Thursday, March 30, 2017

Cruising the Web

Will the Democrats filibuster Judge Gorsuch's confirmation to the Supreme Court? Guy Benson reports that liberal activist groups are getting more optimistic that they will have enough Democrats to hold the filibuster. They are feeling their oats after the collapse of Republicans' efforts to end Obamacare. However, Benson also reports that, if the Democrats do indeed filibuster, even the more moderate Republican senators will support nuking the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
If Senate Democrats once again drag the confirmation wars into uncharted territory, Republicans have a responsibility to burn them. Badly. Being powerless to impede President Trump's cabinet selections was a source of frustration for Schumer's crew, some of whom evinced regret over triggering the Reid Rule a few years prior. But those regrets seem to be receding, as they prepare to take a new plunge, betting that the GOP won't have the fortitude to follow through with hardball tactics of their own. Having spoken to a number of well-placed Republican sources on Capitol Hill, it sounds like GOP members are seething over Democrats' conduct on these issues, dating back years. They're especially galled at the treatment of Neil Gorsuch, who has been virtually universally hailed as brilliant and eminently qualified. A number of would-be Republican compromisers have signaled that they're prepared to do whatever it takes to confirm Gorsuch, and I'm told that even uber-moderate Susan Collins (who formally announced her support for Gorsuch this morning) is leaning toward standing with her party on this point. "Our members are fired up," one source tells me. Allowing Democrats to derail his nomination under a Republican president, in a Senate controlled by Republicans, would set a disastrous precedent. It cannot be allowed to happen. And does anyone have even a shred of doubt that if Democrats were ever on the opposite end of such a scenario, they'd link arms and go nuclear again? Their words and deeds have been unambiguous for quite some time.

Politico explains the fire that Schumer is playing with.
Gorsuch’s nomination is something of a perfect storm for GOP procedural fortitude. Only seeing such a model jurist held hostage to cynical political whims would be enough to compel the righteous indignation necessary to go nuclear. (I’ll pause here so my friends on the left can let out a primal scream for poor Merrick Garland.)

The cloture rule now faces an existential paradox. Call it Schrödinger’s Filibuster. Assuming Schumer can hold the line within his caucus—and he has seven votes to give—the 60 vote threshold for Supreme Court nominations is dead. Do the right thing and it lives to see another day.

It’s unclear whether Democrats think Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will blink or if they simply believe the filibuster’s demise is inevitable. Indeed, they themselves likely would have been forced to go nuclear under a President Hillary Clinton. So perhaps it was just a matter of time.

What’s apparent is that their agitated and increasingly emboldened base is unlikely to care either way. The imperative of The Resistance is unambiguous, however quixotic the mission. Collaboration will not be tolerated, a message thousands delivered to Schumer’s Brooklyn doorstep mere weeks ago.

As a matter of political calculation, this is all well and good. Turnabout is fair play, and whatever the short-term ramifications, a majoritarian body will one day benefit Schumer’s party. But given the structural realities of the Senate map—Democrats are defending 25 seats in 2018, 10 of them in states they failed to carry last fall, compared to just 9 and one for Republicans—the “short term” horizon runs through 2020 at the very least. In the meantime, they’re not only paving the path for less qualified nominees in the likelihood of future Trump-era vacancies, they’re needlessly greasing an already slippery procedural slope. With GOP efforts stymied thus far in part by the specter of the Senate parliamentarian—the arbiter of what can pass majoritarian muster under reconciliation—how long until pressure mounts to change the rules for legislation? Given the tenor of the first two months of this administration, I suspect many Democrats aren’t terribly sanguine about the prospect of unchecked GOP control for the remaining 46.

Just a few short months ago, Leader Schumer was publicly lamenting his predecessor’s judicial power play; today he seems poised to reprise Reid’s folly, only this time with far greater stakes. If Democrats truly believe their rhetoric about the current political moment and the existential threat President Trump poses, daring reluctant Senate Republicans to erode the remaining norms that empower the minority is as myopic as it is gratuitous.
But sometimes, as Republicans have found to their dismay, appeasing the more extreme members of a party's base demands such deleterious decisions.

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While liberals love the idea that we all suffer from some sort of implicit bias (or at least white people d0) and they base their theory on the Implicit Association Test. However, there is little evidence that there is any sort of science behind this test which purports to show that everyone unconsciously associates blacks with some sort of subliminally racist quality. Daniel Payne links to an essay in New York Magazine that demonstrates that the test doesn't prove much of anything.
Perhaps no new concept from the world of academic psychology has taken hold of the public imagination more quickly and profoundly in the 21st century than implicit bias — that is, forms of bias which operate beyond the conscious awareness of individuals. That’s in large part due to the blockbuster success of the so-called implicit association test, which purports to offer a quick, easy way to measure how implicitly biased individual people are. When Hillary Clinton famously mentioned implicit bias during her first debate with Donald Trump, many people knew what she was talking about because the IAT has spread the concept so far and wide. It’s not a stretch to say that the IAT is one of the most famous psychological instruments created in recent history, and that it has been the subject of more recent fascination and acclaim than just about anything else to come out of the field of social psychology.

