Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Truth to Power

As my wife is fond of saying: “you can torture numbers to make them say anything you want them to.” That is why it is crucial to use as non-partisan, unbiased, and legitimate sources as possible. Personal opinions are fine, but aren’t reputable sources better than “take my word for it” statements?

Chuck Gregory claims “since the 1970's, real income has slid.” Not according to Nicholas A. Jones and James S. Jackson, Ph.D., who found “In 1970, the median income for Black households was about $22,000, while for white households it was $37,000. In 1999, African-American median household income was $27,900, the highest ever recorded, but still far less than for non-Hispanic white households $44,400..." (The Demographic Profile of African Americans 1970-71 to 2000-01 from The Black Collegian Online at http://www.black-collegian.com/ issues/30thAnn/ demographic2001-30th.shtml) So since 1970 income has increased and what’s more the gap between black income and white income closed from 59.4% to 62.8% - a modest increase, but an increase nevertheless. The US Dept of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis offered also disagrees with Mr. Gregory: “Per capita income–the average income received by persons grew 4.7 percent in 2004, more than double the 2.2 percent growth in the previous year, according to estimates released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is the fastest pace since 2000 when per capita income grew 6.8 percent. All states except South Dakota, Nebraska, and Michigan enjoyed faster growth.” (News Release: State Personal Income, Mar 28, 2005 - http://www.bea.gov/bea/newsrel/SPINewsRelease.htm)

Chuck Gregory observes “the American life span is shortening.” Someone should tell the National Center for Health Statistics of the Center for Disease Control because they think our life expectancy is still increasing. The NCHS/CDC offers the National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 53, No. 6, Nov 10, 2004 where on pages 33 and 34 you will find Table 12 which shows the estimated life expectancy from 1900 through 2002. American life spans increase from 47.3 to 77.3 years - go figure (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/nvsr53_06t12.pdf). The Wall Street Journal is kind of mixed up too: “life expectancy in the U.S. is at an all-time high. Death rates from cancer, heart disease and AIDS are falling. The gap between white and black life expectancies is narrowing. Infant mortality rates are lower than ever.” (An Empty Uniform by Michael Gough and Steven Milloy, Feb 10, 1998) S. Jay Olshansky at the University of Illinois at Chicago agrees with Chuck, but he doesn’t blame Republicans. Olshansky thinks that obesity “would reverse the mostly steady increase in American life expectancy that has occurred in the past two centuries.” Notice, he thinks it would reverse the “steady increase.” On the other hand, Samuel H. Preston of the University of Pennsylvania is “projecting a continued increase in U.S. longevity, assume[s] that obesity will continue to worsen, but also account[s] for medical advances.” (Report: Obesity will reverse life expectancy gains, Mar 16, 2005 - http://www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/ diet.fitness/03/16/obesity.longevity.ap/)

Chuck Gregory suggests we all “read Susan Faludi’s books, Backlash and Stiffed.” But before you do, consider this quote from Brian Carnell’s Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth?: A Review of Cathy Young’s Ceasefire. Carnell notes that “Young’s analysis of Susan Faludi’s Backlash is simply devastating. Young shows Faludi’s book to rely almost from top to bottom on extremely poor scholarly standards, egregious misquoting of primary sources and a whole host of other questionable procedures. She even catches Faludi making a claim in Backlash that Faludi herself had debunked in an earlier newspaper profile!” (http://www.equityfeminism.com/ discussion/fullthread$msgnum=51)

It is a sad state when a grown man accepts any drivel fed to him and then repeats it to his community without the slightest attempt to check it’s veracity. I expect such from idealistic teens for whom all life is a crusade, but maturity means growing out of such behavior and becoming responsible - responsible not just for one’s actions, but for one’s speech, as well. A weak debater attacks the person of his opponent precisely because he lacks sufficient facts to buttress his position. Mr. Gregory sprinkles his ad hominem criticisms of me with the odd source-quote now and then, but (like his Faludi reference) they always seem to be from dubious sources. I encourage everyone to take up issues; a more issue-oriented society would be healthy. However, learn about your issues make them your own, take the time to make sure that what you’re repeating is actually true information and not politically-motivated propaganda or hate speech.

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