November 7, 2015

DND briefings to the new minister

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It would be fascinating to find out if the Department of National Defence briefing to incoming minister Harjit Sajjan are quite as blatantly PR-focussed as the documents provided to former minister Jason Kenney when he took over the portfolio in February:

A new Liberal defence minister will inherit a self-conscious department that seems more than a little concerned about how it’s perceived by the public.

When Jason Kenney took over as national defence minister in February 2015, he was briefed with a thicker stack of papers about public opinion and media operations than about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Operation Reassurance and Operation Impact combined.

Embassy obtained the transition books for Mr. Kenney through an access to information request. Similar documents may be provided to a new minister when prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau names his Cabinet Nov. 4.

In a book about “Key Strategic Issues,” about 70 pages long, there are 17 pages worth of public opinion and media analysis, complete with graphs tracking Canadians’ perceptions of the department over years of polling data.

Conversely, only two pages of the document appear to be entirely devoted to Operation Reassurance in Central and Eastern Europe, two pages to Operation Impact in Iraq and Syria, four to NATO and two to NORAD.


Another transition book, titled “Who We Are and How We Work,” provided a broader departmental overview to the new minister of national defence.

Just shy of 70 pages, it includes information about ongoing Canadian Armed Forces operations, including all international engagements. It also gave the incoming minister a handy guide to key department officials, complete with photos and biographies.

A brief on strategic decision-making acknowledges that a prime minister or defence minister can make unilateral decisions on defence policy.

Cabinet does not need to sit together as a whole for major decisions to be made, the document explains.

“In some cases, a deployment decision will be made by a cabinet committee and, in others by the prime minister, or by the minister of national defence alone, or in conjunction with the minister of foreign affairs,” the transition book states.

H/T to MILNEWS.ca for the link.

November 6, 2015

Canada’s new Minister of National Defence

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the National Post, Adrian Humphreys provides a look at the new defence minister in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet:

Defence minister Harjit Sajjan

Many defence ministers pose for photos with military hardware, but few pull off the true badass combat stance as well as Harjit Singh Sajjan — draped in flak jacket and camouflage, gripping an assault rifle on an actual battlefield.

Sajjan was, until recently, a decorated Lieutenant-Colonel in the Armed Forces, the first Sikh Canadian to command an army regiment.

“Command breaks down barriers because no one looks at what you look like when the bullets are flying,” he said in 2011. “Having to carry your, you know, wounded soldiers off the battlefield, not just wounded, but the ones that have been killed and place them into a helicopter, nothing prepares you for that.”

Sajjan, sworn in Wednesday as Canada’s new Minister of National Defence, was, in military lingo, “a trigger puller.”

He was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina and three times to Afghanistan, for which he was awarded one of the military’s highest recognitions, the Order of Military Merit, for reducing the Taliban’s influence in Kandahar Province.

“He has a taste for the reality of war and that’s very, very important,” said David Bercuson, director of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

“He will have seen the aftermath of the effect of war on some of our men and women, which is a major issue with veteran’s affairs,” said Bercuson.


He served as a reservist, and was deployed with the Canadian peacekeeping forces to Bosnia in 1996.

In 2006 he served in Afghanistan, playing a key intelligence advisory role to Brig.-Gen David Fraser in the successful Operation Medusa offensive against the Taliban. He returned to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2011.

Rising to the rank of reserve lieutenant-colonel, he was named commander of the B.C. Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own), in 2012.

I’m pleased that Trudeau managed to find someone to fill this cabinet post who has actual military experience in the field (as opposed to a former general or admiral). I hope he can fight his political corner to get the Canadian Forces the updated equipment they so desperately need, even if the F-35 is not going to be part of the package (Trudeau explicitly promised to drop the F-35 purchase during the election).

Turkish politics, post-election

Filed under: Europe, Middle East, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Austin Bay looks at Turkey’s domestic political situation following the re-election of Recep Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party:

The threat to Turkish democratic institutions is a man notoriously jealous of Ataturk, current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The snap election gave Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party, AKP, overwhelming control of parliament (316 of 550 seats). The AKP had controlled parliament since 2002, but in the June 7 election it lost its one-party majority. Political haggling among opposition parties, including Ataturk’s Republican Peoples Party, the CHP, failed to produce a coalition government; a new election was necessary.

