Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cruising the Web

Heather Mac Donald writes in the WSJ to expose the "False Science' of Implicit Bias." Having heard from those on the left (and in some faculty meetings) implicit bias referred to as if it's the absolute scientific truth, it is interesting to read about the lack of real proof that it exists at all. The theory is based on what test-takers call the implicit association test or IAT developed by psychologists Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji. This is how it works.
In the race IAT (there also versions for everything from gender to disability to weight), test-takers at a computer are asked to press two keys to sort a series of black and white faces and a set of “good” and “bad” words. For part of the exercise, the test-taker presses one key for white faces and words like “happy,” and the other key for black faces and words like “death.” Then the protocol is reversed, pairing white faces with “bad” words and black faces with “good” words. (The order is randomized, so some test-takers sort black faces with “good” words first.)

A majority of test-takers—including about 50% of blacks, according to some accounts—are faster at the sorting game when white faces are paired with good words. This difference is said to represent an “implicit bias” in favor of whites that can explain racial disparities in society.

Not only did they confidently assert that any differences in sorting times for black and white faces flowed from unconscious prejudice, they claimed that the implicit bias allegedly measured by the IAT could predict discriminatory behavior. In the final link of their causal chain, they argued that this unconscious and pervasive predilection to discriminate is a powerful cause of racial disparities.

As they wrote in “Blindspot,” their 2013 best seller: “Given the relatively small proportion of people who are overtly prejudiced and how clearly it is established that automatic race preference predicts discrimination, it is reasonable to conclude not only that implicit bias is a cause of Black disadvantage but also that it plausibly plays a greater role than does explicit bias.”
No matter a person's behavior of self-evaluation of his or her own biases, the psychologists know - we all have these implicit biases governing what we really think. All whites are racists whether they know it or not.

The only problem is that there is no proof of these theories.
A person’s IAT score can vary significantly each time he takes the test, undercutting its reliability as a psychological instrument. Test scores have almost no connection to what IAT research ludicrously counts as “discriminatory behavior”—trivial nuances of body language during a mock interview, say, or a hypothetical choice to donate to children in Colombian slums rather than South African ones.

Mr. Greenwald and Ms. Banaji now admit that the IAT does not predict “biased behavior” in the lab. (No one has even begun to test its connection to real-world behavior.) The psychometric problems associated with the race IAT make it “problematic to use to classify persons as likely to engage in discrimination,” they wrote, along with a third co-author, in 2015.

Although most of the psychology profession initially accepted the startling claim that the IAT reveals a predilection to discriminate in real life, possible alternative meanings of a “pro-white” score have since emerged. Older test-takers may have cognitive difficulty with the shifting instructions. The association of black faces with negative words may reflect an awareness of socioeconomic realities. Greater familiarity with one racial group over another could affect reaction times. These alternative meanings should have been ruled out before psychologists announced that a new “scientific” test had revealed the ubiquity of prejudice.
But who cares about the tenuousness of the political implications of the test results. It's just so dang convenient and we should act accordingly.
Nevertheless, the idea of implicit bias has marched through American institutions. This summer nearly 200 CEOs signed a pledge to pack their employees off to implicit-bias training, part of an economywide diversity initiative championed by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases regularly try to introduce implicit-bias research into their lawsuits.

President Obama sent federal law-enforcement personnel to implicit-bias training; many local police departments are doing the same, spending millions of dollars that could be used instead to improve officers’ tactical and communication skills.

Faculty hiring committees routinely have to take the IAT to confront their hidden biases against minority and female candidates. College students are being encouraged to take it as well. UCLA’s vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, Jerry Kang, has argued for federal regulation of local news coverage, especially crime stories, to lessen implicit prejudice.

The need to plumb the unconscious to explain racial gaps arises for one reason: It is taboo to acknowledge that socioeconomic disparities might be caused by intergroup differences in cultural values, family structure, interests or abilities. The large racial gap in academic skills renders preposterous any expectation that, absent bias, blacks and whites would be proportionally represented in the workplace. And vast differences in criminal offending are sufficient to explain racial disparities in incarceration rates.
But those are very difficult discussions to have. They involve discussing cultures and people's own choices. Much better to send your employees to some mandatory training and then wash your hands of the whole issue.

