Friday, June 22, 2018

Cruising the Web

Gosh, it is is such sad news to hear of the passing of Charles Krauthammer. What a brilliant and courageous man he was. I don't think I ever read a column of his with which I disagreed. He convinced me with his logic, clarity, and eloquence. He was witty and had such a sense of humor. All reports from those who knew him are that he was a kind and gentle man despite his acerbic wit. Watching him give his opinions on TV was a delight. He was a man of deep principles; we don't see many such people these days.

His life was an inspiration to all of us. He didn't let a diving accident that made in a paraplegic stop him from graduating on time from Harvard Medical School near the top of his class. He was determined not to be defined by his disability. What an inspiration he was. His letter announcing that he had only a short time to live had the most beautiful expression of what we all like to feel at the end of our lives.
I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.
We can't ask for more from a life well-lived?

I hope that in the short time from when he released that letter, he got to read the many memories and expressions of admiration and gratitude from people who knew him or had been inspired by him. What a loss for all of us. We won't see his like again. My heart goes out to his family.


If this story involved a Trump official, people would be going crazy. Since it involves the Obama administration, I expect it to drop with barely a ripple. Michael Isikoff writes for Yahoo News,
The Obama White House’s chief cyber official testified Wednesday that proposals he was developing to counter Russia’s attack on the U.S. presidential election were put on a “back burner” after he was ordered to “stand down” his efforts in the summer of 2016.

The comments by Michael Daniel, who served as White House “cyber security coordinator” between 2012 and January of last year, provided his first public confirmation of a much-discussed passage in the book, “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” co-written by this reporter and David Corn, that detailed his thwarted efforts to respond to the Russian attack.

They came during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing into how the Obama administration dealt with Russian cyber and information warfare attacks in 2016, an issue that has become one of the more politically sensitive subjects in the panel’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and any links to the Trump campaign.

The view that the Obama administration failed to adequately piece together intelligence about the Russian campaign and develop a forceful response has clearly gained traction with the intelligence committee. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the ranking Democrat on the panel, said in an opening statement that “we were caught flat-footed at the outset and our collective response was inadequate to meet Russia’s escalation.”

That conclusion was reinforced Wednesday by another witness, Victoria Nuland, who served as assistant secretary of state for Europe during the Obama administration. She told the panel that she had been briefed as early as December 2015 about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee — long before senior DNC officials were aware of it — and that the intrusion had all the hallmarks of a Russian operation.

As she and other State Department officials became “more alarmed” about what the Russians were up to in the spring of 2016, they were authorized by then Secretary of State John Kerry to develop proposals for ways to deter the Russians. But most of those steps were never taken — in part because officials assumed they would be taken up by the next administration.

“I believe there were deterrence measures we could have taken and should have taken,” Nuland testified.
And guess which Obama official told the National Security Council not to develop countermeasures to the Russian cyber attacks.
Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, asked about a “Russian Roulette” passage in which one of Daniel’s staff members, Daniel Prieto, recounted a staff meeting shortly after the cyber coordinator was ordered by Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, to stop his efforts and “stand down.” This order was in part because Rice feared the options would leak and “box the president in.”

“I was incredulous and in disbelief,” Prieto is quoted as saying in the book. “It took me a moment to process. In my head, I was like, did I hear that correctly?” Prieto told the authors he then spoke up, asking Daniel: “Why the hell are we standing down? Michael, can you help us understand?”

....Daniel added that “it’s not accurate to say that all activity ceased at that point.” He and his staff “shifted our focus” to assisting state governments to protect against Russian cyberattacks against state and local election systems.

But as for his work on developing cyber deterrence measures, “those actions were put on a back burner and that was not the focus of our activity during that time period.”
Notice that they knew about this in December 2015 before a single vote had been cast in the primaries and anyone could believe that Donald Trump would win the GOP nomination.

Apparently, the Obama team was worried that any type of retaliation might become an all-out cyber war and it was just enough for Obama to tell Putin to stop it. Yeah, because Putin was so afraid of Obama. Susan Rice certainly does appear in a lot of these Obama scandals, doesn't she?


James Freeman is amused at FBI Director Christopher Wray's response to the IG report by calling for FBI agents to take anti-bias training. As Freeman points out, the bias revealed in the report was only among a few top members of the FBI. Why act as if every agent is guilty of such bias?
Does the whole bureau really need to be taught such lessons? This column wonders how FBI field agents—who were clearly more eager than the Washington leadership to pursue the Clinton case—are now reacting to this message from their current director. Career attorney Christopher Wray is only the latest man to reach the top of the FBI without ever serving as an agent. And now he says agents need to be instructed to remain impartial as they conduct investigations. Pentagon officials who never served in uniform typically don’t announce plans to teach their troops about patriotism, but perhaps the FBI is a very different institution.

Even Mr. Wray seems confused about whether he’s dealing with a few rotten apples or a rotten culture. He writes in USA Today that the inspector general’s report “focused on a specific set of events in 2016, and on a narrow set of employees connected to those events. Nothing in the IG’s report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole, or the FBI as an institution.” If this is accurate then he doesn’t need to retrain everybody; he simply needs to terminate the wrongdoers mentioned in the report.
It seems that the go-to response from institutions that are accused of individuals displaying some sort of misbehavior is to go all Starbucks on their employees and require training for everyone.


Victor Davis Hanson outlines how the Obama administration routinely ignored or blocked the work of inspectors general. Their behavior was certainly not indicative of the attitude of an administration that was so proud of not having any scandals.
Those were puzzling assertions, given nearly nonstop scandals during Obama’s eight years in office involving the IRS; General Services Administration; Peace Corps; Secret Service; Veterans Administration; and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, not to mention the Clinton email-server scandal, the Benghazi scandal, and the 2016 Democratic National Committee email scandal.

For nearly eight years, the Obama administration sought to cover up serial wrongdoing by waging a veritable war against the watchdog inspectors general of various federal agencies.

In 2014, 47 of the nation’s 73 inspectors general signed a letter alleging that Obama had stonewalled their “ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner.”

The frustrated nonpartisan auditors cited systematic Obama-administration refusals to turn over incriminating documents that were central to their investigations.

The administration had purportedly tried to sidetrack an IG investigation into possible misconduct by then–Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. In addition, the Obama administration reportedly thwarted IG investigations of Amtrak, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and the Office of Management and Budget.
Remember that inspectors general are supposed to be bipartisan human checks on executive branch agencies to look into allegations of wrongdoing and report to Congress about what they find. And the IGs found quite a bit in the Obama administration.
Despite the campaign against these independent federal auditors, a number of inspectors general still managed to issue damning indictments of unethical behavior.

In 2012, Horowitz recommended that 14 Justice Department and ATF officials be disciplined for their conduct in the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal.

A 2013 IG audit found that the IRS had targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny prior to the 2012 Obama reelection effort.

In 2014, an internal audit revealed that CIA officials had hacked the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers while compiling a report on enhanced interrogation techniques. CIA director John Brennan had claimed that his agents were not improperly monitoring Senate staff computer files. He was forced to retract his denials and apologize for his prevarication.

In 2016, the State Department’s inspector general found that Hillary Clinton had never sought approval for her reckless and illegal use of an unsecured private email server. The IG also found that other Clinton aides silenced staffers who were worried about national security being compromised by the unsecured server.
Are you sensing a trend here in how the media covered Obama scandals? The Obama folks were able to ignore these reports because the media let them get away with it?


We're seeing a lot of this approach with the coverage of the families being detained at the border. The whole country is in a froth of outrage now, but it was much quieter back when migrant children were coming across the border when Obama was president about the treatment they were receiving. The ACLU recently published a study based on FOIA documents of "horrific" stories of how immigrant children were treated in the period from 2009 - 2014.
Law students in the International Human Rights Clinic examined a subset of the records obtained. The documents show numerous cases involving federal officials’ verbal, physical and sexual abuse of migrant children; the denial of clean drinking water and adequate food; failure to provide necessary medical care; detention in freezing, unsanitary facilities; and other violations of federal law and policy and international law. The documents provide evidence that U.S. officials were aware of these abuses as they occurred, but failed to properly investigate, much less to remedy, these abuses.
That study came out a month ago. Did you hear anything about it?

The Associated Press has a story today of additional appalling treatment of minors.
Children as young as 14 said the guards there stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads.

“Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me,” said a Honduran immigrant who was sent to the facility when he was 15 years old. “Strapped me down all the way, from your feet all the way to your chest, you couldn’t really move. ... They have total control over you. They also put a bag over your head. It has little holes; you can see through it. But you feel suffocated with the bag on.”

In addition to the children’s first-hand, translated accounts in court filings, a former child-development specialist who worked inside the facility independently told The Associated Press this week that she saw kids there with serious injuries. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to publicly discuss the children’s cases.

In court filings, lawyers for the detention facility have denied all the allegations of physical abuse. The incidents described in the lawsuit occurred from 2015 to 2018, during both the Obama and Trump administrations....

Most children held in the Shenandoah facility who were the focus of the abuse lawsuit were caught crossing the border illegally alone. They were not the children who have been separated from their families under the Trump administration’s recent policy and are now in the government’s care. But the facility operates under the same program run by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. It was not immediately clear whether any separated children have been sent to Shenandoah Valley since the Trump administration in April announced its “zero tolerance” policy toward immigrant families, after the lawsuit was filed.
AP connects the story of these young people being detained to Trump's attacks on MS-13 which leaves the impression that this treatment occurred under Trump. It's only when you read deep into the story that you find that this began in 2015 and 2016. It also happened in Virginia, where a Democrat was governor. But for the AP, it's a story about Trump and the man who was president when it began doesn't even rate a mention in the story.

What this all really means is that the United States, like Europe, has a problem with immigration and no leader or country really has a grasp of how to deal with the problem of more people wanting to immigrate to their country than the country can or wants to absorb. As Jonah Goldberg writes,
As ugly as things are, it’s worth remembering that the Obama administration had similar struggles and similar responses. The point here isn’t “whataboutism.” It’s simply to note that the U.S., not any particular administration, faces a very difficult challenge, shared by other economically advanced nations: Untold millions of poor people want to be richer, and they believe they can make that happen simply by moving here or to Western Europe. And they’re right.

It may be 2018 on everyone’s calendar, but that doesn’t mean we all live in the same moment. Very poor people become richer by moving here because, in a sense, they are moving to the future.

Imagine you live in a poor village in Asia or Africa (or in Appalachia 150 years ago) where you still need to fetch water from a well or even a river a mile away. In terms of time used and energy exerted, you’d be richer if you moved to the U.S. even if you spent the rest of your life poor by our standards. Mere access to clean tap water, electricity, and indoor plumbing is considered a luxury in some parts of the world. Not to mention the rule of law, human rights, freedom of conscience, etc....

This is not an argument for open borders. I simply want to point out that so long as there are very poor countries, very poor people will understandably want to move here. This would be true even if those poor countries had solved all of the other problems — violence, anarchy, persecution — that cause decent people to want to flee home.

In other words, supply will exceed demand for a very long time to come. Even if we tripled our intake of legal immigrants, more would still want to come.

The best long-term solution to this problem is to make poor countries rich as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the immediate challenge presented by this level of desire to immigrate to the U.S. is going to be less economic and more political and cultural. Immigrants bring new customs, values, and ideas of how society should work. As the Swiss writer Max Frisch famously said of the guest workers his country imported, “We wanted workers, but we got people instead.”

Waves of immigrants invite reactions. Many people like to call these backlashes racist, and in some cases they are. But they are also entirely natural, human responses to sudden cultural changes. German chancellor Angela Merkel’s government may fall because of one such reaction. (The 86 percent of Germans who want to see a more forceful approach to repatriation can’t all be bigots.) Votes in favor of Brexit didn’t strongly correlate with unemployment very much, but they did with attitudes on immigration.

President Trump’s election was in part a reaction to high levels of immigration, legal and illegal. If people don’t want unreasonable politicians to exploit immigration-fueled anxiety, then reasonable politicians on both sides need to take immigration far more seriously than they have so far. If they don’t, things will get much worse than the spectacle on the border today.
Yeah, we won't hold our breath for that to happen.



The ACLU has decided
to turn its back on its entire history to decide that they are no longer so thrilled about freedom of speech. Defending the KKK as they did in Skokie or in Brandenburg v. Ohio - no more? Wendy Kaminer, a former ACLU board member, writes in the WSJ, about how the organization is changing.
The American Civil Liberties Union has explicitly endorsed the view that free speech can harm “marginalized” groups by undermining their civil rights. “Speech that denigrates such groups can inflict serious harms and is intended to and often will impede progress toward equality,” the ACLU declares in new guidelines governing case selection and “Conflicts Between Competing Values or Priorities.”

This is presented as an explanation rather than a change of policy, and free-speech advocates know the ACLU has already lost its zeal for vigorously defending the speech it hates. ACLU leaders previously avoided acknowledging that retreat, however, in the apparent hope of preserving its reputation as the nation’s premier champion of the First Amendment.

But traditional free-speech values do not appeal to the ACLU’s increasingly partisan progressive constituency—especially after the 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville. The Virginia ACLU affiliate rightly represented the rally’s organizers when the city attempted to deny them a permit to assemble. Responding to intense post-Charlottesville criticism, last year the ACLU reconsidered its obligation to represent white-supremacist protesters.

The 2018 guidelines claim that “the ACLU is committed to defending speech rights without regard to whether the views expressed are consistent with or opposed to the ACLU’s core values, priorities and goals.” But directly contradicting that assertion, they also cite as a reason to decline taking a free-speech case “the extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are contrary to our values.”

In selecting speech cases to defend, the ACLU will now balance the “impact of the proposed speech and the impact of its suppression.” Factors like the potential effect of the speech on “marginalized communities” and even on “the ACLU’s credibility” could militate against taking a case. Fundraising and communications officials helped formulate the new guidelines.

One half of this balancing test is familiar. The “impact of suppressing speech”—the precedents that suppression might establish, the constitutional principles at stake—is a traditional factor in case selection. But, traditionally, the ACLU has not formally weighed the content of speech and its consistency with ACLU values in deciding whether to defend it.
It used to be that the ACLU would defend even hateful speech and their support of such speech led to some landmark Supreme Court decisions as they did in Brandenburg when the Court decided that the government could ban only speech leading to imminent illegal action and discarded the "clear and present danger" test. Nowadays, the ACLU would support a KKK member like Brandenburg. Kaminer reports that the ACLU was trying to keep this abandonment of their core principles a secret.
All this is the ACLU’s prerogative. Organizations are entitled to revise their values and missions. But they ought to do so openly. The ACLU leadership had apparently hoped to keep its new guidelines secret, even from ACLU members. They’re contained in an internal document deceptively marked, in all caps, “confidential attorney client work product.” I’m told it was distributed to select ACLU officials and board members, who were instructed not to share it. According to my source, the leadership is now investigating the “leak” of its new case-selection guidelines. President Trump might sympathize.
Robby Soave adds,
It seems fairly clear to me what's happening here. Leadership would probably like the ACLU to remain a pro-First Amendment organization, but they would also like to remain in good standing with their progressive allies. Unfortunately, young progressives are increasingly hostile to free speech, which they view as synonymous with racist hate speech. Speech that impugns marginalized persons is not speech at all, in their view, but violence. This is why a student Black Lives Matter group shut down an ACLU event at the College of William & Mary last year, chanting "liberalism is white supremacy" and "the revolution will not uphold the Constitution." Campus activism is illiberal, and liberal free speech norms conflict with the broad protection of emotional comfort that the young, modern left demands.

The ACLU's capitulation to the anti-speech left should serve as a wake up call for true liberals. What has taken place on campus over the last decade does matter, and though the scope of the problem is frequently overstated, we should all be concerned when the nation's premiere civil liberties organization is increasingly afraid of defending the First Amendment—not because the Trump administration scares them, but because college students do.




And this story
is for everyone who swallowed Hamas's propaganda that the Israelis were responsible for a baby's death last month.
Israel charged on Thursday that a Gazan resident convicted of vandalism had confessed during his interrogation that Hamas paid his family to claim the death of his infant cousin, Laila al-Ghandour. had been caused by tear gas used by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during a mass protest.

Israel’s Ministry of Justice said in a statement that Mahmoud Omar, a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs brigades, Fatah’s armed wing, was arrested for acts of vandalism against IDF equipment on May 28.

Amid interrogation with Israeli police, Omar claimed that the leader of the Islamist group, Yahya Sinwar, paid his family 8,000 NIS ($2,200) to lie about the cause of death, saying the eight-month-old had had a preexisting blood disease which was the actual cause, according to the ministry statement.

“The baby arrived to the hospital dead, and the family said she was there at the border and she inhaled tear gas,” he added. “It wasn’t clear in the beginning whether she died because of that or not. That’s why we referred the case.”

As the youngest fatality of those killed, Laila’s death intensified international condemnation of what was described as Israel “disproportionate” response to the seemingly peaceful protests. Images of her funeral were broadcast across global news channels and splashed on the front page of newspapers.

The day after her death on May 15, a medical doctor told Israeli daily Haaretz Tuesday that the child had a pre-existing medical condition, and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas.

The UK's Guardian newspaper stated in its initial hospital report that the infant had suffered with “heart defects since birth” and she had experienced a “severe stop in blood circulation and respiration.” The medical information made no mention of the tear gas or the contribution to the baby’s condition.

So what would lead Melania Trump to wear a jacket with the slogan "I don't really care, do u?" Maybe it's a message to the media that indulged in all sorts of baseless speculation while she was recuperating from kidney surgery, but is there anyone in the White House who has a feel for how to do photo ops that don't distract from the message that they wanted to communicate by sending her down to tour a detention facility for children down at the border? They had to know that all the media big mouths would be commenting about the jacket. Who knows what message she wanted to send? Or maybe she just wanted to fool the media into talking about her jacket and then chastise them for focusing on fashion instead of children.


This is not a good sign for Russia.
Beer-guzzling soccer fans risk drinking parts of Moscow dry, with some bars and restaurants in the Russian capital saying they are running low and having to wait longer than usual for fresh supplies.

Moscow has been transformed by the World Cup, with singing, chanting and beer-swilling fans overwhelming some of the packed bars and restaurants around the Kremlin and Red Square.

“We just didn’t think they would only want beer,” said one waiter at a upscale eatery in central Moscow who asked not to be identified for fear of scaring off future customers.

The waiter said his restaurant ran out of draft lager on Monday and deliveries are taking longer than usual, at least 24 hours, because suppliers’ stocks are also running low.
Have they ever met soccer fans?

This reminds me of when I spent a semester in the Soviet Union in 1979 and I was so struck with the country's inability to produce toilet paper. It is absolutely true that many public places just had cut-up squares of Pravda to use as toilet paper. One place just provided squares of wax paper, not an absorbent product. I remember writing my husband that, if the Soviet Union couldn't produce toilet paper, there was no way they could win the Cold War. If the CIA had listened to me back then they wouldn't have been so surprised a decade later. Perhaps their inability to supply enough beer is another indicator of the weaknesses of the Russian economy.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Cruising the Web

I'm trying to understand the Democrats' viewpoint. They complained about children being separated from their parents at the border. The Republicans wrote bills to address this and the Democrats opposed those bills. Chuck Schumer demanded that Donald Trump, the man they've been comparing to a dictator and Hitler, be the one to fix this by executive order. At least they're consistent; they wanted Obama to address immigration by executive order rather than voting on a bill.

David French writes about Schumer's declaration,
What? I’m sorry, but this is absurd. One the one hand, we’re told that the president is a moral monster who can’t be trusted. On the other hand, we’re now also being told that the branch of government designed to check and even override the president shouldn’t play a part in ending bad policy?

So now Donald Trump is caving to the national outcry and is going to issue an executive order.
President Trump is preparing to issue an executive order as soon as Wednesday that ends the separation of families at the border by indefinitely detaining parents and children together, according to a person familiar with the White House plans.

Mr. Trump’s executive order would seek to get around an existing 1997 consent decree, known as the Flores settlement, that prohibits the federal government from keeping children in immigration detention — even if they are with their parents — for more than 20 days.
So this is a tiny bit puzzling for both sides. When the administration tried to defend themselves saying that they were bound by the Flores settlement, that was pooh-poohed by their critics. Now, they're having to "seek to get around" that consent decree. However, the administration had been saying that there was no way around the consent decree, yet now they're saying they can. Or can they?
The order would keep families together, though it is unclear how Mr. Trump intends to claim the legal authority to violate what have been legal constraints on the proper treatment of children in government custody, which prevented former President Barack Obama from detaining families together during a similar flood of illegal immigration two years ago.

And the president could quickly find himself the subject of another legal challenge to his executive authority, much the way he attacked Mr. Obama for abusing the power of his office with an immigration executive order in 2014.
One thing that might be possible now is that, while a case was working through the courts, there would be time for Congress to pass a law addressing the whole issue...if the Democrats were willing to vote for it. That would certainly be better than government by executive order. Think of these wise words from Ilya Shapiro:


However, I don't expect the Democrats to vote for a bill fixing what they have characterized as inhumane and un-American. They'd prefer to have an issue to bash Trump. French comments on the President's planned executive order,
If he tries to “keep families together,” he’s begging for a legal challenge that he’ll almost certainly lose.

But why rely on the administration at all? If the family-separation policy is so toxic that it leads serious people to tweet images of concentration camps and reduces a television host to tears, shouldn’t you respond to the emergency by tying the president’s hands?

If and when the GOP puts legislation forward, the Democrats have a choice to make. Will they respond in a manner that matches their rhetoric, or will they play a political game — using the plight of families as a wedge issue in the midterms? Even even if they win the House — or capture the House and a bare majority in the Senate (unlikely, but possible) — they still won’t be able to unilaterally force the president’s hand. They will have successfully ridden public anger into political power, but they won’t have ensured an end to the crisis.

That’s a cynical political game. That’s business as usual in a broken government.

If we face a crisis, then politicians should act like it. If we can stop family separation today, then we should. No, that doesn’t mean Democrats should cave to every GOP demand (nor does it mean that the GOP should lard up a bill with known poison pills), but it does mean signaling a willingness to reach across the aisle, build a veto-proof majority, and defy an administration you claim you don’t trust.

One of the great cons of contemporary politics is the manner in which elected officials falsely stoke rage and fury for the sake of personal gain and political ambition. The gap between rhetoric and action is so great that contemporary politics is best compared to the WWE. The conflict is play-acted for the cameras, but too many members of the public don’t know that what they’re watching is fake. So they feel real emotion. They feel a real sense of crisis. And Washington rolls on with politics as usual.

This time, however, there’s a chance to break through. This time, there’s a chance for the legislature to actually check the executive on a matter of real importance. The GOP seems ready to move. But the party that’s acting most alarmed is balking — reverting to conventional political machinations. It’s time to decide, Democrats: Will your actions match your rhetoric or not?
Yes, this whole situation came about because of Trump's policy change on holding people when they enter the country which led to the necessity to separate out the children. Yes, that is a despicable thing to see our government doing. But if you're appalled by what is happening, do something instead of simply salivating on using outrage to try to score partisan points.


The passivity of Congress in this whole episode and on so many other other policies is excellent evidence for the very perceptive essay Yuval Levin has in Commentary Magazine this month, "Congress is Weak Because Its Members Want It to Be Weak." He traces this weakness historically back to the Progressive Era through the New Deal to the present day. It's a trend counter to what the Founders thought they were creating with the Legislative Branch serving as the first branch, the most powerful branch of the government. But over time, both the Executive and Judicial Branches have grown in power with Congress seemingly quite willing to step back. Accomplishing something doesn't seem to be the purpose of being in Congress any more.
Simply put, many members of Congress have come to see themselves as players in a larger political ecosystem the point of which is not legislating or governing but rather engaging in a kind of performative outrage for a partisan audience. Their incentives are rooted in that understanding of our politics and so are not about legislating. They remain intensely ambitious, but their ambition is for a prominent role in the theater of our national politics. And they view the institution of Congress as a particularly effective platform for themselves—a way to raise their profile, to become celebrities in the world of cable news or talk radio, whether locally or nationally, to build a bigger social-media following, and in essence to become stars.
They can best use this platform not by engaging in the mundane work of legislating but by taking part in dramatic spectacles and by fueling the outrage that is now the engine of our politics. Even for its own members, Congress seems to be most valuable as an object for commentary and a prop in a livid morality tale about corruption....

Simply put, many members of Congress have come to see themselves as players in a larger political ecosystem the point of which is not legislating or governing but rather engaging in a kind of performative outrage for a partisan audience. Their incentives are rooted in that understanding of our politics and so are not about legislating. They remain intensely ambitious, but their ambition is for a prominent role in the theater of our national politics. And they view the institution of Congress as a particularly effective platform for themselves—a way to raise their profile, to become celebrities in the world of cable news or talk radio, whether locally or nationally, to build a bigger social-media following, and in essence to become stars.
They can best use this platform not by engaging in the mundane work of legislating but by taking part in dramatic spectacles and by fueling the outrage that is now the engine of our politics. Even for its own members, Congress seems to be most valuable as an object for commentary and a prop in a livid morality tale about corruption.
Read the rest of his essay. It's thoughtful and perceptive and...depressing.


It was a pleasure to see the Southern Poverty Law Center have to pay for how it's been smearing people whose views aren't in accord with their own views. They have the nasty habit of not only disagreeing with such people, but marking them down as members of a hate group. This is important because several prominent social media sites use the SPLC's designations to block those so designated. But their overbroad labeling has come back to bite them.
For once, the Southern Poverty Law Center has to cough up for an outrageous smear.

The SPLC rakes in donations by claiming to fight hate, but its lists of hate groups routinely include not just truly vile outfits but also ones that simply don’t toe a politically correct line.

It went too far in listing Maajid Nawaz and Quilliam, a think tank he founded, in its 2016 “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists,” which proclaimed in part: “Extremists routinely espouse a wide range of utter falsehoods, all designed to make Muslims appear as bloodthirsty terrorists or people intent on undermining American constitutional freedoms.”

Actually, Quilliam is dedicated to countering extremism, and Nawaz is a practicing Muslim — indeed, a prominent voice for reform within the faith, having turned from extremism during four years in an Egyptian prison for his work with the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Nawaz sued, and the SPLC plainly realized it couldn’t win: It has agreed to pay $3.4 million to settle the case and also issued a full apology.
The question is why they labeled Nawaz and Quilliam in the first place. But that's what they do and then they use their lists to garner contributions from the far left. Kyle Smith writes,
There was a time when the Southern Poverty Law Center did useful work reporting on actual hate groups such as the KKK. These days, though, the SPLC is simply a MoveOn or Media Matters–style outfit. Its core mission now is trying to marginalize and shut up even mildly right-of-center voices by calling them instruments of hate, making increasingly strained attempts to tie conservative commentators, authors, political figures, and professors to the alt-right or neo-Nazism. At the same time it elevates absurd bloggers to the level of potential leaders of lynch mobs.

The equivalent of a Drudge-siren moment for SPLC is when it rolls out yet another faux-neutral report on hate, which is always getting worse and threatening to engulf the republic. The SPLC’s report on “Male supremacy,” which it calls “a hateful ideology for the subjugation of women” and ties to the men’s-rights activists lurking on 4Chan and Reddit who boast about their supposed dominance of women, lists as pernicious allies the psychologist, author, and PJ Media columnist Helen Smith and the American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, calling them “anti-feminist female voices” who “give the men’s rights movement a veneer of even-handedness” and lend a “mainstream and respectable face to some MRA concerns.”

....Nothing either of them has written gets quoted in the report. We’re meant to take the SPLC’s word for it that these women somehow “give a mainstream and respectable face” to the louts. Sommers told The Weekly Standard that she used to admire the SPLC, but now “they’re blacklisting in place of engaging with arguments. They blacklist you, rather than try to refute you.” Smith (a contributor to the Instapundit blog run by her husband, Glenn Reynolds) wrote at PJ Media, “I get emails and letters from men across the US and even other countries who tell me about the difficulties and downright atrocities that they are dealing with” but they find themselves subjected to “contempt by society, the courts and miserable, misandric places like the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

SPLC, founded by a direct-mail zillionaire named Morris Dees, spends far more on direct-mail fundraising pleas ($10 million) than it ever has on legal services, according to an analysis by Philanthropy Roundtable, and has never passed along more than 31 percent of its funding to charitable programs, sometimes as little as 18 percent. Meanwhile it has built itself a palatial six-story headquarters and an endowment of more than $200 million. In essence it is a machine for turning leftist hysteria into cash that portrays itself as a non-partisan, fact-finding group and has long been treated as such by media institutions such as the Washington Post and the New York Times. Yet it has also targeted Senator Rand Paul, surgeon–turned–HUD secretary Ben Carson, and human-rights activists Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz, calling them extremists or agents of hate (though it removed Carson from its list after an outcry), and it tagged both the Family Research Council and Mark Krikorian’s think tank, the Center for Immigration Studies, as hate groups, though the latter has been invited to testify before Congress more than 100 times.
To give you an idea of how pernicious this can be, my school held a faculty meeting after the election to discuss how to maintain civility in our classes in the age of Trump. One of the topics we discussed was how to encourage media literacy. That's a very worthwhile goal and definitely one of our tasks as teachers. One teacher suggested that we use the media list from the SPLC to let kids know what were acceptable sites. Nothing came of that suggestion for the school as a whole, but I can well imagine that this teacher is implementing that plan in her classes. The SPLC has an honorable history so why wouldn't a well-meaning teacher think that their recommendations were worthwhile. Unless someone is reading news reports like this, the bias underlying their labeling.


Ah, the irony!
A Norwegian rapper hired by the City of Oslo to sing at an event intended to celebrate diversity cursed the “f***ing Jews” during his performance....

Kholardi wished Muslims “Eid Mubarak,” a greeting in Arabic for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that on Friday marked the end of Ramadan, Dagen reported. He went on to ask if there were Christians present, smiling upon hearing cheers. Then he asked if there were any Jews, adding “f***ing Jews … Just kidding.”

....On June 10, five days before the concert, Kholardi wrote on Twitter: “f***ing Jews are so corrupt.”
Did you catch what this event was? It was an event to celebrate diversity. Oops. He's claiming he was just joking and was taken out of context. Some joke.


Here's another example of what bigotry looks like. The Financial Times has a story about how the Israelis are fighting balloons being sent in from the Gaza Strip. The title of the article takes a light-hearted approach to a murderous method of terror. "Israel’s military struggles to battle party balloons." But these are, of course, not just party balloons much as they might attract a small child. They're armed with explosives and could blow up in a child's face. They can spread a destructive fire.
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Palestinians fly balloons loaded with flammable material near the Israel-Gaza border © Reuters
Mehul Srivastava in Jerusalem 9 HOURS AGO Print this page
Israel’s famed military prowess has come up against a decidedly low-tech adversary, the humble party balloon, and found itself thwarted. 

Over the past few weeks, the residents of the Gaza Strip have let loose a barrage of colourful kites with burning tails as well as festive balloons, sometimes condoms, with fuel-soaked strips of cloth. They land inside Israeli territory, often starting serious fires.

So far about 7,000 acres of farmland, including 1400 acres of wheat, have gone up in smoke. Fire-fighters have extinguished 500 blazes, local residents have put out hundreds more. In total, some 25 sq km have been affected, the army says. 
And, of course, when the Israelis respond with attacks in Gaza against those sending the balloons, they're criticized.


I am in a similar state of mind as Bob Maistros as he writes about "news fatigue" in IBD.Done in by network and cable news alike.

Fried from frequenting online publications and opinion sites.

Pooped in perusing breathless alerts on my devices.

I've had it. And I'm not alone.

A Pew Research study recently found that nearly 7 in 10 Americans suffer from "news fatigue" — a phenomenon even more pervasive among Republicans. The survey focused on the volume as much as the quality of the offerings.

But why wouldn't the public be emotionally expended from the anger and accusations, bullying and backbiting, "fake news" and "fact checks," insults and innuendo, posturing and protests, threats and trolling, and virtue-signaling and violent rhetoric and imagery spewed from every direction today?

