- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2001

One for the ages
"What, then, is considered wrong about drinking at 19? The same things that are potentially wrong with drinking after 21 inebriation, alcoholism, a dulling of the conscience, a loosening of inhibitions, and drunk driving. But making it illegal to drink before 21 does not prevent these problems. Essentially, what these laws do is force people under 21 to sneak and lie just as Jenna did by offering a false ID.
"Moreover, it is morally confused for a society to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to drive a car; 18-year-olds to kill and be killed in the armed forces; 18-year-olds to disfigure themselves permanently with tattoos; children of any age, with a guardians permission, to attend films that feature the most innocence-robbing raunch and sadism; 18-year-olds who usually know nothing about life or about public policy to choose our nations leaders; and 15-year-olds to have an abortion without a parents permission but not to allow 20-year-olds to have a margarita.
"One New York state official called my radio show to tell me that the policy actually works against societys interest. Many young people, instead of drinking in public where their consumption might be monitored and moderated, ask someone to buy them alcohol and then consume it in the very worst place of all a car.
Dennis Prager, writing on "Jenna Bush Is Old Enough to Drink," in the Wall Street Journal, June 8

Statistical ideology
"Media, tempted by large, surprising or reasonable-sounding figures, sometimes go along repeating numbers without investigating or mentioning how they were collected, or whose agenda they might promote. When researchers come out with competing interpretations … journalists leanings can lead them to find one more credible than another because it reinforces their beliefs or makes a more striking story. …
"[University of London psychology professor Jay] Belsky said, 'Ive come to believe that too much of social science research, especially as it gets disseminated, is ideology masquerading as science. …
"Values, morality and religion fuel most debates about social issues, but people are more comfortable discussing numbers, researchers said.
"Our society often mistakes statistics for facts, attributing magical powers to them, like fetishes. … Activists have learned to package their claims as facts by including numbers."
Lynn Smith, writing on "Putting a Spin on the Truth With Statistics and Studies," in the Los Angeles Times, June 6

Politics by indirection
"The thing I like about the films of Zhang Yimou, especially the early ones like 'Red Sorghum, 'Ju Dou, and 'Raise the Red Lantern, is that he takes such complete advantage of being almost the only filmmaker in the world today who is allowed to wallow in nostalgia for a frankly reactionary past. The reason for this is of course not far to seek. The horrors of Chinas history in the 20th century are always just offstage or, as in Red Sorghums account of the Japanese occupation of the 1930s and 1940s, occasionally on stage and they make a rural life of poverty and hardship and rigid class division look positively idyllic by comparison. There, the timeless rhythms of agricultural life and the glories of wild nature thrillingly photographed nearly persuade us for ninety minutes or so that politics is really only an insignificant part of existence.
"This has never been more true than in 'The Road Home, Zhangs latest film to reach the West. As in his other movies and as you might expect from someone whom the Chinese authorities mostly, despite occasional glitches, continue to patronize there is a somewhat embarrassing coyness about the millions slaughtered under Chairman Mao. But then again, perhaps the gorgeousness of his portrayal of pre-Communist China or, as in this case, the part of China that remained largely untouched by the Communist bureaucracy in the late 1950s is as near as the Communist leaders of today and their cultural spokesmen can get to an apology for the almost unimaginable atrocities perpetrated by their predecessors and never confessed to or in the least atoned for."
James Bowman, reviewing "The Road Home," in The American Spectator Online (www.spectator.org), posted June 8

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