Thursday, June 11, 2009 75 Comments

Evidence in current history

If we believe in one thing here at UR, it is judging past and present by the same standards. This includes standards of truth and evidence - a subject last week's post may have raised.

Personally, I believe in judging past and present by the same standards because I believe that the dead are entitled to the same consideration as the living. Could they come to life and judge us, as any ancestor would, we would like to be able to answer them honestly and with a straight face. I don't feel our society meets this test at present - do you?

One easy solution is to apply the standards of the present to the past. This is called presentism. In general, the results of presentism are so dire, comical, and infamous that we cannot avoid concluding that something is terribly wrong either with the method, or the present, or both. Surely this pattern holds true for evidentiary standards.

For example, a common present standard of truth is that the New York Times is always right. We could follow the logic of presentism and apply this to the past, by saying that just as the New York Times of 2009 is always right, the New York Times of 1909 is just as always right. This, in turn, can be easily refuted by showing that the two occasionally disagree.

We also could be pastists and apply the standards of 1909 to 2009. This would be much more fun, and probably produce better results. But at a philosophical level, it is no less gay.

Rather, it is best to come up with a common set of standards for historical evidence, one which does not implicitly trust the New York Times, or the Catholic Church, or even USG, or any institution or set of institutions past or present. So we know we are doing history, not PR.

Thus, to emphasize the commonality, we speak not of current events, but current history. To even begin to know the events, even as they happen, we must think historically.

By the standards of history, my standard of evidence is strict but hardly unusual. I prefer single-malt sources, as it were. I want to see original documents whose authenticity is without question, and the only lesson I take from an authentic document is that it exists and whoever wrote it wrote it. I distrust digests, samples, statistics, surveys, reports, encyclopedias. I would rather have one good source than a thousand bad.

And most importantly, in history there are no reliable sources - no person is trustworthy by definition. Without trust we can know nothing, but trust must always be a product of reason. It can never be automatic. It must always be considered and tested.

Here's an example of trusting authorities: Half Sigma, normally a real bastion of common sense, assuming that because Sonia Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and won the Pyne Prize for its "most outstanding undergraduate," she cannot be dumb as a post.

This does not strike me as sound evidentiary practice in current history. Let me explain why.

Here is a fact I trust: if we had access to Princeton's records, they would confirm the text below (from the Daily Princetonian, February 28, 1976):
J. David Germany and Sonia M. Sotomayor are the joint winners of this year's M. Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, the highest honor the university confers on an undergraduate.

The prize, given to the senior or seniors who have "manifested in outstanding fashion...excellent scholarship and effective support of the best interests of Princeton University," carries with it an award equal to a year's tuition, $3,900 this year, which will be shared by the two recipients.

The Pyne Prize is not the first recognition of Germany's scholarship-he has won both the Freshman First Year Honor Prize for the highest grades during freshman year and the Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Prize for the highest academic standing prior to senior year.

Two years ago, after winning the freshman award, Germany said, "There's a choke factor on every final exam, and I'm really due for a big one. But I'm going to enjoy this as long as I can." Today, his transcript shows 21 A+s and 9 A's.
[...]
Sotomayor, a history major, has maintained almost straight A's for the last two years, but is especially known for her extracurricular activities.

Her dedication to the life of minority students at Princeton has been illustrated by her service on the Governance Board of the Third World Center and in her efforts to form the Latino Students Organization.
(On a side note: I bet myself, when I read this text, that the "Third World Center" is no longer the "Third World Center." I won. Yes, dear Princeton: I know, you know, and God knows, that "Third World" was once a term of approbation to you. This too is on your tab - not yet summed.)

Again, I am confident that Sonia Sotomayor's transcript "for the last two years" would show "almost straight A's." Who assigned her these straight A's? And why?

At this point we leave the domain of verifiable facts, and enter that of proof by authority. Half Sigma does not know. Nor do I. Nor does anyone.

I am quite confident that David Germany is a smart cookie. Unless his name is pronounced "DavEED HermANee" or even if it is, I doubt he is of Puerto Rican descent. Which means he is just another white guy. Which is not a quality of any value at all. But does mean that to get his Pyne Prize, he had to beat a lot of other very smart white guys.

What did Sonia Sotomayor have to do? Whom did she have to beat? It is not at all clear.

My judgment is that when we look at the career of a progressive race activist of the late 20th century, institutional records and personal endorsements tell us just about nothing. Every rule can be, and is, bent for these people. What's clear is that at Princeton, David Germany was first and foremost a student, and Sonia Sotomayor was first and foremost an activist. Why on earth would anyone expect her grades to mean anything?

I will repeat the analogy I used when I questioned Barack Obama's Columbia record: the academic records of college athletes, who are regularly found to have graduated from reputable universities, while remaining almost literally illiterate. Trusting the academic records of a race activist - especially when not actually disclosed, but merely attested to - is credulous beyond belief. Behind any Sotomayor is an army of activist professors whose commitment to la lucha is, shall we say, slightly greater than their commitment to the academic integrity of Princeton. At least, in the athlete's case, his coaches and his professors are different people.

This is what is truly remarkable about Judge Sotomayor: at every stage in her career, her success is plausibly and parsimoniously explained by her mere ancestry. In every institution in which she has produced a record of excellence, her biology below the neck is a sufficient explanation of that record. As historians, we cannot even exclude the possibility that she got her Princeton A's because someone helped her with her papers. We have no evidence for this, but we also have no evidence against it - and we are writing history, not conducting a criminal trial.

Thus I feel the best public evidence as to Judge Sotomayor's actual talents consists of her speeches, such as this famous one (published as an essay in the La Raza Law Journal). Here is a speech by a white male colleague of Judge Sotomayor's - ie, one who owes his position on the Second Circuit to neurology, not dermatology. If you retain any doubts, please compare.

(Judge Sotomayor's judicial opinions, while also notoriously bad, are much less interesting, because they are produced with at least the assistance of law clerks. Perhaps Judge Sotomayor does not choose the best clerks, but she has the best talent pool to hire from. They know how to use a comma. It's not clear to me that she does.)

Similarly, Barack Obama, or someone writing under his name, produced one book which betrays nontrivial, if hardly world-shattering, literary ability. And nothing else. As Jack Cashill has observed, the author of Dreams From My Father, whoever it was, misspells Frantz Fanon in a rather distinctive way - and is also fascinated by tidal hydrology. Frankly, if someone can point me to a work in which Shakespeare mentions "Franz Fanon" and speaks of rivers flowing backward, I'll be prepared to at least consider the possibility that the real author of Hamlet was Billy Ayers. I know what a solid case for literary attribution looks like. This is it.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Ordinary claims require ordinary evidence. The claim that a politician's book was ghostwritten is an ordinary claim. Especially in the post-FDR era, when it is simply assumed that the task of a politician is to take other peoples' words and claim them as one's own, an act that previous generations of American would have regarded as unspeakably contemptible.

If you don't believe that John F. Kennedy wrote Profiles in Courage, why should you believe that Barack Obama wrote Dreams from My Father? Because everyone says he did? This is the evidentiary standard of a fishwife, not a historian. Why should you regard it as true, until proven false? Why not regard it as false, until proven true? What percentage of political memoirs are actually written by the purported author?

In fact we have almost no evidence of any historical validity that describes the early life of Barack Obama. Take the famous "birth certificate" controversy: I believe that Barack Obama was almost certainly born in Hawaii, but only because the converse seems labored and unlikely. The ordinary English meaning of birth certificate is an original physical document, produced at the actual date of birth, ie 1961. It is not a printout of a database record, which is what we have.

Again, I am confident that this document exists for Barack Obama. The refusal to disclose it is just as contemptuous and contemptible as everything else in the process that produced him. Stonewalling on all life records of this man - from birth certificates to college transcripts - is a classic Alinskyian maneuver, pure vicious hardball. It serves the exact purpose it achieves: to generate as many conspiracy theories as possible, most of which are false. Any actual dirt will disappear in this cloud of vain speculation. This is the regard for truth, decency and honor which Americans can expect from their rulers today. Were it actually discovered that Barack Obama was born in Papua New Guinea, I would find it far less damning.

Nor is this excessive respect for institutional authority an isolated glitch in the epistemology of current history, as most practice it today. It is actually a symptom of a much deeper syndrome: the tendency to analyze democracy in terms of its appearance, not its reality, even when that reality is known to everyone.

Here is a perfect example - courtesy of Powerline, which is by far the best neoconservative blog. The authors of Powerline are top-flight attorneys with excellent political connections, and the scholar they are quoting, Charles Kesler, editor of the Claremont Review of Books, whose mission is "to make war on the progressive administrative state," has a Ph.D in government from Harvard - an honor that does not appear to have been conferred on account of dermatology. In short, these individuals have the right talents, the right knowledge, and the right enemies.

And yet, by my standards of evidence, all this is a waste of time. The error is at step one:
Claremont Review of Books editor Charles Kesler sat down last summer to read the books and speeches of Barack Obama. Professor Kesler concluded that Obama is a serious and ambitious politician who has set about to engineer a transformative leftward shift in American politics and government.
We see that Professor Kesler starts his work with one completely unsubstantiated assumption. He assumes that "the books and speeches of Barack Obama" were written by Barack Obama.

