Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How to Judge People by What They Look Like

By Edward Dutton.  Review by Sean Gabb

Ed Dutton is a relentless truth-teller.  Some of his previous work is here.  There is an extraordinarily venomous biography of him on a far-Left site  He really stirs them up.  I suspect that he outdoes me in political incorrectness -- JR

This short book is equally naughty and entertaining. It bounces along, making its points in a light-hearted and generally a witty manner. It is naughty so far as it is a flat challenge to many of the pieties of our age.

We are told never to judge a book by its cover – that the substance of a person, this being character and intelligence, have no measurable relationship to his external form, this being his physical appearance. At the extreme, of looking at correlations between race and intelligence, you can get into serious trouble for disputing this piety. Even moderate dissent earns hostility or just ridicule. Look, for example, at the relevant textbooks. The phlogiston theory is covered as an early theory of combustion, superseded by the truth. Phrenology is denounced as barely short of a moral and intellectual failing. No one thinks ill of Lamarck for this theory of inherited characteristics. Lombroso and his measurement of criminal heads are seen as steps on the road to Auschwitz.

The author of this book takes aim at every one of these pieties. He begins with the easy targets. Within ethnic groups, he goes over the increasingly rehabilitated claim that intelligence is largely inherited – about 80 per cent. He adds the other increasingly rehabilitated claim that there are differences of average intelligence between groups – that the peaks of each distribution curve occur at different points along the scale.

This done, he sets about demonstrating that the substance of a person is, on average, shown by his external form. He groups his argument under the two headings of innate and acquired characteristics. Either external form is a direct indicator of substance, or it is modified in the light of cultural facts to indicate substance.

First, for example, he looks at fat people. Obesity often indicates poor control of impulses. As such, it may be a sign of lack of consciousness or lack of intelligence. Conscientious people take care not to eat more than they need. They also understand the long-term cost of giving way to short-term impulses. Intelligent people are able to judge what foods are suitable for them and what are not. “It follows,” the author says, “that the person who is ‘slim’ or who has maintained a healthy weight is going to be relatively high in Conscientiousness, low in Extraversion and relatively high in intelligence.” [p.14]

Second, and perhaps more interesting, he looks at the relationship between substance and external form as mediated by culture. Until the industrial revolution, the majority of working class people laboured in the fields. This made them darker than the higher classes, who spent much of their time indoors or wearing elaborate hats and clothes. A suntan was seen then as evidence of low status, and perhaps of low intelligence and all else that correlates with low economic status. Then the majority of workers were herded into factories, while the higher classes discovered the joys of an outdoor life. Now, a suntan was seen as evidence of high status. More recently, with the availability of cheap package holidays, we have returned to the pre-industrial correlation between suntans and low status.

The difference between these two headings is that having a big or small distance between the eyes is direct evidence of substance. It is unchanged by time or location. Suntans are indirect evidence. What they correlate with is determined by the prevailing circumstances. At any particular time, though, they are external markers that do correlate with substance.

Now, what follows from all this? The answer is that all truth is important – so far as this is the truth; and I do lack the statistical grounding and the time or inclination to check the author’s scholarship. Even when a particular truth has no practical value, a regard for truth is a generally useful prejudice. But there are certain conclusions that appear to follow.

First, there is has been a progressively greater diversity of external form since the industrial revolution. The stated reason for this is that the harsh conditions of a traditional society, in which about 40 per cent of children died, and the higher classes had more surviving offspring, created a strong bias towards the survival of the intelligent and conscientious. Since then, the fall of infant mortality towards zero has thrown this process into reverse. That may explain the growing fall in genius or just high intellectual quality as a fraction of modern populations. It may also explain the decay – and the author says nothing of this – of free institutions, and their replacement by less complex and more maternal forms of government. Old England was free because its people were capable of being free. Modern England is unfree because the people have changed.

Second – and, again, the author says nothing explicit here – the modern celebration of diversity, and insistence that every group should be represented in every part of national life according to their proportionate share of the population, is at least misguided. People are different in their abilities, and this is shown by their appearance, and it is unwise to try arguing with the facts.