However, in the intervening month’s domestic terrorist incidents, the fitful war with the Islamic State in the Levant and Syria’s violent chaos dominated Turkish politics.

Erdoğan portrayed himself as the only leader capable of addressing Turkey’s deteriorating security situation. Domestic security certainly diminished; why it did stirs angry accusations. Erdoğan’s political opponents maintain that he used the violence to solidify political support. His more vicious critics accuse him of intentionally permitting violence. For example, they argue his government could have prevented the Oct. 10 terror bombing of a peace march in Ankara, now attributed to ISIL. Over 100 people were murdered in that attack.

Is it an over the top conspiracy theory-type accusation? Possibly. Erdoğan himself, however, believes over the top conspiracy theories, and he uses conspiratorial doubt and fear as political tools. His record for jailing journalists and intimidating political opponents associated with his alleged conspiracies is fact, not theory. The election didn’t assuage his fears — it ignited another surge of arrests. On Nov. 3, police arrested scores of people associated with Erdoğan critic and Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. At one time Gulen supported Erdoğan and the moderate Islamist AKP. However, Gulen broke with Erdoğan over credible charges of corruption within Erdoğan’s governing circle.

Daniel Pipes isn’t convinced that the terror stampeded voters in Erdoğan’s direction (especially Kurdish voters), and he suspects fraud in the election results:

Like other observers of Turkish politics, I was stunned on November 1 when the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP) was reported to have increased its share of the national vote since the last round of elections in June 2015 by 9 percent and its share of parliamentary seats by 11 percent.

The polls had consistently shown the four major parties winning about the same number of seats as in June. This made intuitive sense; they represent mutually hostile outlooks (Islamist, leftist, Kurdish, nationalist), making substantial movement between them in under five months highly unlikely. That about one in nine voters switched parties defies reason.

Polling results between the June and November 2015 Turkish elections

Polling results between the June and November 2015 Turkish elections

The AKP’s huge increase gave it back the parliamentary majority it had lost in the June 2015 elections, promising President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a semi-legal path to the dictatorial powers he aspires to.

But, to me, the results stink of fraud. It defies reason, for example, that the AKP’s war on Kurds would prompt about a quarter of Turkey’s Kurds to abandon the pro-Kurdish party and switch their votes to the AKP.

November 5, 2015

Do you have a sufficient supply of pronouns yet?

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Another link I saved a while back and then didn’t get around to using until now:

A private Southern California women’s college now offers students eight different gender pronoun options from which to select, expecting professors and others on campus to use the choices.

The Claremont-based Scripps College, nicknamed “The Women’s College,” offers the gender pronoun options to students through its online student portal accounts. Students use a drop-down menu to select their preference from ten choices – eight of which are various gender pronoun sets such as “Hu, Hum, Hus,” “Per, Pers, Perself” and “Ze, Zir, Zir.” The other two are “none” and “just my name.”

Once students select their preference, a note of it appears on class rosters and other documents informing professors and others.

Though an all-female institution, the drop-down list does not default to the “She, Her, Hers, Herself” option, but instead, “Select Pronoun.” In fact, the choices are listed in alphabetical order, which places the traditional “she/hers” choice as the seventh possibility.

The list of options, along with phonetic pronunciations for the less frequently used choices, was provided to The College Fix by a campus official:

    1. E/Ey, Em, Eir/Eirs, Eirself/Emself (A, M, ear, ears, earself)
    2. He, Him, His, Himself
    3. Hu, Hum, Hus, Humself (hue like HUman,/hue-m like HUMan, hue-s, hue-mself)
    4. Just My Name Please
    5. None
    6. Per, Per, Per/Pers, Perself (per/purr, pers, perself)
    7. She, Her, hers, Herself
    8. They, Them, Their/Theirs, Themse
    9. Ze, Hir, Hir/Hirs, Hirself (zee, hear, hears, hearself)
    10. Ze, Zir, Zir/Zirs, Zirself (zee, zeer, zeers, zeerself)

