- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Authentic Joe
"Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Joe Moakleys obituaries didnt claim that his greatness lay in his particular party or ideology or religion — they lay in the fact that those affiliations permeated his being. Almost every obit carried the same Moakley quote, 'As soon as were born, were baptized into the Catholic Church, were sworn into the Democratic Party, and were given union cards." And the fact that Moakley saw his political identity as inherited rather than chosen was precisely what the obituaries were celebrating. It meant he didnt shift with the political tides; that he knew who he was; that he wasnt fake.
"Those qualities — which were once derided in people like Moakley and places like South Boston as close-minded and reactionary — are now cherished. Today, unlike a generation ago, it matters less what you believe than that you believe and express it genuinely."
—Peter Beinart, writing on "Solid Southie," June 4 in the New Republic Online at www.thenewrepublic.com

Lying with numbers

"The tide of bad statistics is rising, said David Murray, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Statistical Assessment Service. 'Its everywhere now. In politics. In polling. The interpretation of public reaction. Physical sciences. Its the way you win arguments. The way you make points, he said.
" 'Because our culture grants so much authority to statistics in social debates, the bad ones have great potential to mislead… . People use statistics in the way priests use mysterious language. 'The language of science invokes higher authority. We speak Latin. Egyptian. You believe us… .
"Most bad statistics are less the result of deliberate deception than incompetence, confusion or self-serving selection of numbers that reaffirm ones beliefs, said Joel Best, professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware… .
"Best cites the example of a mathematically illiterate Ph.D. student who mangled a figure found in a journal and wrote that 'Every year since 1950, the number of American children gunned down has doubled, a figure that would have surpassed 35 trillion if the student had calculated the implication of the wording."
—Lynn Smith, writing on "Putting a Spin on the Truth With Statistics and Studies," in Wednesdays Los Angeles Times

Declining cliche

"We all know what the nuclear family looks like: It looks like a cliche, a fond and fuzzy cliche evoked by episodes of 'Leave It to Beaver or 'Ozzie and Harriet. These potent icons are faded and fictional, not to mention completely overwhelmed by general cultural consensus and demographic studies. Yet the 'ideal American family — a father and a mother, bound to each other by legal marriage, raising children bound to them by biology — is a stubborn relic, a national symbol that has yet to be retired as threadbare and somewhat unrealistic… .
"In the past three decades, the rates of divorce, single parenting and cohabitation have risen precipitously… . In other words, Americans seem to have left the nuclear-family model behind… .
"Yet when the idea of family is addressed in a political context … a dichotomy arises, usually along partisan lines, between abstract notions of an ideal American family and the real families that the majority of Americans actually live in.
"At no time has this enormous gap between thought and deed been as visible as when U.S. Census figures came out recently that documented the extent to which Americans are not practicing what some among us still preach. The nuclear family, according to the numbers, is fast becoming a demographic oddity; the number of single-parent families is skyrocketing and many Americans couples are choosing to not get married, but to have families anyway."
—Amy Benfer, writing on "The nuclear family takes a hit," Thursday in Salon at www.salon.com

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide