Sacred Cattle and Bias

 

People Are Questioning Your Sacred Cows? Listen Up

There’s good reason to scrutinize claims like the Roy Moore mall story. It’s certainly not to protect a pedophile.

I’m skeptical about the mall story. No one in the New Yorker story seems to have been directly involved with the alleged mall ban; every source who was willing (even eager) to talk seems to have heard the story from someone else. It seems probable that there was a rumor floating around that Moore was banned from the mall; it seems possible that this rumor was even true. But it’s also possible it’s false. Those of us over a certain age will remember how many compelling, yet false, urban legends we believed before Snopes.com was invented. And who was the source for every one of those legends? That stalwart figure, “a friend of a friend.”

So without better confirmation than “35 years ago, I heard from a guy that Roy Moore got banned from the mall,” I will withhold judgment on whether Moore was actually banned. I tweeted as much after I read the New Yorker story. And was immediately inundated with aggressive accusations of covering up for a child molester and general partisan hackery.

I am not generally identified as a member of Team Trump, much less Team Roy Moore. Indeed, prior to my tweet about the mall story, I’d been saying some fairly astringent things about the people who were attacking Moore’s accusers — or worse, saying “But Democrats covered for Bill Clinton!” I just didn’t happen to think this particular story was very strong.

I also didn’t think it particularly mattered. If Moore did everything he has been credibly accused of, would we be inclined to give him a pass because that supreme judicial authority, the mall of Gadsden, Alabama, never got around to banning him?

But as I attempted to explain why this story looks weak to a lot of journalists (I was not the only one who noticed the thin sourcing), I began to understand why I’d triggered such outrage. Because several people asked me some version of the same question: “Why would you even question this story?” In their minds, it was clear that there could be only one reason: because I was trying to somehow salvage Moore’s candidacy.

I get asked this question a lot these days. Why would you even argue about rape statistics, when we know that rape is a problem? Why would you give even a moment’s consideration to those who theorize that global warming could be moderate rather than catastrophic? Why would you raise questions about that terrible gang rape at UVA?

My interlocutors have a point: We all make choices about which assertions we interrogate, and which we accept on easy faith. And because we are biased, we tend to interrogate most ruthlessly the inconvenient claims that stand in the way of something we’d very much like to believe. When someone casts doubt on a politically charged story, it’s not crazy to infer an ulterior ideological motive (even though in this particular case involving my qualms about that Roy Moore mall story, this inference was dead wrong).

But if we are committed to believing only things that are likely to be true, then how much does the motive of a questioner really matter? I’d argue “not much.” Knowing someone’s political commitments tells you that they are likely to accept evidence for some propositions more easily than for others. But it does not tell you that their analysis is wrong.

To the contrary, partisans with an axe to grind are often the people who see what others don’t. The faked Second Amendment scholarship of Michael Bellesiles, the forgeries that suggested Bush had gone AWOL during Vietnam, the imaginary gang rape at a UVA fraternity — in all cases, the people who raised questions were dismissed as cranks and partisans, and often this was actually true. And yet, they were the ones seeing clearly, while the people questioning their motives were not.

Truth is powerful stuff; it can be bottled up for just so long before it bursts its container and splatters all over the place. And when that happens, the revelation of the lie hurts the credibility of everyone who embraced it — and harms the very cause they thought they were helping.

So instead of labeling folks as partisan and dismissing their questions, we should embrace a tough critique regardless of its source. You have your blind spots, just like they have theirs. By overlaying their world view onto yours, you may be able to get a fuller picture. You’ll get closer to the truth by listening to people who see the world very differently from you, especially the ones who ask questions that make you uncomfortable. If what you believe is true, their objections can only refine your ideas into something stronger. And if what you believe is false — well, it’s better to find out quick.

Judeo-Christian Values

Dennis Prager has written a great deal on Judeo-Christian values, which he considers one of the underpinnings of American civilization. Many people have an almost reflexive aversion to the term “Judeo-Christian” and will leap to oppose the term. Judaism and Christianity are different religions, they will point out, which means there can be no such thing as Judeo-Christian anything.

Dennis Prager wrote a set of 22 essays on the subject, including what values he identifies as particularly Judeo-Christian. There’s one website I’ve found that has the essays conveniently in one place.

The Case for Judeo-Christian Values

One thing I think doesn’t get enough attention is the meta-law in Judaism. The Torah could have been interpreted in ways to make Judaism just as oppressive as Jihadist Islam. Instead, the rabbis have a history of interpreting laws so that the harshest penalties are literally impossible to invoke. One example is the ongoing arguments between Hillel and Shammai, and how much more restrictive Judaism would have been had Shammai carried the day.