The high-church organic movement is feeling under threat

Filed under: Business, Environment, Health, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Henry I. Miller & Julie Kelly on the less-than-certain future of the organic farming community:

The organic-products industry, which has been on a tear for the past decade, is running scared. Challenged by progress in modern genetic engineering and state-of-the-art pesticides — which are denied to organic farmers — the organic movement is ratcheting up its rhetoric and bolstering its anti-innovation agenda while trying to expand a consumer base that shows signs of hitting the wall.

Genetic-engineering-labeling referendums funded by the organic industry failed last year in Colorado and Oregon, following similar defeats in California and Washington. Even worse for the industry, a recent Supreme Court decision appears to proscribe on First Amendment grounds the kind of labeling they want. A June 2015 Supreme Court decision has cleared a judicial path to challenge the constitutionality of special labeling — “compelled commercial speech” — to identify foods that contain genetically engineered (sometimes called “genetically modified”) ingredients. The essence of the decision is the expansion of the range of regulations subject to “strict scrutiny,” the most rigorous standard of review for constitutionality, to include special labeling laws.


Organic agriculture has become a kind of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, a far cry from what was intended: “Let me be clear about one thing, the organic label is a marketing tool,” said then secretary of agriculture Dan Glickman when organic certification was being considered. “It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.” That quote from Secretary Glickman should have to be displayed prominently in every establishment that sells organic products.

The backstory here is that in spite of its “good vibes,” organic farming is an affront to the environment — hugely wasteful of arable land and water because of its low yields. Plant pathologist Dr. Steve Savage recently analyzed the data from USDA’s 2014 Organic Survey, which reports various measures of productivity from most of the certified-organic farms in the nation, and compared them to those at conventional farms, crop by crop, state by state. His findings are extraordinary. Of the 68 crops surveyed, there was a “yield gap” — poorer performance of organic farms — in 59. And many of those gaps, or shortfalls, were impressive: strawberries, 61 percent less than conventional; fresh tomatoes, 61 percent less; tangerines, 58 percent less; carrots, 49 percent less; cotton, 45 percent less; rice, 39 percent less; peanuts, 37 percent less.

QotD: The Berlin Wall

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Berlin Wall was a symbol of the depravity and viciousness of the Marxist idea. Karl Marx was a pure hate monger masquerading as a social philosopher. His ideas may, in the end, be summarized thus: wealth can be gained only by stealing from others, and thus successful people are evil, and thus it is okay to threaten or kill rich people (or even people who are just a bit better off than you are), to steal their belongings, and to threaten anyone who might in the future have more stuff than you do. If you somehow get more things than other people, it is okay for other people to take your stuff, and if you resist, it is okay to beat you up or kill you.

Even more succinctly, Marxism is the idea that envy is laudable, and should be turned into social policy with the use of pervasive violence.

I am putting this more bluntly and baldly than the average Marxist would. They prefer concealing their central idea beneath a heavy blanket of words. They dress up their “philosophy” in avant garde costumes, adding layers of verbiage, complicated and counterfactual claims about language and logic, bizarre ideas about the nature of history, etc., all in the service of keeping people from seeing what they’re actually suggesting. What lies underneath is nothing much more than hate of people who have more stuff than you do, justified by little or nothing more than wanting to take what they have for yourself.

When you base your beliefs on this sort of foundation, the violence that proceeds is not an accident or the result of an improper understanding or implementation of an otherwise fine program. The violence is the direct and intentional result of the underlying program. The violence is the entire purpose of the underlying program.

In spite of the claims of apologists, the Marxism that fell twenty five years ago was the true Marxism. You cannot force people to work whether they get any benefit of it or not if they can flee from you, so you have to build walls. The Berlin Wall was not an aberration, it was the the only way to keep the quite literal slaves from fleeing their bondage. You cannot take stuff from people who have it without goons with guns, since they will not want to hand their material possessions over, so you bring in goons with guns to scour your population. In a free market, you get ahead by making things people want like bread or telephones, but in a Marxist society, the only way to get ahead is through gaining political power, and so people who are exceptionally talented at deploying violence and thuggery and are ambitious rise to the top of your society. Stalin or someone like him was not an accident, he was an inevitability.

