Monthly Archives: August 2006

Study Shows Party ID Affects Intelligence

The Washington Post reports today that a new study shows that when people self-identify themselves as of a certain gender or race on tests, their performance deteriorates.

Women score much lower on math tests if they are first asked unrelated questions about gender issues. The phenomenon is called “stereotype threat” — a kind of performance anxiety discovered in 1995 when psychologists found that black students at Stanford University did significantly worse on intelligence tests if they were first asked to identify their race on the test form.

Since then, dozens of other experiments have confirmed that subtly cuing women or minorities to think subconsciously about their sex or race causes them do poorly in areas where the stereotype suggests they are weak.

Researchers building on this study have also found a correlation between people who identify with a certain political party and historical intelligence, although this study is secret and GOP operatives are hoping to bury the findings. Commonwealth Commonsense obtained a copy of this study after filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the Fox News research department, which reportedly employs dozens of female researchers, all reachable through 900 phone numbers. Bill O’Reilly uses their services often.

People were asked questions about history after they were asked to state whether they were a Republican or Democrat. The study found that those who answered “Republican” and had IQs at or above the norm (the study surveyed 47,564,058 Republicans before coming up with the required 300-person sample) had a peculiar sense of history. Following are some of the questions asked:

Which of the following political parties evolved into today’s Democratic Party?
a) Whigs b) Republicans c) Federalists d) Nazis
97% of respondents chose “d.” 3% chose all of the above.

Who is Saddam Hussein?
a) the past leader of Iraq b) Osama bin Laden’s son from his first marriage c) Muqtada al-Sadr’s father d) president of Hussein & Sons WMD, Inc.
83% said all of the above. 12% excluded “b” because Hussein is a bastard whose mother can’t remember his father, and 5% excluded “c” because they said Hussein is probably gay.

Who started the War of Terror?
a) Osama bin Laden b) Saddam Hussein c) His Bowl La, a terrorists group whose cover is a gay bowling alley in Arlington, Va. d) Democrats
97% of Republicans said this was a trick question because bin Laden and Hussein are Democrats. 3% said all of the above because if it’s a business in Arlington, it must be a gay Democratic front group.

Whatever happened to legitimate opposition to the Bush foreign policy strategy? They’ve become:
a) Communists b) Guantanamo guests c) reporters d) The “silent majority.”
93% said this was a trick question because there never was any opposition to Bush’s view of the world. 7% said all but “c” because reporters were never legitimate anything.

Who started the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
a) Arabs who squatted on the Jewish homeland for 2,000 years in violation of UN resolutions b) Germans dressed up like Arabs c) Koreans and Arabs who wanted to establish grocery stores in the African-American section of Tel Aviv.
20% chose “a”; 15% chose “b”; 8% chose “c”; but most wrote in “Mel Gibson.”

Why didn’t George W. Bush fight in Vietnam?

a) He was saving himself for Saddam Hussein b) The jungle is too thick for biking trials c) Few Saigon bars knew how to fix a “Texas Twister,” which is a tequila drink with the glass rim dipped in cocaine d) Bush is a coward.
Most Republicans got this one right, choosing “d,” because most of them didn’t go to Vietnam either and in their hearts knew why.

Who did the Bush administration offer in exchange for the two journalists who were recently freed in Iraq?
a) Keith Olberman b) Ned Lamont c) Tony Armas and a player to be named later d) Karen Hughes.
Most Republicans didn’t get this one right. It’s Karen Hughes. Think about it: Have you heard of her doing anything lately, like winning the PR war in the Middle East? Actually, she volunteered to go so as to infiltrate the terrorists’ PR machine. Once she gets her hands on it, they’ll start losing the war.

Which PR firm did FDR hire to win World War II?
a) Lee Atwater, LTD b) K. Rove & Ancestors c) the same one employed by Paris Hilton’s grandfather d) None of the above.
Most Republicans left this one blank because they didn’t know who FDR was or why he was important or when WW II was (although almost half knew it was after WW I).

Who was Mohammed?
a) An Iraqi who died in a Baghdad bombing today b) An Iraqi who died in a Baghdad bombing yesterday c) An Iraqi who died in a Baghdad bombing the day before and the day before that and the day before that… d) The guy who nailed Christ to the cross.
Most Republicans weren’t sure of this one but guessed it must be “d.”

The lesson here is that when you take a history quiz, don’t admit you’re a Republican. It messes with your head.

We Didn’t Really Mean It!

The development community seems up in arms because Gov. Kaine is actually doing what he said he would do. The bill in question is one developers supported. Many thought Kaine’s efforts to fulfill his campaign promise to better control land use were half-hearted. He didn’t get all he asked for and critics charged he didn’t really care.