One could make the case for this as an underlying current that drives the course of religious doctrine and practice. Because it’s not written down anywhere, it can be ignored. Individuals and institutions can swim against the current, at least for a while, but the current eventually overcomes all.

About those judges

I’m seeing posts on Facebook declaring that at least some of Trump’s judicial picks lack requisite experience.

Not so fast…

Consider the ABA’s “not qualified” rating of Leonard Steven Grasz, a Nebraska attorney nominated to the appeals court. The ABA claims Grasz is unfit because of his “deeply held social agenda.” During his 11 years as Nebraska’s chief deputy attorney general, he defended many of the state’s laws, including a ban on partial-birth abortion. Defending that law was his job.

Opposing any limit on abortion is enough to outrage pro-choice activist Cynthia Nance, the law professor who led Grasz’s recent ABA review. She stooped to grilling him on why he sends his children to religious schools — an out-of-bounds question — instead of sticking to probing his legal philosophy. Apparently, being religious is disqualifying.

Grasz reiterated his “solemn obligation” to put aside personal views and “faithfully apply” Supreme Court precedent. Astonishingly, that’s an assurance the left rejects. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), argues “there’s simply no way to prevent a judge’s … personal beliefs from influencing” rulings. The conclusion is obvious. To Democrats like Whitehouse, only nominees with left-wing agendas are acceptable.

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Another nominee rated “unqualified” by the ABA is Brett Talley, Trump’s nominee for a federal district court in Alabama. Last Thursday, Talley won Senate Judiciary Committee approval despite the ABA’s claim that Talley lacks “requisite trial experience.”

In truth, Talley is superbly qualified — with a law degree from Harvard, clerkships at the trial and appeals court level, litigation experience in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and a stint as Alabama’s deputy solicitor general. He’s got about as much trial experience as Justice Elena Kagan, rated “well qualified” by the ABA when President Obama nominated her to the highest court.

What’s Talley’s real problem? His political views and Trump connections. (His wife is chief of staff to the White House counsel, a fact he should have disclosed sooner.) Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) grilled Talley about abortion, gun control, gay marriage and his disdain for Hillary Clinton — whom he once dubbed “Hillary Rotten Clinton” on Twitter.

Imprudent maybe, but hardly in the league with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comment to The New York Times that she couldn’t “imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president.”

Talley assured senators he would “never allow personal opinions or experiences to justify a departure from the law.” When Whitehouse said courts need judges who empathize with what it’s like to be a teenage mom, African-American, gay or poor, Talley shot back that everyone appearing in front of a federal judge deserves empathy.

Back in 2013, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) chastised Senate Republicans for opposing Obama’s female nominees, arguing the court needs more women. But hypocrisy is on display now, with Warren and fellow Democrats attacking Trump’s female nominees.

Amy Barrett, nominated to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, got hammered for her Catholicism. Feinstein suggested Barrett’s religion “lives loudly within” her, making her unfit. The University of Notre Dame’s president warned that “it is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge.”

Millions voted for Trump because he pledged to appoint judges who would uphold the Constitution, not invent law to advance a social agenda. Twenty-one percent of Trump voters called it their highest priority. But the ABA and other activists aren’t surrendering their grip on the courts without a fight. Remember that when you hear the smears about “unfit” nominees.

Freeman Dyson on ‘heretical’ thoughts about global warmimg

By Freeman Dyson

My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak.

But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in.

The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

-{….}-

2. Climate and Land Management

The main subject of this piece is the problem of climate change. This is a contentious subject, involving politics and economics as well as science. The science is inextricably mixed up with politics. Everyone agrees that the climate is changing, but there are violently diverging opinions about the causes of change, about the consequences of change, and about possible remedies. I am promoting a heretical opinion, the first of three heresies that I will discuss in this piece.

My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

There is no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global. I am not saying that the warming does not cause problems. Obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it better. I am saying that the problems are grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from other problems that are more urgent and more important, such as poverty and infectious disease and public education and public health, and the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans, not to mention easy problems such as the timely construction of adequate dikes around the city of New Orleans.

