. He has been involved on a number of national committees on national security, genocide, and anti-Americanism. His pedigrees are impeccable. His book has been endorsed by those on both the political right and left such as E.J. Dionne, Michael Novak, Norman Podhoretz, Rodney Stark, and by the Procustean at

Lindberg's website does not disclose his religious affiliation. The theological approach in his book would likely resonate with those on the Evangelical Left such as Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, or even Rabbi Michael Lerner.

Lindberg's apparent theology is a seductive heresy based on the notion that Jesus' ministry and message was meant to be against the rich and for the poor. It infers that God's transcendence is at least a hindrance to, and perhaps incompatible with, Christian social concern and action.

Moreover, transcendence does not mean God and His universal message transcends and judges all social class divisions but rather that the rich can transcend social class by their attitudes toward the poor and the weak. To Lindberg, God and his Kingdom do not have a real, automomous existence apart from the thoughts and good works of humanity. Christianity to Lindberg is not God extending himself to create and reconcile man but the extension of rich elities to the poor. Religious language such as the Beatitudes refer to human experience, nothing else. There are no unintended consequences from carrying out the Beatitudes, hence no original sin.

This sort of heresy was condemned over thirty years ago by what was then called The Hartford Declaration (1975) which was spearheaded by sociologist-theologian Peter L. Berger and then-Lutheran (now Catholic) priest Richard John Neuhaus. At that time the false gospels were coming from the Liberal Left. That the secularization of the Gospel is now apparently emanating from the Evangelical Left should be no less of a cause of concern.

In his essay Different Gospels: The Social Sources of Apostasy, sociologist Peter L. Berger warned about subordinating Christ's Gospel to a political agenda:

"Wherever a political agenda is seen as constitutive of the Church, all those who dissent from it are excluded from the Church. In that very instant, the Church is no longer catholic; indeed it ceases to be the church. And here is the ultimate irony: all such politicalization is an act of implicit excommunication. But, in politicizing its message, the Church is in actuality excommunicting itself? The Gospel liberates by relativizing all the realities of this world and all our projects in this world."

Berger goes on to state:

If we are liberated by faith, we act in the full knowledge of the precariousness and tragic unpredictability of all human projects. Most important: we act in this world, not to be saved, not to attain some perfect purity or justice (which goals are not attainable), but to be of specific and necessarily limited service to others....The moral measure of actions is their probable consequences for others. This is especially so in the case of political actions, because there is a category of actions with particularly unpredictable and potentially disastrous consequences. Precisely because of this, we are most likely to be effective politically (effective, that is, in being of service to our neighbors) if we ground ourselves in a realm beyond politics, thus becoming free to deal with political reality soberly and pragmatically; we cannot do this if we look on politics as the realm of redemption."

Perhaps no apostolic anathema is required to damn the gospels of worksrighteousness: the curse is built-in. Put differently: those who put their faith into these works in the end damn themselves."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Beyond the Myth

Steven F. Hayward reviews The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, by Amity Shlaes.

This new book is the finest history of the Great Depression ever written. Hold on--this is supposed to be a review, not a dust-jacket blurb; but it can't be helped. Although there are several fine revisionist works about the Great Depression and the New Deal, Shlaes's achievement stands out for the devastating effect of its understated prose and for its wide sweep of characters and themes. It deserves to become the preeminent revisionist history for general readers.

The "forgotten man" theme arises from the ideological sleight of hand at the core of the New Deal. The phrase originated with the supposed "Social Darwinist" William Graham Sumner, who had in mind the taxpayer who was the forgotten third party when politicians dreamt up schemes of social improvement that depended on the forgotten man to provide the means. The New Deal turned this on its head through its portrayal of the "forgotten man" as the little guy left behind in the collapse of economic growth. Instead of being the productive citizen best left alone by government, the forgotten man of the New Deal was the lowly citizen whose salvation depended on government.

Most revisionist histories of the Depression depend on subsequent economic insights coupled with hindsight--a problem Shlaes notes early in her narrative: "Neither the standard history [that glorifies FDR and the New Deal] nor the standard rebuttal entirely captures the realities of the period." Shlaes's answer is to begin with a portrait of the 1920s that puts us inside the perspectives of the key figures of the time. "The 1920s was a great decade of true economic gains," she writes, "a period whose strong positive aspects have been obscured by the troubles that followed." Shlaes prompts the thought that the real tragedy of the Great Crash was that Calvin Coolidge had not sought re-election in 1928; he could have spared us the "priggish" (Shlaes's word) personality--and social-engineering mentality--of Herbert Hoover. (Of him, Coolidge shrewdly observed: "That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad.") Had we followed the course we did in the sharp recession of 1921, when Warren Harding's government let markets correct and adjust, the aftermath of the Great Crash might have been short and mild compared with what happened.