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Lee Smith writes about how the Harvey Weinstein story is worse than we think. It's clear that a lot of people knew about the story for a long time.
But of course people knew about Harvey Weinstein. Like the New York Times, for instance. Sharon Waxman, a former reporter at the Times, writes in The Wrap how she had the story on Weinstein in 2004—and then he bullied the Times into dropping it. Matt Damon and Russell Crowe even called her directly to get her to back off the story. And Miramax was a major advertiser. Her editor at the Times, Jonathan Landman, asked her why it mattered. After all, he told Waxman, “he’s not a publicly elected official.”

Manhattan’s district attorney knew, too. In 2015, Weinstein’s lawyer donated $10,000 to the campaign of Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance after he declined to file sexual assault charges against the producer. Given the number of stories that have circulated for so long, Weinstein must have spread millions around New York, Los Angeles, and Europe to pay off lawyers and buy silence, including the silence of his victims. But he had something else going for him, too. He knew his victims would be reluctant to go public because it might suggest that some of their success, their fame even, was a function of their inability to protect themselves from being humiliated by a man who set the bar for humiliating others at the precise level of his own self-loathing.
I'd like to hear from Matt Damon and Russell Crowe got roped into involving themselves in squelching the story on Weinstein's behavior. Will they be able to evade questions about their working to defend Weinstein?

As Smith points out, the media could have nailed this story even if none of the actresses and employees would have gone on the record because he also displayed this behavior to journalists.
Fox News reporter Lauren Sivan told Huffington Post that a decade ago, Weinstein masturbated in front of her. She says she didn’t say anything at the time, when she was an anchor on a local cable show, because she was “fearful of the power that Weinstein wielded in the media.” She was right and her fear was understandable.

Writing in New York Magazine, Rebecca Traister remembers the time when she asked Weinstein an interview question at a book party, he screamed at her, spit in her face, called her a “c—t,” and then put her boyfriend in a headlock and dragged him to the street. Traister said nothing at the time because she figured she had little chance against “that kind of force.”
Smith writes about how journalists were afraid of Weinstein, but that there were also journalists who were being paid by Weinstein.
I don’t blame her or Sivan for not saying anything, never mind reporting the story. Weinstein is violent, vindictive, and litigious—as well as sexually abusive—facts that the entertainment and political media knew for years. No one wanted to publish that story. But that’s not the same thing as “not being able to nail it down.” “Nailing it down” would have amounted to nothing more than printing a collection of facts under a byline.

The real issue, as Traister notes, was that “there were so many journalists on his payroll, working as consultants on movie projects, or as screenwriters, or for his magazine.” Traister is referring to Talk, the magazine Weinstein started at Miramax with Tina Brown. The catchword was “synergy”—magazine articles, turned into books, turned into movies, a supply chain of entertainment and information that was going to put these media titans in the middle of everything and make them all richer.
He describes how the story at Talk was how Weinstein screamed and verbally abused Tina Brown. Well, Smith doesn't explain how a reporter could write up that story if no one would go on the record about it. But maybe they all were hoping for something from Weinstein.
Thus his fortress was quarried from the misshapen material of human vanity, ambition, and greed. Writers and journalists—the intellectuals, in his mind—were nearly as contemptible as actors. They wouldn’t dream of crossing a guy who could turn them into culture heroes with a phone call. Hey, I just optioned your novel and I already know who’s going to make the movie. And oh yeah, please confirm that you don’t, like I think I may have heard, have a reporter looking into a story about me.

A friend reminds me that there was a period when Miramax bought the rights to every big story published in magazines throughout the city. Why mess with Weinstein when that big new female star you’re trying to wrangle for the June cover is headlining a Miramax release? Do you think that glossy magazine editor who threw the swankiest Oscar party in Hollywood was trying to “nail down” the Weinstein story? Right, just like the hundreds of journalists who were ferried across the river for the big party at the Statue of Liberty to celebrate the premiere of Talk—they were all there sipping champagne and sniffing coke with models in order to “nail down” the story about how their host was a rapist.
So why did the story break now when it was kept secret for so many years? Smith's hypothesis is that Weinstein just isn't as powerful as he was before.
That’s why the story about Harvey Weinstein finally broke now. It’s because the media industry that once protected him has collapsed. The magazines that used to publish the stories Miramax optioned can’t afford to pay for the kind of reporting and storytelling that translates into screenplays. They’re broke because Facebook and Google have swallowed all the digital advertising money that was supposed to save the press as print advertising continued to tank....

Which brings us, finally, to the other reason the Weinstein story came out now: Because the court over which Bill Clinton once presided, a court in which Weinstein was one part jester, one part exchequer, and one part executioner, no longer exists.

