Friday, August 26, 2005

Intelligence, Gender and Race Differences

Lots of non-PC articles coming out today, from the claim that men are five points ahead on IQ tests to the first new article on race and IQ from Charles Murray since he co-authored The Bell Curve.

Like Andrew Sullivan says:
The fact of human inequality and the subtle and complex differences between various manifestations of being human - gay, straight, male, female, black, Asian - is a subject worth exploring, period. Liberalism's commitment to political and moral equality for all citizens and human beings is not and should not be threatened by empirical research into human difference and varied inequality.
Hateful actions have been justified by this kind of thinking. But if you believe that reason reigns supreme then you can't let that stop you in your pursuit of knowledge and understanding.

UPDATE: The "liberals" are responding. Atrios and Digby have some great points here. Matt thinks people who believe The Bell Curve holds up are fools, not bigots. Personally I don't have a strong opinion on this, although it seems clear that Bell Curve likely confuses levels of education with IQ.

All I know is this: Research shows strong parallels between "group psychology" (even for large groups like "society") and individual psychology. Thus, in the long term it does society no good to create taboos and suppress debate.

UPDATE II: I normally like Atrios, his writing is intelligent even though it's a little one-sided at times. But this is ridiculous:
The ignorance of Andrew Sullivan is shocking. A decade later, he still has no clue why the publication of racist pseudo-science reflects not a man who is "interested in the truth," but rather, as I said, a bigot, a fool, or both.
Look, it may be that The Bell Curve is completely devoid of scientific merit. I really don't know. But please present some sensible arguments instead of resorting to name-calling. I read Atrios often and I find his "far-left" reputation to be much exaggerated. His grasp of economics and his ability to form coherent arguments makes him more of a moderate in my book. But like many liberals (and human beings in general I suppose) he completely undercuts his "moderate" credentials with occational posts like the one above that have no rational merits whatsoever.

Leave Shabana Alone!

Terrible news from the motherland:
Earlier this week shots were fired at a restaurant owned by the sister of Shabana Rehman, a Pakistani-born Norwegian comic who (like the spiky-haired Canadian lesbian Muslim writer Irshad Manji, the author of The Trouble with Islam Today) has taken to using jihad and Islam as the jumping off point for her jokes and political commentary.
I always enjoy Shabana's newspaper columns and tv comedy when I'm in Norway, she's really a fantastic woman. Her sister's attackers should be tortured and killed slowly by 72 virgins...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

B.D. on Flypaper

A must read from B.D. I am actually very curious to see what he has to say next.

Does CNN need saving?

Via Atrios, all this talk about saving CNN has taken on a new dimension for me now that I work there. I don't have anything to add though, except that I agree with DC Media Girl.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Outta Iraq

Via Kevin, here is Juan Cole's plan for withdrawal. This plan balances the need for getting out (because our presence is clearly counter-productive) and the desire to avoid the human tragedy of a full-blown civil war.

College Rankings

It is the season for silly college rankings. The latest to take a crack at it is The Washington Monthly. Apparently tech colleges do more for the country (and my old digs do the most).

Monday, August 15, 2005

Democrats and Elections

Commenter Ed Stephan has an interesting take over at The Carpetbagger:
Over the last fifty years or so, we have become a nation of primarily selfish, isolated, fearful (or bored), purpose-less, tasteless, non-passionate and uncompassionate, artless, incurious, brain-dead consumers, unaware of any past, willing to bankrupt any future, i.e., perfect targets for what (little) the GOP has to offer.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Liberals, Conservatives and Nastiness

Kevin Drum has a good post articulates some of the reasons why conservatives are so much better at sliming their opponents with nasty fact-twisting ad campaigns like the swift boat veterans campaign.

UPDATE: Hiding/stopping comments on this post because some idiot posted an advertisement.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Why Democrats Lack Voter Appeal

Matthew Yglesias has a few points worth noting: Contrary to most liberals' beliefs, American voters don't vote on "the issues", they look for people who they can identify with. Simply put: A white Christian voter will choose a white Christian politician talking about Christian family values.

So even if people are starting to really dislike Republicans because they are corrupt, ineffective and economical with the truth, they still don't like Democrats. As Matt says they may end up disliking the GOP so much that it leads to victory in the short run but it does nothing in the long run.

I think Matt is right when he says that "what's going on here is something that's a bit difficult for most liberals to get our collective heads around". There truly are two Americas, and guess what: The other part is bigger.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Jennings dies

This makes me incredibly sad. America has lost a great journalist. They don't make 'em like this anymore. I hope the time will come when people with wisdom, integrity, and a sense of public service will again dominate the airwaves.

