No, I Won’t Check My Privilege | The American Conservative

My privilege is just fine, thank you. You really need to check yours because your “check your privilege” privilege is showing.


Source: No, I Won’t Check My Privilege | The American Conservative

Calling on someone to check his privilege is a cheap form of ad hominem attack. It focuses on the person rather than what they are saying; it asks others to make judgments based on who an individual is rather than the strength of his argument. My response to having my apparent privilege pointed out was outrage. How dare someone with no knowledge of my personal history make such sweeping assumptions? How dare they overlook all my many wonderful arguments and focus instead on my biology, something I have no control over?

The whole idea that privilege can be tallied and each person awarded merits and demerits based on gender, skin color, sexuality, hair type, or body shape is nonsense. It’s racist and sexist in the way it asks us to pre-judge people. It closes down debate: some are told to shut up while others are awarded compensatory speaking points. Discussion stops being about facts or even contested opinions and instead becomes a trading of competing claims to victimhood. In fact, if every view is predetermined by our inherent privilege then there is no need to discuss or debate at all. Our discussions can never move beyond the accidents of our birth.

The cry of “Check your privilege!” is a well-worn rhetorical trick that manages simultaneously to undermine an argument, detract from the speaker, and shut down further discussion. It’s long past its sell-by date and should be put out of its misery entirely.

When does correlation imply cause?

If correlation doesn’t imply causation, then what does?

Of course, while it’s all very well to piously state that correlation doesn’t imply causation, it does leave us with a conundrum: under what conditions, exactly, can we use experimental data to deduce a causal relationship between two or more variables?

The standard scientific answer to this question is that (with some caveats) we can infer causality from a well designed randomized controlled experiment. Unfortunately, while this answer is satisfying in principle and sometimes useful in practice, it’s often impractical or impossible to do a randomized controlled experiment. And so we’re left with the question of whether there are other procedures we can use to infer causality from experimental data. And, given that we can find more general procedures for inferring causal relationships, what does causality mean, anyway, for how we reason about a system?

It might seem that the answers to such fundamental questions would have been settled long ago. In fact, they turn out to be surprisingly subtle questions. Over the past few decades, a group of scientists have developed a theory of causal inference intended to address these and other related questions. This theory can be thought of as an algebra or language for reasoning about cause and effect. Many elements of the theory have been laid out in a famous book by one of the main contributors to the theory, Judea Pearl. Although the theory of causal inference is not yet fully formed, and is still undergoing development, what has already been accomplished is interesting and worth understanding.

In this post I will describe one small but important part of the theory of causal inference, a causal calculus developed by Pearl. This causal calculus is a set of three simple but powerful algebraic rules which can be used to make inferences about causal relationships. In particular, I’ll explain how the causal calculus can sometimes (but not always!) be used to infer causation from a set of data, even when a randomized controlled experiment is not possible. Also in the post, I’ll describe some of the limits of the causal calculus, and some of my own speculations and questions.

The post is a little technically detailed at points. However, the first three sections of the post are non-technical, and I hope will be of broad interest. Throughout the post I’ve included occasional “Problems for the author”, where I describe problems I’d like to solve, or things I’d like to understand better. Feel free to ignore these if you find them distracting, but I hope they’ll give you some sense of what I find interesting about the subject. Incidentally, I’m sure many of these problems have already been solved by others; I’m not claiming that these are all open research problems, although perhaps some are. They’re simply things I’d like to understand better. Also in the post I’ve included some exercises for the reader, and some slightly harder problems for the reader. You may find it informative to work through these exercises and problems.

Before diving in, one final caveat: I am not an expert on causal inference, nor on statistics. The reason I wrote this post was to help me internalize the ideas of the causal calculus. Occasionally, one finds a presentation of a technical subject which is beautifully clear and illuminating, a presentation where the author has seen right through the subject, and is able to convey that crystalized understanding to others. That’s a great aspirational goal, but I don’t yet have that understanding of causal inference, and these notes don’t meet that standard. Nonetheless, I hope others will find my notes useful, and that experts will speak up to correct any errors or misapprehensions on my part.