Third – and this is discussed by the author – many old prejudices about the choice of mating partners and friends and business colleagues may be grounded in the facts that his statistical research appears to have uncovered. On this point, I know a former professor at an American university who, towards the end of his career, gave up on grading his students according to the quality of their written work. Reading tens of thousands of words was far more inconvenient, and gave no more accurate basis for judging, than a quick look at their faces in the first teaching session.

I would not try this myself as a guide to assessing my students. As said, I do not have the ability or time or inclination to check the author in his various claims. But his claims are interesting, and they are made with at least a good show of reason


It’s not France vs Italy – it’s the old order vs the new one

Relations between Italy and France, two historic allies and founder members of the European Union, have sunk to a new low. For the first time since 1940, when Mussolini declared war on France, the French government has withdrawn its ambassador to Rome.

There has been a number of disputes over practical matters, including the possible cancellation of a planned Lyon-Turin high-speed rail link. But the main reason relations have reached such depths is because the warring governments are on different sides of Europe-wide political and cultural divides.

The war of words between the two countries began with the formation of Italy’s national-populist government, a coalition between Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini’s League. The centrist, pro-EU Emmanuel Macron warned that nationalists and populists were ‘rising like leprosy’ and could drag Europe back to the 1930s.

Many of the most intense rows have been over migration. When Salvini refused to allow the Aquarius, a ship full of migrants rescued off the Libyan coast, to dock in Italy, Macron denounced the move as ‘cynical and irresponsible’. The Italians hit back – Macron was a hypocrite, they argued. He too had refused to harbour the migrant ship, leaving it to Spain. Furthermore, France had failed to take its fair share of non-EU migrants, they said.

Following another dispute over migrants, this time on the French-Italian border, Salvini said he hoped the French people would soon get rid of their ‘terrible president’. Last month, Di Maio claimed that France was to blame for fuelling the migrant crisis. France had ‘never stopped colonising Africa’, he said. French diplomats described the comments as ‘hostile’ and ‘unacceptable’.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was Di Maio’s surprise visit (unknown even to Italy’s foreign ministry) to the outskirts of Paris, where he met with a group of gilets jaunes (yellow vests). The movement has staged the largest revolt in France since the 1968 uprisings, demonstrating against the French government for the past 13 weeks.

Di Maio posted a picture with a group of yellow-vest activists to Instagram, saying the meeting was the first of many to come: ‘We talked about our countries, social rights, the environment and direct democracy. The wind of change has crossed the Alps. I repeat. The wind of change has crossed the Alps’. French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux denounced Di Maio’s ‘provocation’ by echoing Macron’s leprosy insult, calling on Europeans to ‘beat back the nationalist leprosy, populism [and] the mistrust of Europe’.

But Di Maio was meeting with a movement that has great resonance with the wider French public. In a recent YouGov poll for the Huffington Post, 64 per cent of respondents said they ‘support’ the gilets jaunes, while 74 per cent agreed that its protests were ‘justified’. It is with some justification, then, that Di Maio can claim to be on the side of French citizens in standing with the yellow vests.

Meanwhile, Macron’s approval ratings have collapsed since he assumed office. They hit a record low back in December 2018 of just 23 per cent. Although his popularity has recovered slightly since then, the last thing the beleaguered French government wants to encourage is the ‘wind of change’. The president has tried various carrots and sticks to quell the yellow-vest uprising – from hikes in the minimum wage to draconian new laws that forbid unauthorised protest. But the gilets jaunes continue to march. Their demands for a greater say in politics and a greater standard of living present a direct challenge not only to Macron’s aloof, top-down, technocratic style of politics, but also to the anti-democratic, austerity-driven EU, which takes decision-making power out of the hands of European electorates.

The great irony is that while France and Italy’s diplomatic row appears to reveal a great faultline between the two nations, it actually reminds us that the people of Europe share similar frustrations and aspirations. The success of Italy’s populist parties and France’s yellow vests are an expression of this. While each nation is revolting against the old order in its own way, the trend across Europe at the ballot box is clear: anti-establishment, populist and nationalist parties have been gaining ground in nearly every national election over the past few years. They are expected to cause an enormous upset in the European Parliament elections in May, too. At the same time, establishment parties of the centre-left and centre-right have struggled to cling to power – and in some cases, like the Socialist Party in France, the Democratic Party in Italy and Pasok in Greece, they have faced electoral oblivion.