Since the IAT was first introduced almost 20 years ago, its architects, as well as the countless researchers and commentators who have enthusiastically embraced it, have offered it as a way to reveal to test-takers what amounts to a deep, dark secret about who they are: They may not feel racist, but in fact, the test shows that in a variety of intergroup settings, they will act racist. This notion, and the data surrounding it, have fed into a very neat narrative explaining bias and racial justice in modern America....

The IAT suggests that, having addressed many of the most outrageous and explicit forms of public discrimination, our progress toward genuine racial equality may be continually stalled or undone by implicit bias.

That is, many IAT proponents argue that if people who don’t feel like they discriminate do, in fact, discriminate, that could explain those disparate outcomes.
This test has gotten a lot of publicity and millions of people have gone to their website to take the test. What doesn't get reported with all this media attention is that the test doesn't demonstrate much of anything.
A pile of scholarly work, some of it published in top psychology journals and most of it ignored by the media, suggests that the IAT falls far short of the quality-control standards normally expected of psychological instruments. The IAT, this research suggests, is a noisy, unreliable measure that correlates far too weakly with any real-world outcomes to be used to predict individuals’ behavior — even the test’s creators have now admitted as such. The history of the test suggests it was released to the public and excitedly publicized long before it had been fully validated in the rigorous, careful way normally demanded by the field of psychology. In fact, there’s a case to be made that Harvard shouldn’t be administering the test in its current form, in light of its shortcomings and its potential to mislead people about their own biases. There’s also a case to be made that the IAT went viral not for solid scientific reasons, but simply because it tells us such a simple, pat story about how racism works and can be fixed: that deep down, we’re all a little — or a lot — racist, and that if we measure and study this individual-level racism enough, progress toward equality will ensue.
Implicit bias has become so well accepted in progressive circles that Hillary Clinton referred to it in one of the debates. Over at Vox, German Lopez also is writing about how bogus this test is. Payne writes,
Over at Vox recently, German Lopez further examined the IAT’s shortcomings. His own experience with this device would be fantastically humorous if it were not so sad. He took the test three different times, each with a different result. One showed him “free of racism, even at the subconscious level,” one showed him with “a slight automatic preference for white people,” and one more showed him with another “slight automatic preference—only now it was in favor of black people.”

“At this point,” he writes, “I was at a loss as to what this test was telling me. Should I consider the average of my three results, essentially showing I had no bias at all? Or should I have used the latest result? Was this test even worth taking seriously, or was it bullsh-t?”

Meditate on the cosmic absurdity of this situation: a grown man struggling to determine whether he is a bigot based on the results of an Internet test. It is hard to tell if this is modern liberalism at its peak, or at its nadir. Maybe both.

Lopez’s investigation turns up solid evidence to suggest this test is, indeed, bullsh-t. Lopez quotes Calvin Lai, the director of the Project Implicit, who claims: “[The test] can predict things in the aggregate, but it cannot predict behavior at the level of an individual” when that individual has only taken the test once.

But as University of Connecticut researcher Hart Blanton once pointed out, this is a self-defeating distinction: “If you’re not willing to say what the positive [IAT score] means at the individual level,” he told New York Magazine, “you have no idea what it means at the aggregate level. … If I’m willing to give 100 kids an IQ test, and not willing to say what an individual kid’s score means, how can I then say 75 percent of them are geniuses, or are learning disabled?”

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Kevin Williamson pays a well-deserved tribute
to Dwight Eisenhower the anniversary of whose death was this week. He concludes,
It is not 1957 anymore, and a return to Eisenhower-era policies would be neither wise nor popular. But a return to modesty, prudence, and genuine responsibility? That is something to which we ought to aspire. The great events of Eisenhower’s day went from Great War to Depression to Holocaust to Cold War, a ghastly progression, but Eisenhower remained famous for his sunny disposition and his winning smile — which was, of course, partly genuine and partly camouflage that protected others from the burdens he bore. The United States does not need a Dwight Eisenhower holiday to go along with the days set aside for men such as Washington and Lincoln. What the United States does need is 365 days in the year on which we insist that the men with whom we entrust the nation’s business endeavor to live up to the example set by men who did so much more with so much less in incomparably harder times — that they, to the extent that they have it in them, be like Ike.
Amen. I recently read Evan Thomas's history of Eisenhower's approach to foreign policy, Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World, and came away even more admiring of the delicate balance of Eisenhower's presidency. I highly recommend the book.