Indeed, he knows for a fact that the "speeches of Barack Obama" were not written by Barack Obama. Fifteen seconds on Google will tell Professor Kesler that he is, at the very least, reading the books of Barack Obama and the speeches of Jon Favreau. As we've seen, he is more likely reading the books of Billy Ayers and the speeches of Jon Favreau (to name only two Obama ghosts). These certainly tell us something about Billy Ayers and Jon Favreau. Do we care? The former, at least, is certainly no longer employed in this capacity.

Of course it is the accepted convention of 20th-century American politics that we refer to these as Obama's books and speeches - as if they were the work of, say, Lincoln, or Cicero, or Gladstone. At least, I am pretty sure that Cicero and Gladstone didn't employ ghostwriters. I have my suspicions about Herndon, Hay and Nicolay.

There is a grain of truth in this convention. We know that Barack Obama, the actual person, has at the very least approved all the words he utters, and those published under his name. Billy Ayers may have written his own girlfriend into Dreams, but he at least started with Obama's notes, and Obama got to edit the result. Even if he made no changes, this too was his choice. So in a sense, even if he did not write "his" speeches, he is morally responsible for them.

But even this grain, when scrutinized, conceals a deeper fallacy. For even if Barack Obama did write "his" speeches and "his" books, analyzing them as Professor Kesler does demands another spectacular and completely unjustified assumption.

Again by convention, Professor Kesler is assuming that Barack Obama is sincere in his words - that when he says or publishes X (a knowable, and known, fact), the best explanation for this event is that he believes X. His speaking or publication of X implies his belief in X; his belief in X is the best explanation of why he spoke or published X. This assumption, quite unstated, is everywhere in almost every discussion of all these works.

Of course, if you know anything about the actual career of Barack Obama, the most salient quality you see is ruthless, nihilistic cynicism. "To my mind, we were just abiding by the rules that had been set up." It is possible that the actual person, Barack Obama, actually has some beliefs or principles, but I have seen no particular evidence of it.

This syndrome is hardly unique to current history. One historical figure of whom Barack Obama reminds me is Abraham Lincoln. Like Obama, Lincoln was an extremely guarded and deeply ambitious man whom we know almost nothing about. (Unlike Obama, he had a sense of humor.) Understanding Lincoln is not a matter of casual observation, but serious historical detection.

And if you go to a bookstore and look at the popular Lincoln biographies, all of them will take the Keslerian approach to analysis - assuming, without even mentioning it, that Lincoln's words are more or less identical to Lincoln's thoughts. In the normal Lincoln biography, you get Lincoln the saint; a good one will give you Lincoln the statesman, or maybe Lincoln the tyrant; you have to get into actual scholarship to see Lincoln the politician. And there is scholarship, and scholarship. The old is generally better than the new. (My Lincoln is Beveridge's Lincoln, or possibly Masters'.)

In terms of historical evidence, I feel I know no more about Barack Obama than about, say, Daniel Craig. Daniel Craig does an excellent Bond, but I don't think he's actually killed anyone. Nor do I know, or expect to know, which lines were written for him, which he changed, and which he improved.

Barack Obama gives an excellent press conference, but I have no idea what his role, if any, is in the Obama administration. Maybe he contributes a lot in the meetings, maybe he is just a stooge for David Axelrod, maybe it is somewhere in between. Whichever it may be, you or I or any ordinary person has no opportunity to know. His present is just as mysterious as his past.

The resemblance between film and politics is not at all superficial. Solid analogies between the two are too numerous to count. There are many differences, too, and here is a big one: if you are watching a movie, even a documentary or "reality show," you know that you are looking at an artifact of production. At least in 2009, the average consumer of visual entertainment is quite sophisticated as to the entire production process. The man in the seat may not know a C-stand from a DP, but he basically knows how a movie is shot and edited. And he is certainly aware that he is watching a movie, not a live performance, and certainly not an accidental happening.

Whereas: who knows what actually happens inside the Beltway? As in the old Taoist proverb, Democrats know and don't tell. Republicans tell, and don't know. Both parties are married, at opposite ends, to the same lie. Voting continues in glorious bliss.

If USG is a film, it is a period film. The actors are all playing 18th-century statesmen, by 18th-century rules, in 18th-century clothes. The production itself is a substantial business, which is registered in Delaware and operates entirely in the 21st. Its operations are not entirely independent of audience participation, but what you think matters less than you think.

Obviously, as an enemy of "the progressive administrative state," Professor Kesler is not operating under the belief that he is actually looking at an 18th-century architecture. His failure to actively disabuse his constituency of this notion does not reflect any actual belief in the system. No - this would be mere harmless stupidity.

No. Professor Kesler's error is far worse. Professor Kesler believes that, although 20th-century politicians such as Barack Obama are not 18th-century statesmen, or even 19th-century statesmen, since the American system of government went from Thomas Jefferson to Barack Obama, it must be able to go back. The true, inner, ideal form of USG is its Jeffersonian form. (Or possibly, for a muscular Claremontian like Professor Kesler, its Lincolnian form.)

USG is our father and our mother, its bones are sound, and any pox it has will heal or be cured. It's true that it is smelling a little, has not moved for years, and is awfully bloated. None of these problems can't be solved with a dolly, a scalpel and some Chanel No. 5. So, in order that USG may recover its senses, Professor Kesler undertakes to humor it, to treat it (like a wise parent) not as it is but as it should be.

He is, in a word, Burkean. The trouble was that when Burke praised Marie Antoinette, he was praising Marie Antoinette - not Steven Rattner. When he spoke of reforming one's government as surgery on the body of one's own living father, he spoke under the great oak of the 18th-century Whig aristocracy. Corrupt in its own way this was, but Old Sarum returned Pitt - not Wade Rathke. Had Burke spoken of an autopsy, he had spoken differently.

Professor Kesler's error is no pathetic mistake. It is a true tragic flaw. The entire conservative movement, throughout the age of democracy, has been in the iron grip of tragedy. If Othello could recognize his jealousy and correct it, he could cast out Iago and reward Cassio at once. The play could end at any act. Yet it runs all five, for that is tragedy. Similarly, conservatism could snap out of it at any time - but it won't.

The desire that leads the conservative astray is, as always, the desire for power. To present any criticism of USG as a plan for reforming it, by returning it to its original perfect state (a state so perfect that it has turned into what we have now!), is to render oneself eligible for command of the small army that sees this outcome as the inevitable future. The loyal opposition.

Gentlemen, power - as Fidel Castro puts it - is sweet, like honey. If you intend to wrest it from those who have it, I advise one of two courses. One is to be bigger, stronger, more ruthless, more devious and more mendacious. The other is to rely on magna est veritas et prevalebit.

If you have the choice, by all means choose the first. It is far more effective, and faster as well. If you have the first option and you do not succeed with it, you are beyond any advice I can offer.

However, if the first is not an option, your only recourse is the second. The second is certain, while never quick. It has gained a reputation for unreliability which is wholly undeserved.

The problem is the principle of wine and sewage: any mixture of wine and sewage is sewage. The same is true of reality and illusion. In propaganda, you may mix them freely. Propaganda, however, is only useful as an adjunct to superior physical force. It is not the second strategy.

Clearly, Professor Kesler does not have superior physical force. Otherwise he would be in, and the progressives would be out. Thus his only conceivable armament is veritas prevalebit.

While this is probably what Professor Kesler thinks he is wielding, it is not. Instead, Professor Kesler and the authors of Powerline - and the vast, pyramidal food chain of conservative thought beneath them - seek to replace one illusion, behind which there is at least an actual reality, with another illusion, which does not exist at all and perhaps never did.

USG is what it is. USG used to be what it was. USG evolved from what it was into what it is. But this is no reason to believe it can evolve just as easily in reverse. Furthermore, if your critical standards for assessing USG as it was are just as lax as those you use for assessing USG as it is - since you prefer to see the 18th-century illusion, not the 20th-century reality - your understanding of the real 18th century is perhaps not what it should be, n'est ce pas?

Thus the conservative comes armed against one sham, with another sham. Goliath brings a club, and David brings a smaller club. Consequence: Goliath kicks the shit out of David, and has done for the last two centuries and change. Conservatives are losers by definition. The locomotive steams on, Buckley's cadaver baking on its cowcatcher.

I see this as a tragic flaw because I see it as a surrender to the desire for power. David is just David, and he gets his ass kicked. But it was certainly fun to be William F. Buckley. "Fun" understates this elemental lust - and, under democracy, the loyal opposition can still confer status and even, in a sense, achieve victory. It never achieves its goals. In order to remain loyal, it has denied itself the weapon of veritas prevalebit - the only real weapon it can have.

Whereas if you accept veritas prevalebit, you must refuse to accept the conventional illusions, the naked emperors, the pious frauds. You thereby render yourself disloyal. And you lose your army, your pomp, your sceptre and general's tent.

