A ‘Red Team’ Exercise Would Strengthen Climate Science – WSJ

Source: A ‘Red Team’ Exercise Would Strengthen Climate Science – WSJ

The national-security community pioneered the “Red Team” methodology to test assumptions and analyses, identify risks, and reduce—or at least understand—uncertainties. The process is now considered a best practice in high-consequence situations such as intelligence assessments, spacecraft design and major industrial operations. It is very different and more rigorous than traditional peer review, which is usually confidential and always adjudicated, rather than public and moderated.

The public is largely unaware of the intense debates within climate science. At a recent national laboratory meeting, I observed more than 100 active government and university researchers challenge one another as they strove to separate human impacts from the climate’s natural variability. At issue were not nuances but fundamental aspects of our understanding, such as the apparent—and unexpected—slowing of global sea-level rise over the past two decades.

Summaries of scientific assessments meant to inform decision makers, such as the United Nations’ Summary for Policymakers, largely fail to capture this vibrant and developing science. Consensus statements necessarily conceal judgment calls and debates and so feed the “settled,” “hoax” and “don’t know” memes that plague the political dialogue around climate change. We scientists must better portray not only our certainties but also our uncertainties, and even things we may never know. Not doing so is an advisory malpractice that usurps society’s right to make choices fully informed by risk, economics and values. Moving from oracular consensus statements to an open adversarial process would shine much-needed light on the scientific debates.

Given the importance of climate projections to policy, it is remarkable that they have not been subject to a Red Team exercise. Here’s how it might work: The focus would be a published scientific report meant to inform policy such as the U.N.’s Summary for Policymakers or the U.S. Government’s National Climate Assessment. A Red Team of scientists would write a critique of that document and a Blue Team would rebut that critique. Further exchanges of documents would ensue to the point of diminishing returns. A commission would coordinate and moderate the process and then hold hearings to highlight points of agreement and disagreement, as well as steps that might resolve the latter. The process would unfold in full public view: the initial report, the exchanged documents and the hearings.

A Red/Blue exercise would have many benefits. It would produce a traceable public record that would allow the public and decision makers a better understanding of certainties and uncertainties. It would more firmly establish points of agreement and identify urgent research needs. Most important, it would put science front and center in policy discussions, while publicly demonstrating scientific reasoning and argument. The inherent tension of a professional adversarial process would enhance public interest, offering many opportunities to show laymen how science actually works. (In 2014 I conducted a workshop along these lines for the American Physical Society.)

Congress or the executive branch should convene a climate science Red/Blue exercise as a step toward resolving, or at least illuminating, differing perceptions of climate science. While the Red and Blue Teams should be knowledgeable and avowedly opinionated scientists, the commission should have a balanced membership of prominent individuals with technical credentials, led by co-chairmen who are forceful, knowledgeable and independent of the climate-science community. The Rogers Commission for the Challenger disaster in 1986, the Energy Department’s Huizenga/Ramsey Review of Cold Fusion in 1989, and the National Bioethics Advisory Commission of the late 1990s are models for the kind of fact-based rigor and transparency needed.

The outcome of a Red/Blue exercise for climate science is not preordained, which makes such a process all the more valuable. It could reveal the current consensus as weaker than claimed. Alternatively, the consensus could emerge strengthened if Red Team criticisms were countered effectively. But whatever the outcome, we scientists would have better fulfilled our responsibilities to society, and climate policy discussions would be better informed. For those reasons, all who march to advocate policy making based upon transparent apolitical science should support a climate science Red Team exercise.

Mr. Koonin, a theoretical physicist, is director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University. He served as undersecretary of energy for science during President Obama’s first term.

If climate change isn’t considered sufficiently high-consequence to justify the gold standard for high-consequence situations, maybe we should conclude it isn’t very high-consequence after all. (As Glenn Reynolds says, “I’ll believe it’s a crisis when they start acting like it’s a crisis.”)