UPDATE: Glad to see that Greg agrees. Although I can't help but wonder: When will he stop backing Bush? Is he really so stubborn that it will take a cowardly mid-term election retreat from Iraq to change his mind? Today's Republican party doesn't have room for a man who characterizes a bona fide and hated member of the "mainstream liberal media" like this:
The kind of journalism and anchoring that Jennings did--intellectually honest and judicious, delivered with a steely calm (rather than the shrill hysterics or 'emo-anchoring' now in vogue) appears a dying breed today.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Krugman: Design for Confusion

Krugman sums up the conservatives approach to policymaking:
[Corporations] pouring a steady stream of money into think tanks that created a sort of parallel intellectual universe, a world of "scholars" whose careers are based on toeing an ideological line, rather than on doing research that stands up to scrutiny by their peers.

.. The most spectacular example is the campaign to discredit research on global warming. Despite an overwhelming scientific consensus, many people have the impression that the issue is still unresolved. This impression reflects the assiduous work of conservative think tanks, which produce and promote skeptical reports that look like peer-reviewed research, but aren't. And behind it all lies lavish financing from the energy industry, especially ExxonMobil.

There are several reasons why fake research is so effective. One is that nonscientists sometimes find it hard to tell the difference between research and advocacy - if it's got numbers and charts in it, doesn't that make it science?
He then goes on to Intelligent Design:
The important thing to remember is that like supply-side economics or global-warming skepticism, intelligent design doesn't have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory.
Clever, huh? :)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Moral Conviction: Democrats vs. Republicans

I was looking for some of Andrew Sullivan's excellent posts on torture when I came across this e-mail from one of his readers:
What really bothers me right now is the political self-protection in place of moral values that happens on the right and left. The left demonstrated this with their rallying around Clinton during Monica-gate. While Clinton probably did not deserve to be impeached, he certainly did not act presidential and was not worthy of the support he received. With the Democrats out of power, the Republicans have been front and center with their political self-protection. Where is the outrage about torture? Honestly, they impeach Clinton over sex and lying, but actual incidents of human beings from around the world being treated with Nazi stye torture is responded to with circling of political wagons. At what point does humanity trump politics? Those who committed the horrors of 9/11 showed no humanity, and only looked to serve their political agenda of terror. We are better then that. Both parties need to be. I am not calling Republicans Nazis or saying they are the same as 9/11 terrorists, but I am saying the moral fiber of our nation is called into question with government sanctioned torture of people, incident or guilty. It is one thing to get into debates about what it means to be patriotic, a silly debate the right and left get into all the time, but it is another thing for our humanity to be at stake. Where is the outrage? Both parties have men and women of great moral conviction. May of those Democrats were missing during Clinton's presidency, and it seems many Republicans are missing now.
Like most liberals I am very disturbed by the lengths to which conservatives and Republicans nowadays will go in order to defend Bush & Co. Whether it is Karl Rove outing a CIA agent for political gains or Alberto Gonzales writing his "torture memo" I am truly astounded that the vast majority of conservatives and Republicans (good friends included) are either a) not bothered at all, or b) actively defending the administration.

But are the Democrats any better? Andrew's reader doesn't seem to think so, since many Democrats defended Clinton during his presidency. Thus he ends up lamenting a lack of moral conviction on both sides.

In this he may be right but it is important to note the different forms of moral conviction. Conservatives care greatly about personal virtues such as fidelity and honesty while liberals care more about saving the evironments and eliminating human suffering.

As a (moderate) liberal I remember laughing out loud when I first heard about Monica-gate. Public figures caught in juicy scandals amuses me. Later on I came to see it more as a personal tragedy for the Clinton family and an excellent psychological case study in "compartmentalization" (which some conservatives rightly link to "character" although I'd say it's more about "emotional maturity"). But I never saw it as grounds for impeachment.

In torture-gate I'm not really sure I see grounds for impeachment either, but looking at Bush's policy decisions as a whole I definitely think voters should have kicked him out in 2004. In my view he is both ruining the environment and increasing human suffering. About his personal virtues I don't care so much, although I I'm happy his honesty ratings are finally falling. He could be caught snorting coke while cheating on Laura with Pam Anderson for all I care, as a liberal I would argue that he should be allowed to do whatever he wants.

But imagine the conservatives reaction to such a story. They would drop him like a hot potato. He would no longer be "one of them". Which is, I guess, ultimately what people's voting behavior comes down to.

I for one like to think I am much more like Clinton than Bush. Not because I yearn for infidelity (not any more than the next guy anyway) but because I value making the world a better place far higher than the protection of superficial Victorian moral standards.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bush's Faith-Based Rule

I had forgotten about this Suskind piece from October 2004. It remains extremely insightful even though its opening prediction (a GOP civil war) hasn't started yet.

UPDATE: Or has it?