So be it. Because sovereignty is great, the reactionary must remain loyal in body. In soul, he is a stateless pirate - a well-armed creature of the open sea. His one authority is his own. He does not outsource truth. He looks into the matter himself, or finds someone he trusts; and that trust is not given lightly.

And the figure nailed to his bow is not Burke, but Carlyle. It is Carlyle's twelfth hour of the night - and has been, for over two centuries. "Birds of darkness are on the wing; spectres uproar; the dead walks; the living dream."

75 Comments:

Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Write between the lines! You are welcome to annotate this article over at Thiblo.com.

June 11, 2009 at 3:12 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

For example, a common present standard of truth is that the New York Times is always right.

This is not only not a "common" standard of truth, but I'd wager that not a single person in the world holds of it.

The rest of your article is a hilarious juxtaposition of statements about the importance of trusting only good sources and totally gullible "interpretations" of reality. ("Interpretations" both because you would never have come to the conclusion that Ayers wrote that book unless someone else had previously "interpreted" the data that way and because your "interpretation" appears to consist of assuming the worst of Democrats and non-whites.)

June 11, 2009 at 6:44 AM  
Blogger Thrasymachus said...

Steve Sailer thinks Obama wrote it, and I trust his integrity if not always his judgment. (No, Steve, I *still* don't think the Chinese are the master race.) Your point is not hard to agree with, but it is not that provocative either. Most politicians are fronts for some greater power.

Intellectually you oppose the beast, but culturally and socially you're pretty comfortable with it, so telling the rubes resistance is futile is satisfying to you. I find it frightening and repulsive and it galls me to have to assent to lies everyday. I want to know how it works *now* so hopefully I can do something about it *now*.

June 11, 2009 at 8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Steve Sailer thinks Obama wrote it"

because to admit otherwise would render Steve's own book irrelevant.

June 11, 2009 at 8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've got to be kidding MM. To think Ayers wrote the book and that fact wouldn't have come out by now is rather silly.

June 11, 2009 at 8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To think Ayers wrote the book and that fact wouldn't have come out by now is rather silly."

Um, it has come out. Short of an admission by Ayers or Obama himself, which is never going to happen, the case is as proven as it's going to get. The American Thinker piece that MM linked to is pretty convincing.

It took over 50 years for Sorensen to admit he wrote Profiles in Courage, and you think it is "silly" that nobody has "proven" that Ayers ghostwrote Obama's book after only 10 years?

June 11, 2009 at 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kennedy acknowledged that Sorensen played a role in Profiles. However, Obama maintains that he had only minimal contact with Ayers. Could they really have had a close collaboration in nearly complete secrecy?

I don't expect it to be "proven" that the book was Ghostwritten. But if the Obama-Ayers link was significant enough people would know about it that the veil of secrecy wouldn't hold up.

June 11, 2009 at 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Kennedy acknowledged that Sorensen played a role in Profiles."

No he didn't! When Drew Pearson said JFK didn't write it, JFK threatened to sue ABC, and ABC issued a retraction and a groveling apology.

"Obama maintains that he had only minimal contact with Ayers."

If you are dumb enough to believe this, no more need be said.

June 11, 2009 at 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

---("Interpretations" both because you would never have come to the conclusion that Ayers wrote that book unless someone else had previously "interpreted" the data that way and because your "interpretation" appears to consist of assuming the worst of Democrats and non-whites.)---

In other words you're a RAYSIST REICH WINGER!!!!! Next time, just cut to the chase you insipid, moronic clown. You're out of your league here, just like everywhere else.

June 11, 2009 at 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Kennedy acknowledged that Sorensen played a role in Profiles."

No he didn't!


From the preface, written presumably, by Kennedy: "The greatest debt is owed to my research associate, Theodore C. Sorensen, for his invaluable assistance in the assembly and preparation of the material upon which this book is based."

No acknowledged role?

June 11, 2009 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Hostile much? WTF?

June 11, 2009 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

Princeton might let in under qualified minorities, but they still have their pick of the best of those under qualified minorities. Sotomayor is no genius, but at the very least she's smart enough to have played the game very well. The queen of the mediocrities is still a queen.

June 11, 2009 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger drank said...

... wherein MM strains at "standards of truth and evidence" and then swallows a bunch of conspiracy theories.

I didn't think the American Thinker piece was all that convincing as to the authorship of Obama's first book, but I thought when I first read it that it was an awesome piece of Moldbug-bait. Glad to see that he didn't disappoint!

June 11, 2009 at 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No acknowledged role?"

That's acknowledging RESEARCH not WRITING. Duuh! The intro certainly does not say "Ted wrote most of this and I made a few tweaks here and there."

June 11, 2009 at 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Blackadder Says:

It's true that politicians often have their books ghostwritten. But Obama wasn't a politicians at the time Dreams was written, and other than the fact they both misspell Fanon's name in the same way (which if you type "Franz Fanon" into Google you'll see is not something unique to Obama and Ayers) the evidence that Ayers wrote the book for Obama is rather thin.

On the other hand, I think Mencius gives Judge Sotomayor too much credit when it comes to her law review articles and speeches. It's not unheard of for clerk's to provide drafts of such materials as well as of legal opinions, and particularly when it comes to things like coma placement the law review editors are expected to pick up the slack.

June 11, 2009 at 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You've got to be kidding MM. To think Ayers wrote the book and that fact wouldn't have come out by now is rather silly."

I don't really see how it would come out unless one of the principal actors admitted to the fact.

It's much along the lines of the Damon/Affleck duo supposedly writing the screenplay for "Good Will Hunting". The idea that someone who had up to that point shown very little writing acumen could suddenly spew forth a stream of erudite prose in book or screenplay form is not credible. Good writers write, the evidence of their work is multitude.

Almost every political autobiography ever put on the shelf has a ghostwriter. In this case, they couldn't afford to put a byline on Obama's book, since it would have destroyed the "authenticity" of the work, something that is oh so critical to any ethnic self-discovery piece. The ghostwriter may not have been Ayers, but he's the primary candidate.

June 11, 2009 at 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

It doesn't matter if Sotomayor misplaces her commas or has her opinions written by legal clerks. What matters is the content and quality of her known opinions. She's presumably smart enough to get good clerks, and will produce the same quality judgments in the supreme court as she did in the circuit court. I know nothing about the quality of her judicial opinions, but what matters is what they say, not who wrote them. So all of Mencius speculations are pointless.

June 11, 2009 at 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

In the same vein - it does not matter who wrote Obama's book. What matters is what Obama is doing as president. Nothing to be cheerful about, to be sure.

June 11, 2009 at 4:36 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

Sotomayor's opinions on the 2nd Circuit aren't a very good guide to how extreme she might be on the Supreme Court. Federal circuit court justices are far more constrained to follow the Supreme Court's precedents than the Supreme Court itself is.

June 11, 2009 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

Had Burke spoken of an autopsy, he had spoken differently.

props on successful deployment of a nineteenth-century-ism.

June 11, 2009 at 6:25 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

the only lesson I take from an authentic document is that it exists and whoever wrote it wrote it
The rest of your post is concerned with questioning the authorship of various pieces of writing, so you are reduced to "it exists". The footnote-free historians he favors (though he admittedly he seems to be in company with Jeff Riggenbach & Jaques Barzun) rely on sheer charisma to persuade readers of their veracity. Kevin MacDonald (and occasionally Steve Sailer) have remarked on that as a stereotypically Jewish trait, but it seems clearly both more general and pre-modern.

In general, the results of presentism are so dire, comical, and infamous that we cannot avoid concluding that something is terribly wrong either with the method, or the present, or both
I thought you had more of a bullet-biter in you.

normally a real bastion of common sense
Depends on how low your standards for common sense are.

the academic records of college athletes
They normally aren't straight-A students who receive academic honors.

her success is plausibly and parsimoniously explained by her mere ancestry
I believe there are many others with similar ancestry who did not do as well. So perhaps ancestry plus some amount of merit plus dumb luck.

Judge Sotomayor's judicial opinions, while also notoriously bad
The folks at the Volokh Conspiracy read a lot of judicial opinions and so know what is considered good and bad in that field. While they are all on the right and have critized a number of her decisions, they concluded she was about as qualified as Alito. The Volokh conspirators have posted a lot of interesting stuff relevant to topics discussed here such as Sotomayor's stance toward international law vs sovereignty, whether she's a legal realist (speaking of which, judge Alex Kozinski makes an unpersuasive argument against descriptive realism here), and the general topic of judicial minimalism/restraint. I'll also add that I don't think the field of law exhibited "Conquest's law" about reactionary domain experts, but rather a shifting of the Overton window to the left. Critical legal scholar Duncan Kennedy's argument that law schools are by nature conservative is here. I of course do not find it convincing.

June 11, 2009 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Who assigned her these straight A's?
It is more standard for course-work to be assigned and grades to be based on that in addition to tests. It's plausible that she took really easy courses though.

or finds someone he trusts; and that trust is not given lightly
True enough, even when the question is whether to have trust in one's self. Those interested in the individualist ideal MM is discussing here may like the Ernst Juenger anarch blog.

