Friday, January 19, 2018

Razib Khan, Jerry Coyne and Steven Pinker can't say exactly what "race" is - but whatever it is they are sure it is not a social construct

Razib Khan of course believes that race is not a social construct, and that race is not only real but predictive of intelligence. And yet I have found that in spite of the title of his article "Why race as a biological construct matters" he in fact failed to demonstrate the existence of race as a biological phenomenon


Jerry Coyne, Ph.D is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, is certain race is not a social construct:
So when people say “race is a social construct,” they’re simply wrong. The only sense in which they’re right is that the designation of a finite number of easily-distinguished human groups (“races”) is a futile exercise, because we have differentiation within differentiation, making the whole exercise purely subjective. (You can, for example, distinguish subgroups of “Caucasians” within Europe, distinguishing those of Scandinavian from Italian ancestry simply by their genetic differences.) 
But that’s not what people mean, I think, by “social construct.” What I think they mean (since they are rarely explicit) is this: “There is no biological difference between human ethnic groups.” 
As always with the evo-psycho bros, Coyne engages in the most blatant straw-manning. Yes, you can distinguish Scandinavians from Italians. And these days both are considered members of the "white race." 

How do we know with great certainty that both are considered  members of the "white race" and have been for some time? Because during Southern segregation, both Italians and Scandinavians would have been allowed to use the accommodations designated "whites only."

And thus we see that when people say "race is a social construct" almost everybody except Jerry Coyne understands they do not mean "ethnic groups are a social construct." It's hard to tell if Coyne is honestly confused on this point or if he is deliberately ignoring the difference in classification between ethnicity vs. race.

In any case, as so often happens with the evo-psycho bros, Coyne wins his argument by misrepresenting what his opponents believe. 

Steven Pinker is also certain that race is not a social construct as he explains in this video. I have transcribed his words starting at 1:36:
"There is a widespread myth that there is no such thing as ah race, whatsoever, that it is purely a social construction."
Here he is on Twitter, referring to an article in the right-wing/libertarian Marx-phobic Quillette.





I have so far been unable to discover what Steven Pinker thinks "race" actually is. One plausible explanation is that he outsources his thoughts on race to Razib Khan and Steve Sailer, as I discuss in two recent blog posts, and lets them take the career debits while Pinker keeps his base of fanboys who like to think of themselves as pro-science and skeptical and not-racist.

So once again, Pinker outsources an explanation for race to someone else. I will review this Quillette article tomorrow. There's no reason to believe that Steven Pinker has any disagreements with what it has to say about race.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Steven Pinker and Steve Sailer: remuneration not repudiation

In yesterday's post I discussed the connection between Steven Pinker, one of the evo-psycho bros and  alt-righter Steve Sailer. Today I want to underline one particular fact - go to the bottom of this post for the thumbnail summation.

In 2000 Steve Sailer wrote an article for VDARE,  described in Wikipedia:
VDARE is an American website focused on opposition to immigration to the United States and is associated with white supremacy,[2][3] white nationalism,[4][5][6] and the alt-right.[7][8][9] Anti-Immigration in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia describes VDARE as "one of the most prolific anti-immigration media outlets in the United States" and states that it is "broadly concerned with race issues in the United States".[10] Established in 1999, the website's editor is Peter Brimelow, who believes that "whites built American culture" and that "it is at risk from non-whites who would seek to change it".[10] 
The group has been described as white supremacist.[2] The Southern Poverty Law Center describes VDARE as "an anti-immigration hate website" which "regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites", including Steve Sailer, Jared Taylor, J. Philippe Rushton and Samuel T. Francis.[7] Brimelow acknowledges that VDARE published writings by white nationalists but said that VDARE is not a "white nationalist Web site".[11][12][13]
Although anti-immigration VDARE is named after Virginia Dare whom the people associated with the website like to fetishize as a beautiful white woman, Dare was of course an immigrant to North American, if not "the United States" and a member of the "lost colony" of Virginia. As I wrote about 5 years ago, she may have got eaten by people. 