Perry Metzger, “A memorable anniversary, and those who would forget it”, Samizdata, 2014-11-09.

October 31, 2015

QotD: Modern movies fail to reflect reality in the expected manner … unexpectedly

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Ages are marked by their paranoias and despairs, and we see those paranoias and despairs in the art an age produces. What we dread in earnest we enjoy in fantasy.

After Watergate, there were a series of very paranoid and nihilistic films — The Parallax View, Capricorn One, The Conversation on the paranoid end; then all the violent ones about a growing nihilism in the world — Dirty Harry, Death Wish, and so on.

Cultural observers had no problem pointing directly at Watergate (and the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr.) to explain the paranoia, and nor were they so blind as to not notice the decay and malaise (and rising tide of bloody crime) of the seventies were responsible for the various violent retribution films.


Since 9/11, we faced a lot of movies about cataclysm and the end of the world. It’s easy enough to see that connection.

But the Age of Obama has not produced any uplift, nor any respite from the current preoccupation of people with the End Times. As a non-religious person, I don’t mean this literally (though many may), but it is impossible not to note the idea of Apocalypse and Cataclysm is in the air.

Look at the number of zombie films and zombie TV shows — as obvious a metaphor for decay and rot as can be imagined. Or the still-doing-bonzo-business cataclysm fantasies. Even the latest Man of Steel was about cataclysm.

And now add into that the large number of paranoid, rotten dystopia movies.

If the Age of Obama is so swell, if we’re all filled with Hope, why is this age not producing the spate of feel-good, have-fun, get-rich movies the 80s did?

Why are our collective fantasies in the Age of Obama so single-mindedly focused on the idea of dystopia, cultural decay, and ultimately cultural destruction?

Whether liberal cultural critics want to admit it or not — and they seem very much to not want to admit it, because this is so obvious it’s painful, and yet they fail to make this obvious connection — the Obama years are years of economic want, emotional depression, and spiritual chaos, at least as reflected by entertainments resolutely focusing on the end-times and the wretched dystopias that arise after the End Times, when civilization is dead but just hasn’t stopped moving yet.

The Leftovers, The Returned, Revolution, the Walking Dead not only being a top-rated show, but spawning a top-rated spin-off — I dare anyone to find any previous moment in American history, including in the years of paranoia after Watergate, in which our fantasies have been so dark, depressive, anxious and foreboding.

This is all very obvious. The people in Hollywood turning out one cataclysm-and-dystopia entertainment after another surely sense this, as do the talentless idiots paid to comment on the culture at fluffy magazines like The Atlantic and New York and The New Yorker; and yet, another aspect of the Age of Obama — that one must never admit the horrible truth; one must always pretend it away, and give only praise to Dear Leader — keeps people from stating what is so obvious it’s increasingly uncomfortable to remain silent about it.

Ace, “Going By Movies, America Is In An Apocalyptic Frame of Mind”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2015-10-27.

October 28, 2015

QotD: Libertarian politics

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I have long argued that the real function of libertarian involvement in politics, including the Libertarian Party, is not to get libertarians elected. It is to get libertarian policies to the point where the major parties will find it in their interest to adopt them — the strategy followed with striking success by the U.S. Socialist party over the first half of the 20th century.

David Friedman, “Good News for Libertarians”, Ideas, 2014-10-30.

October 27, 2015

Cultural appropriation is bunk

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At The Federalist, David Marcus explains how he considered the arguments of those pushing the idea of “cultural appropriation” … and rejected them:

I read a lot as a kid. Books were a pleasure and window into worlds. I read James Joyce and Marcel Proust, but I also read James Baldwin and Zora Neal Hurston. Every book spoke to me in its own way, and I felt a connection to their authors. I felt like I was having a private conversation with them. After finishing a book, I felt a kind of ownership of it. Each volume took a permanent place in my consciousness.