I don't find this theory of Obama's book from when he was a nobody any more persuasive than the conspiracy theories about him never having attended Columbia. MM eventually backed down from his claim there and I suspect he'll conclude that he was grasping at straws here as well. It doesn't strike me as statistic to claim such a high standard of rigor that statistics or secondary sources don't cut the mustard but Jack Cashill's interpretation (which we have no reason to treat as any more authoritative than Steve Sailer's) does. This is similar to how he gripes about the social sciences don't (always) reach the bar of double-blind controlled experiments, yet he quite confidently makes pronouncements on subjects on that field based on even less.

Steve Sailer has written about how common it has become for superstar academics to have students write their books here. The high school student in question turned out to be a Sailer-fan who replied at the blog.

I think Ben Affleck is a terrible actor who's been in terrible movies (not a big fan of Damon either), but Gone Baby Gone was actually pretty good.

June 11, 2009 at 6:34 PM  
Anonymous Vladimir said...

nick:
Sotomayor's opinions on the 2nd Circuit aren't a very good guide to how extreme she might be on the Supreme Court.

I'd be curious to hear your opinion about what would be the worst plausible scenario assuming that Obama manages to stack SCOTUS with the most extreme leftist activist judges he can find that could feasibly pass the nomination process. Which novel precedents would you foresee in such a situation?

To me it seems that on most issues, the left-activist work has already been done so thoroughly that they wouldn't even have very much room to improve on the current precedents. I suppose Heller and Lopez would be overturned, negating any individual 2nd Amendment rights and eliminating the present weak constraints on the commerce clause powers. But even this wouldn't be that much of a change.

One possibility for radical change would be a new First Amendment precedent that rejects the presently binding extreme interpretation of the free speech clause and upholds some sort of "hate speech" legislation. Do you think such a radical step would actually be possible? Considering the state of the public opinion, it doesn't seem probable to me even with an extreme left court.

June 11, 2009 at 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JA:

When have nonwhites (other than East Asians, of course) and leftists ever failed to justify our worst fears? Ever? Ever, since the dawn of recorded history? Ever?

I know you're a rich kid who's led a sheltered life. But no one could possibly be this sheltered. I extend once again my invitation to Detroit for a visit to Six Mile and Livernois to see and interact with all the Wonderful Diversities you could ever want, up close and personal.

June 11, 2009 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger Soul Searcher said...

I want some of the bright minds here to help me: how worried should the secular right be worried about Sotomayor?

June 11, 2009 at 8:33 PM  
Blogger Independent Accountant said...

MM:
I'm satisfied Sonia Sotomayor (SS) is an intellectual lightweight. Do you remember the Wizard of Oz? When confronted with the scarecrow who had no brain, he gave the scarecrow a degree. The Ivy League reverses the process. It admits NAMs of weak intellect, hands them pieces of paper and swears for their intellect. I challenged Schwartz at the NYT who wrote a laudatory piece about SS, in which he makes this argument.
Do you remember when Clarence Thomas (CT) came up for consideration as a Supreme? CT has a Yale law degree, yet the left said he was unqualified. I doubt SS is any more qualified to be a Supreme than say Harriet Miers, a white girl who went to SMU. Enough. I have a few posts coming on SS.
I can't stand her.

June 11, 2009 at 8:38 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

Vladimir: ...what would be the worst plausible scenario assuming that Obama manages to stack SCOTUS with the most extreme leftist activist judges... Which novel precedents would you foresee in such a situation?

What an intriguing and disturbing question. Here's my list:

(0) As you suggest, the last vestiges of the Commerce Clause will be gutted, Heller effectively overturned by extremely narrow interpretation of its scope (i.e. the 2A only applies to the specific facts of that case and to nothing else), and "hate speech" laws upheld. Hate speech bans could be upheld under Footnote Four principles -- any speech sufficiently insulting to a "discrete and insular minority" can be banned. The FF liturgy will morph into "discrete, insular, and disadvantaged group" to exclude Whites and Asians, leaving only NAMs as constitutional victims of hate speech (not expressly, of course).

(1) Gay marriage joins interracial marriage as a fundamental right under Equal Protection, as does gay adoption. This is instantly followed up by a lawsuit of a gay polygamist "family" for such equal protection -- not clear whether it will win even in an Obama court, which prefers unofficial polygyny with welfare moms (see below) to official polygamy.

(2) Certain kinds of welfare, health care, etc. become enshrined as property rights. Ironically, this might motivate liberal justices to better enforce property rights more generally, unless they can come up with a strong distinction between traditional economic property rights and "property rights" to social security checks etc.

(3) Following up on (2) they will discover that some minimal level of taxation is needed to secure these positive rights, and this minimum will be enshrined as a constitutional duty, joining the 13th Amendment as the second direct limit on individual powers or rights (but not via an amendment, of course). The era of permanent taxation by injunction begins.

(4) If positive property rights of the FDR "Fourth Freedom" kind are not formalized, or if they are well distinguished, traditional economic property rights will continue to erode.

(5) Greater procedural rights for criminals render local police toothless, leading to more vigilante action. Oversees military adventures also become even more toothless than they are already, leading to fewer of them. Another silver lining: government abuses of procedural against the innocent individual reach all-time lows. That leaves plenty of substantive abuses, of course, including arbitrary takings of property which pass scrutiny under the now completely toothless Takings Clause.

(6) Elimination of faith-based programs unless they are "ecumenical", i.e. crypto-Catholic (the Court for a very long time is going to be majority Catholic).

(7) Affirmative action and the disparate impact doctrine become permanent against gentile whites, Jews, and Asians, regardless of majority or minority status. "Jewish" will join "Non-Hispanic and non-Jewish White" and "Asian" on increasingly ubiquitous forms (e.g. to file for aforementioned positive property rights, which will be doled out so as to avoid disparate impact and make up for "past exploitation").

(8) Possible elimination of the "same-scope doctrine", in which case the Bill of Rights will cease to be enforced against left-wing federal legislation but the parts of it favorable to the left enforced even more strongly against states and localities.

(9) Bans of campaign donations and lobbying by profit-making organizations (non-profits, for example government unions, can donate and lobby all they want) okay under the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clauses.

(10) Long-arm jurisdiction over both current and former U.S. citizens abroad (e.g. taxing us for life if we try to move out of and renounce U.S. citizenship) constitutional. Those who have merely resided in the U.S. for a short period of time become "constructive citizens" by having "availed themselves to the protections and benefits" of U.S. jurisdiction.

June 12, 2009 at 12:14 AM  
Anonymous c23 said...

Sotomayor had to excel at some courses that aren't necessarily run by leftist activists who give away A's - probably chemistry, biology, and algebra, at least. I would want to hear from some Princeton people who know who this actually works before I would buy this story.

June 12, 2009 at 3:57 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Anonymous:

When have nonwhites (other than East Asians, of course) and leftists ever failed to justify our worst fears? Ever? Ever, since the dawn of recorded history? Ever?

We're talking about specific people, not the set of all non-whites. MM appears to be assuming that Santomayor is too dumb to be a justice because of her race -- you think this "theory" is really based on an extraneous comma? AND he's assuming that Obama's book was ghostwritten because of his race.

More reasonable people ON THE RIGHT have acknowledged that Obama is brilliant and that Santamayor is at least quite competent, but after lecturing us about primary sources and standards of evidence, MM decides based on nothing but the flimsiest of "evidence" that it's much more likely that both are frauds.

I know you're a rich kid who's led a sheltered life. But no one could possibly be this sheltered. I extend once again my invitation to Detroit for a visit to Six Mile and Livernois to see and interact with all the Wonderful Diversities you could ever want, up close and personal.

We're talking about two specific people here not the worst possible people you can find. Have I ever said that there are no violent minorities or even that there is no correlation between race and crime? No, I have not.

So why do you keep bringing up Detroit? How is that relevant to the question of Obama's intelligence or writing ability?

June 12, 2009 at 5:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More reasonable people ON THE RIGHT have acknowledged that Obama is brilliant and that Santamayor is at least quite competent, but after lecturing us about primary sources and standards of evidence, MM decides based on nothing but the flimsiest of "evidence" that it's much more likely that both are frauds.

In point of fact the actual evidence we have of Obama's intellectual capabilities indicates he is at best marginally above average. He's not even close to "brilliant"!

A lawyer who has never really argued a case; a professor who has no substantial body of written work; a Senator who has no significant legislation to his credit; where's the brilliance, exactly?

June 12, 2009 at 6:32 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

Brilliant does seem a stretch. What has he produced if you don't buy the conspiracy theories? A reasonably well-written book? He certainly hasn't made any original or important conrtibutions to any field.

June 12, 2009 at 7:12 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

the academic records of college athletes... are regularly found to have graduated from reputable universities, while remaining almost literally illiterate. Trusting the academic records of a race activist - especially when not actually disclosed, but merely attested to - is credulous beyond belief. ... At least, in the athlete's case, his coaches and his professors are different people.