The ‘wind of change’ in Europe has already spread far beyond the Alps.


How Mass Deinstitutionalization Harmed the Mentally Ill

One year ago Thursday, the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida, sparked an intense national debate over firearm-related violence.

As some pushed for broader restrictions on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, The Heritage Foundation has undertaken the task of evaluating the complex, underlying realities of gun violence, including its relationship to untreated serious mental illness.

As part of a series of papers exploring this relationship, John Malcolm and I authored a Heritage legal memo, “The Consequences of Deinstitutionalizing the Severely Mentally Ill,” focusing on the mental health crisis in the United States and how states can combat that crisis to make communities safer.

Our paper begins by exploring several catalysts for the mass removal of the seriously mentally ill from inpatient facilities during the 1960s and 1970s, a process referred to as deinstitutionalization.

The first catalyst was a growing public awareness of the truly abysmal conditions in some large state psychiatric hospitals, which caused some to look for treatment options with more humane conditions.

Second, a general trend in the medical profession toward promotion of community-based treatment centers coincided with development of promising psychiatric medications that led many professionals to reconsider the possibility of successfully managing mental illness outside institutional settings.

Third, the establishment of Medicaid in 1965 de facto encouraged states to eliminate public psychiatric beds by prohibiting states from using federal money to pay for adult inpatient psychiatric care and promising additional money for each patient moved to outpatient care. It was financially beneficial for states to have as few public psychiatric beds as possible, and states began altering provision of mental health services to maximize their receipt of federal dollars.

Finally, beginning in the 1970s, the Supreme Court issued a series of opinions that made it harder for states to civilly commit even the most clearly mentally ill individuals, and also made it easier for those individuals to refuse treatment even when civilly committed.

As a result of these social, medical, and legal changes, the number of available public psychiatric beds in the U.S.  dropped by 95 percent between 1955 and 2016.

Most policy experts indicate that states need a minimum of 40 to 60 beds per 100,000 people to meet the needs of a population. But in 2016 the average state provided only 11.7 beds per 100,000 people.

States Cut Mental Health Budgets

The dramatic reduction in available beds has been compounded by equally dramatic reductions in state mental health spending. States cut a cumulative $4.35 billion from their mental health budgets between 2009 and 2012.

Although mass-scale deinstitutionalization began with the best of intentions, society simply did not have adequate community-based alternatives in place—nor have states since created the necessary alternatives.

The results have been devastating for both those with serious mental illness and communities that spent decades struggling to cope with a crisis they were not equipped to handle.

Several studies have found that having fewer psychiatric beds is associated with higher crime rates, including for violent crimes such as murder and assault. There are also strong indications that the dramatic rise in violent crime during the 1980s and 1990s was, in large part, an effect of deinstitutionalization and the massive influx of individuals with untreated mental illness back into their communities.

Meanwhile, the equally sudden decline of crime rates in the 1990s and 2000s can be explained in large part by the “reinstitutionalization” of these individuals into jails and prisons.

The burden of dealing with these individuals with untreated serious mental illness has fallen increasingly on law enforcement officers instead of on mental health professionals. This results not only in millions of lost man hours for law enforcement departments, but also places officers and mentally ill individuals at greater risk.

Some studies suggest that as many as one-third of all shootings by law enforcement officers are the result of individuals with mental illness committing “suicide by cop.” A 2012 analysis estimated that at least half of all physical attacks on law enforcement officers were by mentally ill individuals—many of whom were untreated.

To our national shame, many mentally ill individuals are reinstitutionalized into jails and prisons, where they do not receive proper treatment. In fact, America’s jails and prisons have become the nation’s new psychiatric facilities: One recent survey found that between 37 percent and 44 percent of state and federal inmates had been told by a mental health practitioner that they suffered from a mental health disorder.

Not Enough Psychiatric Beds

These mentally ill inmates cost considerably more to incarcerate, stay incarcerated for longer periods, and are victimized at far higher rates than are inmates who aren’t mentally ill.