But he has surprised many with his full-throated support for reforming land use and has used the tools the Assembly passed, one measure by a unanimous vote.

“The development industry thought: ‘We get to have our growth-control ticky mark for all the people who are shouting for growth controls, and we get off not harmed,’ ” said state Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick (R-Prince William), the bill’s chief patron in the House.

“But what they didn’t realize, and it’s not written in the legislation, of course, is that people were going to talk about this stuff. They didn’t think that VDOT might send this stuff to the press and that the press might write a story about it.”

It’s rare that a politician would do something intentionally but would not want publicity for it. I thought the study on the traffic impact of the big Loudoun development was a brilliant move. Who cares if it was politically motivated? Aren’t politicians supposed to do things for political motives?

What’s truly remarkable is how naïve or politically dense the development community seems to be.

Many of the lobbyists who helped the initiative sail through — notably the state’s powerful home-building industry — might not have known what Kaine intended. They expected the studies, but they didn’t expect the publicity or the involvement of Kaine’s closest advisers.

“I’m just very disappointed in the governor,” said Michael L. Toalson, chief lobbyist for the Home Builders Association of Virginia. The builders “did not oppose” the legislation but are unhappy with the way the governor is using it, he said.

“The Kaine administration, without any guidance from the General Assembly, has injected itself and VDOT into a local land-use decision,” Toalson said.

Exactly how did they expect the legislation to be used, as it…?

Provides that prior to adoption of any comprehensive plan or amendment the locality shall submit such plan or amendment to the Department of Transportation for review and comment. The Department shall provide written comment on the proposed plan or amendment within 90 days of receipt thereof. Also, upon submission to a locality of an application for rezoning, the locality shall submit such application to the Department of Transportation within 10 business days of receipt thereof. Such application shall include a traffic impact statement if required by the locality by ordinance. Within 45 days of its receipt of such application, the Department shall either (i) provide written comment on the rezoning application, or (ii) schedule a meeting, to be held within 60 days of its receipt of the application, with the local planning commission or other agent and the applicant to discuss potential modifications to the application to address any concerns or deficiencies.

Sounds to me that VDOT is indeed to inject itself into local land use decisions.

Score one for the Kaine administration and it’s ability to get the message out. To the development community, you need to mean what you say and say what you mean. Uh, there I go being naïve.

Lessons Learned

Last Thursday, we brought our daughter, Hunter, back to school in North Carolina. I had nagged her for days to pack. But being a teenager, she saw no harm in waiting, and since I had counseled otherwise, there was the upside that it would bug me no end. So at 1 a.m. Thursday she started to pack. She finished by 4 a.m. and was up at 7:00 with the car stuffed and ready to go. I told her I was pleased and surprised but worried that three hours sleep was insufficient, especially for someone who had just been diagnosed with pneumonia. She grinned coyly, as daughters are wont to do with their dads.

She slept most of the trip down, awaking only for lunch. I could sense her anticipation, and she confirmed that she was indeed excited about getting back to school, or should I say, getting back to her friends. School was merely the gathering spot.

Hunter is our mystical child. She is thinking of majoring in philosophy and savors each moment of life, good or bad, one by one. She rarely speaks in the future tense. When we arrived, she rushed out of the car to see her roommate and best friend, with whom she probably exchanged a thousands text messages this summer.

We unloaded the car and the storage shed. Hours later, her room was filled with unopened boxes, but she promised to unload them, as we left to spend the night with friends. Like most children, she tries to please her parents. She wants to make us proud.

She’s not always sure how. She’s always received good grades, though her inability to focus has presented problems over the years. You see, homework needs to be done in the future. It’s not in the moment. She worked long hours this summer, in part, I think, to prove to us she could and in part to buy shoes, her passion and definitely a pleasure of the moment. But much like many parents, we sometimes don’t really know what will make us proud and rarely ask what would make our children proud of us.

The next morning, we came back to help her get settled. At 11:00 she was still sleeping and had unpacked all of three boxes. We then helped run errands. One trip was to the grocery store, where we hoped to stock her apartment with something nutritious. She obliged, knowing that chips and cookies were just a short walk away from her place. While we wandered the aisles, she reminded us of the little girl who as a five-year old wore two different socks. Why? “Because I like to.”

Most 19-year olds are self-conscious. She is no exception in many ways. But she is a lover of fantasy and wonderment. So she was not at all embarrassed when she saw a large stuff horse in the grocery store, grabbed it and ran up to me calling out, “Daddy, buy me a pony, buy me a pony!” She then let out her hearty laugh and skipped off to the meat department. Yes, at 19, she still can skip at the least provocation.