There are different primary criteria for selecting athletes as opposed to race activists. Nonetheless, the comparison is apt in that academic merit takes a distinct second place after something else. The difference is that the race activist is selected on the basis of her intellect, but subject to the overriding qualifications of race, sex, and other progressive-approved categories. Thus she should be expected to be as good an intellectual exemplar of her race/sex/etc. as the university can scrape up, and thus, a mediocre intellect by the standards of those who are accepted to the university strictly on merit. But we should not expect a moron, just a mediocrity. And that is for an average race-activist; obvious Sotomayor herself is not average.

Another way to think about the comparison is this: what does the university hope to get out of a student? From athletes, it hopes to get athletic victories in the next 4-6 years, thus burnishing its image, keeping its donors happy, and for the top programs, making scads of money. Does it have any hopes for, or uses for, the athletes after that? At ivies, sure. Athletics there are not big money, they are for attracting a particular kind of student. They are also not corrupt. The corruption will be found at the big-money programs, and in that case, the school has no use at all for the athletes once their eligibility ends.

By contrast, universities have no particular use for race activists, any more than any other student. For both groups, the end is the same: long-run influence, reputation, and power. Thus you want the smartest people you can find.

June 12, 2009 at 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JA:

I am responding directly to your claim:

"your 'interpretation' appears to consist of assuming the worst of Democrats and non-whites."

Yes, yes, "dat beez racisms," doubleplusungood and all that. Looking back at your posts here over the last year or so, this appears to be your favorite argument, possibly your sole argument. Here, have a free clue: a significant number of the readers and commenters here are White nationalists, and crying about racism makes us laugh. Do better. Get some new material.

In any event, your reluctance to visit the crumbling ruins of a city destroyed by Wonderful Diversities is telling. You don't really believe what you're saying. Do you feel that? It's called cognitive dissonance. The truth will set you free.

My comment did not address the situation with Sotomayor directly, only your general attribution of general motivations for arguments generally.

But since you brought it up, as for Sotomayor herself, when I read her writing, she comes across as just another barely-literate, IQ-90, foaming-at-the-mouth Maoist fanatic product of "Chicano Studies" courses, dripping with venom for us subhuman Anglo hicks out here in Flyover Country, and not objectively qualified to work as a legal secretary or manage a Burger King unless and until her grasp of the written word improves significantly.

In other words, this is just another Wonderful Diversity whose every advance above the level of janitor or perhaps cocktail waitress has been at the expense of more deserving White men under the doctrine of "affirmative action."

The white-collar working world is full of such nonentities, frequently elevated to positions of authority and responsibility vastly beyond their feeble intellects in order to "demonstrate a commitment to diversity," which, translated from Newspeak, means "see these crackheads we're putting in charge of stuff? You can hardly sue us for discrimination, not when we hired a drug-addicted, AIDS-infected violent felon with an IQ of 55 and made him a department vice president." Your apparent unfamiliarity with this ubiquitous phenomenon, which is too politically incorrect to appear in a Dilbert comic strip, leads me to wonder whether you've ever had a job, or whether you are perhaps a bored fourteen-year-old posting to the Intertubes from Mommy's computer. 4chan is that way, and it has more pictures and fewer big words.

June 12, 2009 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Yes, yes, "dat beez racisms," doubleplusungood and all that. Looking back at your posts here over the last year or so, this appears to be your favorite argument, possibly your sole argument. Here, have a free clue: a significant number of the readers and commenters here are White nationalists, and crying about racism makes us laugh. Do better. Get some new material.

I'm not crying about it, I'm just pointing out how ridiculous it is for MM to write about standards of evidence and then in the same post make bizarre claims based on nothing more than racial prejudice. And it is prejudice, literally -- he's judging these two people (I'm guessing) based on their race.

Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard frickin Law school. That's not something you can get via affirmative action. And both his parents were by all accounts well, well above-average, IQ-wise. And Santamayor graduated summa from Princeton. Okay, maybe she took easy classes, who knows? But I think you need more than an extraneous comma or two to conclude that she's dumb. Unless you're the kind of person who makes that conclusion simply based on her race, which shows a breathtaking lack of statistical understanding for someone who values race-IQ arguments so much.

In any event, your reluctance to visit the crumbling ruins of a city destroyed by Wonderful Diversities is telling. You don't really believe what you're saying. Do you feel that? It's called cognitive dissonance. The truth will set you free.

WTF? I don't really believe Obama is brilliant because I don't want to visit a ghetto in Detroit? I've lived in predominantly black neighborhoods in other cities before. Does that count, or are only Detroit blacks "real" blacks?

But since you brought it up, as for Sotomayor herself, when I read her writing, she comes across as just another barely-literate, IQ-90, foaming-at-the-mouth Maoist fanatic product of "Chicano Studies" courses, dripping with venom for us subhuman Anglo hicks out here in Flyover Country, and not objectively qualified to work as a legal secretary or manage a Burger King unless and until her grasp of the written word improves significantly.

She comes across that way to you, but you're hardly a fair-minded observer, are you? She's been a well-respected judge for 15 years. Sure, maybe she's not the best writer FOR A JUDGE, but you're characterization of her abilities is just ridiculous.

In other words, this is just another Wonderful Diversity whose every advance above the level of janitor or perhaps cocktail waitress has been at the expense of more deserving White men under the doctrine of "affirmative action."

I think it's obvious that you're bringing your own prejudices and hang-ups to this discussion. Obviously it helps to be a Latina w/r/t promotions and being appointed to the Court, but that doesn't imply that she's a moron who otherwise would be a janitor.

The white-collar working world is full of such nonentities, frequently elevated to positions of authority and responsibility vastly beyond their feeble intellects in order to "demonstrate a commitment to diversity," which, translated from Newspeak, means "see these crackheads we're putting in charge of stuff? You can hardly sue us for discrimination, not when we hired a drug-addicted, AIDS-infected violent felon with an IQ of 55 and made him a department vice president."

LOL, you probably think every black person is a drug-addicted, AIDS-infected violent felon with an IQ of 55. You don't think that you're maybe seeing things that aren't there? I dare you to point out a single VP with an IQ below 100.

Your apparent unfamiliarity with this ubiquitous phenomenon, which is too politically incorrect to appear in a Dilbert comic strip, leads me to wonder whether you've ever had a job, or whether you are perhaps a bored fourteen-year-old posting to the Intertubes from Mommy's computer. 4chan is that way, and it has more pictures and fewer big words.

June 12, 2009 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

(cont.)

I've been in the working world for years, thanks. I guess you're just demonstrating that knack of yours for figuring people out, huh? ;-)

I think what's really pissing you off is that your pride in being white is the only thing you've got, so it just kills you to see other people do well. After all, if you can't bask in the glory of the race you happened to have been born into, what will you be left with?

Hey, here's an idea. As long as you're trying to feel important by the accomplishments of others who have something in common with you, why not feel proud of Obama and Santamayor as fellow (I assume) Americans? Surely that makes at least as much sense as white pride?

June 12, 2009 at 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard frickin Law school. That's not something you can get via affirmative action."

ROFLMAO!

June 12, 2009 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

(You can get in via affirmative action, but grading isn't done on a racial curve.)

June 12, 2009 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Malchus X said...

Anonymous, you are not having an exchange with a poster who is willing to debate honestly most of the time, something I would think you would have figured out by now. His/Her standards of "debate" are those of a thread at Democratic Underground, or Kos. Look at the moniker employed, one deliberately chosen for what he/she perceives would have the *maximum* offensive effect on all the benighted right-wingers who follow this blog. After all, what could be more offensive to the internet equivalent of bar-stool bound Rednecks & Hard Hats than someone both Jewish *and* an atheist, right? Right? Right?!? To that mindset, and it is a cliched, lazy mindset, we're mostly keyboard-bound Archie Bunkers here - slavish followers of an intellectual "fad" in the form of Mr. Moldbug's musings - just one dingbat moment away from running up the sacred banner, and going on to pelt our local Tolerance Museums with soggy Moon Pies and empty cans of RC cola. From the back of a parked pickup truck, of course. It is, of course, your time & effort to waste on the poster. I simply wouldn't.

June 12, 2009 at 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You can get in via affirmative action, but grading isn't done on a racial curve."

Yeah, they solved that problem with grade inflation. They give out enough As that they might as well make it pass / fail. Oh wait...

June 12, 2009 at 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

JA, I agree that grading is not done on a racial curve. The question is whether it was or is done on any curve at all.

Forty or fifty years ago, "C" was the average grade it is in theory still supposed to be. A "gentleman's C" could be achieved with moderate diligence, allowing ample time for social activities. It was entirely acceptable and was sufficient to gain entrance to many professional schools.

This began to change in the 'sixties and 'seventies. Grade inflation set in, I suspect because the Vietnam war was ongoing, there was a military draft, educational draft deferments required a student to be 'in good standing,' and a C- average was ordinarily required to remain in good standing. Faculties were predominantly liberal even then, though perhaps not as hard-a-larboard as today; they had little wish to deprive students of their deferments, and, besides, the longer a kid was in school, the longer his daddy paid tuition.

