URLs du Jour

2022-03-28

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  • What Ketanji Brown Jackson should have worn to her confirmation hearings. Our Amazon Product du Jour of course! But I'm pretty sure that would not have impressed Kevin D. Williamson, who wonders: Ketanji Brown Jackson . . . Closet Originalist? (And, yes, Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies.)

    [NRPLUS] Political life — like the rest of life — would be a lot simpler if people would just tell the truth.

    If I thought for a minute that Ketanji Brown Jackson meant what she said in her confirmation hearings — in which she described the judge’s relationship to the law in approximately the same way Antonin Scalia would have — then I’d be perfectly happy to see her on the Supreme Court. If I believed for one minute that she would subordinate her own political preferences to what the law actually says, then I wouldn’t care if she’d been on the board of Planned Parenthood or Mike Bloomberg’s dopey anti-gun group, because — here’s the critical thing — it wouldn’t matter. Not to her performance as a judge, anyway. While there will always be good-faith disagreements, a Marxist who is a committed textualist (if we can imagine such a thing) and a right-winger who is a committed textualist should, in theory, mostly come to the same or similar conclusions.

    As Randy Barnett observes in the Wall Street Journal, the intellectual triumph of originalism is now so complete that even left-leaning activists such as Judge Jackson feel compelled to pretend to be originalists. “I believe that the Constitution is fixed in its meaning,” Jackson assured senators at her hearings, before adding that “the original public meaning of the words” is “a limitation on my authority to import my own policy.”

    KDW goes on to recall, accurately, that Elena Kagan "positively lied her way onto the bench" back in 2010.


  • Would be nice, especially since we're paying for it. I'm checking out the substack of Lawrence M. Krauss, opinionated theoretical physicist. We'll see how it goes. I liked his post about Science magazine: The Public Deserves the Best Science.

    Earlier this month Science magazine, whose editor since 2019 has promoted the notion that science is systemically racist and sexist, ran four hit pieces on physics in a single issue. It was claimed that physics is racist and exclusionary, run by a “white priesthood,” and based on “white privilege.”

    The articles themselves were inconsistent at best. They promoted a specific viewpoint and sometimes made claims that were manifestly contradicted by their own examples. I don’t want to spend a lot of time here critiquing the specifics, or the magazine in general, because I don’t think either are worth it. But it is worth summarizing some of the misconceptions they promote. If one hears the same things over and over again, even if they are not true, it is easy to begin to believe them. So, it is important every now and then, to step back and question the assumptions on which they are based.

    Krauss lists five misconceptions, (a)-(e). Here's (a), and Krauss's rebuttal:

    (a)  If the representation of various groups in scientific disciplines does not match the demographics of the society at large, the cause must be racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination.

    This is the starting point for most claims of racism or sexism in science, and for the recent rise of “anti-racism” initiatives most closely associated with Critical Race Theory. But one of the most basic things one learns in science is that correlation is not causation. Without some control over confounding factors or some other clear empirical data validating a theoretical model, it is impossible to isolate the cause of this effect. Most areas of human activity are self-selecting. To argue that people don’t become scientists because they are excluded by the scientific community is an extraordinary claim. And extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This is not to claim that racism or sexism do not exist in society at any level. Nor that examining such demographics might not be useful. But to lay this demographic on the doorstep of science without further justification is inappropriate. Moreover, there is a lot of empirical data that shows quite the opposite. Namely that in societies that are more egalitarian on issues of gender or race, self-selection effects produce as much or more variation in sex or gender ratios in the choice of professions as any other factor, something that clearly can’t be explained on the basis of sexism.

    That's a very Sowellian insight. So I'm hopeful Krauss will continue in that vein.


  • tick, tick...BOOM! Nope, no Oscars for tick, tick...BOOM! last night. But that's not important right now. Power Line talks about a totally different topic: Zeno’s Paradox: A Modern Instance. Specifically, the Doomsday Clock, controlled by the shaky hands of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Their rationale for leaving the clock unchanged despite Russia's saber-rattling invasion of Ukraine?

    And while the new US administration made progress in reestablishing the role of science and evidence in public policy, corruption of the information ecosystem continued apace in 2021. One particularly concerning variety of internet-based disinformation infected America last year: Waves of internet-enabled lies persuaded a significant portion of the US public to believe the utterly false narrative contending that Joe Biden did not win the US presidential election in 2020. Continued efforts to foster this narrative threaten to undermine future US elections, American democracy in general, and, therefore, the United States’ ability to lead global efforts to manage existential risk.

    In view of this mixed threat environment—with some positive developments counteracted by worrisome and accelerating negative trends—the members of the Science and Security Board find the world to be no safer than it was last year at this time and therefore decide to set the Doomsday Clock once again at 100 seconds to midnight. This decision does not, by any means, suggest that the international security situation has stabilized. On the contrary, the Clock remains the closest it has ever been to civilization-ending apocalypse because the world remains stuck in an extremely dangerous moment. In 2019 we called it the new abnormal, and it has unfortunately persisted.

    As I've pointed out before: at times of actual nuclear peril, the Atomic Scientists were much cooler about it.

    Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962? The clock was at 11:53pm.

    Yom Kippur War in 1973? All the way back at 11:48pm.

    Maybe it's "time" (heh) to retire the Doomsday Clock.