This was before the popular emergence of the idea of cultural appropriation. Nobody told me that books, music, and clothing created by people who didn’t look like me didn’t belong to me, that I was somehow borrowing them. Today, people do tell me this. They tell me that I must tread lightly when engaging in cultural forms not invented by my white ancestors.

I have listened to their arguments, read their theories, and arrived at a conclusion. They are wrong. All cultures are mine.

Over at The Atlantic, Jenni Avins writes about the dos and don’ts of cultural appropriation. To her credit, she explores how culture blending is central to the development of, well, everything. Since time immemorial, from the spice road to Times Square, cultures have influenced each other and produced the world as we know it.


But in America there is one culture that anyone and everyone is free to appropriate. White culture, be it classical music, the novel, or the business suit, is never the subject of claims of appropriation. Last week, a perfect example of this disparity was on display in an announcement from the theater world. Howlround, a website that describes itself as a theater commons and has a strong influence on the theater community, announced its call for 2020 to be a Jubilee year to promote diversity in theater.

What form will this Jubilee take? Well, it’s a doozy: “We declare the year 2020 the year of Jubilee. For the 2020–2021 season, all performances produced in the United States of America will be by women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive abilities, and LBGTQA artists. Every theatre large and small is included in the vision…This is also a time for straight, white men to rejoice, to witness, to listen, and to be fed for one year by the stories they’ve also been denied. “

On its face, this is absurd nonsense. The idea that any American artists would seek to officially prohibit — in other words, ban — any artist’s work on the basis of his or her race or gender is mind-numbing. It is also quite likely that any theater company without an ethnically based mission that officially signed onto this plan would be breaking the law. Finally, it’s obviously not going to happen. But for all its preening silliness, this Jubilee fiasco tells us something interesting about cultural appropriation.

Here’s a clue: if the race or gender of an author or playwright matters more to you than the quality of the book or play, the problem isn’t the artist: the problem is you.

October 26, 2015

QotD: Canadian political journalism

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It is important to understand that, except a few, the journalists are not ideologues. They are, once again, typical products of our drive-in universities, and journalism schools which have, if possible, even lower intellectual standards. They know no history, nor anything much about the topics on which they write, and can be easily mesmerized by a narrative they have themselves written, by rote. Such is the nature of promotion within what has become a niche of the entertainment industry, that those of independent mind and moral fibre are quickly weeded out.

I’m inclined to use the term “progressive” rather than dwell on Left and Right wings, for there is some contrast between, say, MSNBC and Fox in the USA, between CBC and Sun News up here. There is a growing Right — an opposition within the media to itself — but it is not a significant improvement on the monotony that preceded it. The idea that, as a form of entertainment, news coverage should aspire to “tabloid” conditions, and avoid subjects which require knowledge, governed the rightwing impresarios from the start. The Right is fresher and feistier than the Left, and by its Pavlovian habit of reacting to Left agendas, sometimes traps itself in a principled position; but this is a random, not intended effect. Both sides continue to share the post-Christian worship of abstract “liberty,” “equality,” and material “progress.” They clash on who can deliver these empty buckets quicker. But the battle is fought from both sides with the same weaponry — platitudes and clichés — in a kind of unending spiritual Verdun. “Progress” invariably emerges as the victor.

David Warren, “Ottawa in the news”, Essays in Idleness, 2014-10-23.

October 25, 2015

“All that dangerous, dastardly outside money that people have been worrying about since the Citizens United decision? Stunningly irrelevant.”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle on the remarkable lack of impact of “outside money” on US election campaign financing:

“Money can’t buy you everything.”

“The best things in life are free.”

“I don’t care too much for money. … Money can’t buy me love.”

Turns out timeless clichés and the Beatles understood the 2016 election season before the rest of us did. All that dangerous, dastardly outside money that people have been worrying about since the Citizens United decision? Stunningly irrelevant.

The New York Times has a nice summary of campaign fundraising and spending to date.

