Friday, March 07, 2014
Science and Reason vs. Political Correctness
Victor Davis Hanson
President Obama entered office promising to restore the sanctity of science. Instead, a fresh war against science, statistics and reason is being waged on behalf of politically correct politics.
After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the president attempted to convert national outrage into new gun-control legislation. Specifically, he focused on curtailing semi-automatic "assault" rifles. But there is no statistical evidence that such guns -- semi-automatic rifles that have mostly cosmetic changes to appear similar to banned military-style fully automatic assault weapons -- lead to increased gun-related crimes.
The promiscuous availability of illegal handguns does. They're used in the vast majority of all gun-related violent crime -- and in such cases they are often obtained illegally. Yet the day-to-day enforcement of existing handgun statutes is far more difficult than the widely publicized passing of new laws.
Late-term abortions used to be justified in part by an argument dating back to the 1970s that fetuses were not yet "human." But emerging science has allowed premature babies 5 months old or younger to survive outside the womb. Brain waves of fetuses can be monitored at just six weeks after conception. Such facts may be unwelcome to many, given the political controversy over abortion. Yet the idea that even small fetuses are not viable humans until birth is simply unscientific.
The president still talks of "settled science" in the global warming debate. He recently flew to California to attribute the near-record drought there to human-induced global warming.
There is no scientific basis for the president's assertion about the drought. Periodic droughts are characteristic of California's climate, both in the distant past and over a century and a half of modern record-keeping. If the president were empirical rather than deductive and political, he would instead have cited the logical reasons why this drought is far more serious than those of the late 1970s.
California has not built additional major mountain storage reservoirs to capture Sierra Nevada runoff in decades. The population of the state's water consumers has almost doubled since the last severe drought. Several million acre-feet of stored fresh water have been in recent years diverted to the sea -- on the dubious science that the endangered delta smelt suffers mostly from irrigation-related water diversions rather than pollutants, and that year-round river flows for salmon, from the mountains to the sea, existed before the reserve water storage available from the construction of mountain reservoirs.
The administration has delayed construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, citing concern about climate change. Yet a recent State Department environmental report found that the proposed pipeline would not increase carbon dioxide emissions enough to affect atmospheric temperatures. There is no scientific basis from which to cancel the Keystone, but a variety of logical reasons to build it -- such as moving toward North American energy independence and protecting ourselves against energy blackmailers and cartels abroad.
Science is rarely "settled." Instead, orthodoxy is constantly challenged. A theory survives not by politics, but only if it can offer the best logical explanations for a set of circumstances backed by hard statistical data.
Global warming that begat "climate change" is no exception. All the good politics in the world of blaming most bad weather on too much carbon dioxide cannot make it true if unquestioned climate data cannot support the notion of recent temperature increases being directly attributable to rising man-caused carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
In recent years, "settled science" with regard to the causes of peptic ulcers, the health benefits of Vitamin D, the need for annual mammograms and the prognostic value of the prostate-specific antigen test have all been turned upside down by dissident scientists offering new theories to interpret fresh data.
Yet for the new anti-empirical left, science becomes an ally only when refuting absurd religious theories that the earth is 5,000 years old. Otherwise, it can prove irrelevant when it does not necessarily support pet causes.
Girl Scouts Hire Lesbian as Chief 'Girl Experience Officer'
As millions of moms consider digging into pocketbooks for Girl Scout cookies this year, they may be interested to know about the hiring of Krista Kokjohn-Poehler in the Girl Scouts executive office in New York City.
Kokjohn-Poehler is an out lesbian married to a woman named Ashley Kokjohn. And, given her sexual preference, it may strike some as odd that her job title is "Girl Experience Officer."
Her hiring five months ago was largely missed by the coterie of Girl Scout critics around the country who make the claim that the Girl Scouts have drifted leftward in the past 20 years.
San Diego Magazine featured Kokjohn-Poehler’s 2007 commitment ceremony: “Like many of the best love stories, this one began with a beautiful friendship. Krista Poehler and Ashley Kokjohn were immediately drawn to each other when they met in college, and spent countless hours discussing family, life goals and much more.”