She also cries at the least provocation, especially watching movies. If so much as a fly is hurt, Hunter cries. It’s what seems appropriate to her at the moment. She is sensitive to life’s injustices and to tender expressions of love.

We finished up the day’s chores and said our goodbyes. She began to cry. She was excited to see her friends but sad to see us go. She’s still more comfortable in her own home. She’s leaving that behind for another year.

The drive home was uneventful. We talked of how much we enjoyed Hunter the last two days. In honor of her, we didn’t unpack the car of the things she decided she didn’t need after all. Instead, Karla watched “Mrs. Doubtfire” for probably the fourth time in as many weeks. Like her daughter, she can watch movies over and over again. I joined her at the point where Robin Williams unsuccessfully pleads with the judge to let him see his children because “he needs them” and can’t live without what they give him. Sally Fields soon relents, of course. You all know the sappy ending. You almost expect Robin Williams to buy his younger daughter a pony. I could feel my eyes well up. I couldn’t stop the tears.

Hunter would be proud of me.

Move Over, Bechtel

For those who want to simply characterize Hezbollah as a “terrorist group,” it’s clear that it is something far different to the people of Lebanon.

Hezbollah has been the fastest and, without a doubt, most effective organization doling out aid to the shattered towns and villages of southern Lebanon. Aid groups like Mercy Corps — which generally work through local intermediaries — have sometimes struggled to find other ways of helping, and even then, they cannot be sure their aid is not going through Hezbollah.

“You can make a separation between what we do and Hezbollah,” said Khiam’s deputy mayor, Muhammed Abdullah, 45, who is organizing the local efforts, including donations of food and water from Mercy. “But of course there is coordination.”

On Mr. Abdullah’s desk is a paperweight with the logo of “Construction Jihad,” Hezbollah’s building company, and in his anteroom are two posters of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader.

..As an example of Hezbollah’s hold on everyday life in southern Lebanon, Ali Bazzi, the mayor of Bint Jbail, outlined his big dreams for his half-demolished town as workmen raced past and tractors rumbled.

“We are going to turn this city into a model city,” Mr. Bazzi said, his arm clutching a trademark Hezbollah two-way radio. “There will be streets organized in grids, parks in every neighborhood and apartment blocks.”

Bint Jbail, the main Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon, saw some of the worst bombing and fighting during the monthlong war, in which Hezbollah, which is integrated with the general population, was Israel’s target. But Mr. Bazzi intends to complete the reconstruction without using a single cent from the Lebanese government, much less the United States or the West.

Instead, Mr. Bazzi is counting on Construction Jihad. Just a day after the fighting stopped, Construction Jihad enlisted the volunteer services of 1,700 engineers, electricians, plumbers, architects and geologists who have cleared streets, dug ditches and built temporary bridges.

While the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has just begun organizing committees to study the reconstruction of the country, Construction Jihad has all but completed surveys of southern Lebanese towns.

They say that the best way to combat your enemy is to co-opt him. Maybe we should give Hezbollah the contract for cleaning up New Orleans.

Oui? Non? Incroyable!

Europe without American leadership is a mere tourist destination.

Richard Cohen

Because we’ve drained the tank and lost our credibility, we have to hope the French would prefer to make peace, not love. Good luck! I’m ready to go back to “freedom fries.”

Presidential Hopefuls Kiss NH’s Arse

Ten presidential hopefuls, proving again that personal ambition trumps party unity, have signed a letter pledging to campaign in the New Hampshire primary even if it is held at a time not approved by the Democratic National Committee.

The DNC this past weekend set up a revised primary schedule, keeping the Iowa caucuses first, followed a week later with caucuses in Nevada and then the NH primary with the South Carolina primary a week later. The plan rightfully tries to give minorities — Hispanics in Nevada’s case and blacks in SC’s case — a greater voice in selecting the party’s candidates. Now, if one candidate wins the lily white Iowa and NH races, s/he becomes much harder to beat.

But NH has been whining about this for months and have threatened to reschedule its primary, maybe as early as late-2007.

Among the 10 signers is Virginia’s own Mark Warner, who, being a good Democrat, decided to form a circle with the other candidates, raise his rifle and aim. If the party is stymied by its loyalty to a collection of interests instead of a governing philosophy, it is no less held captive to personal ambition. No surprise here. Just Dems being Dems.

You Say Tomato, I Say Disaster

The headline on the A1 story in The Washington Post:

Bush Says Iraq Pullout Would Be “A Disaster”

Isn’t that what it is now?