Add to this the jettisoning of old rules that came apace about the same time. Parietal hours - remember them? - went out the door, and all of the other measures that reflected a traditional in loco parentis rôle on the university's part. Along with them went course distribution requirements intended to ensure than undergraduates received "well-rounded" educations. "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go" referred not to western civilisation as a cultural phenomenon, but to the requirement of a freshman course in its history. Of course the slogan reflected its utterers' contempt for the cultural phenomenon, but in practice the requirement was the casualty immediately intended - and achieved. Another target was the required course in English composition, the disappearance of which is all too evident in academic writing today. Finally, surprisingly many universities - Harvard, I believe, prominent among them - abandoned grading altogether for a simple pass-fail system.

As their deleterious effects became evident, at least some of these changes have been reversed. Grading on an A through F scale has been pretty well restored, and course distributions have to some extent. Grade inflation has not, and of course 'in loco parentis' is as extinct as the dodo.

Without knowing the academic requirements that were in place at Columbia and at Harvard Law School during Obama's time as a student, or at Princeton during Sotomayor's, it is hard to know how much their ostensible academic distinction actually means. However, those times correspond with a period of general decline in academic standards.

Furthermore, it is not really true that affirmative action got minority students into elite schools but could not keep them there. Any racial or ethnic difference observable in grading, especially one that resulted in disproportionate numbers of black or Hispanic students' flunking out, would surely have drawn adverse attention from administrators.

Lowering standards for admission via affirmative action implies lowering standards for the favored group throughout their time at university, so that the percentage of those admitted that ultimately receive degrees is proportionate to that of non-favored groups. If this were not the case the result would be stigmatized prima facie as inherently racist.

Witness the successful pressure for revision of college board exams to eliminate racially disparate results. The consequence has been a general lowering of standards, such that (for example) am SAT verbal score of 720 or better from 40 years ago is, by the test designers' own admission, equivalent to today's 800. If you do not believe the same reasoning is also applied to graduation requirements, and similar consequences forthcoming, you are deceiving yourself.

June 12, 2009 at 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Vladimir said...

nick,

That's a very interesting list. What makes some of your points especially striking is that they've already happened in Canada, where courts are about as activist as in the U.S., and far more left-leaning. (Although there is overall much less need for judicial activism in Canada, since its 1982 constitution is far more in line with the times.)

In particular, same-sex marriage in Canada was legislated from the bench in 2002 by reading it into the Canadian equivalent of the equal protection clause. Similarly, Canadian human rights commissions, which serve in practice as leftist kangaroo courts with a broad ideological mandate for censorship, appply something very similar to your vision of the potential future Footnote Four standard when it comes to hate speech against whites and Christians. (These para-judicial commissions are distinct from real criminal courts that handle prosecutions for hate speech as defined in the criminal code. The courts respect due process, interpret "hate speech" according to a fairly precise and narrow definition, and accept truth of claims as defense. The HRCs generally aren't bound by any of this.)

One more issue where some serious novel precedents in the U.S. might be forthcoming is the status of foreign treaties that impair national sovereignty and violate the Constitution, especially those signed under the auspices of the UN. Another related issue that might see some interesting developments is the citing of precedents from foreign law by SCOTUS.

June 12, 2009 at 1:50 PM  
Anonymous Sardine said...

I think Mencius is right to be skeptical, and even outright dismissive, of any official honors bestowed upon Sotomayor, or anyone for that matter, by institutions of prestige and authority.

At Brown University, MM's alma mater, there are absolutely no required courses whatsoever, and you can take any course as Pass/Fail (meaning you don't get a final grade for your performance in the class; you simply receive a Pass or Fail). You can also graduate with just 30 credits.

It's true that Brown is one of the most liberal institutions out there, but it should give a good idea about how far standards fallen in higher education. So you have to take any honors or awards, no matter how prestigious they appear, with a grain of salt. This is not to necessarily diminish the quality or intelligence of someone that receives an award or honor, but that said awards and honors are, shall we say, elastic in order to appropriately meet political or social goals and agenda.

June 12, 2009 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Sorry, grade inflation isn't going to save your argument either. Graduating magma means you were in the top X% of your class.

And grading is blind at Harvard Law School, I believe, so it wasn't a gentleman's A or a black person's A, but a regular A.

See Half-Sigma who's one of you, but also ethnically Jewish.

Lowering standards for admission via affirmative action implies lowering standards for the favored group throughout their time at university, so that the percentage of those admitted that ultimately receive degrees is proportionate to that of non-favored groups. If this were not the case the result would be stigmatized prima facie as inherently racist.

I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'm pretty sure that minorities don't graduate in proportionate numbers, so this claim would appear to be untrue.

June 12, 2009 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

LOL, that's "magna" obviously, not "magma."

I only correct because otherwise you will conclude that I am only smart enough to be a janitor -- surely a misspelling of that nature is worse than an extra comma!

June 12, 2009 at 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JA:

I think most of us gave up on our last shread of taking-you-seriously after you misspelled Sotomayor's name wrong for the... what? Fifteenth time?

June 12, 2009 at 5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You give HalfSigma far too much credit.

Anyone who calls Ron Paul an anti-Semite is ignorant, dim-witted, or deceitful.

One doesn't have to agree with Paul to see the error in his reasoning.

June 12, 2009 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

To judge a person by their grades is perhaps useful if we do not wish to judge them by the product of their work--especially if we do not.
What were Einstein's grades? Churchill was a C student.

The average grade given at Harvard in 1950 was a C+. Presently it is an A-. A determination which at one time could be misleading now is only an impossibility.

Sotomayor's work product is below the average of her peers, certainly including other Marxists such as Ginsberg.
Obama has solved the problem of his shortcomings by merely having no work product.

June 12, 2009 at 6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sorry, grade inflation isn't going to save your argument either. Graduating magma means you were in the top X% of your class."

Maybe that's what it meant after 1999, when they tightened up the system. Before then, 80% of HLS graduates got either cum laude or magna, so color me unimpressed with his magna.

"grading is blind at Harvard Law School, I believe, so it wasn't a gentleman's A or a black person's A, but a regular A."

Except "blind grades" can be adjusted by the professor after they are submitted to the registrar.

June 12, 2009 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I think most of us gave up on our last shread of taking-you-seriously after you misspelled Sotomayor's name wrong for the... what? Fifteenth time?

Obviously I'm as dumb as she is!!!

But wait, if we're going to judge people by their ethnicity, I'm Jewish and you're white, so I'm obviously smarter than you. Clearly you have no business even talking to me. ;-)

Except "blind grades" can be adjusted by the professor after they are submitted to the registrar.

So basically you're saying that you'll believe any possibility you can imagine without evidence as long as it allows you to conclude that Barack Obama is not particularly smart. Why is that?

June 13, 2009 at 6:30 AM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

We cannot get the right answer by asking the wrong question.
Jewish Atheist is confused, but with consent. He does not mind being deceived. It is being undeceived that would render him miserable. The issue is not whether Obama is smart. He is smart enough to have had Tom Sawyer paint the fence.

He is smart enough to have never shown any work product.

He is the only individual to have been President of Harvard Law Review and not written for it. He was smart indeed to not do that.

He was the only person having that position to not immediately proceed to clerking at the Supreme Court. The only one. But clerks cannot have ghost-writers. They are the ghost-writers.

He was the only law professor at U of Chicago, visiting or otherwise, to have virtually no work product.
So, one is entitled to ask, why, after all this time do you remain convinced that Obama does his own work? Or, his own speaking?

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, Dorothy.

June 13, 2009 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I think the more reasonable estimation of Sotomayor is that she's on the mediocre end of bright. Not that unusual for Suprem Court nominees. Pols only satisfice on competence and maximize other factors.

I second Leonard.


Anonymous June 12, 2009 9:40 AM
First, get a handle

Yes, yes, "dat beez racisms," doubleplusungood and all that
When Charles Murray & Richard Herrnstein wanted to argue for the relevance of IQ and how it relates to race, they didn't leave it at "Niggers are dumb, Q.E.D". They presented evidence. Same with Jared Taylor and The Color of Crime. Most people here do not freak out and assume something is wrong merely because it's racist. Similarly, we require a standard of determining whether something is correct based on more than its being racist.

a significant number of the readers and commenters here are White nationalists
This place is rather weak tea by WN standards. How about Occidental Dissent (an inferior version of what Odessa Syndicate was before Prozium stopped taking his meds) or one of my newer favorites, n/a's race/history/evolution notes blog.

You don't really believe what you're saying
Or he's not saying what you believe he's saying. JA & HS may have their stupid sides, but they at least know about IQ bell curves and how to estimate the probability someone falls in a certain range conditional on factors including race.

IQ of 55
Average IQ for Af-Ams is about 85. With a standard deviation of 15, that means your hypothetical individual is a full 2 S.Ds below the Af-Am average. Such a person is going to be found living in a box, prison or home for the mentally disabled.


J.A:
why not feel proud of Obama and Santamayor as fellow (I assume) Americans
Somebody was going to be President and S.C justice no matter what. There is no reason to feel pride if you think both of them are sub-standard for that position. However, their predecessors (Bush & Souter) were nothing to be proud of either.