Further, the few public psychiatric beds remaining often are filled up quickly as “forensic beds” for these mentally ill inmates, while nonviolent, noncriminal, but seriously mentally ill individuals are left to overcrowded emergency rooms. There, they spend days and sometimes weeks being stabilized, waiting for inpatient beds to open up and proper long-term treatment to begin.

This not only disproportionately diverts emergency room resources to crisis management for psychiatric patients, but helps exacerbate the mental health crisis by leaving many individuals in need of serious long-term treatment on waiting lists, allowing them to grow sicker—and in some cases, violent—before beds open up.

This can have catastrophic results, as shown by the case of David Logsdon in 2007. Logsdon suffered a mental health crisis but was released from a Missouri mental hospital after just six hours due to a bed shortage, and did not receive anymore mental health treatment. His condition deteriorated to the point that he killed a neighbor and used a stolen rifle to shoot people at random in a mall parking lot, killing two and injuring seven.

States can take practical steps to combat the effects of deinstitutionalization, including strengthening their civil commitment laws, better using existing mental health frameworks, and increasing the number of available public psychiatric beds.

Recent studies have produced strong evidence that when states make it easier to order those with untreated mental illness to submit to outpatient or inpatient treatment, they tend to have lower murder rates as a result. In fact, over 25 percent of all state-to-state variations in murder rates could be explained solely by differences in civil commitment laws.

Strengthening the ability of law enforcement officers to involuntarily detain an individual suffering from a mental health crisis on an emergency basis realistically could have prevented a significant number of mass public killings.

Enforcing Existing Procedures

Further, enforcement of current mental health mechanisms is often too lax and allows individuals who are known to be dangerous to themselves or others to legally access firearms and avoid necessary mental health treatment.

This, too, has been a primary factor in many otherwise preventable mass public shootings, including the events that occurred Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. There, law enforcement and school officials had ample evidence that the shooter was in desperate need of court-ordered mental health treatment, but never acted on that evidence in a meaningful way.

States also should reinvest in public psychiatric facilities, ensuring a sufficient number of beds of last resort to meet the needs of their citizens. The up-front costs of providing adequate numbers of public psychiatric beds may seem daunting, but they pale in comparison to the long-term costs of shifting the burden of housing and treatment to the criminal justice and emergency medical systems. The human and economic costs associated with untreated serious mental illness also are tremendous.

These steps—which focus on serious, underlying problems instead of on particular means of violence—are more much likely to prevent future atrocities than the broad imposition of gun control measures on the general public.

More importantly, these steps have the capacity to change the lives of those mentally ill Americans who have been left in the crosshairs of deinstitutionalization and whose illnesses can’t be treated with gun control.


Challenging Disparate Impact

The Trump administration is pushing back against one of Obama's favorite racial tools

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” —Section 1, Amendment XIV, U.S. Constitution

“A theory of liability that prohibits an employer from using a facially neutral employment practice that has an unjustified adverse impact on members of a protected class. A facially neutral employment practice is one that does not appear to be discriminatory on its face; rather it is one that is discriminatory in its application or effect.” —the definition of “disparate impact.”

For years, many Americans have been unable to reconcile the Constitution’s demand for equal treatment with a theory whereby “discrimination” is defined solely by statistical outcomes as they relate to a protected class. In what might be the most ambitious effort undertaken by the Trump administration to date, White House officials are reportedly planning to ban disparate impact.

According to a bombshell report by Paul Sperry, White House Budget Director and interim Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is the prime mover of “a proposed executive order, originally drafted by two conservative Washington think tanks” that would “repudiate the underlying rationale for scores of regulations and thousands of government lawsuits alleging racial discrimination, resulting in billions of dollars in fines.”

Disparate impact was engendered by the Supreme Court’s 1971 decision in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. Using Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as their vehicle, black American employees sued the power company, challenging its requirement that one must posses a high-school diploma or pass intelligence tests as a condition of employment in, or transfer to, jobs at the plant, even though those requirements were not intended to determine or measure job-related performance. SCOTUS found in favor of the employees, and further determined that Title VII “proscribes not only overt discrimination, but also practices that are fair in form, but discriminatory in operation.”

