Friday, September 01, 2017

Damore revisited

Judging by his critics he was pretty right

The immediate reaction to Google’s firing of James Damore has been depressing. While Conservatives, Libertarians, and Liberals (as in actual Liberals, not the ones I am trying to cure) generally appreciated the memo for what it truly argued, the left and the mainstream media have blatantly and, I suspect, sometimes intentionally misrepresented what Damore was attempting to say. The pro-diversity memo was called anti-diversity, and the negative impact of biased thinking and echo chambers Damore’s memo addressed was ironically overlooked. Damore’s points were illustrated by the very people who ignored them.

I have seen a few attempts at taking a nuanced look at what Damore said (the Heterodox Academy’s literature review is the most rigorous I’ve seen), and one stood out to me. In an op-ed for PBS (a branch of the Public Broadcasting Corporation which receives nearly $500 million in taxpayer funding every year), research psychologist Denise Cummins attempts to disprove Damore’s claims. Her column is titled “What we can learn from a Google employee’s epic failure to understand gender differences.”

Cummins begins by excerpting a list of claims Damore makes about biological differences between men and women. She then writes “These claims are indeed supported by substantial research on sex differences.” In other words, in her first stab at exposing Damore’s “epic failure to understand gender differences,” she concurs with him.

Her next excerpt is two claims made by Damore about traits that are more common in women than men. These traits lead to each sex being generally more interested in different things, namely women in people and men in things. She refutes Damore by explaining, “As I’ve pointed out in a previous NewsHour article, women, on average, do indeed have more interest in living things than objects, which is why we tend to pursue scientific careers in the biological, social and life sciences.” She supports his assertions again.

Next, Cummins displays three claims Damore makes about innate personality differences between men and women and how they may lead to women being less assertive and more prone to stress in the workplace. Damore carefully avoids overgeneralizing by explaining, “these are just average differences and there’s overlap between men and women.” Cummins argues that, “substantial data support an alternative view, namely that people are more accurate at assessing the performance of workers of their own gender.” She cites a study from Georgetown University that supports this viewpoint (though this female former Google tech leader had a dissimilar experience). Even giving the benefit of the doubt to the Georgetown study’s findings, it does not refute anything Damore says. It simply adds nuance to the discussion.

In Damore’s introductory paragraph to his memo, he admits his arguments are, “by no means the complete story, but it’s a perspective that desperately needs to be told at Google.” It seems that what Cummins calls an “epic failure” is more like a failure to account for every single tidbit of nuance regarding several complex issues within the confines of a 10-page memo, irrespective of the fact that Damore openly conceded this at the memo’s outset. If Cummins’s point is that Damore could not make the impossible possible, I unequivocally agree with her.

Cummins’s last gripe is to disagree with Damore’s skepticism about empathy’s role in the workplace. She cites a single study and refers to the results as “objective facts.” So much for nuance…

In the end, Cummins winds up citing Damore himself to support claims that men have a greater drive for status and that this drive is rewarded in the workplace (one of Damore’s suggestions is revamping this reward system to encourage more gender diversity at Google).

How can Cummins refer to Damore’s memo as an “epic failure” to understand something while agreeing with, providing nuance to, or simply noting that there are alternative views to everything Damore actually does understand?


The alt-left: toy-smashing tosspots

Both the alt- right and left are engaging in moronic behaviour.

There is some debate as to whether we can conceivably talk about the ‘alt-left’. Does the term have any meaning? Is it but a sly invention of the alt-right in order to reduce its opponents to a level moral footing – as if to say ‘you’re no better than us’?

The term certainly enrages those on the activist left, who regard themselves as championing the poor, marginalised, women and ethnic minorities against the behemoths of ravaging neoliberalist economics and white privilege. There could be no possible moral equivalence between such noble characters and the creepy, brutal voices of neo-Nazism, elitism and white nationalism. Surely?

Surely indeed. Events this summer suggest that the term ‘alt-left’ is justified – that is to say, if the prefix ‘alt’ denotes sulky, rancorous, childish thuggery. This is the year that some sections of the left lost all pretence to holding the moral high ground. The alt-left has become ideologically fanatic, with its lust for instability now clear to behold.