Surely that makes at least as much sense as white pride?
Why not be proud of your planet/species rather than merely your country? The smller the relevant group the more important it is to us. I against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the world.


Malchus X:
Look at the moniker employed, one deliberately chosen for what he/she perceives would have the *maximum* offensive effect on all the benighted right-wingers who follow this blog
JA has been commenting at HBD sites for a while, including many like HS and UR whose proprietors are Jewish/jew-friendly. I believe he was raised an orthodox Jew but abandoned his religion. Eliezer Yudkowsky has a similar background and also references it a lot. My guess is that he chose the name because of what it meant to him rather than others.

June 13, 2009 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Michael S:
This began to change in the 'sixties and 'seventies. Grade inflation set in
I don't think that's the only relevant change. One of the major topics in The Bell Curve is the changing nature of universities, especially the Ivies. The "gentleman's C" was from an era where being a gentleman was more important than academic merit in getting in. Living on the east coast was important too. Later quotas were dropped against Jews and kids from all the country sought to get in the best schools. Even kids who weren't especially interested in their studies would have had more helicopter-type parents who insist they have good marks. Grade inflation set in partly because of the increased importance of grades.

Personally, I'm very glad that they eliminated those course requirements! With the aid of some A.P credits I was able to graduate just concentrated in stuff relevant to programming without having to go through b.s classes taught by pinko profs.

I'm more familiar with how things work at UCLA, since that's what Steve Sailer writes about. His conclusion is that minority students are much more likely to drop out and be replaced by transfers from community college (who probably would have gotten in as freshmen if not for A.A!). I believe the same trend is true nationally. Blacks are less likely both to graduate from law schools and to pass the bar once they graduate.


Jewish Atheist:
Half-Sigma who's one of you
One of what? White nationalists? Racists? HBD realists? Righties? Critics of Obama & Sotomayor?


xlbrl:
What were Einstein's grades?
A bit of googling turned up this.

Churchill was a C student.
I presume there are a higher-than-average number of Pat Buchanan fans here, so you might want to pick a better example!

Sotomayor's work product is below the average of her peers
Her peers would be those in law, and I earlier linked to an examination by Eric Posner at the Volokh Conspiracy, who initially stated she was substandard and later revised that to say it was only the case for her first year.

certainly including other Marxists such as Ginsberg.
Leftist radicalism preceded Marxism and will continue to exist when the last Marxist is material history. If we distinguish between "the left" and liberals, Ginsberg would merely be very, very liberal. Even now liberal pundits keep complaining about how the court (including its liberal members) are so "business friendly" or "pro-business" (Jonathan Adler takes on that claim here). They're certainly judged to be more so than the Warren Court.

June 13, 2009 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger Malchus X said...

JA has been commenting at HBD sites for a while, including many like HS and UR whose proprietors are Jewish/jew-friendly. I believe he was raised an orthodox Jew but abandoned his religion. Eliezer Yudkowsky has a similar background and also references it a lot. My guess is that he chose the name because of what it meant to him rather than others.

Thanks for the info, TGGP. You're probably right, and my assessment incorrect. On an unrelated matter, the night before last I somehow find myself watching a PBS documentary on Neil Young. The fables it dutifully stated as fact regarding the last forty years of American history was pure Cathedral stuff. But what I found most interesting was Young's odd, to say the least, take on Charles Manson, who he apparently knew personally back when. The worst he could bring himself to say about him was "he didn't handle rejection well." It was an odd, off-key moment in the documentary, and if you happened to see it I'd be interested in your take on that segment.

June 13, 2009 at 1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JA:

"So basically you're saying that you'll believe any possibility you can imagine without evidence as long as it allows you to conclude that Barack Obama is not particularly smart. Why is that?"

1, the Negro has never, in the aggregate, been known to be an intellectual powerhouse. How many tens of millenia do you think it will be before sub-Saharan Africans independently invent the wheel, or a written language, or domesticate an animal, or erect a city with stone walls? I suspect the Sun will go cold first. And if this particular example is not a purebred bluegum, the Negro genes for stupid appear to be dominant.

2, In this specific instance: "all 57 states," "Constitution written twenty centuries ago," "stroll down the Seine," "ten thousand people killed by one tornado in Kansas," "Defense Secretary William Gates," "Arabic translators deployed to Iraq were needed in Afghanistan," "ah don't know nuffin bout no Hanford facility," etc., etc., etc. Does he need to misspell the word "potato" before it becomes apparent to you that he is a dolt?

Also, TGGP: no u. I am comfortable with my anonymity. Tripfaggotry and namefaggotry are, in my opinion, pointless vanity and a distraction from the topic at hand. There is too much attention paid here to personalities and not enough to ideas, in my opinion.

June 13, 2009 at 10:03 PM  
Anonymous Bearded Spock said...

The comments here remind me of the apes banging bones around the monolith in 2001. MM is giving us a cut-away view into the machinery of our societal destruction. IT DOESN'T MATTER IF OBAMA & SOTOMAYOR ARE COMPETENT OR GOOD. ('scuse the caps.)
What matters is that the System is corrupt and corrupting. Unfixable. Those who really control it are either totally evil or ideologues who will stop at no means to achieve their ends.

June 14, 2009 at 12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MM, you have left attacks theoretical for attacks political. I'm curious about your plan of exile. Which country do you believe will protect you from the persecutions of the future USG?

Which is your model of exile:

quiet retirement (Peter Wright),
determined opposition (Leon Trotsky),
useful idiot (Bertolt Brecht),

or have you some 19th century Polish exile in mind, perhaps?

I look forward to your discussion.

June 14, 2009 at 4:18 AM  
Blogger Malchus X said...

The comments here remind me of the apes banging bones around the monolith in 2001. MM is giving us a cut-away view into the machinery of our societal destruction. IT DOESN'T MATTER IF OBAMA & SOTOMAYOR ARE COMPETENT OR GOOD. ('scuse the caps.)
What matters is that the System is corrupt and corrupting. Unfixable. Those who really control it are either totally evil or ideologues who will stop at no means to achieve their ends.


But that was my favorite part of the movie! Seriously, I largely agree, but part of the astonishment at coming to grips with that reality is expressed in such bone-banging in the comments section (that last didn't sound quite right, did it? Oh well). See, if anyone here is like me, I grew up believing the only thing wrong with USG is that Ronald Reagan couldn't be President for Life. And later that Bush I "betrayed" the conservative "movement" - though how I ever seriously thought that the latter was ever actually on the move to anywhere is now a matter of some puzzlement to me. Do you know how I spent election night, 1994? The mid-term GOP congressional sweep for the first time since 1952? With a bunch of other Republicans drinking beer and whooping and hollering in a sports bar. We were so convinced that the MOMENT had arrived - that the Great Society and New Deal revolutions were about to swept away into the dustbin of history (yeah, we were big on Newt Gingrich cliches, too). Unfunded mandates? Gone! The Department of Education? Abolished! NPR? The staff sacked and Robert Siegel's old microphone sent to Rush Limbaugh's studio to mount as a trophy! And on and on and on. Should we have known better? Of course we should've. So should every other Americano. But we were all under the powerful spell of that widespread delusion that Democracy is always, always, always the cure for what ails yah - after all, elections have consequences, don't they? Aren't most Americans (then) polling as "conservative"? The power of the ballot box! We were ultimately disappointed, of course, just like my grandparents were disappointed that Ike didn't undo the New Deal, and my parents were disappointed that first Nixon and then Reagan didn't undo the Great Society and quit coddling this nation's catered-to minorities. The problem, of course, was not Ike or Dick or the Gipper or even Newt. The problem was our belief in Democracy. It was the civic religion we'd fervently believed in our entire lives. Losing a faith, any faith, is most difficult for the habits it makes you break - like quitting smoking. "How many seats do you think we'll pick up in the mid-terms?" a political junkie friend of mine asked at lunch last week. Note by "we" he means, of course, the Republican Party. "Not enough," I replied, "even if they pick up every single seat in both chambers." He looked at me in puzzlement for a brief second, before saying "aaahhh - this is some of that 'I think Democracy is bunk' stuff Tamara (my wife) was telling me you'd taken up with lately." I smiled; he smiled - and then he asked me how good a chance the Republicans have to beat Obama in 2012. He simply refuses to accept the notion that anyone could *not* believe in Democracy, at least not seriously, anyway. No more than he could accept the notion that someone could seriously believe the earth was flat as a pancake, and if you sail too far out in the ocean you'll fall over the side. And he's not alone - in fact, he has just about all the company in the world, you might say. Therein lies the problem.

June 14, 2009 at 3:26 PM  
Anonymous what a wanker said...

"Tripfaggotry and namefaggotry are, in my opinion, pointless vanity and a distraction from the topic at hand."

Wow, I knew that Mencius' commentary section was going down the drain, but blatant 4chan'isms takes the cake.

4chan will be the fucking ruin of the internet IMO. It's the online version of Idiocracy.