Simpson’s paradox
Let me start by explaining two example problems to illustrate some of the difficulties we run into when making inferences about causality. The first is known as Simpson’s paradox. To explain Simpson’s paradox I’ll use a concrete example based on the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the United States in 1964.

In the US House of Representatives, 61 percent of Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act, while a much higher percentage, 80 percent, of Republicans voted for the Act. You might think that we could conclude from this that being Republican, rather than Democrat, was an important factor in causing someone to vote for the Civil Rights Act. However, the picture changes if we include an additional factor in the analysis, namely, whether a legislator came from a Northern or Southern state. If we include that extra factor, the situation completely reverses, in both the North and the South. Here’s how it breaks down:

North: Democrat (94 percent), Republican (85 percent)

South: Democrat (7 percent), Republican (0 percent)

Yes, you read that right: in both the North and the South, a larger fraction of Democrats than Republicans voted for the Act, despite the fact that overall a larger fraction of Republicans than Democrats voted for the Act.

You might wonder how this can possibly be true. I’ll quickly state the raw voting numbers, so you can check that the arithmetic works out, and then I’ll explain why it’s true. You can skip the numbers if you trust my arithmetic.

North: Democrat (145/154, 94 percent), Republican (138/162, 85 percent)

South: Democrat (7/94, 7 percent), Republican (0/10, 0 percent)

Overall: Democrat (152/248, 61 percent), Republican (138/172, 80 percent)

One way of understanding what’s going on is to note that a far greater proportion of Democrat (as opposed to Republican) legislators were from the South. In fact, at the time the House had 94 Democrats, and only 10 Republicans. Because of this enormous difference, the very low fraction (7 percent) of southern Democrats voting for the Act dragged down the Democrats’ overall percentage much more than did the even lower fraction (0 percent) of southern Republicans who voted for the Act.

(The numbers above are for the House of Congress. The numbers were different in the Senate, but the same overall phenomenon occurred. I’ve taken the numbers from Wikipedia’s article about Simpson’s paradox, and there are more details there.)

If we take a naive causal point of view, this result looks like a paradox. As I said above, the overall voting pattern seems to suggest that being Republican, rather than Democrat, was an important causal factor in voting for the Civil Rights Act. Yet if we look at the individual statistics in both the North and the South, then we’d come to the exact opposite conclusion. To state the same result more abstractly, Simpson’s paradox is the fact that the correlation between two variables can actually be reversed when additional factors are considered. So two variables which appear correlated can become anticorrelated when another factor is taken into account.

You might wonder if results like those we saw in voting on the Civil Rights Act are simply an unusual fluke. But, in fact, this is not that uncommon. Wikipedia’s page on Simpson’s paradox lists many important and similar real-world examples ranging from understanding whether there is gender-bias in university admissions to which treatment works best for kidney stones. In each case, understanding the causal relationships turns out to be much more complex than one might at first think.

Causal models
To help address problems like the two example problems just discussed, Pearl introduced a causal calculus. In the remainder of this post, I will explain the rules of the causal calculus, and use them to analyse the smoking-cancer connection. We’ll see that even without doing a randomized controlled experiment it’s possible (with the aid of some reasonable assumptions) to infer what the outcome of a randomized controlled experiment would have been, using only relatively easily accessible experimental data, data that doesn’t require experimental intervention to force people to smoke or not, but which can be obtained from purely observational studies.

To state the rules of the causal calculus, we’ll need several background ideas. I’ll explain those ideas over the next three sections of this post. The ideas are causal models (covered in this section), causal conditional probabilities, and d-separation, respectively. It’s a lot to swallow, but the ideas are powerful, and worth taking the time to understand. With these notions under our belts, we’ll able to understand the rules of the causal calculus

Read the blog post for the rest, with diagrams.

WILLIAMS: Kanye And Democrats | Daily Wire

Source: WILLIAMS: Kanye And Democrats | Daily Wire

In the aftermath of the Kanye West dust-up, my heart goes out to the white people who control the Democratic Party. My pity stems from the hip-hop megastar’s November announcement to his packed concert audience that he did not vote in the presidential election but if he had, he would have voted for Donald Trump. Then, on April 21, West took to his Twitter account, which has 28 million followers, to announce, “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.” Owens is Turning Point USA’s director of urban engagement and has said that former President Barack Obama caused “damage” to race relations in the United States during his two terms in office.