A thought experiment: Would the Weinstein story have been published if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency? No, and not because he is a big Democratic fundraiser. It’s because if the story was published during the course of a Hillary Clinton presidency, it wouldn’t have really been about Harvey Weinstein. Harvey would have been seen as a proxy for the president’s husband and it would have embarrassed the president, the first female president.
Of course, that's all hypothetical. But it is notable that so many of the people who didn't care much at all about Bill Clinton's sexual behavior also allowed Weintstein's behavior to be kept quiet even thought they're all telling us that everyone knew about it.

Ross Douthat, who just wrote a very honest column about hugh Hefner last week, now writes about the "Pigs of Liberalism."
But it might just show that a certain kind of powerful liberal creep only gets his comeuppance when he’s weakened or old or in the grave. The awfulness of Ted Kennedy, at Chappaquiddick and after hours in D.C., can be acknowledged only now that he’s no longer a liberal lion in the Senate. The possibility that Bill Clinton might be not just an adulterer but a rapist can be entertained now that he’s no longer protecting abortion from the White House. The sins of Woody Allen … well, I’m sure Hollywood will start ostracizing him any day now....

In the real life of liberalism, Hefnerism endures as the effective philosophy of many liberal men, for whom sexual individualism justifies using women because hey, we’re all cool consenting adults here, and caddishness blurs into predation when power differentials permit. Meanwhile, feminism struggles to find norms that check this kind of behavior, swinging between a facile sex-positivity and illiberal attempts to police the hookup scene.
As we all know, the hands of conservatives such as Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, and Bill O'Reilly. Douthat argues that perhaps it's about time that we pay attention to a politician's personal behavior.
Second: Consent alone is not a sufficient guide to ethics. Caddishness and predation can be a continuum. If you cheat on your wife you may be more likely to harass subordinates. Promiscuity can encourage predatory entitlement. Older rules of moral restraint were broader for a reason. If your culture’s code is libertine, don’t be surprised that worse things than libertinism flourish.

Third: You can’t ignore moral character when you make decisions about whom to vote for or work with or support. This was something conservatives used to argue in the Clinton years; under Trump, many have conveniently forgotten it. But it remains true. Yes, sometimes you have to work with a bad person or vote for a bad person or hold a fund-raiser with a bad person for the greater good. But not nearly as often as you think.

The truth is that while not everyone knew exactly how Harvey Weinstein treated women, everyone knew what kind of man he was. The women he harassed didn’t have the power to restrain him, but plenty of powerful people did.

They didn’t use it. They should have. But Hollywood and human nature being what they are, they will have plenty of opportunities to do better.
By the way, the GQ article that he links to by Michael Kelly about "Teddy Kennedy on the Rocks" is a reminder of both how well Kelly wrote and what a loss his death in Iraq was, but also what a pig Teddy Kennedy was as he propositioned just about any attractive woman he encountered, including underage interns.

And I'm sure that his behavior was well known to those on the Hill and in the media and they just looked the other way. Power does indeed corrupt. And this story isn't unique to Democrats. How long did Roger Ailes get away with his piggish behavior because people feared for their jobs?

And the big shots of Hollywood are still trying to avoid commenting on the Weinstein story.
A publicist for an A-list actress said there was no “upside” for her client to comment, especially since she did not have a movie to promote. One producer wanted to know who else was on the record so he would be “quoted in good company.” An agent said he was repulsed by the silence and quoted a Latin phrase meaning, “He who sits quietly gives consent.” Then he refused to talk.
Maybe now that he's been booted out of his company, Hollywood will start talking.

Charles C. W. Cooke points out that these same Hollywood celebrities don't have any fear criticizing Donald Trump. And that is a good thing.
We see no such reticence when it comes to the president, who is mocked and dismissed and lambasted from every Twitter account, awards show, and interview in the glossies. This, lest, I be misunderstood, is a good thing. Free countries mock their presidents with impunity. Free people loathe whomever they want. I said it under Obama and I’ll say it now: That effigy of the president you’re burning is the symbol of my liberty. Go for it.

But don’t pretend you’re genuinely scared while you’re doing so. Leaders who are actually “fascists” or “tyrants” or “Hitler” are not less scary than Harvey Weinstein, but more so. Ugly as it is, this sordid little episode has given us some much-needed clarity as to where fear really lurks, in Tinseltown and beyond.

While Donald Trump spends his time going after Bob Corker for failing to be sufficiently admiring of Donald Trump, as the WSJ points out, Corker has been saying what a whole lot of Republicans believe.
Mr. Trump unleashed his tirade because he is still sore that Mr. Corker said this summer that the President hadn’t shown the stability or competence to be successful. The two later had it out in the Oval Office, but Mr. Corker stood by his words. And why shouldn’t he?