“The brides were radiant in formal white gowns; their parents wore black, and the bridesmaids wore taupe. The couple exchanged matching diamond eternity bands an dread vows they wrote themselves, then their parents joined the bridal party and surrounded them in a ‘circle of love.’” Ashley called it beautiful, spiritual and perfect.
According to her LinkedIn profile, as "Chief Girl Experience Officer," Kokjohn-Poehler will “serve as the chief of girl innovation and be the expert on and organizational voice for girls. Lead the "Girl Experience" team in efforts to take insights from marketplace data and collaborate internally and externally to drive program innovation.”
The main charge leveled by Girl Scout critics concerns the leftward drift of the Girl Scouts, which was founded along conservative religious principles. The leftward drift began in the early '90s when God was made optional in the Girl Scout promise. This precipitated the founding of American Heritage Girls and the first widespread exit from the Girl Scouts.
In the ensuing years, social liberals insinuated themselves into national leadership of the Girl Scouts so that now it is unremarkable when they feature and promote women who are offensive to the sensibilities of hundreds of thousands of traditional-minded moms, including: Betty Friedan; Gloria Steinem; Hillary Clinton; Kathleen Sibelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and chief promoter of the Obamacare contraceptive mandate; and Wendy Davis, advocate for late term abortions.
The leftward drift likely made them tone-deaf to the inevitable controversy in their hiring of homopunk-rocker Josh Ackley, whose band The Dead Betties and their music video depicting violence against a woman became national news after reporting by Breitbart News last fall.
Penny Nance, former Girl Scout and president of Concerned Women for America, told Breitbart News, “In the last ten years the Girl Scouts have lost about a few hundred thousand members, and part of the reason for that is their tone deafness toward the cultural values of American moms."
Nance tells the story of a run-in her daughter had with Girl Scout hero Gloria Steinem. Nance’s daughter appeared with Steinem on a Nickelodeon panel show talking about women’s issues. Her daughter defended the pro-life position on air. According to Nance, during a break “with no parents present,” Steinem allegedly approached her daughter and bragged about having an abortion and said she was happy about it. “And these are the types of people celebrated by the Girl Scouts?” asked Nance.
In recent days, top Girl Scout execs, including CEO Anna Marie Chavez, have tried to beat back the ongoing cookie boycott started a month ago that threatens the much needed $700 million annual sales to fund Girl Scout activities.
The largely unreported news of Krista Kokjohn-Poehler’s hiring may be another sales headache for the junior sales force now pounding on doors.
Businesses should be allowed to turn away women, gay and black people, claims Ukip councillor and MEP candidate
Businesses should be allowed to turn women, gay or black people and refuse them service, a Ukip councillor has claimed. Donna Edmunds, who is also standing for election to the European Parliament, claimed firms should not be ‘forced to serve or sell to anyone’, but today expressed ‘regret’ at her remarks.
It comes just days after Nigel Farage claimed his party’s candidates were of a 'quality and calibre' Ukip could be proud of.
Miss Edmunds, an MEP candidate for the South East and a Lewes district councillor, posted the comments on an internet forum.
She had been asked whether she supported remarks made by Henley-on-Thames Ukip councillor David Silvester who said the floods this winter had been caused by the Government's support for gay marriage. The mother of one claimed she did not agree with her party colleague but said business owners should be allowed to refuse service to anyone they wanted to for any reason, the paper said.
She said: ‘I believe that all business owners, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, should be allowed to withhold their services from whomever they choose whenever they choose. ‘It's their business. Why should they be forced to serve or sell to anyone?’
She later told reporters: ‘Business owners should be free to turn people away for whatever reason they choose - be they gay, black, or a woman.
‘I would not condone their actions, and would not shop in such a place. In fact, many people would probably choose not to shop there. ‘However, I am a libertarian and do not think the government should legislate against such things.’
James Ledward, editor of GScene Gay Magazine, described her views as ‘horrendous’. He said: ‘I’m flabbergasted. There is no place for views like this in 2014.’
The row comes despite attempts by Ukip to impose tougher tests on candidates to prevent them embarrassing the party with controversial views.
When the 32-year-old was asked to clarify her statement, she told the Brighton Argus newspaper: ‘I'm a libertarian so I don't think the state should have a role on who business owners serve.
‘I wouldn't refuse to serve gay people. I'm not saying their position is a correct one. I'm saying they should be free to make that choice themselves.