The truth is that an endless assault on our senses and sensibilities via the media has been a feature, not a bug, of political discourse for some time now

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Cruising the Web

When I first heard about a group of Asian-Americans suing Harvard for discriminating them in admissions, I had thought it was interesting, but didn't hold out much hope for their suit. I figured that everyone knows that Asian-Americans face a tougher time getting admitted to selective schools, but that would be dismissed as just part of the universities wanting to have a more "diverse" student body. I hadn't thought that there would be enough evidence to support their case. However, along with lots of people, I was looking forward to what they might find out through discovery.

Well now it seems that there may very well be a case evidence that will support their suit. The NYT reports on a rather peculiar finding from how Harvard was rating Asian-American applicants.
Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than others on traits like “positive personality,” likability, courage, kindness and being “widely respected,” according to an analysis of more than 160,000 student records filed Friday by a group representing Asian-American students in a lawsuit against the university.

Asian-Americans scored higher than applicants of any other racial or ethnic group on admissions measures like test scores, grades and extracurricular activities, according to the analysis commissioned by a group that opposes all race-based admissions criteria. But the students’ personal ratings significantly dragged down their chances of being admitted, the analysis found.

The court documents, filed in federal court in Boston, also showed that Harvard conducted an internal investigation into its admissions policies in 2013 and found a bias against Asian-American applicants. But Harvard never made the findings public or acted on them.
Apparently, they were being rated lower on personal qualities by the admissions officers who hadn't met the kids, not by the alumni interviewers who didn't rate them lower.
Alumni interviewers give Asian-Americans personal ratings comparable to those of whites. But the admissions office gives them the worst scores of any racial group, often without even meeting them, according to Professor Arcidiacono.

Harvard said that while admissions officers may not meet the applicants, they can judge their personal qualities based on factors like personal essays and letters of recommendation.
I find it telling that it was on personal characteristics that they were ranked lower since that is one of the more subjective areas whereas the other areas are more objective. It's as if they deliberately chose that area to lower the scores of Asian-American applicants since they couldn't do it in the other categories.

This chart from a 2015 article on Asian-Americans is quite interesting
.

Note the difference between CalTech which doesn't use race as a factor in admissions compared to other elite universities. I guess it's just a coincidence that they all ended up with very similar percentages of admitted Asian-Americans.

This is what Harvard's own research found when they looked at their undergraduate admissions process.
In 2013, the Harvard Office of Institutional Research said that Asian-Americans should comprise 43.4 percent of the admitted class if they were judged purely on their academic merit, the organization, Students for Fair Admissions, said in a federal court filing Friday.

Asian-Americans should have made up 26 percent of the student body, even after accounting for the Ivy League school’s preferences for the children of alumni and recruited athletes and the university’s more subjective “personal ratings," the Harvard office found, according to the plaintiff’s court filing.
Harvard claims that their system is simply looking at a broader spectrum of qualities of leadership and creativity. Apparently, not enough Asian-Americans rank high on those qualities. Phooey! And they know that's just excuse-making.
Yet, in a deposition, Mark Hansen, a former Harvard researcher, was asked, “Do you have any explanation other than intentional discrimination for your conclusions regarding the negative association between Asians and the Harvard admissions process?”

“I don’t," Hansen responded, according to Friday’s filing.
And the testimony from Harvard's Dean and Director of Admissions also seems to indicate that there is something fishy going on with those personal ratings.
The low personal ratings Asian-Americans receive are inconsistent with what Harvard’s own officials say about the personal qualities of this group. For example, Harvard’s Dean of Admissions, William Fitzsimmons, who has read every applicant file for more than 30 years, denied that Asian-Americans have fewer attractive personal qualities than other applicants. He testified that he did not believe Asian-Americans fall short of White applicants in terms of leadership, friendliness, outgoing nature, etc.

The testimony of Harvard’s Director of Admissions, Marlyn McGrath, was the same in this regard. So was the testimony of officials from elite high schools with a very high percentage of Asian-American students. And one of Harvard’s own expert witnesses, the former president of Brown University, described the view that Asian-Americans are less well-rounded than other groups of applicants as “balderdash.”

Still, Harvard contrived to give comparatively low personal qualities to Asian-American applicants. These ratings depressed the rate at which these applicants were admitted.
As Paul Mirengoff writes,
Imagine if Harvard systematically rated African-American applicants lower on “personal qualities” than other groups, resulting in Blacks being rejected in higher percentages than objective factors like grades, scores, and extracurricular activities indicated they should be. No one would doubt that this was racial discrimination.

The plaintiffs note how similar what is happening to Asian-Americans today is to what happened to Jews almost a century earlier.
“It turns out that the suspicions of Asian-American alumni, students and applicants were right all along,” the group, Students for Fair Admissions, said in a court document laying out the analysis. “Harvard today engages in the same kind of discrimination and stereotyping that it used to justify quotas on Jewish applicants in the 1920s and 1930s.”
Back then, A. Lawrence Lowell, the president of Harvard from 1909-1933, quite explicitly wanted to limit the number of Jews being admitted because he feared that too many Jews would turn off Protestant applicants.
Harvard would be ruined "not because Jews of bad character have come; but the result follows from the coming in large numbers of Jews of any kind, save those few who mingle readily with the rest of the undergraduate body," Lowell wrote in the letter.

The only way to prevent this, Lowell argued, was to impose strict quotas and restrictions. Ideally, Lowell wanted to cap Harvard's Jewish population at 15% of the student body, according to Karabel
So how to do that? Well, see if this sounds familiar.
By 1926, Harvard moved away from admissions based strictly on academics to evaluating potential students on a number of qualifiers meant to reveal their "character." A report released that year by an admissions committee endorsed a limit of 1,000 freshman per class — allowing a shift in policy, as Harvard could no longer admit every student who achieved a certain academic cutoff.

Here's how Karabel sums up the new changes approved in 1926, which would effectively allow the Harvard administration to limit its Jewish student population:
The committee decisively rejected an admissions policy based on scholarship alone, stating that "it is neither feasible nor desirable to raise the standards of the College so high that none but brilliant scholars can enter" while stipulating that "the standards ought never to be so high for serious and ambitious students of average intelligence."

When the faculty formally approved the report eight days later, Lowell was further elated, for they also approved measures making the admissions process even more subjective. In particular, the faculty called on [Committee on Admissions chairman Henry Pennypacker] to interview as many applicants as possible to gather additional information on "character and fitness and the promise of the greatest usefulness in the future as a result of a Harvard education." Henceforth, declared the faculty, a passport-sized photo would be "required as an essential part of the application for admissions."


That 2015 article in the Economist examined why Asian-Americans do so well. It seems mostly due to hard work and family influence.
Amy Hsin of the City University of New York and Yu Xie of the University of Michigan examined the progress of 6,000 white and Asian children, from toddlers through school, to find an answer. They rejected the idea that Asians were just innately much cleverer than whites: there was an early gap in cognitive abilities, but it declined to insignificance through school. The higher socioeconomic status of Asian parents provided part of the explanation, but only a small part. Their data suggested that Asian outperformance is thanks in large part to hard work. Ms Hsin and Ms Xie’s study showed a sizeable gap in effort between Asian and white children, which grew during their school careers.

When the researchers asked the children about their attitudes to work, two differences emerged between Asian and white children. The Asians were likelier to believe that mathematical ability is learned, not innate; and Asian parents expected more of their children than white ones did. The notion that A- is an “Asian F” is widespread. Another study, by Zurishaddai Garcia of the University of Utah, shows that Asian-American parents are a lot likelier to spend at least 20 minutes a day helping their children with their homework than any other ethnic group.

In “The Asian American Achievement Paradox”, a study based on interviews with young Chinese and Vietnamese in Los Angeles, as well as Mexicans, whites and blacks, Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou argue that it is not just what happens at home that matters. They point to “ethnic capital”—the fact that these groups belong to communities that support education—as part of the explanation.

The Asian-American interviewees recall wearily their parents dangling the PhDs of cousins and neighbours in front of them. Being part of an entrepreneurial society helps. The four-inch-thick Southern California Chinese Yellow Pages, which lists Chinese businesses, offers thousands of listings for Chinese-run SAT prep and tutoring services. Close links to the motherland are also an advantage, to parents at least. Children who rebel may be threatened with being sent to stay with family in China, and they know from relations there that teenagers in America, even Asian ones, get off relatively lightly compared with those in China.

Ilya Shapiro writes at the WSJ to cover some of the dangers in Harvard's case.
Nor is Harvard’s use of race narrowly tailored to achieve any particular measure of diversity. The idea of “critical mass” of minority enrollment played a central role in Fisher, and in a pair of landmark 2003 cases involving the University of Michigan. But Harvard officials’ depositions show that, as the plaintiffs put it, “Harvard concedes that it has no interest in achieving critical mass and has never given the concept serious thought.” Citing redacted testimony from the dean of admissions, the plaintiffs conclude that “Harvard is adamant that racial preferences are indispensable to its mission—and always will be.” In other words, race isn’t just a “plus factor,” which would be acceptable under the Michigan precedents, but often the dominant consideration—which again the Supreme Court has held to violate the law.

Finally, and critically from a jurisprudential standpoint, Harvard has not considered race-neutral alternatives in good faith. In the face of litigation, it formed a committee, disbanded it, and then created a new committee controlled by the lawyers defending this lawsuit. There was no real consideration of using socioeconomic or geographic preferences, increasing financial aid, eliminating preferences for legacies or athletes, increasing recruitment, ending early admissions, or a host of other options that experts suggest could promote diversity.

Perhaps the most damning evidence is an internal investigation Harvard conducted in 2013. The school’s Office of Institutional Research produced three reports finding the admissions system was biased against Asian-Americans—including low-income students of the sort that one might think a college would want for diversity purposes. The dean of admissions buried the results.

If the judge denies the plaintiffs’ summary-judgment motion, we can expect a trial in the fall. In any event, this case seems destined for the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy may no longer be on the bench by the time it gets there, but his colleagues will have to decide whether elite education’s system of racial spoils can be sustained.

Hee hee. Rich Lowry designates Harvard's depiction of Asian-Americans as a micro-aggression.
It just so happens that, per Harvard, otherwise high-achieving Asian Americans are beset by chronically negative personalities. It’s amazing that they somehow manage to do well in school and extensively participate in extracurricular activities despite their glum outlook and downbeat personas. Alumni interviewers who actually meet them tend to rate them highly. No matter.

Harvard’s “holistic” approach to admissions allows it to adjust the knobs to get the demographic mix that it prefers. There’s precedent for this. In the 1920s, as a report of the Center for Equal Opportunity notes, Harvard changed its admissions process away from an exclusive focus on academics to considering the whole person, which allowed it to reverse an unwelcome run-up in Jewish admissions and keep the percentage of Jews in the student body at about 15 percent for decades.