Shlaes's achievement stands out for the devastating effect of its understated prose and for its wide sweep of characters and themes. It deserves to become the preeminent revisionist history for general readers.

Shlaes rids us of the temptation of thinking that Hoover, had he contrived reelection in 1932, might have avoided the macroeconomic mistakes FDR made. Instead of letting markets correct, Hoover raised taxes, signed the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariff, and inveighed against short-sellers and other ostensible market manipulators. Shlaes is not the first to observe that Hoover and FDR represented, in political scientist Gordon Lloyd's phrase, "the two faces of liberalism," but she offers rich detail to the comparison. Both men lacked confidence in markets, and Hoover's interventions between the Crash in 1929 and FDR's accession in 1933 paved the way for the New Deal: "From 1929 to 1940, from Hoover to Roosevelt, government intervention helped to make the Depression Great."

Two things propelled FDR's New Deal beyond the depredations that would have come from Hoover's social-engineering mentality: the presence of the intellectuals and political operatives whom Shlaes calls "the pilgrims," and FDR's own intellectual instability combined with his political opportunism. "The pilgrims" refers to the handful of future New Deal intellectuals, Rexford Tugwell being the most prominent among them, who made a junket to the Soviet Union in 1927 that culminated in a six-hour interview with Stalin. Here Shlaes's prose is at its understated best. She does not portray the pilgrims as crypto-Communists bamboozled by Potemkin tours, though an element of that gullibility is inescapably present. Rather she discerns the "dreamy" cast of mind that was soon to create the New Deal's belief in vague, non-Marxist central planning. "The heroes [of the USSR] were not precisely their heroes," Shlaes writes. "Still, the meetings had their effect. The travelers were now transformed from obscure analysts of the Soviet Union into bearers of news. . . . The conservatives were having their day, and the planners would get theirs." Giddy with excitement, the pilgrims returned to the U.S. on the steamship Leviathan, "and the irony of that name may not have escaped some of them."

With the election of FDR, the pilgrims had their chance. Those conservatives who lately have inclined to some sentimental affection for FDR (this includes Conrad Black and, occasionally, this writer) will be roundly disabused by the damning portrait Shlaes offers. "Roosevelt was not an ideologue or a radical," she judges, but his affinity for experimentation and improvisation yielded inconsistent and destabilizing economic policy at a time when certainty was the most needful thing. FDR's intellectual instability was terrifying in its fullness; fortunately, it was tempered by the rivalries and disagreements within his menagerie of New Dealers, and by the countervailing power of American political institutions (which prevented him from, e.g., packing the Supreme Court).

When presidential candidate Ronald Reagan remarked that "fascism was really the basis of the New Deal," liberals and the media hooted; the Washington Post huffed that "several historians of the New Deal period questioned by the Washington Post said they had no idea what Reagan was referring to." Thanks to Shlaes's book, journalists in the future will not be able to plead such ignorance: She notes that FDR's first attempt at centralized economic planning, the National Recovery Administration (NRA), owed its inspiration in part to Mussolini's Italian model. The NRA's ineffectuality could be demonstrated in a number of theoretical or technical ways, but Shlaes captures the futility of the enterprise in two magnificent sentences: "In a period of a year, 10,000 pages of law had been created [by the NRA], a figure that one had to compare with the mere 2,735 pages that constituted federal statute law. In twelve months, the NRA had generated more paper than the entire legislative output of the federal government since 1789."

But when the Supreme Court saved FDR from this folly by ruling it unconstitutional, FDR veered farther left, with punitive tax measures that deterred capital formation and investment, and prosecutions of the rich (especially Samuel Insull and Andrew Mellon) that were purely political. The result of these and other ill-conceived measures was a needlessly prolonged Great Depression.

Shlaes offers a new gloss on the old theme of how FDR used the Depression to craft the durable New Deal coalition. Here her narrative sparkles, as she recounts how FDR transformed the failures of his economic policy to his political advantage in the 1936 election. The failure of the New Deal to deliver meaningful economic growth lent paradoxical validity to FDR's class-warfare rhetoric: "Many in the country believed that the United States was actually becoming the society of social classes that Roosevelt now described in his speeches. And they responded accordingly," that is, by re-electing Roosevelt. The secret was purposely dividing people into interest groups, and pandering to enough of them to create a majority.

