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Saletan’s Finale

[ 0 ] November 21, 2007 |

And after all that, nothing. Saletan writes two columns purporting to demonstrate not simply that African-Americans are inherently intellectually inferior to whites, but that liberals who question this finding are anti-science. In other words, the science is so compelling that any argument against the racial inferiority hypothesis must be generated by political, rather than scientific, considerations.

And so, now that we have this finding, what are the implications for public policy? Surely, demonstrating the intellectual inferiority of Africans should have a significant impact of various public policy choices. Our foreign aid strategy should change, because sending money to Africa based on the assumption that Africans are capable of understanding complex concepts like “economics” is surely a waste. The implications for immigration are clear; more Asians and Europeans, fewer Africans. While Saletan suggests that race mixing can bring blacks up to white intellectual levels, it would be irresponsible not to consider that the opposite might happen; miscegenation, on average, is going to result in a child intellectually inferior to its white counterparts. Family assistance and affirmative action will need to be radically restructured, if not eliminated entirely.

What? Saletan doesn’t propose any of that? Why not? Really, if the science is as compelling as Saletan claims, it would be absurd not to use the findings to guide public policy. Yet, Saletan specifically discounts the idea of using this race science to guide policy. Again, why? It’s almost as if Saletan doesn’t really believe everything that he’s just argued. It’s almost as if his grasp on the science is so shaky that he has no confidence in the claims that he’s supporting. Indeed, it’s almost as if he wrote the columns solely as an exercise in angering liberals.

Yglesias points out the genuine strangeness of all this:

Saletan and my bloggy colleagues seem to have convinced themselves that there’s overwhelming opposition in public opinion to the view that whites are intrinsically smarter than blacks and also that there’s strong scientific consensus in favor of that hypothesis. As best I can tell, however, neither is true. The “black genes make you dumb” crowd is siding with widely-held popular prejudice against what most researchers believe.

Right; the idea that African-Americans are intellectually inferior to whites is hardly new to the American political scene, and there’s every reason to think that it’s still widely held in many corners. Indeed, it was widely held well before the latest round of shoddy race science convinced Saletan, and was used to justify any number of political and social arrangements designed to guarantee that African-Americans didn’t escape their “genetic” inheritance.

But then, most of those folks don’t read Slate. And you don’t get to keep your card as a contrarian journalist if you always agree with one side. Of course, you also don’t get to keep your contrarian journalist card if you come out for anti-miscegenation laws; it’s a delicate balance, but Saletan manages to pull it off. I would like to think that a few good social science methodology courses would impress upon Saletan and his ilk the difficulties associated with this kind of science; the trouble operationalizing the dependent variable, the dangers of drawing inferences in the presence of bad variables, and the virtual impossibility of excluding environmental variables from the process. I’d like to think that Saletan would at least be more cautious about the kinds of claims he’s making if he were familiar with some basic philosophy of science question, but I don’t know that it’s true.

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Giving Thanks

[ 13 ] November 21, 2007 |

After scurrying around to file a document with a court before the holiday, I spent the afternoon attending to the last minute Thanksgiving food shopping. The greenmarket was truly impressive today — mushrooms, eggs, apples, turkeys, bison, root veggies . . . pretty much everything you could need for your holiday feast. After a crushingly busy few weeks, I was thankful to have an afternoon to just enjoy fall in the city. It’s just the first of many things for which I will give thanks tomorrow.

I’m taking tomorrow off to cook, overeat, and play scrabble with my parents and one of my brothers, but I’ll be back in action on Friday — hopefully, if I can get my dying digital camera to work — with pictures of the delicious turkey that you all helped me figure out how to cook.

Happy Turkey/Tofurkey day to all of you.