Hillary Clinton has done well in both traditional and PAC fundraising, but that might be effect as much as cause: The obvious front-runner and already-crowned establishment candidate is going to do well in fundraising, even if the money isn’t needed. So let’s look at the Republican race.

By June, Jeb Bush was the GOP PACman; he had raised more than $100 million, and spent over $10 million of it. Second in such fundraising is Ted Cruz, who raised $38.4 million in outside money. The two of them together have 60 percent more cash than all the other candidates combined. They are currently tied for fourth place in polling.

Meanwhile, Scott Walker, who used to be running third in the PAC race, has already dropped out, as have Rick Perry and his $13.8 million worth of outside funds. Marco Rubio, with a comparatively dainty $17.3 million, is doing better than the three early leaders in outside fundraising — and yet he’s still being blown away in polling by Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who have raised, to a first approximation, zero in outside funds.

Small talk in pubs

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren admits he’s not welcome at a few local drinking establishments nowadays:

There are at least two tables, within pubs in the Greater Parkdale Area, where, notwithstanding I was once quite welcome, I am not today. Some think this is because of my opinions, which are those of a rightwing fanatic and religious nutjob. But no: it is because I am willing to express them. This is a form of incontinence, one might argue; and like other forms, it may accord with increasing age. Yet I do not think that silence is invariably golden.

To hear me tell it — and whom else were you expecting, gentle reader? — it goes like this. In years past, I would sit quietly and ignore nonsense, especially political nonsense, spoken by my fellow imbibers. I can still do this. Many of the most ludicrous remarks, on any passing issue, are not actually opinions of the speaker. He simply echoes or parrots the views of the media and his own social class. I’ve been absorbing this “background music” for years; why revolt now? The noise is anyway not arguments but gestures.

Say, “Stephen Harper,” and watch the eyeballs roll. Say, “George Bush,” and still, ditto. Say “Richard Nixon,” however, and you don’t get much of a rise any more, for memories out there are short, very short.

(A Czech buddy, in the olden days, once performed this experiment in a pub. “I just love that Richard Nixon!” he declared, in his thick, Slavic accent, loud enough to afflict the Yankee draft-dodgers at the next table, who’d been prattling about Watergate too long. “Gives those liberals heart attacks,” he added. … Some bottle-tossing followed from that, and we were all banned together, so ended up as friends.)

On the other hand say, “Barack Obama,” and they will focus like attentive puppies. Or, “Justin Trudeau” to the ladies, to make them coo.

It is a simple Pavlovian trick, and might be done in reverse in a rightwing bar, except, there are no rightwing bars in big cities.

Yet everyone knows there are rightwing people, even in Greater Parkdale. And they are welcome anywhere they want to buy a pint, the more if they’re buying for the whole table. The one condition is that they must keep their “divisive” opinions to themselves.

October 23, 2015

Apologies may harm a politician’s reputation more than standing firm

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Washington Post, Richard Hanania conducted an experiment to find out how an apology from a politician affects the public’s perception of that politician:

I recruited a sample of 511 individuals and had them read two texts. First, they read about Rand Paul’s 2011 comments suggesting that he disagreed with parts of the Civil Rights Act. Paul had said that while he denounced racist behavior, part of his definition of freedom meant the right to discriminate on private property. About half of the participants read a conclusion to the story that made Paul seem apologetic, while the rest were led to believe that he stuck firm to his comments. (In actuality, Paul never apologized for his statements, but began to deny that he ever questioned the Civil Rights Act.)

Respondents then read about the suggestion by then-Harvard President Larry Summers in 2005 that genetic factors help to explain the lack of high-performing female scientists and engineers at top universities. After reading the comments and hearing about the outcry, half the participants were told that Summers defended himself by saying he believed that “raising questions, discussing multiple factors that may explain a difficult problem, and seeking to understand how they interrelate is vitally important.” The rest learned that he had apologized and read a brief statement Summers made expressing regret for his comments and reflecting on the damage that they had caused.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, neither Summers nor Paul was helped by an apology. Among respondents who read that Paul was apologetic, 63 percent said that the controversy made them less likely to vote for Paul. Among those who didn’t read about any apology, 61 percent said they were less likely to vote for him — a statistically insignificant difference.

