Letters to the Editor

(January 16, 2006)


[Ed. As a reminder to Letter writers: If you want your letters to be published, you must include your first and last names and your city and state of residence. Thank you.]

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Words of Encouragement
Dear Gilles,

My personal thanks for a great year of work. You provide an indispensable source of information and insight.

Paul Buhle
Department of American Civilization, Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island, USA - January 2, 2006


Clear Liberal Voice on Accusations of anti-Semitism in the January 2, 2006 Letters to the Editor

The response to Dr. Neumann's essay The Case Against Israel appears to be just about what one might expect. I find it interesting that I -- and many others -- can find fault with the policies of George W. Bush and not be denounced as un-American, yet to find the slightest fault with Israel and its government is to invite an immediate accusation of anti-Zionism and, worse, anti-Semitism. Any liberal in the classic sense would think that unwarranted and unacceptable.

Francis B. Kent
North Hollywood, California, USA - January 4, 2006


The Usefulness of a More Dispassionate Discourse: On Denis Drew's January 2, 2006 Letter to the Editor
To the Editor:

I have read and compared your recently published letters of Dr. Amir and Denis Drew and easily spotted rationale and rash-and-yell, respectively. Dr. Amir bases his ideas on historical fact: names, dates, actions, etc. Denis Drew's shrieking is ossified Jew-baiting: "the 'Moses as Mien Kampf' people keep provoking a billion-plus Moslems..." This tactic works well for the likes of Pat Robertson, and Saddam Hussein. It has a tone of hateful rash yelling. He continues with "That sounds akin to Hitler's concept of 'lebensraum' (forcibly acquired 'living space')." Invoking the name Hitler as easily as he does diminishes the horrors that Hitler and the Nazis forced upon Europe. If you follow this line of illogical ranting you can easily conclude that forcing Arabs from the land on which they live is as horrible as the extermination of 6 million innocent people (including the Jews). I am sure if Mr. Drew took a deep breath and thought more about what he was saying he'd realize his statements are no different than those of Hitler.

Additionally Mr. Drew employs the very same thinking (and ranting) of the Neo-Cons here in the U.S. He attacks Jeff Birnbaum, Fred Barnes, and Charles Krauthammer rather than their beliefs (regardless of whether you agree with them or not). This is no different than the American Neo-Cons blaming every action taken by President Bush on of Bill Clinton. "...it falls more to Jewish couch potatoes to get their own bereft-of-geopolitical-realism extremists under control." Indeed, it would be very interesting to meet a Jewish couch potato extremist. Is this someone who will kill you if you change the TV channel? The channel I am watching shows the Israeli Army forcing extremist Jewish settlers from their homes in the Gaza Strip and West Bank so that the Arabs can move in and begin to build a homeland. This is absolutely necessary for the building of a lasting peace in Israel and Palestine. As far as "bereft-of-geopolitical-realism" is concerned, I ask Mr. Drew to imagine being part of an historically hated race of 6 million people that is surrounded by over 60 million people who have tried to wipe Israel of the map for the past 70 years. If he has any imagination at all he will understand the meaning of geopolitical reality.

One last small but important fact needs to be mentioned here. The U.S. provides only 1% of Israel's defense systems. A smaller portion of these systems are French, German, and British. The vast majority of their systems/weapons are built in Israel, some of which is sold around the world including the U.S. In fact, the new U.S./Canadian/British/French/German anti-missile system is engineered, designed, tested and built by Israel without foreign funding. The U.S. provides millions of defense dollars to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and many other Middle Eastern and African countries. American military forces and weapons are also stationed in Egypt. The image of Israel as an American military outpost is grossly incorrect.

To Mr. Drew, and others, I suggest that clear-headed, dispassionate reasoning will create an everlasting clear-headed dispassionate peace in Israel, Palestine, and so many other places around the world.

Michael Yonchenko
Kenwood, California, USA - January 14, 2006


Michael Neumann's own take on Dr. Jacob Amir January 2, 2006 Letter to the Editor
[ed. We felt that Michael Neumann's response could be published as a stand-alone, which we have done with Prof. Neumann's authorization]


Beware of Recovered Statisticians: Ben Mack's Understanding The Media's Liberal Bias
Dear Editor,

Ben Mack's article poking fun at the so-called liberal bias in the media ("Understanding The Media's Liberal Bias," January 2, 2006) uses an approach, perhaps intentionally, that demonstrates how biased reporting -- that is, reporting the numbers in a way that supports the conclusion one wants to make -- often occurs. One can imagine, from Mr. Mack's approach, a big, bold headline scrolling along the bottom of Fox News: "Liberals Find Bush Nominees Too Liberal," with the six-second sound bite, "11% of liberals, compared to only 9% of conservatives, think that President Bush is trying to make the Supreme Court too liberal."

A more accurate characterization of the data would be that the majority of conservatives find Bush's approach neutral, but the majority of liberals find it conservative, e.g., "44% of overall respondents found Bush's approach neither too conservative nor too liberal, the majority (65%) of whom defined their political philosophy as conservative, compared to 18% who defined themselves as liberal. Of the 42% who found his approach too conservative, the majority (67%) were liberal, compared to 20% conservative. Only 9% of respondents considered his approach too liberal; of these, 9% were conservative, compared to 11% liberal."

I am surprised and somewhat disturbed by Harris Poll Chairman Humphrey Taylor's response to Mr. Mack's question, Do Liberals view Bush as too liberal? "...not everyone understands the words liberal and conservative and that some of these people are just confused. I cannot think of a better explanation."

I can. The methodology cited for this poll indicates a statistical precision of +/- 3 percentage points, so not much should be made of the 9% vs. 11% difference in conservatives vs. liberals finding that Bush is acting too liberally. I would also point out that the poll results state, "Sampling error for the sub-samples of Republicans (335), Democrats (311), Independents (254), conservatives (356), liberals (183) and moderates (448) is higher and varies." They don't say how much higher. One should also note the lack of balance between groups, i.e., nearly twice as many conservatives as liberals were polled, making the liberal responses less likely to be representative of liberals.

I am reminded of Mr. Bush's contention in his December 18, 2005 address that "... after a number of setbacks, our coalition is moving forward with a reconstruction plan to revive Iraq's economy and infrastructure -- and to give Iraqis confidence that a free life will be a better life. Today in Iraq, seven in 10 Iraqis say their lives are going well, and nearly two-thirds expect things to improve even more in the year ahead. Despite the violence, Iraqis are optimistic -- and that optimism is justified." What he failed to report from that same poll is that only 46% of Iraqis said the country is better off now than before the war; half said it was wrong for the US to invade; two-thirds oppose the presence of US and coalition forces, and 6 in 10 disapprove of how the U.S. has operated in Iraq.

I guess he dismissed the bad news as part of the liberal media bias... Oh, and the sampling error for this poll? Two and one-half percentage points.


Jan Baughman
Co-editor, Swans.com and recovered statistician
San Francisco, California, USA - January 3, 2006


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Published January 16, 2006
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