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[ 0 ] November 21, 2007 |

Gregg Easterbrook is, evidently, still alive and still writing, and he’s still a deranged lunatic. If you listen to right wing culture warriors, you know they are adept at concocting bizarre, brain-twisting accusations about the motives and character of popular entertainers who are also outspoken liberals. Easterbrook, in a brain fart in the midst of an interminable NFL column, may well have effortlessly outdone all of them:

You don’t have to be Dr. Freud to speculate that cinema stars, steeped in a Hollywood culture obsessed with personal power, subconsciously fantasize about actually being able to kill whomever they please.

Malkin? O’Reilly? The bar has been raised.

h/t The Poor Man.

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Global War on False Alarms, Strange Loners, and Juvenile Delinquents

[ 17 ] November 21, 2007 |

So these people are excited for some reason about this map, which claims to tracks “terrorism and suspicious activity” across the planet. For those who’ve forgotten that the world is a dangerous place,

[y]ou have to see it to believe it, and I really mean to believe it: The world is a very dangerous place.

There’s nothing I’ve ever experienced — short of actually experiencing war or terrorist incidents — that so brings the message home, literally, right to your computer, and so comprehensively, about the need to be vigilant.

Give thanks this Thanksgiving, and every day, and express the same wishes to your friends, that you’re not in those places abroad. But, also, note the incidents in the U.S.

Among the latest “events” that are supposed to have us scraping out our underpants:

This map would work well as a parody, but it appears to be quite serious. On the plus side of the ledger, it appears that non-state actors pose the greatest threat to civilization. If this hasn’t already been turned into the subject of a Glenn Beck special report, I’d start laying bets right about now.

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On Women in Public Life

[ 0 ] November 21, 2007 |

Yglesias reports on a survey that shows we are making progress.

This was the question asked in the survey: “Some people feel that women should have an equal role with men in running business, industry and government. Others feel that women’s place is in the home. Where would you place yourself on this scale or haven’t you thought much about this?”

I’ve got to disagree with Yglesias on this one. Sure, there’s been progress. But the fact that we’re still asking questions like this shows just how far we’ve got to go.

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The Second Amendment on Trial

[ 36 ] November 20, 2007 |

The Supreme Court has decided to hear an appeal to the D.C. Circuit decision striking down D.C.’s handguns ban. I’ll have more discussion about this later, but to stimulate discussion in the interim I’ll say that 1)the most plausible interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, I think, confers an individual right to bear arms, although this is certainly not the only reasonable interpretation; 2)given this, D.C.’s draconian ban is (for better or worse) clearly unconstitutional, but 3)more reasonable gun control measures may be constitutional even if the right to bear arms is considered an individual right.

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Ignorance Is Bliss

[ 20 ] November 20, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Gainer The Gopher sez: Slappy Who?

One advantage to being in Canada right now is that sportswriters are much more preoccupied with such matters as the epochal Riders/Lions tilt and much less with the distressing news that A-Slappy will be back in pinstripes. Although I knew better, for a brief moment I allowed myself to think that some kind of irrationality had overtaken the Yankees and that they might have let Rodriguez walk, but they didn’t, and alas most other teams look at player salaries primarily as expenses rather than investments, which is why they are where they are and the Yankees are where they are. I’m sure the feats of illogic on behalf of American sportswriters have been spellbinding, but I’m trying to ignore it for the week; looking at bad political journalism is bad enough. I’ve got tickets tonight — go Flames! Lalalalala I can’t hear you!

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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 31

[ 0 ] November 20, 2007 |

While the age of his mustache remains a matter of state secrecy, John Robert Bolton turns 59 today.

In his many years of public service, Bolton has never met a nation whose threat to the United States he did not hysterically overstate, nor has he ever met an international organization he did not suspect of radically undermining his country’s sovereignty. His recess appointment as the American ambassador to the United Nations must rank among the greatest pranks of modern diplomatic history. With his permanent nomination facing Congressional rejections, his resignation from that same position represents one of the few moments of sanity during the Bush years.