The results for the Summers controversy were even more surprising. Of those who read about his apology, 64 percent said that he “definitely” or “probably” should have faced negative consequences for his statements about women. However, that number dropped to 56 percent when respondents were led to believe that Summers stood firm in his position. Moreover, the surprisingly negative effect of Summers’ apology was even larger among the groups that arguably should have appreciated the apology: women and liberals.

Given these results, why would politicians apologize at all? It may be simply out of habit or because they are following a script that has for the most part gone unquestioned. To be sure, my experiments certainly don’t suggest that it is always inadvisable to apologize. Nor can my findings speak directly to Trump.

QotD: “Ever wonder why on earth anyone thought socialism would work?”

Filed under: Economics, History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

No, seriously: Ever wonder why? “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” sounds very fine, but by the time socialism rolled around, this idea had been tried, and fallen apart, in multiple communes. Moreover, sponging, shirking relatives had been observed in families from the dawn of history. The universal desire to work less than needed had long been countered by some variant on the biblical rule that “he who does not work, does not eat.” Why, then, did people want to throw out the profit motive and have the government run everything?

Conservatives and libertarians who ask themselves this question generally assume that socialists must have been naïve pointy-heads who didn’t understand that socialism would run into incentive problems. And of course, as in any sizeable movement, there were just such naïve pointy-heads. Even if I’m no expert on the history of socialist thought, the reading I have done suggests that the movement itself was not actually this naïve; there were people who understood that, as economists like to say, “incentives matter.” They thought that socialist economies would perform better despite the incentive problem because of various efficiencies: streamlining overhead, creating massive economies of scale, eliminating “wasteful competition,” and the many-splendored production enhancements possible through “scientific planning.”

In hindsight, this sounds ridiculous, because we know that socialized economies failed on a massive, almost unprecedented scale. Scientific planning proved inferior to the invisible hand of the market, scale turned out to have diseconomies as well as economies, and administrative overhead was not, to put it lightly, reduced. But before socialism was tried, this all seemed plausible.

Megan McArdle, “Will Ebola Be Good for the CDC?”, Bloomberg View, 2014-10-20.

October 22, 2015

Justifying the murder of random Israelis

Filed under: Middle East, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Brendan O’Neill says that the left has managed to plumb the very bottom of morality:

It’s been clear for years that the left has been losing the moral plot. But I never thought I would see it apologise for, even defend, the stabbing to death of Jews. The silver lining for the left is that it’s impossible for it to sink any lower. This is as low as it gets.

The response in the West to the spate of foul murders by car, knife and meat cleaver in Israel has been almost as shocking as the killings themselves. Many have stayed silent, a global version of “bystander culture”, where people look awkwardly at the ground as someone is battered in front of them. The Western media is currently a shameless shuffling bystander to murders in Israel.

Others have asked, “Well, what do Israelis expect?” The crashing of cars into rabbis waiting for a bus and the hacking at Israeli citizens doing their weekly shop is treated as a normal response by Palestinians to their woes.

When the Guardian glorifies these killings as a “knife intifada”, and radical writers describe them as a natural kickback against Palestinians’ “ongoing humiliation”, they’re really saying Israeli citizens deserve to be murdered.

It’s understandable. It makes sense. These offerers of chin-stroking explanations for why a rabbi just had to be rammed with a car actually dehumanise both Israelis and Palestinians. They treat Israelis as collectively guilty for what their government does, meaning the old woman on a bus is a legitimate target.

And with their handwringing over “Palestinian despair”, with one writer claiming Palestinians are lashing out with knives because it’s “the only option left to them”, they infantilise Palestinians, reducing them to robotic knife-wielders who aren’t responsible for what they do. They heap contempt on both sides, demonising Israeli citizens and pitying Palestinians so much that they end up seeing them as mentally deficient, with no choice but to hack at the nearest Jew.

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