I will discuss the global warming problem in detail because it is interesting, even though its importance is exaggerated. One of the main causes of warming is the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting from our burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal and natural gas. To understand the movement of carbon through the atmosphere and biosphere, we need to measure a lot of numbers. I do not want to confuse you with a lot of numbers, so I will ask you to remember just one number. The number that I ask you to remember is one hundredth of an inch per year. Now I will explain what this number means. Consider the half of the land area of the earth that is not desert or ice-cap or city or road or parking-lot. This is the half of the land that is covered with soil and supports vegetation of one kind or another. Every year, it absorbs and converts into biomass a certain fraction of the carbon dioxide that we emit into the atmosphere. Biomass means living creatures, plants and microbes and animals, and the organic materials that are left behind when the creatures die and decay. We don’t know how big a fraction of our emissions is absorbed by the land, since we have not measured the increase or decrease of the biomass. The number that I ask you to remember is the increase in thickness, averaged over one half of the land area of the planet, of the biomass that would result if all the carbon that we are emitting by burning fossil fuels were absorbed. The average increase in thickness is one hundredth of an inch per year.

The point of this calculation is the very favorable rate of exchange between carbon in the atmosphere and carbon in the soil. To stop the carbon in the atmosphere from increasing, we only need to grow the biomass in the soil by a hundredth of an inch per year. Good topsoil contains about ten percent biomass, [Schlesinger, 1977], so a hundredth of an inch of biomass growth means about a tenth of an inch of topsoil. Changes in farming practices such as no-till farming, avoiding the use of the plow, cause biomass to grow at least as fast as this. If we plant crops without plowing the soil, more of the biomass goes into roots which stay in the soil, and less returns to the atmosphere. If we use genetic engineering to put more biomass into roots, we can probably achieve much more rapid growth of topsoil. I conclude from this calculation that the problem of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a problem of land management, not a problem of meteorology. No computer model of atmosphere and ocean can hope to predict the way we shall manage our land.

Here is another heretical thought. Instead of calculating world-wide averages of biomass growth, we may prefer to look at the problem locally. Consider a possible future, with China continuing to develop an industrial economy based largely on the burning of coal, and the United States deciding to absorb the resulting carbon dioxide by increasing the biomass in our topsoil. The quantity of biomass that can be accumulated in living plants and trees is limited, but there is no limit to the quantity that can be stored in topsoil. To grow topsoil on a massive scale may or may not be practical, depending on the economics of farming and forestry. It is at least a possibility to be seriously considered, that China could become rich by burning coal, while the United States could become environmentally virtuous by accumulating topsoil, with transport of carbon from mine in China to soil in America provided free of charge by the atmosphere, and the inventory of carbon in the atmosphere remaining constant. We should take such possibilities into account when we listen to predictions about climate change and fossil fuels. If biotechnology takes over the planet in the next fifty years, as computer technology has taken it over in the last fifty years, the rules of the climate game will be radically changed.

Read his entire essay here It is well worth your time.

 

Bourgeois Culture

An editorial linked from Tax Prof Blog:

Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more raised are by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.

That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime. …

Would the re-embrace of bourgeois norms by the ordinary Americans who have abandoned them significantly reduce society’s pathologies? There is every reason to believe so. Among those who currently follow the old precepts, regardless of their level of education or affluence, the homicide rate is tiny, opioid addiction is rare, and poverty rates are low. Those who live by the simple rules that most people used to accept may not end up rich or hold elite jobs, but their lives will go far better than they do now. All schools and neighborhoods would be much safer and more pleasant. More students from all walks of life would be educated for constructive employment and democratic participation.

But restoring the hegemony of the bourgeois culture will require the arbiters of culture — the academics, media, and Hollywood — to relinquish multicultural grievance polemics and the preening pretense of defending the downtrodden. Instead of bashing the bourgeois culture, they should return to the 1950s posture of celebrating it.

These basic cultural precepts reigned from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. They could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement. Adherence was a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.

The Victim Card is Overdrawn

Shelby Steele writes in the Wall Street Journal that the well of white guilt is running dry.

America, since the ’60s, has lived through what might be called an age of white guilt. We may still be in this age, but the Trump election suggests an exhaustion with the idea of white guilt, and with the drama of culpability, innocence and correctness in which it mires us.

White guilt is not actual guilt. Surely most whites are not assailed in the night by feelings of responsibility for America’s historical mistreatment of minorities. Moreover, all the actual guilt in the world would never be enough to support the hegemonic power that the mere pretense of guilt has exercised in American life for the last half-century.

White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The terror of this, of having “no name in the street” as the Bible puts it, pressures whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt. White guilt is a mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret.