As the story approaches the end of the 1930s, Shlaes's most interesting subtext comes to the fore: the evolution of FDR's 1940 challenger Wendell Willkie. In the early chapters Willkie is seen as a naïve utility executive with reformist sympathies who thought he could cut deals with FDR, only to be bitterly disappointed when he was ground up along with the rest of the malefactors of great wealth. He couldn't say he wasn't warned. Insull told Willkie in 1934: "Mr. Willkie, when you are older you will know more."

Insull was right. By 1938, by which time the Depression was coming to seem permanent, Willkie had joined the Republican party, and, because of his trenchant criticisms of the New Deal, was emerging as a surprise candidate for the GOP presidential nomination. The GOP had done well in 1938, and, according to Shlaes, "the reputation of the New Deal was continuing to drop": "People were taking in the longer-term consequences of all the experiments." Willkie's themes in the campaign that followed in some ways prefigure Reagan in 1980: "I saw that we must substitute for the philosophy of distributed scarcity the philosophy of unlimited productivity," Willkie said in his kickoff speech; "I stand for the restoration of full production and reemployment by private enterprise in America." Willkie manfully attempted to reclaim the "forgotten man" theme for Republicans: "What that man wanted us to remember was his chance--his right--to take part in our great American adventure." The Gipper could hardly have put it better.

But looming in the background, Shlaes thinks, was the European war, and the Republicans' latent isolationism diluted their appeal. Although Willkie was an internationalist, FDR was a more convincing one. "As leaders and oppositions since have discovered," Shlaes writes, "war trumps everything--economics as well as politics." In the absence of the specter in Europe, Shlaes thinks Willkie might have defeated Roosevelt. Shlaes's judgment about Willkie and the 1940 election is probably correct, but it is the only thinly argued part of The Forgotten Man. To complete this account, more needs to be said about the cognitive dissonance that characterizes public opinion toward America's global involvement. (FDR, for example, was quietly consulting pollsters during this time to determine how far he could go with his European policy.)

Shlaes leaves it to the reader to project lessons forward to our own time. The Democratic party lived large on FDR's high-tax, class-warfare playbook for nearly two generations. The Reagan Revolution put some of it into receivership, but the impulse to tax, regulate, and plan the economy remains embedded in contemporary liberalism, with John Edwards, among others, doing his best to revive New Deal-style populism and animus against wealth. We are now so far removed from the economic ruin of the New Deal's ill-considered economic interventionism that resistance to grand central fixes for health care, global warming, or outsourcing may be on the wane. With this prospect in mind, Shlaes's book could be called The Forgotten Lesson.,pubID.26494/pub_detail.asp

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Transfusions bring experts' blood to boil

Contrary to their benign image, blood transfusions are overused and often harm patients, expert say

REFUSE at your own risk: for years that's the message doctors have relayed to Jehovah's Witnesses and others who've declined blood transfusions.
But transfusions are not the wonder procedure of popular, or even medical profession, imagination. Mounting evidence shows they significantly increase the risk of post-operative complications - including infections, kidney failure, lung injury and death.

Yet instead of being saved as a last resort, they are still being performed when other safer options could be used instead.

In fact, more than 25 per cent of blood transfusions currently performed are unnecessary, according to a visiting US expert who spoke at the annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) two weeks ago.

Internationally renowned emergency medicine and anaesthiology professor Bruce Spiess told the conference that while blood transfusions have long been "believed to be helpful and a pillar of modern medicine'', there was now relatively little evidence to support such claims.

"Drug options are carefully tested and regulated through prospective, randomised double-blind testing, but blood transfusion stands apart,'' Spiess says. "It has never been safety or efficacy tested.''

It's a point that has been echoed by several Australian experts, including anaesthesists associate professor Larry McNicol and doctor Peter McCall at Austin Health in Melbourne.

"From the point of view of the risk of transmitting infections, blood transfusions are safer than they have ever been,'' McCall says.

"However, there is an ever-increasing body of research about adverse outcomes in association with them. Still there is a tendency to think that blood transfusions are mystical and lifesaving, and it is better to give them than to withhold them.''

The reasons not to make blood transfusion routine are becoming increasingly apparent: a person who has had a blood transfusion after surgery has up to four times the risk of wound infections. People who have blood transfusions during cancer surgery face up to twice the risk of the cancer recurring.

In his conference presentation, Spiess discussed Swedish research on cardiac patients that compared Jehovah's Witnesses who refused blood transfusions to patients with similar disease progression during open-heart surgery. The research found those who refused transfusions had noticeably better survival rates.

There are a few major reasons complications arise following transfusion. For one thing, immune response is impaired as the body responds to the blood as a foreign body, much in the same way it responds to a transplant, experts say. The properties of red blood cells also become altered when blood is stored, reducing their ability to distribute oxygen through the body.