Hate speech is free speech, Gov. Dean: Glenn Reynolds

Source: Hate speech is free speech, Gov. Dean: Glenn Reynolds

I tell my constitutional law students that there are a couple of statements that indicate that a speaker is a constitutional illiterate who can safely be ignored. One is the claim that the Constitution views black people as ⅗ the worth of white people (actually, it was all about power in Congress, with slaveowners wanting black people to count 100% toward apportionment so that slaveowners would get more seats in Congress, and abolitionists wanting them not counted at all so that slaveowners would get fewer seats in Congress; the ⅗ compromise was just that, a compromise).

The other hallmark of constitutional illiteracy is the claim that the First Amendment doesn’t protect “hate speech.” And by making that claim last week, Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate, revealed himself to be a constitutional illiterate. Then, predictably, he doubled down on his ignorance.

In First Amendment law, the term “hate speech” is meaningless. All speech is equally protected whether it’s hateful or cheerful. It doesn’t matter if it’s racist, sexist or in poor taste, unless speech falls into a few very narrow categories — like “true threats,” which have to address a specific individual, or “incitement,” which must constitute an immediate and intentional encouragement to imminent lawless action — it’s protected.

The term “hate speech” was invented by people who don’t like that freedom, and who want to give the — completely false — impression that there’s a kind of speech that the First Amendment doesn’t protect because it’s hateful. What they mean by “hateful,” it seems, is really just that it’s speech they don’t agree with. Some even try to argue that since hearing disagreeable ideas is unpleasant, expressing those ideas is somehow an act of “violence.”

There are two problems with that argument. The first is that it’s idiotic: That’s never been the law, nor could it be if we give any value to free expression, because there’s no idea that somebody doesn’t disagree with. The second is that the argument is usually made by people who spend a lot of time expressing disagreeable ideas themselves, without, apparently, the least thought that if their own rules about disagreeable speech held sway, they’d probably be locked up first. (As Twitter wag IowaHawk has offered: “I’ll let you ban hate speech when you let me define it. Deal?”)

The response to Dean was merciless: First Amendment law expert Eugene Volokh responded, “No, Gov. Dean, there is no ‘hate speech’ exception to the First Amendment.” If there were, neither the Westboro Baptist Church — whose hateful speech the Supreme Court recently held protected — nor the many people referring to Trump supporters as Nazis and “deplorables” would enjoy free speech.

As Volokh writes, if people want “hate speech” to be unprotected, they’re calling for a change to the First Amendment, and it’s a big one. They should not only admit that, “they should explain just what viewpoints the government would be allowed to suppress, what viewpoints would remain protected and how judges, juries and prosecutors are supposed to distinguish the two. And claiming that hate speech is already ‘not protected by the First Amendment,’ as if one is just restating settled law, does not suffice.”

Dean then doubled down with the constitutional illiterate’s usual fallback, that you could ban “hate speech” as “fighting words” under the 1942 case of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, which allows a ban on “fighting words.” (Journalist Dan Gillmor commented: “Disappointing, to say the least, to see Dean digging the hole deeper on his flatly incorrect original statement.”)

But “fighting words” aren’t hate speech. Fighting words are direct, person-to-person invitations to a brawl. Expressing political or social views that people don’t like isn’t the same thing, even if people might react violently to those views.

And that’s good. If, by reacting violently to views they didn’t like, people could get the government to censor those views as “hate speech” or “fighting words,” then people would have a strong incentive to react violently to views they don’t like. Giving the angry and violent the ability to shut down other people’s speech (the term we use for this in constitutional law, Gov. Dean, is “heckler’s veto”) is a bad thing, which would leave us with a society marked by a lot more violence, a lot more censorship, and a lot less speech.

Is that really what you want? Because that’s what we’d get, if we followed the advice of constitutional illiterates.