West’s support for Trump, along with his criticism of the “plantation” mentality of the Democratic Party, has been met with vicious backlash from the left. In one song, West raps, “See, that’s the problem with this damn nation. All blacks gotta be Democrats. Man, we ain’t made it off the plantation.” Rep. Maxine Waters said West “talks out of turn” and advised, “He should think twice about politics — and maybe not have so much to say.” The bottom-line sin that West has committed is questioning the hegemony of the Democratic Party among black Americans. The backlash has been so bad that West had to hire personal security to protect him against threats made against his life. Fortunately, the police are investigating those threats.

Kanye West is not saying anything different from what Dr. Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Jason Riley, I and other black libertarians/conservatives have been saying for decades. In fact, West has tweeted quotations from Sowell, such as “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it” and “The most basic question is not what is best but who shall decide what is best.” Tweeting those Sowell quotations represents the highest order of blasphemy in the eyes of leftists.

The big difference between black libertarians/conservatives and West is that he has 28 million Twitter followers and a huge audience of listeners whereas few blacks have even heard of libertarian/conservative blacks outside of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (I might add in passing that Dr. Thomas Sowell is one of the nation’s most distinguished and accomplished scholars alive today.)

The Kanye problem for the Democratic Party is that if the party doesn’t keep blacks in line and it loses even 20 to 25 percent of the black vote, it can kiss any hope of winning any presidential and many congressional elections goodbye. Democrats may have already seen that threat. That’s why they support illegal immigration and voting rights for noncitizens. Immigrants from south of the border who are here illegally may be seen as either a replacement for or a guarantee against the disaster of losing the black vote.

Keeping blacks blind to the folly of unquestioned support for the Democratic Party by keeping blacks fearful, angry and resentful and painting the Republican Party as racist is vital. Democrats never want blacks to seriously ask questions about what the party has done for them. Here are some facts. The nation’s most troublesome and dangerous cities — Indianapolis, Stockton, Oakland, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Kansas City, Baltimore, Memphis, St. Louis and Detroit — have been run by Democrats, often black Democrats, for nearly a half-century. These and other Democratic-run cities are where blacks suffer the highest murder rates and their youngsters attend the poorest-performing and most unsafe schools.

Democrats could never afford for a large number of black people to observe, “We’ve been putting you in charge of our cities for decades. We even put a black Democrat in the White House. And what has it meant for us? Plus, the president you told us to hate has our unemployment rate near a record low.” It turns out that it’s black votes that count more to black and white politicians than black well-being, black academic excellence and black lives. As for black politicians and civil rights leaders, if they’re going to sell their people down the river to keep Democrats in power, they ought to demand a higher price.

But Blaming the Jews is So Much Easier!!!

New report: “false promises made by [Arab] leaders and political elites” created Palestinian Nakba
Source: Legal Insurrection

Last week on May 15th was Nakba Day, when Palestinians and their supporters mourn what they call the ‘catastrophe’ of the modern Jewish state’s establishment, mark the displacement of some 750,000 Arabs in 1948, and call for the ‘right’ of return of the Palestinian refugees to their lost homes in present-day Israel.

There are many reasons that hundreds of thousands of Arabs were displaced in 1948—but as we highlighted in a recent post, chief among them was the fear of being harmed by the approaching Zionist forces.

Basically, people fled in terror because they were led to believe, by their own leaders, that the Zionists would slaughter them like they allegedly did in the Arab village of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948, even though no massacre ever took place there.

These are important facts for anyone interested in Nakba Day and the origins of the Palestinian refugee problem to know, and there’s a new Hebrew-language book by renowned Israeli historian Eliezer Tauber that provides them.

But, as we discussed in our prior post, American scholars and students won’t be able to learn about it. That’s because Tauber can’t manage to land a U.S. academic press contract on account of virulently anti-Israel faculty reviewers of his manuscript who don’t want the truth to come out, lest it upend their own narrative about these historical events, Silencing History: U.S. University Publishers Shun Book ‘Ending the Deir Yassin Myth’.