Yet at least 25 per cent of transfusions that are done could be avoided, Spiess says.

A 2005-2006 audit of the use of fresh frozen plasma in hospitals in Tasmania and Victoria found that one-third of the transfusions performed were inappropriate under underguidelines issued by the National Health and Medical Research Council, says associate professor Larry McNicol, who also chairs the Better Safer Transfusion program run by the Victorian Government.

"Essentially these patients really perhaps didn't need it and there might not have been therapeutic benefits,'' McNicol says.

But there are still circumstances when blood transfusion is necessary, and the patient would probably die if they did not receive one, says University of Sydney professor James Isbister, a consultant on haemotology and blood transfusion who chairs the Red Cross advisory board.

Isbister says blood transfusion can be vital for patients undergoing major surgery after experiencing major trauma or shock when there is major bleeding that is difficult to control quickly. It can also be instrumental in managing hemophilia, where blood does not clot, as well as acute hemorrhages.

"A lot of major surgery would never have developed without the possibility for blood transfusion either - for instance, open heart surgery,'' Isbister says.

But many of the cases in the Better Safer Transfusion audit involved transfusions that could have been avoided. For example, it was once thought that blood transfusions should be performed any time a patient's hemoglobin level dipped below 10 grams of hemoglobin per decilitre of blood - but now guidelines in varying countries put that between 6 and 8g.

"It used to be that 10g was the acceptable minimum, but now we know that patients are at no detriment by a running a lower count and we can avoid these additional risks,'' McCall says.

"When the blood count is lower, the heart is able to beat more strongly - so it can actually pump more efficiently to distribute the blood better.''

The audit also uncovered a tendency for some doctors to use transfusions as a precaution in patients who were at risk of bleeding, but not yet bleeding - for example, they might have had abnormal test results. In those cases the guidelines recommend doctors wait until bleeding starts.

Other studies have also shown that the likelihood of receiving a transfusion during elective orthopaedic surgery or cardiac surgery can vary enormously between hospitals, despite there being little difference between the patients, Isbister says.

"There's huge variation between hospitals and surgeons depending on where you have your operation - in one hospital you can have an 80 per cent chance of being transfused, and in another hospital 10 per cent chance.''

"Most patients undergoing hip and knee surgery should only have a 10 to 20 per cent chance of needing a transfusion - but there's evidence it can be much higher.''

There are a number of ways to avoid transfusions, including drugs that minimise blood loss and others that stop clots from being dissolved, as well as anesthetic and surgical techniques to minimise blood loss.

"You don't always have to bring a person's blood pressure up to normal - you can keep it low and that minimises bleeding,'' he says.

In surgery where there's a risk of major blood loss, doctors frequently use a technique called "red cells salvage'', which allows them to reuse the patient's own blood rather than transfusing someone else's. The patient's blood is collected in a machine where it is then washed in a saline solution before being given back to the patient.

But the battle to reduce unnecessary transfusions often begins before surgery.

"One of the ways to minimise transfusions is to prepare patients better before surgery - for example you can give them supplements to get their blood count up before surgery,'' McCall says.

To that end a 2005 South Australian audit found that 18 per cent of people who had been on waiting lists for elective surgery had anemia, which increases the chances of needing a transfusion. If the anemia had been better managed before surgery some of those patients could have avoided blood transfusions, according to Kathryn Robinson, medical adviser of South Australia's BloodSafe.

But for all the bad news, experts say that change is on the horizon. Various states are developing initiatives to help decrease unnecessary transfusions, and at a conference of federal and state health ministers in March the federal Government said it would fund two initiatives expected to improve the safety of the blood supply and improve outcomes for people who do ultimately need transfusions.

One of those initiatives is the universal testing of platelets, which carry particularly high risks of complications. Unlike other blood products, platelets can't be refrigerated, so they are susceptible to contamination by bacteria. International guidelines recommend all platelets be universally tested for the bacteria, but currently only about 5 per cent of the supply is tested, McNicol says.

At the same meeting the government announced that by 2010 all blood will be processed to remove white blood cells, known as leuko-reduced blood, which has been shown to dramatically reduce complications and is already in widespread use in Canada, New Zealand, Western Europe and elsewhere.

"There are three randomised controlled studies in heart surgery, where patients who were deemed appropriate to be transfused got either leuko-reduced blood or blood with white cells present,'' Spiess says.

"The death rate in those with leuko-reduced blood was roughly half that in those with blood with white cells,'' Speiss says. "In the patients that got no blood, there were no deaths at all.''