Political Animal


POST HOC ERGO PROPTER HOC….2blowhards provides an almost unbeatable example today of lousy sociological analysis:

In the Wall Street Journal of 1/7/03, James Q. Wilson quotes William Galston, a former Clinton Administration official, on what I would call “the basics”:

To avoid poverty, do three things: finish high school, marry before having a child, and produce the child after you are 20 years old. Only 8% of people who do all three will be poor; of those who fail to do them, 79% will be poor.

Would it be so hard to incentivize these three behaviors?….

It’s stuff like this that makes people like me just scream at the entire profession of sociology sometimes (sorry, Kieran). Repeat after me: those three things do not cause poverty. Rather, they are the result of other factors that also cause poverty.

The real story is almost certainly that people who aren’t very bright, have lousy upbringings, and live in crappy neighborhoods tend to be poor. These same factors are also likely to produce teenagers who drop out of high school and have children out of wedlock. If you want to fix the problem, you have to attack the root causes, not the symptoms. And those symptons are both environmental and heritable.

Why do people write stuff like this?


SOUTHERN HERITAGE….EXACTLY WHAT “HERITAGE” ARE WE TALKING ABOUT, ANYWAY?….Patrick Nielsen Hayden writes today about the Sons of Confederate Veterans, one of those “Southern heritage” groups we heard about so often during the Trent Lott affair. Apparently SCV has been taken over by a faction headed by Kirk Lyons, who a couple of years earlier laid out his vision for, among other things, making America once again into a “majority European-derived country.” Read the post and the accompanying article so you’ll have something to say the next time someone tells you that racism doesn’t really exist in America anymore.

And right below this is a post about bookstores, where Patrick makes a very good point for those who bemoan the way Barnes & Noble has put so many small, independent bookstores out of business:

The fact that all over the country, in the second-tier cities and suburban sprawls where most people live, you can find a decent selection of books in all sorts of highly specialized categories–well, that’s a change. Indeed, sometimes it’s hard to convey to people who grew up in Cambridge or Berkeley or New York what a transforming change it really is.

He’s right. Even in a populous place like Orange County it’s made a big difference, with an enormous selection of books now available in half a dozen big bookstores within ten miles of my house. This wasn’t the case 20 years ago, and of course the Internet has broadened book availability even more.

The death of small shops is a modern trend that there is no chance of stopping, and I doubt there’s much point in trying. And if it’s the social contact you want, there are plenty of other ways to meet likeminded people. Besides, isn’t there a benefit to having books from lots of different categories all under one roof instead of having to spend half a day traipsing around to a bunch of specialty shops to find what you want?

Still, having said all that, I’m surprised there is not a single specialty science fiction bookstore in Manhattan. That does seem a bit sacrilegious.


FIGHTING THE VAST CONSERVATIVE TALK SHOW CONSPIRACY….skippy thinks we should start a campaign to shame Clear Channel into syndicating liberal talk show host Randi Rhodes. Sounds good to me. You can call ’em at 1-800-553-8686 to complain, or go to skippy’s site to get the direct numbers for the program directors.

And while we’re on the subject of lefty talk show hosts, check out Digby’s post about longtime liberal talk show host Michael Jackson. Jackson has been a staple of Los Angeles talk radio pretty much forever, and is not only liberal but also erudite, phenomenonally well connected, and gets good ratings. But lately he’s had a hard time finding a job. I wonder why?