Like the Jews before them, Asian Americans are deemed “unclubbable” by many elite universities seeking to keep their admissions down....

If Harvard applied its own standards to Harvard, it would be appalled by how it’s disadvantaging members of a minority group. It would encourage protests. It would refer itself for racial-bias training. It would apologize and grovel and hope that it all could be a teaching moment. But none of this will happen because it could lead to the admission of “too many Asians,” the scenario that its admissions policies and related subterfuge are designed to prevent.

The lawsuit includes an exchange with a teacher at exclusive Stuyvesant High School in New York City who breaks down and cries when she’s shown data on how much less likely her Asian students are to make it into Harvard. She’s upset by the unfairness of it — would that Harvard felt the same way.

I feel that teacher's pain. I teach in a school with a lot of Asian-Americans. And all this sounds very familiar to me. So many of those students work so very hard to not only excel in their classes but to search out interesting extra-curricular activities and take leadership roles. Since summer began, I've been getting a start on writing college recommendations for students who will be seniors next year and I'm struck again and again how much some of these students (about half on my to-do list are Asian-Americans) are involved in. And yet they never come to class without being prepared and never seem to be giving less than their best. They're all so much more impressive than I or my peers were back in high school. THe thought that they are getting downgraded simply because of their race is agonizing.

It's not all wonderful for some of these students. There are some students who are under a lot of pressure and really stress out, especially when they are doing only above average rather than excellent work. I've seen some of these students pressed by their parents far beyond what any of their teachers would like to see. And I have had parent conferences that indicate that their parents, right from the moment they enter high school, are pushing their children just as described in the Economist's article. It's not exactly what I'd like to see for some of these students. Family pressure to achieve is not an unalloyed positive.


The Trump administration's handling of families at the border is reminiscent of how it handled the order on the travel ban. They were unready for what would happen when they initiated their policy and they were totally disorganized in defending what they had done. For example, here are the various explanations/defenses they've put forward.
Do they ever have a meeting to figure out what they're doing and why and how they want to defend it when they are inevitably attacked?

The idea of using children as a deterrent is immoral. Children should never be used in that way.

Clearly, legislation is needed to address the problem. Ted Cruz has put forward a narrowly targeted bill that, as David French writes, looks pretty solid.
Cruz’s bill enjoys the considerable virtue of focus. By banning family separation, it deals with the immediate crisis. By increasing the number of judges, authorizing new shelters, and providing for expedited processing, it can increase comfort for families, reduce the length of their detention, and ease the backlog. There’s a modest fiscal cost, of course, but it’s a price worth paying to end a broken policy.

The primary critique I’m seeing online is aimed at the 14 day asylum processing provision. Constructing a solid asylum case often takes time, and I’d be concerned about that provision as well if it didn’t ultimately allow for generous extensions when good cause is shown. But that seems like a point that can and should be quickly negotiated with input from experienced asylum attorneys.
The bill has the benefit of not using the children and their plight as weapons to leverage what either the Democrats or Republicans would like on immigration policy. Fix the problem now and don't try to piggy back a bunch of other stuff on top of the fix.

The Democrats in the Senate have all signed on to a bill that Dianne Feinstein has put forth. However, as Gabriel Maior points out, there is a major problem in the legislation as written.
Democrats’ proposed legislation to prohibit so-called border separations would actually prevent federal law enforcement agencies almost anywhere inside the United States from arresting and detaining criminals who are parents having nothing to do with unlawfully crossing the border and seeking asylum.

Every Senate Democrat has now signed on to cosponsor a bill written so carelessly that it does not distinguish between migrant children at the border and U.S. citizen children already within the United States. The bill further does not distinguish between federal officers handling the border crisis and federal law enforcement pursuing the ordinary course of their duties.
Go read his analysis as he goes through the wording in Feinstein's bill. I'm not a lawyer, but it sounds pretty convincing to me. Read and see what you think. He concludes with an example of how the language in this bill might work in real life.
The ridiculous consequences of passing the Democrats’ hastily written mess are easily demonstrated. Let’s say FBI agents hear about a drug trafficker and murderer in Buffalo, New York. The agents get a warrant to raid the drug trafficker’s house and arrest him. While they do so, they discover the drug trafficker’s minor daughter is home with him. Feinstein’s bill would prohibit the FBI agents, while arresting a drug trafficker, from separating this child from her father.

This is not a farfetched hypothetical. FBI agents are agents of DOJ (a designated agency) and Buffalo is within 100 miles of the border. So long as the daughter is either a U.S. citizen or an alien without permanent status, the FBI agents would be unable to proceed with normal law enforcement activities. The agents would be forced to choose between booking the drug trafficking murderer into jail with his daughter or not booking him into jail at all.

Panicky lawmaking often produces absurd results, and this one presents law enforcement with the choice between keeping children with their criminal parents while prosecuting them almost anywhere in the United States and for any crime whatsoever, or not prosecuting criminal parents at all. The legislation is not limited to unlawful entry prosecutions, to migrants, or (absent amendment) even to alien children.

Allahpundit comments on Feinstein's bill,
It’s a nonstarter as written, but it’s not surprising that it would have glaring errors of this sort. The point of Feinstein’s bill wasn’t to pass and provide workable legislation, it was to lay down a marker for where Democrats stand. She threw something together in 10 minutes that her party could point at as proof that they’re against child separation for illegal families — and every other family, it seems. Oops.

With two bills out there, it seems that there should be a solution to fix this problem. If, and it's a big if, neither side tries to slow things down so they can try to extract some partisan advantage, this could be solved this week. Trump can sign the bill and then pretend that he deserves credit because that's what he does.

Or the Democrats could just decide that they prefer to use the children they purport to worry so much about as political pawns.


I guess that having all sides say they want a fix doesn't mean we'll get a fix.
Schumer’s opposition to a legislative fix means there likely won’t be a quick end to the emotional images of immigrant children being separated from their families unless Trump backs down and reverses his “zero tolerance” policy.

Democrats want to keep the pressure on Trump instead of having Congress assume responsibility for the growing crisis.

Schumer’s position immediately raised speculation over how long Democrats would stick to their position if Trump refuses to change his mind.

“Let’s hope we never get to that. Let’s hope the president does the right thing and solves the problem, which he can do. That’s the simple, easiest and most likely way this will happen,” Schumer said.
Trust Schumer to get in the way of the administration making a mess of itself. If they genuinely care about the children being separated from their parents, why block a bill that fixes that?

It's enough to make one hate everyone.


What is it with these people serving in the cabinet? Don't they have the sense not to do anything that would make them look like they're taking advantage of their position or violating laws on conflicts of interest? Now it's the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Forbes has investigated what Ross has done with his prior holdings and it's not an edifying story.
For most of last year, Ross served as secretary of commerce while maintaining stakes in companies co-owned by the Chinese government, a shipping firm tied to Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, a Cypriot bank reportedly caught up in the Robert Mueller investigation and a huge player in an industry Ross is now investigating. It’s hard to imagine a more radioactive portfolio for a cabinet member.

To this day, Ross’ family apparently continues to have an interest in these toxic holdings. Rather than dump them all, the commerce secretary sold some of his interests to Goldman Sachs—and, according to Ross himself, put others in a trust for his family members. He continued to deal with China, Russia and others while evidently knowing that his family’s interests were tied to those countries.
In addition, five days before reports surfaced last fall that Ross was connected to cronies of Vladimir Putin through a shipping firm called Navigator Holdings, the secretary of commerce, who likely knew about the reporting, shorted stock in the Kremlin-linked company, positioning himself to make money on the investment when share prices dropped.

Absurdly, maintaining all those conflicts of interest appears to be entirely legal—a reflection of ethics laws woefully unprepared for governing tycoons like Donald Trump and Wilbur Ross.

Ross appears to have broken one law, however: submitting a sworn statement to federal officials in November saying he divested of everything he had promised he would—even though he still held more than $10 million worth of stock in financial firm Invesco, his former employer. He also continued to hold a short position in a bank called Sun Bancorp, a company he had promised to divest. The next month, Ross got rid of interests in both.
Apparently, Ross has eventually divested himself of his holdings, but that was after he'd signed a statement saying that he had already done so. The story goes on and on about lies that Ross has told about his personal finances. You know, if you don't want to have to sell your holdings or put them in a blind trust, how about not agreeing to take a federal job? That seems easy enough. Is it really worth it?
.
As Jonah Goldberg writes, "This is not what draining the swamp looks like."


So now we are officially withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council. In case you thought that this is a worthwhile organization just because it has "human rights" in its title, note which countries they condemn and which countries sit on the HRC.





Here are some other UN organizations that are equally bogus.



Salena Zito recounts
what happened when she took a class of Harvard students on a trip into small-town America. Even when they were going less than 100 miles from Harvard's campus, it still seemed like an anthropological trip into foreign lands for these students. What they found out was that the people in these small towns were funny, kind, welcoming, and intelligent. They just didn't fit the C'linging to their guns and Bibles" stereotypes. It's rather sad that


One Chick-fil-A employee details what it is like to work there. It's not quite what those people who pressured Twitter's Jack Dorsey to apologize for eating there and tweeting about it. Kemberlee Kaye at PJ Media links to this 2013 essay by a gay activist, Shane L. Windmayer about how Chick-fil-A's president, Dan Cathy, had reached out to him after the uproar that had been sparked when it came out about Cathy's opposition to gay marriage. Cathy had called Windmayer, the founder of Campus Pride which had been protesting against Chick-fil-As on college campuses. It's a story I'd never heard before. It really is a lovely story about a man admitting that he hadn't fully known the issues and working to talk to someone and learn from him and his experiences.
It is not often that people with deeply held and completely opposing viewpoints actually risk sitting down and listening to one another. We see this failure to listen and learn in our government, in our communities and in our own families. Dan Cathy and I would, together, try to do better than each of us had experienced before.

Never once did Dan or anyone from Chick-fil-A ask for Campus Pride to stop protesting Chick-fil-A. On the contrary, Dan listened intently to our concerns and the real-life accounts from youth about the negative impact that Chick-fil-A was having on campus climate and safety at colleges across the country. He was concerned about an incident last fall where a fraternity was tabling next to the Chick-fil-A restaurant on campus. Whenever an out gay student on campus would walk past the table, the fraternity would chant, “We love Chick-fil-A,” and then shout anti-gay slurs at the student. Dan sought first to understand, not to be understood. He confessed that he had been naïve to the issues at hand and the unintended impact of his company’s actions.

Chick-fil-A also provided access to internal documents related to the funding of anti-LGBT groups and asked questions about our concerns related to this funding. An internal document, titled “Who We Are,” expressed Chick-fil-A’s values, which included their commitment “to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect,” including LGBT people. Dan and his family members had personally drafted, refined and approved the document.