Does the government subsidize low-wage employers? | Brookings Institution

Source: Does the government subsidize low-wage employers? | Brookings Institution

You may see this trope (tripe?) in Facebook posts and other social media. Like so many of these, it’s pithy enough to fit on a bumper sticker, and takes at least a page to refute.

Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education estimated that the national and state governments paid out $153 billion in 2013 to finance health benefits, food stamps, and cash assistance to people in families containing a breadwinner who works at least part time and at least half the year.

A remarkable feature of the reaction to the report is that many readers interpreted the government aid dollars to represent a subsidy to low-wage employers (for example, here, here, and here). According to this view, government assistance to low-income families constitutes a handout to Walmart, McDonalds, and other low-wage employers. The assistance allows these companies to pay their workers lower wages than would be possible in the absence of the government aid.

For the majority of programs analyzed by the Berkeley researchers, this interpretation of government assistance payments is flatly wrong. Instead of subsidizing low-wage employers, most assistance programs reduce the availability of low-skill adults who are willing to work for low pay and lousy benefits. By shrinking the pool of workers willing to take the worst jobs, the programs tend to push up rather than push down wages at the bottom of the pay scale. Low-wage employers do not receive an indirect subsidy from the programs. Many must pay somewhat higher wages or recruit more intensively to fill their job vacancies.

#IncentivesMatter

Most careful analysis of the impact of this kind of means-tested program concludes the programs discourage work. The availability of health insurance, food coupons, and cash assistance when potential breadwinners do not work means that paid employment is less necessary. The fact that government benefits are reduced when the breadwinner’s earnings rise means that work is financially less rewarding. Both these effects tend to reduce, at least modestly, the amount of paid work that eligible breadwinners are willing to do. I do not argue the impact is large or that it affects most adults who are potentially eligible to collect means-tested benefits. On balance, however, benefit programs offering more generous payments to people with zero earnings than to people with comfortable incomes tend to reduce the supply of workers who are willing to accept very low pay.

There are two important exceptions to this generalization: the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and child care subsidies targeted on working parents who earn low incomes. Because benefits under these programs are only payable to low-income families containing a parent who is gainfully employed, this kind of government subsidy encourages adults in eligible families to enter or remain in the job market rather than to drop out of it. By boosting the supply of potential low-wage workers, the two programs can put downward pressure on pay, indirectly benefiting employers who depend on less-skilled workers. Even in these cases, however, the main effect of the aid is to lift the net incomes of breadwinners earning low pay.

Death Penalty Opponents Dishonest Arguments | National Review

Source: Death Penalty Opponents Dishonest Arguments | National Review

Consider the April 17 broadcast of Fox News Channel’s Special Report with Bret Baier (a show on which I am an occasional commentator).

Casey Stegall reported on the legal battle in Arkansas, where officials want to execute eight death-row inmates in eleven days before their supply of midazolam expires. This is one of the drugs used to carry out lethal injections.

Stegall did his legwork. He talked to Susan Khani, the daughter of the woman murdered, execution-style, by Don Davis in 1990. She told Stegall the last quarter century has been agony for her, adding: “He is just a very cruel person. He needs to be put to death.”

Stegall then talked to the usual death-penalty opponents. First was Robert Dunham, of the Death Penalty Information Center, who said, “There is a myth that family members of murder victims will get closure out of executions. In fact, for many of the family members, that does not happen.”

So let’s start there. To say that something is a “myth” is to suggest that it is untrue. The Loch Ness Monster is a myth. Bigfoot is a myth. But on Dunham’s own terms, some family members do get closure. He didn’t say, “No family members of murder victims get closure.” He said “many,” a subjective term that could mean pretty much any number short of “most.”

Stegall then talked to Stacy Anderson, of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is concerned that we might execute the wrong person. “We know that 156 innocent people have been found on death row in the last 20 years,” she said.

Added Stegall: “The ACLU says cost is another driving force of the decline. Litigating death-penalty cases is expensive since the condemned often spend years filing appeals and lawsuits.”