A self-styled tough guy and master of the office hissy fit, Bolton’s reputation as a manager of people duplicates in miniature his sense of how the United States should act toward the rest of the world. On Bolton’s view, American interests can only be secured by assuming the absolute worst about its rivals; ignoring or suppressing competing interpretations of incomplete or ambiguous data; and dealing with limitations on its power by screaming and throwing heavy objects at recalcitrant colleagues. When John Bolton sleeps, he likely dreams of a world alight with American power, with righteous, unilateral wars raging against China, Syria, Cuba, North Korea and Iran. Described by his mentor Jesse Helms as “the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at the gates of Armageddon,” Bolton — given the appropriate means — would be only too eager to oblige his enfeebled friend.

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Borking and The Court

[ 8 ] November 20, 2007 |

I actually agree with two points that Ross Douthat makes here. First, I think that there’s a tendency to assume that Roe‘s popular support made its upholding inevitable, but this really isn’t the case. If Reagan had appointed Bork and Scalia in reverse order, for example, Roe would have been overturned. Although most sophisticated observers understand that the Supreme Court is better understood as an adjunct to national governing coalitions than a stalwart protector of unpopular minorities, it’s easy to push this too far; the Court wouldn’t have been prevented from overturning Roe any more than the Warren Court was prevented from issuing Everson and Miranda. (Indeed, as all three examples suggest it’s entirely possible for positions to be broadly consistent with current elite governing coalitions and be unpopular among the public at large.) Second, he is of course right that Alito and Roberts are doctrinaire conservatives who will never find an abortion regulation unconstitutional, although their fake “minimalism” may mean that even with a fifth vote we’ll see the complete gutting rather than the explicit overturning of Roe. (Of course, at this late date nobody but Ann Althouse could think otherwise.)

On the other hand, we have the tired claim about of a “shameful-but-effective Democratic smear campaign against Robert Bork.” Obviously, the Senate being a political body, criticisms of Bork were not expressed in the tones of an academic seminar. But the core of the case against Bork was that he 1)entirely rejected any implicit right of privacy, meaning that the state not only had the authority to pass arbitrarily enforced laws requiring a woman to carry her pregnancy to term but also to pass arbitrarily enforced laws preventing people from using contraception, 2)he had a consistently awful record on civil rights including public claims that the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional and hostility to claims of gender equality, and 3)took an exceptionally narrow view of free speech rights. This campaign was effective because it was accurate — there were at the time enough moderate Republicans to oppose his views on privacy and no Southern Democratic Senator (given that they required near unanimous black support to be competitive) could have supported someone with Bork’s record on civil rights. Some of these issues have become less important over time — conservatives have largely adopted libertarian positions on issue #3, and many reactionary nominees are now young enough not to have contemporaneously opposed the Civil Rights Act. On issue #1, however, justices like Roberts and Alito are easier to confirm than Bork not because their positions are more popular but because the lesson they learned from Bork is to simply refuse to state their position explicitly. Hence the high comedy of Republicans who had admired Alito for being a doctrinaire conservative suddenly reacting with outrage against those pointing out the obvious fact that he held very conservative positions on legal issues as soon as he was nominated. This silliness, of course, could stop as soon as he was safely on the Court. This kabuki does, however, make “Borking” more difficult (or, as the case with Thomas, be reflected through discussions of marginally relevant personal issues.) This is not, however, a good thing.

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Halftime Harassment

[ 22 ] November 20, 2007 |

Well, this makes me happier that the Jets are 2-8:

At halftime of the Jets’ home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, several hundred men lined one of Giants Stadium’s two pedestrian ramps at Gate D. Three deep in some areas, they whistled and jumped up and down. Then they began an obscenity-laced chant, demanding that the few women in the gathering expose their breasts.

When one woman appeared to be on the verge of obliging, the hooting and hollering intensified. But then she walked away, and plastic beer bottles and spit went flying. Boos swept through the crowd of unsatisfied men.

Marco Hoffner, an 18-year-old from Lacey Township, N.J., was expecting to see more. Not from the Jets — they pulled off a big upset over the Steelers. He wanted more from the alternative halftime show that, according to many fans, has been a staple at Jets home games for years.