Through all this, Dan and I shared respectful, enduring communication and built trust. His demeanor has always been one of kindness and openness. Even when I continued to directly question his public actions and the funding decisions, Dan embraced the opportunity to have dialogue and hear my perspective. He and I were committed to a better understanding of one another. Our mutual hope was to find common ground if possible, and to build respect no matter what. We learned about each other as people with opposing views, not as opposing people.

During our meetings I came to see that the Chick-fil-A brand was being used by both sides of the political debate around gay marriage. The repercussion of this was a deep division and polarization that was fueling feelings of hate on all sides. As a result, we agreed to keep the ongoing nature of our meetings private for the time being. The fire needed no more fuel.

Throughout the conversations Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being “a follower of Christ” more than a “Christian.” Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-a — but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.

And in that we had great commonality: We were each entirely ourselves. We both wanted to be respected and for others to understand our views. Neither of us could — or would — change. It was not possible. We were different but in dialogue. That was progress....

My relationship with Dan is the same, though he is not my family. Dan, in his heart, is driven by his desire to minister to others and had to choose to continue our relationship throughout this controversy. He had to both hold to his beliefs and welcome me into them. He had to face the issue of respecting my viewpoints and life even while not being able to reconcile them with his belief system. He defined this to me as “the blessing of growth.” He expanded his world without abandoning it. I did, as well.
If we could only have more interchanges like this between people who have serious disagreements could come together and discuss things civilly and respectfully. They might not change each other's minds, but at least they can come to understand the other's views and life experiences and learn to respect each other rather than demonize the other as someone of evil intent. We have so little of those interactions these days and it's a real shame.






Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Cruising the Web

This would be an excellent move.
Talks with the United States over how to reform the main U.N. rights body have failed to meet Washington’s demands, activists and diplomats say, suggesting that the Trump administration will quit the Geneva forum whose session opens on Monday.

A U.S. source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the withdrawal appeared to be “imminent” but had no details.
This is one of the most egregiously bogus commissions in an organization full of bogus organizations. It exists mostly just to attack Israel and ignore all the other human rights violations of every other country in the Middle East. I applauded when President George W. Bush pulled us out of the Commission and it was quite typical that we went back in under Obama who didn't seem to mind criticism of Israel. And why should we have any respect for an organization on human rights that allows Venezuela, China, and Saudi Arabia to be members.


Let's say you had research out of Stanford that showed that girls outperform boys pretty uniformly on reading skills and that there was no real gender gap, on average, in math between boys and girls.
But in math, there is nearly no gender gap, on average. Girls perform slightly better than boys in about a quarter of districts – particularly those that are predominantly African-American and low-income. Boys do slightly better in the rest – and much better in high-income and mostly white or Asian-American districts.
So what would be your choice of a headline to write up this research? Wouldn't the headline be either that there is a gender gap in reading favoring girls or that there is not really a gender gap on math? Well, not if you're the New York Times. Nope, this is the headline that they chose:
Where Boys Outperform Girls in Math: Rich, White and Suburban Districts
That was their big take on this study - that there is a bit of a gender gap in districts that are "mostly rich, white and suburban." That was the focus of their reporting on the study.
In the Montgomery Township district in New Jersey, for example, the median household income is $180,000 and the students are about 60 percent white and 30 percent Asian-American. Boys and girls both perform well, but boys score almost half a grade level ahead of girls in math. Compare that with Detroit, where the median household earns $27,000 and students are about 85 percent black. It’s one of the districts in which girls outperform boys in math.

In Montgomery Township, the interest in academic achievement is high. “The students are very, very interested in their progress,” said Christopher Herte, the district’s math and science supervisor for Grades 5 to 8. “The biggest thing is family expectations and parents as role models. They don’t have to look far to see somebody who went to college or who’s doing extremely well.”

Boys are much more likely than girls to sign up for math clubs and competitions, he said, to the point that the district started a girls-only math competition this year, the Sally Ride Contest.

The gender achievement gap in math reflects a paradox of high-earning parents. They are more likely to say they hold egalitarian views about gender roles. But they are also more likely to act in traditional ways – father as breadwinner, mother as caregiver.

The gap was largest in school districts in which men earned a lot, had high levels of education, and were likely to work in business or science. Women in such districts earned significantly less. Children might absorb the message that sons should grow up to work in high-earning, math-based jobs.

High-income parents spend more time and money on their children, and invest in more stereotypical activities, researchers said, enrolling their daughters in ballet and their sons in engineering.

There is also a theory that high-earning families invest more in sons, because men in this socioeconomic group earn more than women, while low-earning families invest more in daughters, because working-class women have more job opportunities than men.
The difference might also be that boys in those wealthier areas are more likely to come from two-parent families.
“Both girls and boys benefit from being in more academic and more resource-rich environments,” said Thomas DiPrete, a sociologist at Columbia who has studied gender and educational performance. “It’s just that boys benefit more.”

When boys think of academic achievement as desirable and tied to their future success, they do better. Boys who have fathers who are involved in their lives, and who are highly educated with white-collar jobs, are more likely to receive this message, according to research by Mr. DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann, a sociologist at Ohio State.
So the explanation given by researchers is that boys in poorer districts suffer more from poverty and racism.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, in districts that are mostly black, less affluent and in the South, girls do better than boys in math. Recent research has found that black boys in particular struggle in the face of poverty and racism. Black and Latino boys and those in poor neighborhoods often get the message that doing well in school is not manly, a variety of research has found.

“We live in a society where there’s multiple models of successful masculinity,” Mr. DiPrete said. “One depends for its position on education, and the other doesn’t. It comes from physical strength.”
This seems to me to be the key factor. Are boys in poor areas seeing a model of a man who worked hard in school and achieved success. Instead we get all this theorizing that, in wealthier school districts, teachers and parents don't encourage girls as much in math.
Although well-off districts encourage boys in math, they don’t seem to encourage girls in the same way. Researchers say it probably has to do with deeply ingrained stereotypes that boys are better at math.

Teachers often underestimate girls’ math abilities, according to research by Sarah Lubienski of Indiana University and Joseph Cimpian of New York University, who also found the gender gap in math was largest for students from high-income families. They found that as girls move through elementary school, they lose confidence in their math skills – more than they lose interest or achievement.

“We will have boys shouting out the answer, and if they're wrong they don't care,” said Melissa Kondrick, a sixth-grade math teacher in Pleasanton, Calif., another high-performing district with a large gender math gap. “If a girl gets it wrong, they will not answer another question. You'll see them shut down.”
I grew up in a suburban, well-off school district and have taught in both magnet and charter schools with considerable populations of just those sorts of families. I have two daughters. And I have never, ever witnessed, even back in the 1960s any discouragement of girls in math, particularly in the middle-school years which these studies concern. If anything, teachers are happy to have girls in class because they tend to be better behaved at that age. My explanation of the differences in male achievement in math to be more due to what the boys in the poorer school districts are missing out in the culture around them. For there to be a gender gap in the wealthier areas might just be due to girls being exposed to so many, varied choices as to what they can focus on and girls making different choices from math.

What does seem clear is that girls are still doing a lot better than boys in reading.
Girls continue to outperform boys in reading in school districts across the United States, regardless of income, and in most other rich countries. Parents have been found to talk more to girls from the time they are infants. Teachers say girls concentrate more on reading. Perhaps boys’ reading skills mature later. There could also be a role model effect: Women say they read more than men, while boys are steered more toward sports and video games.
Shouldn't that be the focus - why aren't boys doing as well in reading across the board and what can be done about that rather than worrying about wealthy girls who demonstrate a gap in math? But that is not the focus of the New York Times which grabs on to the seemingly less significant gender gap for their story.


If you're at all familiar with psychology, you've heard of the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) by Philip Zimbardo which purported to demonstrate that random people chosen to be guards over other subjects chosen to be prisoners would quickly take on the role of evil guards who would mistreat the prisoners. And the prisoners would become submissive to the authority of guards even to the point of madness. This experiment was used to demonstrate that humans were naturally capable of evil and was used to excuse the behavior of Nazi prison guards. Well now we find that the study was not only deeply flawed, but also based on deceitful practices by the researchers.
But its findings were wrong. Very wrong. And not just due to its questionable ethics or lack of concrete data — but because of deceit.

A new exposé published by Medium based on previously unpublished recordings of Philip Zimbardo, the Stanford psychologist who ran the study, and interviews with his participants, offers convincing evidence that the guards in the experiment were coached to be cruel. It also shows that the experiment’s most memorable moment — of a prisoner descending into a screaming fit, proclaiming, “I’m burning up inside!” — was the result of the prisoner acting. “I took it as a kind of an improv exercise,” one of the guards told reporter Ben Blum. “I believed that I was doing what the researchers wanted me to do.”

The findings have long been subject to scrutiny — many think of them as more of a dramatic demonstration, a sort-of academic reality show, than a serious bit of science. But these new revelations incited an immediate response. “We must stop celebrating this work,” personality psychologist Simine Vazire tweeted, in response to the article. “It’s anti-scientific. Get it out of textbooks.” Many other psychologists have expressed similar sentiments.
Ben Blum who wrote the exposé in Medium writes about how the SPE has been used since it first appeared in 1971. The subject playing a prisoner, Douglas Korpi, apparently broke down during the study and started screaming,
“I mean, Jesus Christ, I’m burning up inside!” he yelled, kicking furiously at the door. “Don’t you know? I want to get out! This is all fucked up inside! I can’t stand another night! I just can’t take it anymore!”
Well, guess what? He now admits that he was play-acting the entire time.
The study was supposed to last for two weeks, but after Zimbardo’s girlfriend stopped by six days in and witnessed the conditions in the “Stanford County Jail,” she convinced him to shut it down. Since then, the tale of guards run amok and terrified prisoners breaking down one by one has become world-famous, a cultural touchstone that’s been the subject of books, documentaries, and feature films — even an episode of Veronica Mars.

The SPE is often used to teach the lesson that our behavior is profoundly affected by the social roles and situations in which we find ourselves. But its deeper, more disturbing implication is that we all have a wellspring of potential sadism lurking within us, waiting to be tapped by circumstance. It has been invoked to explain the massacre at My Lai during the Vietnam War, the Armenian genocide, and the horrors of the Holocaust. And the ultimate symbol of the agony that man helplessly inflicts on his brother is Korpi’s famous breakdown, set off after only 36 hours by the cruelty of his peers.

There’s just one problem: Korpi’s breakdown was a sham.

“Anybody who is a clinician would know that I was faking,” he told me last summer, in the first extensive interview he has granted in years. “If you listen to the tape, it’s not subtle. I’m not that good at acting. I mean, I think I do a fairly good job, but I’m more hysterical than psychotic.”

Now a forensic psychologist himself, Korpi told me his dramatic performance in the SPE was indeed inspired by fear, but not of abusive guards. Instead, he was worried about failing to get into grad school.