This is also true. But you know what group is arguably most responsible for raising the cost of the death penalty? The American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU is well within its rights to clog the courts with lawsuits. But there’s something remarkably cynical about barraging the courts with often frivolous complaints that raise the costs of the death penalty, then pretending that your objection is the cost.

Indeed, Arkansas is racing to use its drugs before they expire because death-penalty opponents have worked tirelessly to make such drugs extremely difficult to obtain.

The same cynicism applies to concerns about innocent people being wrongly executed. I’m in favor of the death penalty. You know what? I’m also passionately opposed to executing the wrong person.

But Don Davis eventually admitted to murdering Jane Daniels in cold blood after breaking into her home, so objections that some other death-row inmate might be innocent have no bearing on his case.

Ironically, immediately after Stegall’s report, anchor Bret Baier announced: “A massive manhunt is under way at this hour for a suspect who police say engaged in a heinous public crime that can truly be called a sign of the times.”

The suspect was Steve Stephens, the so-called Facebook Killer, who videotaped himself admitting that he was about to murder someone randomly. He then got out of his car, walked up to 74-year-old Robert Godwin, a father of ten and grandfather of 14, and casually executed him. Stephens then posted the video on Facebook.

Stephens killed himself two days later. But say he hadn’t. Obviously, he would have gotten a trial. Let’s suppose he was found guilty and got the death penalty. We would still be subjected to all of the sleight-of-hand rhetoric about the risk of executing innocent people, the costs, etc., even though there would be zero doubt in this instance.

We’d probably also hear that the death penalty is “racist” — Stephens was black — despite the fact that Stephens’s victim was black as well. Meanwhile, Don Davis is white.

It is entirely legitimate and honorable to oppose the death penalty on principle. The problem is that this is a constitutionally ridiculous position given that the plain text of the Constitution itself allows for the death penalty in several places.

Acolytes of the “living Constitution” want to believe that nothing bad (as defined by them) can be constitutional. I don’t think the death penalty is bad, but if you want to get rid of it, amend the Constitution. Otherwise, opponents should stop pretending their real objection is something else.

United Airlines Doctor Dao Scandal Teaches Free-Market Lesson | National Review

Source: United Airlines Doctor Dao Scandal Teaches Free-Market Lesson | National Review

It didn’t take Congress or the president to force these changes. It wasn’t the courts (though lawsuits are pending). We didn’t need a new law or regulation. It was the pressure brought by individual consumers and investors acting on their preferences (and self-interest) in a free market.

This is hardly the first time that companies have had to respond to consumers pressure. From both right and left, consumer boycotts, bad media, and shareholder activism have forced companies to improve workers’ rights, product safety, political bias, the treatment of women and minorities, and more. Neither conservatives nor liberals will always agree with the purpose of such campaigns, but no one can deny that they work. Abuse your customers, they won’t buy from you. Abuse your employees, they won’t work for you. Produce a lousy product, someone else will produce a better one and put you out of business. That’s the power of free-market competition. Produce a lousy product, someone else will produce a better one. That’s the power of free-market competition.

Compare this to how government responds when it fails. We are still waiting for the Veterans Administration to change its behavior or punish those responsible for its various scandals over many years. The public schools fail year after year, decade after decade, and their response is to demand more money and try to prevent parents from going elsewhere.

How late-night comics helped pave the way for President Trump – The Washington Post

Source: How late-night comics helped pave the way for President Trump – The Washington Post

 

Two days before the election, every talking head on television was assuring us that Trump didn’t have a chance, because he lacked a “ground game.” After his victory, one had to wonder whether some part of his ground game had been conducted night after night after night on television, under flattering studio lights and with excellent production values and comedy writing.