It is also the heart and soul of contemporary liberalism. This liberalism is the politics given to us by white guilt, and it shares white guilt’s central corruption. It is not real liberalism, in the classic sense. It is a mock liberalism. Freedom is not its raison d’être; moral authority is.

When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy. (Conservatism, focused on freedom and wealth, had little moral clout.) From that followed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics, environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult and so on.

This was the circumstance in which innocence of America’s bigotries and dissociation from the American past became a currency of hardcore political power. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, good liberals both, pursued power by offering their candidacies as opportunities for Americans to document their innocence of the nation’s past. “I had to vote for Obama,” a rock-ribbed Republican said to me. “I couldn’t tell my grandson that I didn’t vote for the first black president.”

For this man liberalism was a moral vaccine that immunized him against stigmatization. For Mr. Obama it was raw political power in the real world, enough to lift him—unknown and untested—into the presidency. But for Mrs. Clinton, liberalism was not enough. The white guilt that lifted Mr. Obama did not carry her into office—even though her opponent was soundly stigmatized as an iconic racist and sexist.

Perhaps the Obama presidency was the culmination of the age of white guilt, so that this guiltiness has entered its denouement. There are so many public moments now in which liberalism’s old weapon of stigmatization shoots blanks— Elizabeth Warren in the Senate reading a 30-year-old letter by Coretta Scott King, hoping to stop Jeff Sessions’s appointment as attorney general. There it was with deadly predictability: a white liberal stealing moral authority from a black heroine in order to stigmatize a white male as racist. When Ms. Warren was finally told to sit, there was real mortification behind her glaring eyes.

This liberalism evolved within a society shamed by its past. But that shame has weakened now. Our new conservative president rolls his eyes when he is called a racist, and we all—liberal and conservative alike—know that he isn’t one. The jig is up. Bigotry exists, but it is far down on the list of problems that minorities now face. I grew up black in segregated America, where it was hard to find an open door. It’s harder now for young blacks to find a closed one.

This is the reality that made Ms. Warren’s attack on Mr. Sessions so tiresome. And it is what caused so many Democrats at President Trump’s address to Congress to look a little mortified, defiantly proud but dark with doubt. The sight of them was a profound moment in American political history.

Today’s liberalism is an anachronism. It has no understanding, really, of what poverty is and how it has to be overcome. It has no grip whatever on what American exceptionalism is and what it means at home and especially abroad. Instead it remains defined by an America of 1965—an America newly opening itself to its sins, an America of genuine goodwill, yet lacking in self-knowledge.

This liberalism came into being not as an ideology but as an identity. It offered Americans moral esteem against the specter of American shame. This made for a liberalism devoted to the idea of American shamefulness. Without an ugly America to loathe, there is no automatic esteem to receive. Thus liberalism’s unrelenting current of anti-Americanism.

Let’s stipulate that, given our history, this liberalism is understandable. But American liberalism never acknowledged that it was about white esteem rather than minority accomplishment. Four thousand shootings in Chicago last year, and the mayor announces that his will be a sanctuary city. This is moral esteem over reality; the self-congratulation of idealism. Liberalism is exhausted because it has become a corruption.

“Tax Cuts for the Rich”

Thomas Sowell pops out of retirement long enough to address this, once again.

The hardest of these hard facts is that the revenues collected from federal income taxes during every year of the Reagan administration were higher than the revenues collected from federal income taxes during any year of any previous administration.

How can that be? Because tax RATES and tax REVENUES are two different things. Tax rates and tax revenues can move in either the same direction or in opposite directions, depending on how the economy responds.

But why should you take my word for it that federal income tax revenues were higher than before during the Reagan administration? Check it out.

Official statistics are available in many places. The easiest way to find those statistics is to go look at a copy of the annual “Economic Report of the President.” It doesn’t have to be the latest Report under President Trump. It can be a Report from any administration, from the Obama administration all the way back to the administration of the elder George Bush.

Each annual “Economic Report of the President” has the history of federal revenues and expenditures, going back for decades. And that is just one of the places where you can get this data. The truth is readily available, if you want it. But, if you are satisfied with political rhetoric, so be it.

What is the Alt Right » John C. Wright’s Journal

Source: What is the Alt Right » John C. Wright’s Journal

I suspect the “Alt Right” is more of a fuzzy set. Some people, groups, and ideas definitely belong inside the set, others definitely belong outside, and some are located somewhere along a very fuzzy line.

To make matters worse, there are any number of folks with a vested interest in placing third parties either in or out of the “Alt Right”. For example, Democrats seem to want to expand “Alt Right” to encompass anyone who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton for President.