“Very disappointed, because we’re used to seeing a lot,” Hoffner said.

The mood of previous Gate D crowds — captured on video clips posted on YouTube — sometimes bordered on hostile, not unlike the spirit of infamously aggressive European soccer hooligans. One clip online shows a woman being groped by a man standing next to her.

Ew. But this isn’t only icky; it’s a security threat. So where is security? Being vigilant — against anyone who might report the harassment:

Throughout halftime, about 10 security guards in yellow jackets stood near the bottom of the circular, multilevel ramp, located beyond the stadium’s concourse of concession stands and restrooms. One of the guards was smoking a cigarette; many fans do the same during halftime on the giant ramps, which are located at each corner of the stadium. Another guard later said they were not permitted to do anything about the chants at Gate D because of free speech laws. Yet when a reporter tried to interview two security guards after halftime, he was detained in a holding room, threatened with arrest and asked to hand over his tape recorder.


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July 5

[ 180 ] November 20, 2007 |

Today we started a mini-simulation for a course at Patterson. This isn’t the larger spring policy simulation, but rather a smaller exercise designed to facilitate group work and presentation skills. My topic was this:

An alien attack has resulted in the destruction of the greater portion of the urban infrastructure of the United States and the rest of the world. Although the aliens have been substantially defeated, the problem of reconstruction looms. After the initial alien attacks, most of the nation’s urban population was able to flee the cities. The President has requested that the senior surviving officials in the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce submit reports on the likely problems and first steps towards reconstruction.

Some assumptions that we worked out on the first day, informed by repeated viewings of Independence Day:

  • The attack resulted in the destruction of the 30 largest American urban centers, assuming that a ship can destroy a city every three hours, that the aliens allocated 3 ships to North America, and that only three targets each in Mexico and Canada were destroyed. We also figured 9 ships for Eurasia, and 1 each for Africa, South America, and Australia (the film states that the attack involved 15 ships). Those numbers are certainly debatable; I could see moving one Eurasian ship to South America, for example. The actual targets of destruction would probably take into account commercial and military importance in addition to raw population.
  • The attack generated somewhere between 20-40 million internal refugees in the United States. While the populations of New York, Washington, and Los Angeles were mostly destroyed, other major cities were able to evacuate. Some refugees will also have evacuated from smaller cities (such as Cincinnati or Detroit) that were not targeted prior to the defeat of the alien ships. These latter refugees will be able to return to their homes, which will still leave a very large population of displaced persons.
  • We assumed that the attack took place on July 2, 2007, in order to ease various narrative problems. Of course, this means that the United States is deeply involved in Iraq during the attack; Baghdad almost certainly would have been destroyed by an alien ship.
  • We worked out that the Vice President and the Cabinet (with the exception of the Secretary of Defense) have all, perhaps with a straggler or two, been killed. Congress fares much better, as we figured that most Senators and Representatives wouldn’t be in DC during the attack. We’re guessing about 85% of Congress survives. Most state government survive essentially intact, as they’re not located in cities targeted by the aliens.


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A Pledge To Keep

[ 11 ] November 20, 2007 |

Especially useful with Thanksgiving approaching:

So why not try this for a day? If you’re going to eat something, eat it. If you’re not, don’t. Beating yourself up about food, privately and publicly, much as you think might help you stay thin out of guilt, doesn’t actually work.


…I do think the mighty Atrios makes a fair point in comments:

More seriously as much as I agree this kind of dynamic is messed we should understand that people with food and fat related issues do adopt various coping mechanisms. Not saying I endorse them all as being “healthy,” but the problem probably isn’t the mechanisms themselves but the issues which lead people there.

My impulse is to be as cranky about this as M. LeBlanc — even though I’m sure I’ve done this kind of thing myself — laregly because it’s my impulse to be cranky about pretty much anything, but the real point (and I assume hers as well) is that the dynamic doesn’t work and reflects counterproductive attitudes towards food; the fact that it can be annoying to others is not the central point.

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