“The reason I took the job was that I thought I’d have every day to sit around by myself and study for my GREs,” Korpi explained of the Graduate Record Exams often used to determine admissions, adding that he was scheduled to take the test just after the study concluded. Shortly after the experiment began, he asked for his study books. The prison staff refused. The next day Korpi asked again. No dice. At that point he decided there was, as he put it to me, “no point to this job.” First, Korpi tried faking a stomach-ache. When that didn’t work, he tried faking a breakdown. Far from feeling traumatized, he added, he had actually enjoyed himself for much of his short tenure in the jail, other than a tussle with the guards over his bed.

“[The first day] was really fun,” Korpi recalled. “The rebellion was fun. There were no repercussions. We knew [the guards] couldn’t hurt us, they couldn’t hit us. They were white college kids just like us, so it was a very safe situation. It was just a job. If you listen to the tape, you can hear it in my voice: I have a great job. I get to yell and scream and act all hysterical. I get to act like a prisoner. I was being a good employee. It was a great time.”
The people playing the prisoners weren't worried about the behavior from those playing the guards because they knew the guards couldn't actually hurt them. They were more ticked off by being told by the researchers that they couldn't quite and leave the experiment. When asked, Zimbardo denied that the participants were not allowed to leave, but a new transcript of conversations between Zimbardo and his staff indicated that they knew people wanted to leave and they weren't allowing them to since they didn't use the exact words in the consent form of saying "I quit the experiment." Since they didn't use those exact words, they weren't allowed to leave even when they said "I want out." Blum's research, however, shows that the consent form doesn't use that phrase so he's lying right there. Korpi now, almost 50 years later, wonders why he didn't go ahead and file a false imprisonment charge for being kept for hours even while asking to get out of a locked room.

The other part of the supposed results of the SPE was the conclusion that the people playing the guards naturally became abusive all on their own. However, it is now clear that an undergraduate student, David Jaffe, who not only assisted in the experiment but had done an earlier assignment for Zimbardo of a two-day simulation of a prison-experiment. Zimbardo decided to expand the study, but Jaffe was in charge of getting the "guards" ready for the experiment.
Because Zimbardo himself had never visited a real prison, the standards of realism were defined by Jaffe’s prison research and the nightmarish recollections of Carlo Prescott, a San Quentin parolee whom Zimbardo met through Jaffe and brought in as a consultant. Jaffe was given extraordinary leeway in shaping the Stanford prison experiment in order to replicate his previous results. “Dr. Zimbardo suggested that the most difficult problem would be to get the guards to behave like guards,” Jaffe wrote in a post-experiment evaluation. “I was asked to suggest tactics based on my previous experience as master sadist. … I was given the responsibility of trying to elicit ‘tough-guard’ behavior.” Though Zimbardo has often stated that the guards devised their own rules, in fact most of them were copied directly from Jaffe’s class assignment during that Saturday orientation meeting. Jaffe also offered the guards ideas for hassling the prisoners, including forcing them to clean thorns out of dirty blankets that had been thrown in the weeds.

Once the simulation got underway, Jaffe explicitly corrected guards who weren’t acting tough enough, fostering exactly the pathological behavior that Zimbardo would later claim had arisen organically.

“The guards have to know that every guard is going to be what we call a tough guard,” Jaffe told one such guard [skip to 8:35]. “[H]opefully what will come out of this study is some very serious recommendations for reform… so that we can get on the media and into the press with it, and say ‘Now look at what this is really about.’ … [T]ry and react as you picture the pigs reacting.”

Though most guards gave lackluster performances, some even going out of their way to do small favors for the prisoners, one in particular rose to the challenge: Dave Eshelman, whom prisoners nicknamed “John Wayne” for his Southern accent and inventive cruelty. But Eshelman, who had studied acting throughout high school and college, has always admitted that his accent was just as fake as Korpi’s breakdown. His overarching goal, as he told me in an interview, was simply to help the experiment succeed.

“I took it as a kind of an improv exercise,” Eshelman said. “I believed that I was doing what the researchers wanted me to do, and I thought I’d do it better than anybody else by creating this despicable guard persona. I’d never been to the South, but I used a southern accent, which I got from Cool Hand Luke.
Zimbardo used these moments of the experiment to argue about people's fundamental capacity for mistreating their fellow man. Now it seems more that the guards were more concerned about winning the approval of the scientists.
According to Alex Haslam and Stephen Reicher, psychologists who co-directed an attempted replication of the Stanford prison experiment in Great Britain in 2001, a critical factor in making people commit atrocities is a leader assuring them that they are acting in the service of a higher moral cause with which they identify — for instance, scientific progress or prison reform. We have been taught that guards abused prisoners in the Stanford prison experiment because of the power of their roles, but Haslam and Reicher argue that their behavior arose instead from their identification with the experimenters, which Jaffe and Zimbardo encouraged at every turn. Eshelman, who described himself on an intake questionnaire as a “scientist at heart,” may have identified more powerfully than anyone, but Jaffe himself put it well in his self-evaluation: “I am startled by the ease with which I could turn off my sensitivity and concern for others for ‘a good cause.’”
Perhaps it was the time period of the early 1970s that made Zimbardo's supposed conclusion so appealing to the media and public. That was an era in which people were debating the treatment of prisoners in places San Quentin and Attica as well as the conduct of American soldiers in Vietnam.

Even though there were other psychologists who cast doubt on Zimbardo's research and noted that he didn't publish his results in a peer-reviewed journal, but in the New York Times Magazine. That is usually a flashing light to warn about a scientific study, but not this time when the results seemed so congenial to many at that time and even now. People who had participated in the experiment came out and exposed how things didn't happen spontaneously as Zimbardo depicted. Other scientists couldn't replicate his findings when they tried to run the experiment without coaching the guards and allowed the prisoners to leave at any time.
In another blow to the experiment’s scientific credibility, Haslam and Reicher’s attempted replication, in which guards received no coaching and prisoners were free to quit at any time, failed to reproduce Zimbardo’s findings. Far from breaking down under escalating abuse, prisoners banded together and won extra privileges from guards, who became increasingly passive and cowed. According to Reicher, Zimbardo did not take it well when they attempted to publish their findings in the British Journal of Social Psychology.

“We discovered that he was privately writing to editors to try to stop us getting published by claiming that we were fraudulent,” Reicher told me.
That is never a good sign from a scientist. However, Philip Zimbardo went out to become a celebrity and one of the most prominent American psychologists. His research was used to examine the Holocaust and the abuses at Abu Ghraib. When I discuss the Holocaust in my AP European History class, every year students who have taken psychology or just heard of the SPE always bring it up to argue that anyone could have acted as the Nazi prison guards did.

Why were the conclusions of the SPE so appealing to so many? That is indeed troubling because it shows what too many people want to believe about human nature.
The appeal of the Stanford prison experiment seems to go deeper than its scientific validity, perhaps because it tells us a story about ourselves that we desperately want to believe: that we, as individuals, cannot really be held accountable for the sometimes reprehensible things we do. As troubling as it might seem to accept Zimbardo’s fallen vision of human nature, it is also profoundly liberating. It means we’re off the hook. Our actions are determined by circumstance. Our fallibility is situational. Just as the Gospel promised to absolve us of our sins if we would only believe, the SPE offered a form of redemption tailor-made for a scientific era, and we embraced it.

For psychology professors, the Stanford prison experiment is a reliable crowd-pleaser, typically presented with lots of vividly disturbing video footage. In introductory psychology lecture halls, often filled with students from other majors, the counterintuitive assertion that students’ own belief in their inherent goodness is flatly wrong offers dramatic proof of psychology’s ability to teach them new and surprising things about themselves. Some intro psych professors I spoke to felt that it helped instill the understanding that those who do bad things are not necessarily bad people. Others pointed to the importance of teaching students in our unusually individualistic culture that their actions are profoundly influenced by external factors.

“Even if the science was quirky,” said Kenneth Carter, professor of psychology at Emory University and co-author of the textbook Learn Psychology, “or there was something that was wrong about the way that it was put together, I think at the end of the day, I still want students to be mindful that they may find themselves in powerful situations that could override how they might behave as an individual. That’s the story that’s bigger than the science.”

But if Zimbardo’s work was so profoundly unscientific, how can we trust the stories it claims to tell?
We have these results out in plain sight with lots of counter-evidence, yet people still seem eager to embrace the false results. Maybe we like think of ourselves as capable of great evil by our very nature since it lets us off the hook for anything bad we might do.
“You have a vertigo when you look into it,” Le Texier explained. “It’s like, ‘Oh my god, I could be a Nazi myself. I thought I was a good guy, and now I discover that I could be this monster.’ And in the meantime, it’s quite reassuring, because if I become a monster, it’s not because deep inside me I am the devil, it’s because of the situation. I think that’s why the experiment was so famous in Germany and Eastern Europe. You don’t feel guilty. ‘Oh, okay, it was the situation. We are all good guys. No problem. It’s just the situation made us do it.’ So it’s shocking, but at the same time it’s reassuring. I think these two messages of the experiment made it famous.”
What is really telling is that the conclusions of Zimbardo's supposed research exactly fit the policy message that politicians wanted to embrace in the period.
few days and understanding them.”

In the wake of the prison uprisings at San Quentin and Attica, Zimbardo’s message was perfectly attuned to the national zeitgeist. A critique of the criminal justice system that shunted blame away from inmates and guards alike onto a “situation” defined so vaguely as to fit almost any agenda offered a seductive lens on the day’s social ills for just about everyone. Reform-minded liberals were hungry for evidence that people who committed crimes were driven to do so by the environment they’d been born into, which played into their argument that reducing urban crime would require systemic reform — a continuation of Johnson’s “war on poverty” — rather than the “war on crime” that President Richard M. Nixon had campaigned on. “When I heard of the study,” recalls Frances Cullen, one of the preeminent criminologists of the last half century, “I just thought, ‘Well of course that’s true.’ I was uncritical. Everybody was uncritical.” In Cullen’s field, the Stanford prison experiment provided handy evidence that the prison system was fundamentally broken. “It confirmed what people already believed, which was that prisons were inherently inhumane,” he said.
This, this bogus study influenced public policy on criminology.
“What the Stanford Prison Experiment did,” Cullen says, “was to say: prisons are not reformable. The crux of many prison reforms, especially among academic criminologists, became that prisons were inherently inhumane, so our agenda had to be minimizing the use of prisons, emphasizing alternatives to prison, emphasizing community corrections.”