The most obvious manifestation of its evolution into a febrile cult is its new mania for iconoclasm. Remember at the beginning of the 2000s, when we were horrified at the Taliban for blowing up ancient statues? Yet 16th-century-style statue-smashing has become mainstream in the US, as the alt-left has cultivated a craze for pulling down inanimate representations of people.

It began on campus in regards to statues of patrons who didn’t live morally spotless lives, but this summer spread to Confederate war figures. A statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia is now being threatened, a Columbus statue in Baltimore has been vandalised, and there has been talk this week of pulling down Nelson’s column in London.

There is something deeply sinister about this Khmer Rougesque desire to erase the past. But we are indeed witnessing the gestation of something akin to a Year Zero outlook among the alt-left. It’s not just its discourse that openly celebrates violence – ‘Kill White People’ and ‘Kill Cops’ are slogans designed to inflame vengeful passions among the righteous. It’s not just its brutalistic adulation of street activism, as so beloved of Black Lives Matter and Antifa. No, the profoundly terrifying aspect of the alt-left is its religious-like desire for moral and mental purity.

The alt-left seeks hygiene of the mind. It wants to expel undesirables. It wants to cleanse and protect minds with trigger warnings, Safe Spaces, No Platforming and censorship. It sees free speech as dangerous because it allows freedom of thought. The alt-left has consequently developed a Manichean mindset. One routinely hears rhetoric of ‘you are either with us or against us’, as the alt-left increasingly directs its ire at ‘centrist fence-sitters’. This is the language of Stalin.

It’s thus quite easy to talk of the alt-left, and of it being just as bad as the alt-right. Each other is of moral equivalence, in that each is peopled by intolerant, toy-smashing tosspots. But events this year have started to make me believe that the alt-left is possibly even worse.


Police goon in Seattle

Motorcyclist Alex Randall, of Shoreline, doesn’t believe he was riding unsafely when he was confronted by a gun-wielding detective with the King County Sheriff’s Office this month.

But even if he was “driving reckless,” as the detective claimed, Randall said it was alarming and unnecessary for the law-enforcement officer to point his gun at the 31-year-old rider while he sat on his bike at a traffic light.

“I still get clammy hands when I watch it,” Randall said of the video. “It was so terrifying.”

The detective’s boss, Sheriff John Urquhart, apparently agreed.

Randall said the sheriff called him Monday just hours after Randall uploaded the video of the unusual traffic stop to YouTube.

“Urquhart didn’t waffle,” Randall said. “He said, ‘No, this is wrong and everybody feels terrible about it.’ ”

In a post on his personal Facebook page, Urquhart wrote Tuesday that he was “deeply disturbed with the conduct and tactics that were recorded.”

“Drawing your weapon on someone when investigating a misdemeanor traffic offense is not routine,” he continued.

The detective was identified Wednesday as Richard Rowe, 53. He has been placed on paid administrative leave while his actions are investigated.

Rowe is assigned to the Woodinville Police Department. The City of Woodinville contracts with the sheriff’s office for police services. He did not return calls seeking comment.

Randall, who works in IT for a Seattle finance company, has logged 100,000 miles on various bikes he’s owned over the past 10 years, he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

He admitted that he has exceeded the speed limit on many occasions, and has shared images on social media of himself shooting the bird at what he calls “passive-aggressive” slowdown signs affixed to utility poles in his neighborhood. But those pictures were supposed to be a joke online, he said.

“Yes, I speed sometimes. No, I am not reckless,” he said. “I’ve laid my bike down, but I’ve never been in a multicar accident.”

In the video, which was taken with a helmet-mounted GoPro on Aug. 16, Randall’s Yamaha YZF-R1 pulls up behind other vehicles at a stoplight at the intersection of North 145th Street and 5th Avenue Northeast at the border of Shoreline and Seattle.

Rowe, the detective, appears, on foot, on the rider’s left side with a handgun tucked in tight to his chest and pointed at Randall.

Rowe, who appears to startle the motorcyclist, does not immediately identify himself as an officer but says, “How ya’ doing?”

The rider curses, and then says, “What are you doing to me?”

“What do you mean what am I doing?” Rowe replies. “You’re (expletive) driving reckless. Give me your driver’s license or I’m going to knock you off this bike.”

“I will pull over. I am unarmed,” the rider said.

In the exchange that follows, Rowe repeatedly asks the rider for identification, threatens to “dump” the bike if it’s moved and then takes the rider’s wallet from his left pocket.