Tauber’s meticulous research about what really happened at Deir Yassin needs to reach a larger audience, especially because new material keeps coming to light that corroborates his central findings.

Last week, for example, on the day after Nakba Day, the watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) published a bulletin that adds important evidence clarifying why Arabs fled their homes in 1948, and provides further support for Tauber’s key claim: the true story of the 1948 Palestinian exodus is one of a massive flight caused not by any Zionist plan to expel the Arabs, but by the propaganda and lies produced by their own leaders.


On March 16th Pal Media Watch released an exclusive video compilation of over a dozen personal stories told by Palestinian refugees who lived through Israel’s War of Independence. It’s a short 7 minute video that’s well worth watching (a full transcript of the testimonies is also available here):


The video aims to explain what caused the Palestinian refugee problem and why hundreds of thousands of Arabs ended up leaving their homes during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

It includes 13 translated testimonies by Palestinian refugees who lived in different parts of the country at the time. Despite those differences, there’s a “common denominator” to the personal stories recounted: none of the Palestinians interviewed claims to have been pushed out by Israel’s armed forces, and instead the focus is on what Arab leaders told them to do.

Many of those interviewed claimed that they were following the orders of leaders to evacuate their homes temporarily after which point they were told that they could return with the victorious Arab armies.

Others claim—as Prof. Elizer Tauber describes in his book—that they made the decision to flee with their families because of the “fear of the coming battles” and in particular because of the cruel ‘massacre’ that they heard had happened at Deir Yassin:

Why I left Allar – Orders of Arab army – “Leave…then you will return”

Ali Muhammad Karake: “When news reached us that the Jews were nearing our village, the Arab [Salvation] Army – may Allah protect them – came and said: ‘Leave the village so it won’t happen to you, like Deir Yassin. They slaughter, and do things.’ They said: ‘Leave, but don’t go far from the village because they [the Jews] will make a short visit to the village, leave, and then you’ll return to the village.’ The people left with nothing, even without bread and went into the mountains, and pitched [tents].”

[Al-Quds daily YouTube channel, May 17, 2016]

Significant Points from “How we really became refugees: 13 Palestinians tell their personal stories”

There are a few interesting takeaways from PMW’s new video of Palestinian refugee testimonies.

First, the refugees recounting their stories all express bitterness over the “false promises” of the Arab leaders at the time. The refugees each lament being so gullible as to believe what the Arab regimes and army commanders kept repeating to them—that they’d be returning to their homes “after a few hours.” Many describe how, because they so earnestly believed the political elites who assured them that they’d only be gone for a few days, they even “left their money and gold behind” and “flocks of sheep” in the pastures.

Second, the personal stories of these refugees—which describe large-scale population movements, such as the flight from major cities like Safed and Jaffa—depict Arab armies that planned to exact a ruthless price on the Zionists. In one testimony from 2008, for instance, a Palestinian journalist claims that Arab officers told him that they had “come in order to exterminate the Zionists and their state.” Other testimonies confirm that army commanders, leaders, and elites wanted the “battlefields cleared” of Arab civilians. Basically, they were told to “get out of the way” so that they wouldn’t impede the troops and so that the “fighting [against Israel] would succeed.”

Third, while many of the testimonies suggest that the Palestinian Arabs left their homes “out of fear,” at least one says that the Jews offered him and his fellow villagers the chance to stay in Israel. Recorded on official PA TV back in 2013, one Palestinian refugee claims that the “Jews gave us choices,” including the option to “hand over your weapons and stay on your land and live the way you live.”

Lastly, the testimonies that PMW has compiled are all “presented openly” by the refugees themselves, and have been featured for years in official Palestinian Authority media. It’s important to note that some of the testimonies are by people in current leadership positions in the PA. Even PA President Mahmoud Abbas makes a cameo appearance, explaining why his family along with others from Safed made the decision to leave in 1948.

As author of the bulletin, PMW’s Itamar Marcus, notes:

All of this suggests that awareness of Arab responsibility for the refugee problem must be widespread among the Palestinian population—even though Palestinian leaders refuse to accept responsibility in international forum.”