“If you think it’s bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself and sustain itself,” he said.

…”If we[withdraw], there will be horrific sectarian cleansing in the mixed areas, particularly in Baghdad, and civil war,” [former ambassador Peter Galbraith] said. “If we stay the course, there will be horrific sectarian cleansing in Baghdad, and civil war.”

Ah, but then we get into that old definition of a “civil war.” Last week I ridiculed the debate. But it turns out I wasn’t far off.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued that Iraq would not have civil war until the Confederates attack Fort Sumter. “It seems to me that it is not a classic civil war at this stage,” Professor Rumsfeld argued. “It certainly isn’t like our civil war.”

No, so to help us keep things straight in our mind, let’s ask Sen. George Allen if he could lend his confederate flag to one side in the conflict. Then we’ll know who to root for — and who he’ll root for.

Footnote: From today’s stories in The Post, it’s clear we have achieved a nexus.

Several prominent Democrats rejected Bush’s call for staying the course in Iraq, saying the problem there is not a lack of will but lack of a winning strategy (emphasis added).

…ABC News’s Martha Raddatz was not satisfied [with Bush’s defense of the war]. “The violence has gotten worse in certain areas,” she reminded him. “Is it not time for a new strategy?” (emphasis added)

When the press and one political party ask the same question, it’s safe to say the other political party is in deep doo-doo, as W’s father might say..

Black, White and Gray

In what can only be described as a mc-article in USA Today last week, the writer tells us,

Smith sports a growing TV fashion: a coat of moral gray.

The new CBS drama follows a band of master thieves and is the latest series to feature a lead character of questionable virtue, joining The Sopranos, The Shield and Rescue Me. With Smith, the trend gets a stronger foothold in broadcast TV. It also is an intriguing choice for CBS because the network’s lineup of crime procedurals has helped make it the most-watched network.

I will admit that I’m a Sopranos fan, so I’m living in a glass house here. But it’s not that I object on some moral basis. But I find the implied justification curious.

Smith, a law-enforcement term for an unknown suspect, raises the moral stakes in its opening episode with an art heist that results in the death of a museum guard. Characters will face consequences both direct and indirect, Wells says.

But [lead characters] Bobby and Hope aren’t caricatures. They’re a loving couple raising two kids. Bobby, who coaches Little League and has a day job as a salesman, even has thoughts of giving up the criminal life.

Those aspects may help viewers relate to the characters, CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler says. “The thing that’s so unique about what John Wells is doing is that he’s placing these characters in real life. To that end, you get a chance to see them going to PTA meetings, raising their kids, going to 9-to-5 jobs.”

[Actor Ray] Liotta is drawn to his character’s contrasts. “Hope is the girl of my dreams. I’m not a philanderer. I love my wife and kids. I just also love to steal.”

Just wondering: What are the chances we’d see a series about young black kids who commit crimes, yet are portrayed sympathetically as part of a stable home, but maybe “love to steal”? My guess is there would be a hue and cry about the glorification of the criminal culture.

By the way, though not cited in the column, apparently Al Sharpton’s plea reverberated with Juan Williams. He’s not glorifying anything.

Iraq…No, Terrorism…No, the Economy

A few months ago, Karl Rove told us the GOP would win the Congressional elections on the strength of the Iraq War. He said voters would back the president. When the war would not diverge from its downward spiral and the terrorist plot in Great Britain was foiled, we were told that the war against terror would win the day. But when polls showed that the president didn’t get a rebound after the arrests, it’s time to again change strategies.

“If I were a candidate … I’d say, ‘Look at what the economy has done. It’s strong. We’ve created a lot of jobs. … I’d be telling people that the Democrats will raise your taxes. That’s what they said. I’d be reminding people that tax cuts have worked in terms of stimulating the economy,” Bush told reporters at a news conference.

Of course, there’s a slight problem with this approach, too.

The economy has slowed in recent months, in part because of the slump in the housing market. Recent economic indicators showed a 4.8 percent jobless rate in July and 4 percent annual economic growth rate through the first half of the year.

The Labor Department recently said employers added just 113,000 new jobs in July, down from 124,000 in June.

Only 37 percent of Americans support Bush’s handling of the economy, according to the Associated Press-Ipsos poll in early August.

Thirty-seven percent? Well, it’s probably better than support for his war and nobody really believes that Iraq is related to the war on terror, although I’m not really sure what that it. His overall support is back down in the 33% range, so 37% is better than that.

Next thing you know, Bush will be telling Republicans to invoke the name Terri Schiavo in their campaigns. What’s sad is that at this point, it can only help.