In a 5-4 ruling in 2015, SCOTUS reaffirmed disparate impact in Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. The Court agreed with the non-profit’s assertion that the state housing department “segregated housing patterns by allocating too many tax credits to housing in predominantly black inner-city areas and too few in predominantly white suburban neighborhoods.” Thus, SCOTUS once again endorsed the idea that statistics trumped intent.

So why challenge the law now? Sperry asserts that “conservative opponents of the doctrine believe the currently constituted high court would uphold an executive order doing away with it.”

How ironic. For decades, leftists have viewed an activist Supreme Court — empowered by a “living” Constitution — as their ultimate vehicle for implementing policies they could not get through state legislatures or Congress — all while many warned that such activism cuts both ways.

Yet there is more than activism involved here. While some claims of discrimination are obviously legitimate, Sperry explains that the Left has used disparate impact as a “social-engineering weapon aimed at equalizing outcomes and extending the government’s power over the private sector.”

Two of those incarnations were devastating. In one, when the federal government pressured banks to relax loan standards for minority applicants to avoid charges of racism, that effort fueled the 2008 financial meltdown.

How much pressure? At one point, “valid” income considerations for obtaining a mortgage included welfare payments and unemployment benefits.

The other incarnation? An Obama administration that sued hundreds of schools for disciplining black students at higher rates than whites — while ignoring the inconvenient reality that black students committed more infractions — precipitated the Florida-based PROMISE program. PROMISE sought to limit the number of minority-student interactions with the criminal-justice system by exempting 13 specific misdemeanors from police involvement. As a result, the Parkland assailant was able to obtain the weapon with which he killed 17 students and wounded 17 more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year.

Regardless, the battle to do away with this pernicious concept will be fierce. “The attack on disparate impact is the latest in a series of Trump administration assaults on civil rights,” asserts Sarah Hinger, an ACLU Racial Justice Program staff attorney. “As the nation continues its long march toward equality, it would be outrageous to destroy such an important means of advancement — one the civil rights bar still depends on to make its case in court,” declares the New York Times editorial board. “Donald Trump wants to make racism OK unless someone can prove the accused party intended to discriminate against them,” claims columnist Michael Harriot.

That would be proof — as opposed to a legally enforceable presumption of racism.

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank, sees the absurdity of such assertions. “The disparate-impact approach requires decision-makers to make decisions with an eye on race,” he states. “That is exactly what the civil rights laws are supposed to prohibit.”

Instead, the Obama administration forced the issue. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) discouraged employers from checking a job applicant’s criminal records because that had “disparate impact” on black men whose incarceration rate is seven times higher than that of whites. In one egregious case, auto manufacturer BMW paid $1.6 million in relief to 56 black Americans with criminal records it turned down for jobs. The feds also forced the company to ignore criminal charges against any job applicant, even if they included violent felonies.

In another case, auto lender Ally Financial was [fined( a record $98 million by the DOJ and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for refusing to admit bias against minority borrowers. Yet in subsequent congressional testimony, the CFPB admitted it didn’t even factor credit scores of minority applicants into its investigation, despite many studies showing they are the most reliable indicators of potential loan defaults.

Yet the beat goes on. New House Banking Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has promised to take on “dishonest and criminal” banking officials who don’t loan out enough money in low-income urban areas. New House Education Committee chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) wants to expand the Title VI statute to include disparate impact and precipitate more lawsuits, while Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) of the House Judiciary Committee promises to use it as a vehicle to engender reparations for slavery.

“If you don’t favor using the disparate impact approach in civil-rights enforcement to the nth degree, then you are a ‘racist,’ and the mainstream media can be counted on to accept this narrative uncritically,” said Clegg.

The American public? The bet here is the race card is “maxed out,” and that color-blindness, equal opportunity and meritocracy still resonate with a majority of the electorate. The same majority increasingly tired of the idea that the rights of specific groups supersede those of individual Americans, and that those groups are apparently entitled to equality of outcome, not opportunity.

Let the pushback begin — in earnest.



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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