In an era of rapidly rising crime, this agenda proved politically untenable. Instead, conservative politicians who had no qualms about using imprisonment purely to punish ushered in a decades-long “get tough” era in crime that disproportionately targeted African Americans. The incarceration rate rose steadily, standing now at five times higher than in comparable countries; one in three black men in America today will spend time in prison.
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It would, of course, be unfair to lay mass incarceration at Zimbardo’s door. It is more accurate to say that, for all its reformist ideals, the Stanford prison experiment contributed to the polarizing intellectual currents of its time. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Cullen and his colleagues Teresa Kulig and Travis Pratt, 95% of the many criminology papers that have cited the Stanford prison experiment over the years have accepted its basic message that prisons are inherently inhumane.
If people are going to believe that there is no way to reform the prison experience, they will ignore evidence from other countries that demonstrate that it prisons don't have to be these inevitable dehumanizing experiences without any hope of rehabilitating prisoners.


Read the whole article/exposé by Ben Blum. He tells at the end how he became interested in the experiment based on an experience his cousin had had. He quotes from an interview with Zimbardo in which the psychologist admits that he had political motives for how he wanted to influence policy on prison when he wrote up the experiment. It was social activism rather than a true scientific experiment. And yet the SPE appears in just about ever psychology textbook, usually without any discussion of the problems with the study.

It's almost enough to make one distrust other experimental results in the social sciences And that is a worthwhile skepticism, as Brian Resnick reports in Vox. The SPE is just one of many classic experiments in psychology.
The Zimbardo prison experiment is not the only classic study that has been recently scrutinized, reevaluated, or outright exposed as a fraud. Recently, science journalist Gina Perry found that the infamous “Robbers Cave“ experiment in the 1950s — in which young boys at summer camp were essentially manipulated into joining warring factions — was a do-over from a failed previous version of an experiment, which the scientists never mentioned in an academic paper. That’s a glaring omission. It’s wrong to throw out data that refutes your hypothesis and only publicize data that supports it.

Perry has also revealed inconsistencies in another major early work in psychology: the Milgram electroshock test, in which participants were told by an authority figure to deliver seemingly lethal doses of electricity to an unseen hapless soul. Her investigations show some evidence of researchers going off the study script and possibly coercing participants to deliver the desired results. (Somewhat ironically, the new revelations about the prison experiment also show the power an authority figure — in this case Zimbardo himself and his “warden” — has in manipulating others to be cruel.)

Other studies have been reevaluated for more honest, methodological snafus. Recently, I wrote about the “marshmallow test,” a series of studies from the early ’90s that suggested the ability to delay gratification at a young age is correlated with success later in life. New research finds that if the original marshmallow test authors had a larger sample size, and greater research controls, their results would not have been the showstoppers they were in the ’90s. I can list so many more textbook psychology findings that have either not replicated, or are currently in the midst of a serious reevaluation.

Like:
-Social priming: People who read “old”-sounding words (like “nursing home”) were more likely to walk slowly — showing how our brains can be subtly “primed” with thoughts and actions.

-The facial feedback hypothesis: Merely activating muscles around the mouth caused people to become happier — demonstrating how our bodies tell our brains what emotions to feel.

-Stereotype threat: Minorities and maligned social groups don’t perform as well on tests due to anxieties about becoming a stereotype themselves.

-Ego depletion: The idea that willpower is a finite mental resource.
Alas, the past few years have brought about a reckoning for these ideas and social psychology as a whole.
I've sat in education workshops based on the findings in some of these now discredited theories. Look at how long it took to get a thorough debunking of the SPE even though there was evidence of its research frailties almost from the beginning. I have no confidence that similarly politically-believable theories such as the effect of stereotype threat on minorities in schools will be discarded any time soon.
In science, too often, the first demonstration of an idea becomes the lasting one — in both pop culture and academia. But this isn’t how science is supposed to work at all!

Science is a frustrating, iterative process. When we communicate it, we need to get beyond the idea that a single, stunning study ought to last the test of time. Scientists know this as well, but their institutions have often discouraged them from replicating old work, instead of the pursuit of new and exciting, attention-grabbing studies. (Journalists are part of the problem too, imbuing small, insignificant studies with more importance and meaning than they’re due.)
Too many people have a vested interest in maintaining the conclusions of research even if it's flawed and not replicable. It's all quite discouraging. Since I've been a teacher, I've seen so many questionable theories of how to teach such as open classroom, teaching whole-language reading, teaching foreign languages through the "Silent Way," or "discovery-based learning" for teaching math pass through schools that I've grown extremely skeptical about any proposed theory of teaching based on some sort of psychological study. I find myself just teaching in ways that I've seen work with my students and that they seem to enjoy without worrying what theory says about how to teach. Maybe I'm just an old dog who isn't learning new tricks but, to borrow another cliché, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" no matter what psychologists or education researchers say.


Here is another example over a study that came up with a desirable result being debunked for its methodology. Andrew Gelman writes at the Monkey Cage in the Washington Post about a study purporting to show whether voter identification laws suppress minority turnout. A recent study by political scientists Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi and Lindsay Nielson found: “Strict identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities in primaries and general elections.” As Gelman summarizes, the study was based on a large national survey that had surveyed 50,000 people in federal elections between 2006 and 2014 and then used the information in the YouGov survey to match respondents against actual state voter files to see if they had actually voted. Their conclusion was that a strict voter identification law "could be expected to depress black and Latino turnout by about nine percentage points and Asian American turnout by 12.5 points. Those are large effects." Case over, right? Wel, not so fast. A group of other researchers have looked at the original study and have found problems that call the results into question.
First, it is actually not always easy to match respondents to voter files. The criteria for doing this match have changed over time and vary across states. The percentage of respondents who could not be matched to voter files increased from 10 percent in 2010 to 30 percent in 2014. Among Hispanics, the increase was even larger: from 15 percent to 42 percent.

As a consequence, in some states in some years, Grimmer and colleagues argue that Hajnal and his co-authors overstate the share of the voters by about 25 percentage points, while in other states they underestimate turnout by about 10 points. In a handful of cases, the challenge of matching respondents to the voter file means that estimated turnout is essentially zero. Thus, Grimmer and his co-authors argue that the CCES data matched to state voter files are just not an accurate way to estimate turnout in the states and thus how turnout may be related to voter ID laws.

A second point focuses on a typical challenge for social science methodology: using correlations in the statistical models of Hajnal, Lajevardi and Nielson to infer causation. Grimmer and his co-authors argue that there is a challenge here. They fitted the same statistical models to voter turnout in years before the voter identification laws were enacted. These models suggest that these laws affected turnout even before the laws were enacted.

This suggests that it’s inappropriate to attribute these differences in turnout to voter identification laws. After discussing other problems that they see in the Hajnal et al. paper, Grimmer and his co-authors concluded: “Using these data and this research design, we can draw no firm conclusions about the turnout effects of strict voter ID laws.”
Gelman is not convinced by the answer that the original researchers gave to these criticisms. He concludes,
In Hajnal and his co-authors’ piece for the Monkey Cage, the headline read: “Do voter identification laws suppress minority voting? Yes.” This claim was premature. Voter turnout varies from election to election, and survey-based estimates of voter turnout among different ethnic groups are noisy. As a result, we cannot make such strong and confident claims about any racially disparate effects of these laws.
Remember this academic debate next time you hear people getting all hot and bothered about voter ID laws and their effects on minority voting. We just really don't know what, if any effect such laws might have.


This is how silly it can get when companies try to design an HR policy to make sure that no one does anything ever that could make anyone feel uncomfortable.
Netflix has reportedly banned workers from looking at each other for more than five seconds as part of its new anti-harassment rules.

The new policy also bans the company’s film crews from asking their colleagues for their phone numbers, according to an article in the Sun.

“Senior staff went to a harassment meeting to learn what is and isn’t appropriate,” an on-set runner told the Sun. “Looking at anyone longer than five seconds is considered creepy.”

“You mustn’t ask for someone’s number unless they have given permission for it to be distributed,” the source continued. “And if you see any unwanted behaviour, report it immediately.”

Other new rules include: “Don’t give lingering hugs or touch anyone for a lengthy period of time,” “Don’t ask out a colleague more than once if they have said no,” “Steer clear of a colleague once they have said they are not interested in you,” and “Don’t flirt.” The rules also encourage employees to “Shout ‘Stop, don’t do that again!’ if a colleague has been inappropriate.”

The on-set runner told the Sun that employees are already poking fun at the new rules: “It has sparked jokes, with people looking at each other, counting to five, then diverting their eyes.”
See, if we just design enough rules for every possible interaction between employees, no one will ever be able to harass anyone ever again. Right? And if some situation comes up that wasn't covered by the regulations, why we'll just write a few dozen more. And if those regulations are just plain silly, well...deal. Katherine Timpf comments,
Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m all for “a safe and respectful working environment.” Everyone should feel comfortable in the workplace, and harassment of any kind has absolutely no place there. This, however, is completely ridiculous and could end up hurting more than it helps.

First of all, that ridiculous five-second rule. Of course, staring is kind of rude, but it’s also something that just happens sometimes. It’s certainly not always a form of harassment. I don’t know about everybody else, but there have definitely been times where I’ve spaced out and found myself happening to stare in the same direction where there happens to be another person. When this has happened, I’ve just said, “Whoops, sorry — I’m spacing out!” and both of us have gotten on with our days. With a policy like this, I could potentially be subject to some sort of disciplinary action over something that no one thinks is a big deal. Of course, there’s no word on what kind of action Netflix is actually planning to take against violators of the five-second staring rule, but the fact that it even exists is absurd enough.

The no-asking-for-phone-numbers rule is equally bizarre. I don’t think this should be news to anyone, but there are plenty of legitimate reasons to have a person’s phone number that have absolutely nothing to do with dating or sex. Not to brag, but I have tons of phone contacts — yes, including co-workers — with whom I communicate on a completely platonic basis. In fact, I’m pretty sure that everyone does. Personally, I actually prefer that my co-workers be able contact me with work information via text, because that means I have to worry less about checking my email. A co-worker wanting my number wouldn’t for a second strike me as flirting; it would strike me as someone initiating a convenient method of communication. Asking for the phone numbers of those with whom you need to communicate regularly is a normal, practical part of life, and Netflix is wrong to sexualize it.
And, as she points out, such ludicrous rules end up creating situations where perfectly ordinary behavior gets lumped in with serious allegations of harassment.
Calling an innocent six-second glance “harassment” trivializes the very real struggles of those who are actually harassed, and a no-phone-numbers rule is going to make it more difficult for employees to communicate. If Netflix really wants to make the workplace as comfortable a place as it can be for its employees, then it should really consider reversing these rules.


This is an amazing story and it will make you so happy to read it. A boy with autism who had hardly ever spoke in high school auditioned to speak at his high school graduation. Working with his mother and his younger brother
who was a brain tumor survivor who had given lots of speeches to raise money for cancer research, Sef Scott shocked his classmates by giving a speech at graduation.


That just brings tears to my eyes. And his message was also a thoughtful and inspiring one. What a wonderful moment.

HEre's an interview on the local news with the boy and his mother.