In a recent op-ed, Times of Israel editor David Horovitz insists that the international community needs to tell Gaza’s “Hamas-abused masses” the truth, namely that they don’t have a ‘right’ of return and a ‘return’ will not happen:

After Monday’s terrible violence and loss of Palestinian life on the Gaza border, the world owes the Palestinians some painful but simple truths…What the [Hamas] terror group calls ‘Palestine’—i.e. Israel—is not going to be ‘liberated.’ Majority-Jewish Israel isn’t going anywhere. Most specifically, given the current Hamas tactic for bringing Gazans to the border, the ‘refugees,’ in their ostensible millions, are not going to ‘return.’…The world…owes it to the Palestinians to make clear that Israel will not be required or pressured to commit national suicide as a Jewish state by absorbing millions of descendants of Palestinians who used to live in what is today’s Israel.”

Horovitz suggests that a “straightforward means” for shattering the illusion of a ‘right’ of return is to correct the definition and classification of Palestinian refugees designated by UNRWA (the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine).

That’s a good place to start.

For 70 years UNRWA has fueled an unrealistic hope and has encouraged millions of Palestinians to “dream” of a ‘right’ of return, because unlike every other refugee population on the planet, UNRWA allowed Palestinians to inherit refugee status. In preventing peace and reasonable compromise, it’s a false hope that’s been even more devastating for the Palestinians than the pack of lies and false promises told to them by their own leaders back in 1948.

Bottom line: The tens of thousands of Gazans participating in the violent Hamas-instigated ‘March of Return’ likely really do believe that their grandparents and great-grandparents were unjustly expelled by Israel in 1948 and that they now have every right to return to ‘Palestine’ and undo the Jewish state. But PMW’s new video compilation of refugee testimonies underscores that most Palestinians probably know deep down that Arab elites and armies were largely to blame for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem, and not Israel. So the ‘right of return’ is unfounded and the personal stories of the Palestinian refugees themselves provides the proof.

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElman

They hate you. They really, really hate you.

Enjoy the lack of self-awareness found in the most popular Progressive comments to a Times op-ed warning against the dangers of Trump Derangement Syndrome. One of the joys in life during the Trump era is watching Progressives decompensate and self-destruct. All their rhetoric about inclusiveness, spiritual generosity, intellectual superiority has always been merely a thin…

via Progressives hysterically protest article telling them to be less hysterical — Bookworm Room


School Choice: Reporting vs Editorializing

From Real Clear Education

We tallied the number of major media news stories and editorials that mentioned each of these studies. We searched one international source (The Economist) and five national sources (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times). In each case, keyword searches included combinations of the researcher(s), the school choice program, and the location studied. To ensure consistency, we utilized the search engine LexisNexis, a database that collects news articles from national and international news outlets.

What did we find? It turns out that news stories in these outlets played no favorites when covering school choice research. Thirteen news stories cited a “positive” study and 15 referenced a “negative” study. While some kinds of studies received much more attention than others, coverage was relatively balanced within the five pairs. The coverage was also relatively balanced for each of the various outlets. For example, The New York Times published two articles referencing a positive study and three articles referencing a negative study; for The Washington Post, the figures were five and three.

While the news coverage was quite balanced, the editorial pages were another story. Editorials and op-eds in these newspapers mentioned negative school choice studies twice as often as they did positive studies, with 36 mentions of negative studies compared to 18 of positive studies. Newspaper editorials featured 18 mentions of negative studies versus only eight mentions of positive studies, and about the same ratio was evident across columns and op-eds.

So, major media news coverage appears to be largely impartial when reporting on research in the contested field of school choice. At the same time, the editorial staffs at the most influential newspapers have clearly opted (as is their right) to tout negative research findings much more frequently than positive ones. Given that editorials reference school choice research findings at a substantially higher rate than does news coverage, it’s easy to see why some observers may regard media coverage as tilted, even when news coverage itself is not. When the nation’s most influential newsrooms play favorites, they should be called out. We’ve done that before. But it’s also fair to give due credit when reporters play it straight, as they have when it comes to school choice research.