- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Irrelevant facts

“[Economist Thomas Sowell has] published nearly 30 books, while also producing academic articles, long-form magazine essays and a seldom-dull newspaper column for more than two decades. Not bad for an orphan from Jim Crow North Carolina who never finished high school and didn’t earn a college degree until he was 28. …

“Sowell’s forte has always been rigorous analysis and adherence to facts, however stubborn and wherever they lead. …

“He has shown, empirically, that affirmative action does not benefit poor blacks. He has shown, empirically, that political clout is not a prerequisite for ethnic economic advancement. And most importantly, he has exposed the harmful fallacy of using racial and gender discrimination as an all-purpose explanation for statistical group disparities.

“Asked why many of these failed ideas, and the black leaders who promote them, don’t seem to lose credibility, Mr. Sowell responds that the phenomenon is hardly limited to the realm of race. … ‘I have a book called “The Vision of the Anointed,” and there’s a chapter in there called “The Irrelevance of Evidence.” ‘”

— Jason Riley, writing on “Classy Economist,” March 25 in Opinion Journal at www.opinionjournal.com

Unpopular war

“Three years into an unpopular war, the president seemed drowned in a cacophony of criticism. Many people charged that his own pigheadedness had started the war, and that now he was equally stubborn in not ending it. …

“The Democratic opposition had never given up on the idea that this was the wrong war at the wrong place in the wrong time. …

“Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln persevered.

“Wars always look different in retrospect. Partly this is because the victors write the outcome. But partly it is because only in hindsight do we weave the conflict into a seamless event. The doubt and turmoil that once surrounded it are forgotten. …

“As we now enter the fourth year of a seemingly endless Iraqi conflict of which the public has grown weary, it might be good to remember that no war in our history has ever engaged the undivided support of the nation.”

— William Tucker, writing on “Wars Look Different in Retrospect,” March 27 in the American Enterprise Online at taemag.org

Baroque Bill

“During what you could call Bill O’Reilly’s classical period, the first few years of ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ — which debuted in 1996, at the same time as Fox News — O’Reilly seemed to be a recognizable member of the conservative-talk-show-host species. … He attacked Bill Clinton and Al Gore relentlessly; the Monica Lewinsky scandal was his signature subject. Now, 10 years later, O’Reilly has become baroque, and ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ is a complex affair, dense with self-references, obsessions, and elaborations, even though it still delivers a satisfying punch. …

“Unlike some conservative talk-show hosts, O’Reilly hasn’t had a career in politics or government; he has never been based in Washington. … [H]e really comes from a place called television news. … In the early ‘80s, he landed at CBS News, as a correspondent for the ‘Evening News.’ It should have been his big break, but it didn’t work out. … [T]he CBS episode has stayed with him. It hurt — it still hurts. No matter how big a star he becomes, he’s eternally the guy who was banished from the charmed circle.”

— Nicholas Lemann, writing on “Fear Factor,” in the March 27 issue of the New Yorker

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