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"DON'T KNOW much about geopolitics," I wrote...


"DON'T KNOW much about geopolitics," I wrote about the Balkans, "but I have lots of dictionaries at my disposal, and what is going on in Bosnia is not genocide."

Morton Winston of Columbia replied, "The dictionary only gives lexical definitions.

"The correct place to look for a definition of the term 'genocide' is in the text of the Convention and Punishment for the Crime of Genocide, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on Dec. 9, 1948, entered into force as international law on Jan. 12, 1961, and was ratified by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 19, 1986.

"Article II states, 'Genocide means any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial or religious group: killing; causing serious bodily or mental harm; deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, preventing births within the group. . . .' "

Don't know much about history, either, according to Morton Ellin of Baltimore.

I wrote that Andy Jackson's post-peace treaty victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 "was of no significance."

Ellin sent me a quote from Paul Johnson's "The Birth of the Modern." Johnson wrote, "Jackson's victory determined the way the treaty] was interpreted and applied." Johnson argued that if Jackson had not beat the Brits in New Orleans, they would have given back much of the area to Spain.

"The effect of Jackson's victory was to legitimize the entire Louisiana purchase in the eyes of the international community; henceforth we hear no more about its illegality."

Don't know much about arithmetic, either, according to Alan Kaufman of Baltimore.

I wrote that with a swing of just 1.5 percent of the vote in California and 1.2 percent in Ohio in the 1968 presidential election, Hubert Humphrey, not Richard Nixon, would have been elected president.

Kaufman called to point out that Nixon won with 301 electoral votes to HHH's 191 (George Wallace got 46). California had 40 electoral votes then. Illinois had 26. 40+26 = 66. 191+66 = 257. It takes 269 electoral votes to be elected president in the Electoral College.

Don't know much about preciseness, either, according to Tom James of Reisterstown.

I wrote, "The last New York Democrat to be nominated for president was Franklin D. Roosevelt."

James writes, "Shirley Chisholm was a New York Democrat nominated for president (at the 1972 Democratic national convention), and so was Averell Harriman (at the 1952 and 1956 conventions).

"Of course, I know you were talking about New Yorkers who actually got the nomination, but to paraphrase Court of Appeals Judge Frederick Singley's famous maxim, if you don't mean what you say, you ought to say so."

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