Though aimed at blue-state sophisticates, these shows are an unintended but powerful form of propaganda for conservatives. When Republicans see these harsh jokes—which echo down through the morning news shows and the chattering day’s worth of viral clips, along with those of Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers—they don’t just see a handful of comics mocking them. They see HBO, Comedy Central, TBS, ABC, CBS, and NBC. In other words, they see exactly what Donald Trump has taught them: that the entire media landscape loathes them, their values, their family, and their religion. It is hardly a reach for them to further imagine that the legitimate news shows on these channels are run by similarly partisan players—nor is it at all illogical.

I see the same thing in my Facebook feed. A number of otherwise intelligent and sensible people drop into a mindless “auto-loathe” mode when they post about Trump. The more Trump opponents reflexively parrot this hatred of Trump and anyone who supports him, the more convinced I become that I voted the right way.

“That’s how you get more Trump.”

Black Men Speaking Latin – WSJ

Source: Black Men Speaking Latin – WSJ

I wonder if another factor is forming an artificial gang where the peer group focuses on achievement. If you speak Latin, you can use it as a code to communicate with anyone else who speaks Latin. Having a common language, you hang out more with fellow Latin speakers, and these will have very specific interests that don’t involve drugs and crime.

Turns out, too, that the young men of Boys’ Latin have become pretty good at distinguishing their ad hominem from their ad honorem. This month the school received the results on the introductory level National Latin Exam, a test taken last year by students around the world. Among the highlights: Two Boys’ Latin students had perfect scores; 60% of its seventh-graders were recognized for achievement, 20% for outstanding achievement; and the number of Boys’ Latin students who tested above the national average doubled from the year before.

 “I invite anyone who doubts what this does for our students to come to a graduation and watch 100 black boys sharply dressed in caps and gowns and proudly reciting their school pledge in Latin,” says the school’s chief executive officer, David Hardy. “Not only is this an unexpected sight, it defies the low expectations society puts on young black men.”

The traditional arguments for studying Latin are well known. More than half of English words have Latin roots, so students who learn Latin improve their vocabularies and linguistic skills. In addition, the discipline of studying Latin—the logic, the structure, the rigor—helps train young minds to think more clearly and systematically.

….

Why Latin? Partly it’s that the language immediately raises expectations all around. You can’t fake Latin, either. When these boys learn it, they taste the satisfaction that comes from achievement.

Partly it’s the school’s thing. Even if students hate Latin, says Mr. Hardy—maybe especially if they hate it—it’s something everyone at Boys’ Latin goes through, what boot camp at Parris Island is for Marines. It builds identity and esprit de corps.

Joe Biden Says All Drunk Sex Is Rape: ‘It’s Rape. It’s Rape. It’s Rape.’ It’s Not, Though. – Hit & Run : Reason.com

Source: Joe Biden Says All Drunk Sex Is Rape: ‘It’s Rape. It’s Rape. It’s Rape.’ It’s Not, Though. – Hit & Run : Reason.com

But Biden implicitly suggested that all drunk sex is rape. What’s fascinating about this opinion is that practically no one believes it to be true. It doesn’t work, quite obviously, in practice. Drunk couples have sex all the time, and no one believes that these encounters automatically constitute rape. I doubt seriously that most people, or even many people, think cultural norms should be revised so that sex is always off the table the second that alcohol enters the mix. I doubt that even Biden himself thinks this.

And yet the former vice president is proud of the work the Education Department has done to confuse college students about sex and consent. In the interview with Teen Vogue, he expressed concern that the new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, might reverse the Office for Civil Rights’ Obama-era Title IX guidance, which encouraged university administrators to presume that accused males were guilty of sexual misconduct.

“Let me tell you, it bothers me most if Secretary DeVos is going to really dumb down Title IX enforcement,” said Biden. “The real message, the real frightening message you’re going to send out is, our culture says it’s OK.”

But what does it say about our culture if the vice president of the United States—the foremost political advocate of policy changes relating to sexual assault on campus—doesn’t even know what the definition of rape is?

Why not just outlaw all sex and have done with it?