The rider tells Rowe several times that he cannot hear through the helmet and asks for permission to move the bike off the roadway, turn it off or take off his helmet. Rowe’s vehicle can be seen in a part of the video, and it appears his emergency lights are activated.

“I’m sorry. You have a gun drawn on me … I’m a little panicked,” the rider says.

“Yeah, you’re right, because I’m the police,” Rowe said. “That’s right. When you’re driving and you’re going to place people at risk at 100 mph-plus on the god-dang roadway.”

After looking at the Randall’s ID, Rowe puts his gun away, says he’s with the sheriff’s office and then tells the rider that reckless driving is “an arrestable offense.”

Randall said he never heard a siren.

He said that Rowe did not display a badge or give his name. He also did not issue Randall a ticket.

“I think he saw the camera and he became extremely cordial,” Randall said.

Randall said he showed the video to a few friends, including some who work in law enforcement, and they suggested he contact police to report the incident.

“The fact that he didn’t fill out a use-of-force report tells me he knows he was wrong,” Randall said.


Australia: Lawyers demand apology over endorsement of gay marriage

The dean of law at Sydney’s Notre Dame University and a coalition of barristers and academics have joined the revolt over the endorsement of same-sex marriage by the legal profession’s peak associations in NSW.

Professor Michael Quinlan, who heads the university’s law school in Sydney, is the most senior of 11 legal academics and lawyers who have issued a joint statement denouncing the NSW Law Society and the state’s Bar ­Association for endorsing same-sex marriage “laws” before draft legislation has been made public and without consulting members.

Their statement calls for both organisations to apologise and ­immediately withdraw the ­endorsement.

It contained errors of law and had left the misleading impression that all lawyers in NSW support gay marriage, the statement says.

“Had there been consultation with members, and had the members supported the issuance of such a document, improvements in the language and content could have been made to ensure the joint release accurately states the law,” their statement says.

The Law Society is under growing pressure for endorsing gay marriage in a joint press release with the Bar Association and the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association.

Sydney solicitor Robin Speed, who is president of the Rule of Law Institute, has given Law Society president Pauline Wright until 4pm next Friday to dissociate the ­organisation from the joint press release or face the prospect of legal action.

Mr Speed believes the Law ­Society has given the false and misleading impression that gay marriage is favoured by all 29,000 solicitors in NSW.

An organisation of Catholic lawyers, the St Thomas More ­Society, says solicitors have complained of being intimidated at their workplaces for publicly criticising the endorsement of same-sex marriage by the professional associations and law firms.

The statement by Professor Quinlan and the other signatories says the three professional bodies made an error when their joint press release suggested the definition of marriage in Australia may be discriminatory under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“This is simply not correct,” the statement says.

“Some may believe that the joint release, given its authors, is a correct statement of the law but it is not, as the Senate committee ­report which looked into this question found.

“The claims made in the joint press release suggest a version of the international jurisprudence on same-sex marriage that is difficult to justify on any view of the current law.

“There is simply no international covenant that confers a right to same-sex marriage.’’

Professor Quinlan and the other signatories issued the statement in their personal capacities under the auspices of the Wilberforce Foundation, an organisation devoted to protecting common law values, rights and freedoms.

“Before making a statement on such an issue, the Law Society or NSW and the Bar Association of NSW ought to have consulted with their members or, at least the statement ought to indicate that bit has been prepared without consultation with members,” their statement says.

The Law Society’s Ms Wright said the society regularly makes resolutions through its council on a range of important legal policy issues.

“I recognise there will be divergent and strong views within the profession on any of these matters,” Ms Wright said. “But the overwhelming majority of responses received from the profession following the release of the joint statement have been supportive.

“We welcome the contribution of the Wilberforce Foundation to this important issue just as we ­always welcome and consider open debate on all policy matters.’’

The Bar Association has earlier stated its policy on gay marriage has been in place for several years.

The signatories to the Wilberforce Foundation’s statement ­include Notre Dame associate dean of law in Sydney Keith Thompson, Sydney barrister ­Michael McAuley, Adelaide barrister Christopher Brohier, Neil Foster of Newcastle University’s law school, Brisbane barrister Simon Fisher and Perth academic Augusto Zimmermann from the West Australian Law Reform Commission.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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