MaoA UK Independent item about an unreleased book by historian Frank Dikötter made me think about New York Times columnist NIcholas Kristof. Readers will see why shortly.

Amazon says that Dikötter's "Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962" will be released on September 28. The Independent's Arifa Akbar relays Dikötter's core conclusion that "At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years." This is a significantly higher number than the highest previous estimate of Jung Chang, who asserted in her 2005 book, "Mao: The Unknown Story," that "38 million people were starved and slave-driven to death in 1958-61." The seven million extra deaths would move Chang's 2005 total of "more than 70 million" into the neighborhood of 80 million, padding Mao's lead over Stalin and Hitler as the worst mass murderer in human history.

The Independent's Akbar also writes that "Mr. Dikötter is the only author to have delved into the Chinese archives since they were reopened four years ago." If true, this reflects a startling lack of curiosity.

I hope Nick Kristof is just a little curious, and will peruse what Mr. Dikötter has documented when it becomes available. Perhaps it will move him to reach conclusions a bit different from those he reached when he reviewed Chang's book in October 2005 (bolds are mine):

"[T]here’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber."

I hardly ever agree with anything New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof writes, but his piece on Wednesday was astoundingly provocative and an absolute must-read.

His basic premise is that with the demise of print media and our reliance on the Internet as an information source, we Americans are mostly surrounding ourselves with folks that think like us and, therefore, aren't really being challenged to defend our views on the important issues of the day.

Before casting this aside as so much liberal elite twaddle, consider the following:

CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed a "squinting" Bill Clinton for a segment on Wednesday’s "Anderson Cooper 360" (a 2-minute clip was featured on Wednesday’s "The Situation Room"), and if there was speculation on why Cooper, instead of someone "higher up the food chain" like Wolf Blitzer, interviewed Clinton on the occasion of the "Clinton Global Initiative" annual meeting, it could be because Cooper is one of the "featured attendees" at this meeting. Cooper moderated a "working session" panel discussion on Wednesday on "The Most Effective Strategies for the Most Vulnerable Children."

Cooper joins other members of the mainstream media who are "featured attendees" at this year’s "Clinton Global Initiative" annual meeting, including Daljit Dhaliwal of PBS; Nicholas Kristof and George Suroweicki of the New York Times; Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, and former (current?) Clinton lackey George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. Major media executives attending the meeting include Judy McGrath, Chairman and CEO of MTV Networks; Rupert Murdoch; and Ted Turner.

Soon-to-be-Dr. Al Gore is now encouraging citizens "to engage in peaceful protests to block major new carbon sources" stating that he "‘can't understand why there aren't rings of young people blocking bulldozers, and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants.'''

I kid you not.

Yet, as amazing as it might seem, these weren't the most absurd statements penned by the New York Times' Nicholas D. Kristof yesterday in a column available only to TimesSelect subscribers.

Some of the real inanities included (emphasis added throughout):