‘I regret what I wrote and can see how an essentially libertarian stance could be broadly misinterpreted.
‘I in no way endorse any form of discrimination. I believe in cutting red tape for business and I also strongly believe in an individual's personal and religious freedoms, but I stand against any form of prejudice. ‘I hope this remark has not caused any embarrassment for the party.’
A Ukip spokesman said: ‘It would appear that these comments were deeply misguided and we do not endorse the position intimated, but we believe she has apologised for the remarks.’
These elitist hate-speech laws erode democracy
By James Allan, a Canadian lawyer writing from Australia
Neil Brown, QC, a Liberal minister in the Fraser government, has counselled Tony Abbott not to repeal our section 18C hate speech laws.
He says doing so risks "giving the green light to racists". Instead, he suggests a convoluted compromise that basically leaves in place the "you can't offend me" legislation.
Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but Brown and all the proponents of hate speech laws that legislate against "offending", "insulting", "humiliating" or even "intimidating" are wrong. They're wrong on the facts. They're wrong when they look overseas. And they're wrong about what is needed in a healthy, well-functioning democracy.
Let's start by playing the man, rather than the ball. Our hate speech laws were enacted in 1995. Brown was a cabinet member in a government years before that. If he thought not having these laws amounted to a green light, why didn't the Fraser government enact these sort of illiberal laws?
First a few facts. In the US there are no hate speech laws of any kind. In France there are plenty. Where do you think Jews or Muslims are better integrated into society as equal citizens? I ask that question seriously, and can recast it using Germany and other countries with hate speech laws.
Do you do more for minority groups by encouraging a victim mentality or by asking them to grow a thick skin and, when insulted or offended or humiliated, to respond by saying why the speaker is wrong? The latter approach is recommended by every great liberal philosopher from John Stewart Mill onwards. And it was the basis on which the Fraser government did not legislate against hate speech.
Oh, then there is that bastion of political correctness, my native Canada, where the federal parliament last year repealed similar hate speech laws. Are Canada and the US places all hate speech law supporters will be avoiding because of all the green lights for racists?
Or are those green lights just plain bunk, because Brown doesn't understand that the best response to racists is to speak back and say why they're wrong, rather than turn them into martyrs?
Then there is the old canard - always pulled out of the cupboard when the rest of the argument sucks - of "let's all point to Nazi Germany".
Leave aside the fact it is insulting to Australians today to have any argument implicitly rest on the premise that we are somehow like Weimar Germany, and realise that, for more than a decade before Hitler came to power, the Weimar regime did have hate speech laws and did have prosecutions for anti-Semitic speech. Convictions, too. And that sort of "suppress, suppress, suppress" mindset worked out how, exactly?
You need to ask yourself what you expect hate-speech laws to accomplish if you support them. There are only three possibilities. One is that you want to hide from the victims of such nasty speech how the speakers honestly feel about them. It's a sort of "give them a false sense of security" goal.
Another is you hope to reform the speaker. You know, fine them and lock them up and maybe they'll see the errors of their ways.
But both those supposed good outcomes of hate speech laws are patent nonsense. So that leaves a third possibility, one I believe almost all proponents of these laws implicitly suppose justifies their illiberal position.The goal of hate speech laws is to stop listeners who hear nasty words from being convinced by such speech.
In other words, it is plain distrust of the abilities of one's fellow citizens to see through the rantings of neo-Nazis that requires us to have these laws. It works on a sort of latter-day aristocratic premise, that we may be able to trust the good sense of a sociology professor but God help us if a mere plumber or secretary should be exposed to a Holocaust denier or someone whose tone gets a bit out of hand.
If there was a polite way to express my disdain for that sort of elitist bull, I would use it. But there isn't. So I will just say it is wholly misconceived.
Australians are no more prone to being sucked in by offensive or hateful speech than North Americans or those with multiple degrees. And if you don't believe that, then you can't really be in favour of democracy, it seems to me.
I could go on to show how these sort of laws, always and everywhere, end up expanding to capture speakers not originally intended to be captured by them; or how the bureaucracies that administer them become havens of speech-restricting world views. Instead I simply say Australians need section 18C to be repealed in its entirety. That's what Abbott implicitly promised. So let's have it done now.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.