I think I'm going to take TGGP's advice from now on, and ignore the anons.

June 14, 2009 at 8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So basically you're saying that you'll believe any possibility you can imagine without evidence as long as it allows you to conclude that Barack Obama is not particularly smart. Why is that?

You have not shown us any convincing evidence that BO is particularly smart. Merely graduating from "elite" institutions is not enough, inasmuch as once you are admitted, you are going to graduate (probably with some kind of honors) unless you actively try to fail. Actual written products I have seen - ones that BO himself definitely wrote - are not especially impressive.

June 15, 2009 at 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama is highly unintelligent. Mencius should post, in its entirety, Obama's defense of affirmative action at the Harvard Law Review. It's UNBELIEVABLY poorly written--he couldn't even manage to get verbs to agree with subjects.

ou have not shown us any convincing evidence that BO is particularly smart. Merely graduating from "elite" institutions is not enough, inasmuch as once you are admitted, you are going to graduate (probably with some kind of honors) unless you actively try to fail. Actual written products I have seen - ones that BO himself definitely wrote - are not especially impressive.

June 15, 2009 6:57 AM

June 15, 2009 at 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP, the 'gentleman's C' may have been from an era when being a gentleman was more important than academic merit to getting into an Ivy League university. The question now is whether academic merit has any importance to getting out of one, having "earned" a degree.

Certainly from some point, at latest in the early twentieth century, preparing young men for the life of the mind, or even for "learned professions," had ceased to be the primary function of the university. True, some minor fraction might go on to scholarly careers, and a somewhat larger one to the professions of medicine or law. For most, however, the university served for young men a comparable purpose to that the 'finishing school' did for young ladies. With the advent of co-education, these institutions' respective functions became indistinguishable.

What a university education now does, and has done for a long time, is to afford young persons of a certain station in life (or having some potential to achieve it) an introduction into the society of their elders; inculcating the proper habits of behavior, and the opinions it is safe and conventional for them to express in polite society, while allowing them to form social connections with other persons of comparable backgrounds, who are likely to be their social and economic peers in the future. This was true in the era of the gentleman's C, and is still true today. The only thing that has fallen by the wayside is gentlemanliness.

June 15, 2009 at 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This was true in the era of the gentleman's C, and is still true today. The only thing that has fallen by the wayside is gentlemanliness."--Michael

What about quality? "Diversity" initiatives have dramatically dumbed down the Ivy League. When I was a grad student at Harvard in the late-'70s, it was decreed by the powers that be at the medical school to stop focusing on complicated research topics, and to start focusing on mundane clinical issues. Guess why this policy was implemented?

June 15, 2009 at 1:41 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Anon, your misfortune at Harvard during the 'seventies was apparently that you were one of the minority actually seeking to engage in scholarship.

I probably shouldn't have said the 'only' thing to have fallen by the wayside was gentlemanliness, though that was surely the case for the majority who attended only in pursuit of "fortune's slidd'ry ba'."

June 15, 2009 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Anonymous June 13, 2009 10:03 PM:
I'm not demanding that you keep a consistent nym across different posts. Simply signing as "anonymous #2" would allow us to distinguish your comments from others anonymous and make running conversations easier to maintain.

My understanding is that sub-Saharan Africans did build stone cities like Great Zimbabwe and those of the Sahelian kingdoms. My knowledge of that period is sketchy though. The Bantu expansion itself is primarily due to the domestication of animals, and Africa would today be a lot more pygmy and Khoi-San if those peoples had imitated the Bantu. Jared Diamond includes a (or possibly two, I forget) region of sub-Saharan Africa as ones that independently invented agriculture. Europe did not, but independent invention isn't that important as long as you can borrow from others (genes for lactase tolerance gave great advantages precisely because they could not be "learned"). As far as I could find the first document written in an s-SA language is The Story of Tambuka in 1728, which beats out Sequoyah's Cherokee but is still quite late to the party. I invite corrections here.

the Negro genes for stupid appear to be dominant.
From what I recall of twin adoption studies, mixed-race kids tend to be halfway between their parents. Those with white mothers are closer to the white norm, while those with black mothers are closer to the black norm. Perhaps the influence of prenatal care or different chemicals in the womb?

Does he need to misspell the word "potato" before it becomes apparent to you that he is a dolt?
That didn't convince me that Dan Quayle was stupid, nor do I think that of Bush (the latter was just very intellectually lazy and had decent standardized test scores). I don't think verbal flubs are a good test of that sort of thing. "Our enemies never stop thinking of ways to hurt our country, and neither do we" sounds dumb but has a decent point behind it.


Anonymous June 14, 2009 4:18 AM:
As far as I know MM has never said anything about leaving the country and still lives in San Fransicko. Maybe he expects the resartus to occur any time now.


Malchus X:
Aren't most Americans (then) polling as "conservative"?
As Converse found, that doesn't mean much. Some researchers today say that Americans are "philosophically conservative but operationally liberal". I guess the reverse of what Sideshow Bob claimed in the Simpsons.


Anonymous June 15, 2009 6:57 AM:
ones that BO himself definitely wrote
What do we have that we can be sure he "definitively wrote"?


Anonymous June 15, 2009 12:00 PM:
Mencius should post, in its entirety, Obama's defense of affirmative action at the Harvard Law Review
In his defense, it's pretty much impossible to write a sensible apologetic for it!


Michael S:
I think I forgot to do all those things at university.

June 15, 2009 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

i sometimes wonder if we (europe) didn't simply land in africa in the middle of a local dark age? i've seen claims that racism originated as a desperate attempt by seventeenth-century enlightenment types to figure out why africa was so backward.

June 16, 2009 at 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Pan Cogito said...

@Aaron Davies

I think so too sometimes. But I have a feeling that racism is something more than simply a theory of development (be it biological or cultural). It gets at the root of a certain fear that is very hard to pin down. A fear that seems particularly western (or Faustian)

June 16, 2009 at 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think so too sometimes. But I have a feeling that racism is something more than simply a theory of development (be it biological or cultural). It gets at the root of a certain fear that is very hard to pin down. A fear that seems particularly western (or Faustian)

Whut? You are aware that the most racist societies on Earth, especially in this day and age, are in East Asia?

Racism is universal in time and place. The idea that it somehow emerged from Enlightenment Europe is absurd.

June 16, 2009 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Dan Kurt said...

Affirmative action is in engineering.

This past weekend involved travel with my wife to our son's commencement. He received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at a top 20 in the world university. Six Ph.D.s were given to 5 North Asians ( 4 Red Chinese and 1 South Korean ) and one white American, my son.

The school of mechanical engineering ceremony was highlighted by a speech by a famously successful engineer who graduated from the university in the 1960s with a Bachelors and Masters. That speech was preceded by the Student Graduation Address which was given by a female who also was receiving her Masters. ( She had given the Student Graduation Address two years before when she received her Bachelors. )

The event was a déjà vu experience as 5 years ago when my son received his Masters at the University the Student Graduation Address that year was also given by a woman. Here over a 5 year span three of the five Student Graduation Addresses were given by women. In the mechanical engineering department the student population at this university has a male/female ratio that is no less than 16:1. In addition, in the Ph.D. pool only a rare woman seems to make it through from start to finish. None did this year and there are no women listed in the 17 students who are currently candidates for the Ph.D. as having passed their General Exams in the department.

My wife who has her own Ivy League Science Ph.D. thought that it was just wonderful that the female student was chosen to give her "delightful" talk. I ( out of ear shot of my wife ) asked my son what he thought of the female student being given the honor. He shrugged and said it was typical politics and besides she was studying Thermo as he sneered at the thought. ( Thermodynamics was cutting edge in the 19th Century. )

Dan Kurt

June 16, 2009 at 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Affirmative action is in engineering.

I saw this in action back in the early 1980s. I was in a top undergrad engineering program, and there were waaaay more women in my class than there should have been based on their GPAs and SAT scores. Men with their scores simply wouldn't have gotten in.

June 16, 2009 at 2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really? There are still people who haven't figured out that MM is a troll? Really?

June 16, 2009 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

Racism is universal in time and place.

Generic, "we're better than everyone else" boosterism, maybe. picking out specific "other" groups, especially ones which aren't your immediate rivals/enemies, and declaring them worse, then cataloging specific ways in which they're worse (skull shapes, etc.), seems rather less common.

June 16, 2009 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger dbk_999 said...

I can't wait for Mencius to weigh in on what the government of Iran can do to quell those rabel-rousing democratic mobs and restore public law and order.

June 17, 2009 at 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Generic, "we're better than everyone else" boosterism, maybe. picking out specific "other" groups, especially ones which aren't your immediate rivals/enemies, and declaring them worse, then cataloging specific ways in which they're worse (skull shapes, etc.), seems rather less common.

Even if one accepts this, so what? Premodern "unscientific" racism had exactly the same practical implications as modern "scientific" racism - it justified regarding other peoples as less than human and therefore the proper targets for slaughter and enslavement.

June 17, 2009 at 1:13 PM  
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June 22, 2009 at 8:55 PM  

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