Mr. Corker was expressing views that are widely held on Capitol Hill and even within the Trump Administration. These men and women support the President’s policies, or at least most of them, and they remain in their jobs for the good of the cause and country. What they fear, and want to contain, are the President’s lack of discipline, short fuse, narcissism and habit of treating even foreign heads of state as if they are Rosie O’Donnell.

In other words, Mr. Corker was trying to be helpful by telling the truth. And he has standing to do so because he has tried to steer Mr. Trump in a constructive direction without personal grandstanding. He agreed to interview for Vice President until he withdrew from the running. He might have agreed to be Secretary of State had he been asked. And as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee he has had numerous private discussions with the President on a variety of national security subjects.

He is like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in engaging Mr. Trump even as he tells the President things he doesn’t like to hear. We hope they and others keep it up, understanding that doing so is difficult and might make them a target of the President’s wrath.

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Kimberley Strassel writes about the obstruction from the FBI into the House's investigation about the dossier by Fusion GPS on Trump which seems to be connected to Russia.
The discredited rumors about Mr. Trump came from anonymous Russian sources. This is notable, since it turns out Fusion was separately—or maybe not so separately—working with entities tied to the Kremlin.

How close was Fusion’s leader, Glenn Simpson, to Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-linked lawyer? Did the Russians know about the dossier all along and help plant the information in it? Were American law-enforcement agencies relying on Russian-directed disinformation when they obtained secret warrants against Trump associates? Chaos, indeed.

Witness how hard the Federal Bureau of Investigation is fighting to avoid divulging any information about the dossier. More than a month ago the House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas to the FBI and the Justice Department, asking for dossier-related documents. Lawmakers were told to go swivel.

A little more than a week ago, the committee’s frustrated chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, took the case all the way to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who finally offered to make an FBI official available for a briefing. But the bureau is still withholding all documents. To date, Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Judiciary Committee has not received any paper from the FBI on Russia matters, despite numerous requests, some countersigned by the Democratic ranking member, Dianne Feinstein.
Strassel points out that the man in the FBI in charge of responding to these requests from Congress is a confidant of James Comey. Now Robert Mueller has announced that his investigation is going to include the dossier.
Some Republicans might be tempted to cheer news that the special counsel is looking into the dossier. They shouldn’t. A Mueller takeover will make it even harder for Congress to conduct an independent investigation—which may well have been the reason for the move. Mr. Mueller has had months to look into the document, and his lack of curiosity so far speaks volumes. As a friend of Mr. Comey and a former FBI director himself, Mr. Mueller cannot be counted on to examine impartially whether the FBI was duped.
Now, if Mueller is truly investigating whether the Russians fed misleading information through Fusion GPS into the campaign, it would be something that we should find out about. What isn't clear is why Mueller took so long to add this to his agenda. Remember that Comey used information from the dossier to get warrants from the FISA courts.
The bureau reportedly cited the dossier in an application for a surveillance warrant last September on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

How does this not violate the First Amendment?
California health care workers who “willfully and repeatedly” decline to use a senior transgender patient's “preferred name or pronouns” could face punishments ranging from a fine to jail time under a newly signed law.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation last week.
I just don't see how

Even Diane Feinstein, who recently announced that she's running for reelection, has admitted that none of the laws being suggested would have stopped the Las Vegas shooter.
Asked what kind of laws could have prevented the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, from obtaining as many firearms as he did, Feinstein’s response was surprisingly level headed, and factual. In fact, it’s exactly what the right has been saying all along.

“Could there have been any law passed that would’ve stopped him?” asked Face the Nation host John Dickerson.

“No,” responded Feinstein. “”He passed background checks registering for handguns and other weapons on multiple occasions.”

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Kathryn Casteel writes
at 538 about how different wording in questions on polls on the NFL protests are eliciting different results.
Let’s start with polls that don’t mention why NFL players are protesting and just tell respondents that players are kneeling during the national anthem in protest. These surveys tend to find that more people disapprove of the protests than approve....

Without highlighting the reason for the protests, these questions either rely on the respondents’ prior understanding of the situation or simply measure people’s appetite for protests that use the nation’s symbols.
There is also a wide variation in how white and black respondents answer the questions. People, in general, don't want the players fired and they definitely don't like Trump's
interjection into the controversy. And the result has been that people's opinions are highly partisan.