The article in 2000 by Steve Sailer uses The Bell Curve to justify claims of black intellectual inferiority and is entitled America and the Left Half of the Bell Curve and includes the following:
IQ is off-limits today because people who are verbally facile, such as journalists and academics, tend to assume that reality is largely constructed from words. Thus, if we would all just stop writing about unpleasant facts, they would disappear.
Please note that journalists and academics refusing to write about unpleasant facts is exactly what Steven Pinker was talking about in his infamous PS video. So not only was Pinker riding a favorite alt-right hobbyhorse, it's one they've been riding since before they were called the alt-right. Sailer continues:
Unpleasant Fact # 1: Five out of six African-Americans have IQs below the white average. But not talking about this IQ difference has singularly failed to make it go away. The black-white gap has remained roughly one standard deviation for the last 80 years. 
What the censorship has accomplished, however, is preventing the emergence of a more a nuanced and optimistic view of black-white differences. Although IQ is, by far, the single most effective measurement known to the social sciences for predicting human outcomes, it`s hardly omniscient. Indeed, African-Americans tend to be better than whites at certain mental abilities that IQ tests are bad at gauging, such as the improvisatory creativity that makes them world-beaters in jazz, basketball, rap, running with the football, and preaching. (See “Great Black Hopes”,  my 1996 article that introduced this novel perspective. Also check out “The Half Full glass”  for my more advanced 1998 review of Jensen`s The g Factor.)
Again we see how Pinker echoed Sailer in Pinker's PC video:
"What the censorship has accomplished, however, is preventing the emergence of a more a nuanced and optimistic view of black-white differences. "
There's no evidence anybody has been censoring IQ scores - neither Sailer nor Pinker can be bothered to provide any. And it's funny that Sailer thinks that the problem is journalism and academia aren't promoting a "more nuanced and optimistic view of black-white differences" since in Sailer's mind that nuanced view is that while blacks may be possessed by nature of lower intelligence, they are good at jazz, rap and sports. 

Sailer goes into fuller detail in a 1998 review of The g Factor: the Science of Mental Abilities, by Arthur R. Jensen. The review was once available on his iSteve website, which isn't available anymore except via The Wayback Machine.
I'm pleased to point out that IQ tests can't accurately measure at least one mental faculty in which blacks tend to outperform whites and Asians in real life. Despite lower mean IQ's, African-Americans are not a race of talentless dullards, but are instead the most charismatic contributors to 20th Century popular culture. What mental factor underlies the black revolutions in music, sport, oratory, dance, and slang? Subjective, improvisatory creativity. 
For example, like a lot of NBA stars, Scottie Pippen's below-market contract, ill-timed trade demands, team-damaging pouts, and numerous child-support obligations imply that when given time to think, he often chooses unwisely. Yet, in the flow of the game, he's a Talleyrand at real-time decision-making. Leading a fast break, there are no permanent right answers. Even "Pass the ball to Michael Jordan" gets old fast as defenses habituate. Similarly, the NFL running back, the jazz soloist, the preacher, and the rapping DJ all must heed others' expectations and instantly respond with something a little unexpected. IQ tests -- by necessity objective and standardized -- can never measure this adequately. 
Further, despite his data's inevitable shortcomings in this regard, Jensen does report that blacks possess particular mental weaknesses and strengths. Among individuals with equal g's, whites and Asians (like males) are typically stronger in those visual-spatial skills so useful in engineering and many skilled trades. In contrast, blacks (like females) often enjoy better short-term memories and thus can mentally juggle more balls in social situations. (This probably contributes to the black advantage in improvisation). Jensen's findings confirm my intuition (NR, 4/6/98) that while whites and Asians tend to be less masculine than blacks in physique and personality, they are typically more masculine than blacks in mental abilities. Put bluntly, whites and Asians tend to be nerdier than blacks. How many blacks would sincerely disagree?
So according to Jensen and Sailer, blacks, like females enjoy "better short-term memories" which make them (blacks not women) good at music, sport, oratory, dance and slang.

The presidential candidacy of Barack Obama must have been a shock to Sailer who wrote a response, published by VDARE, to Obama's "Dreams From My Father" in October 2008 called AMERICA’S HALF‐BLOOD PRINCE BARACK OBAMA’S “STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE".

Curiously Sailer compares himself to Obama in the introduction of the book, writing: 
To my father and mother, who, together, gave me more than just dreams.
Sailer was an even more obscure fringe figure at that time than he is now, and he compares himself to the leading candidate in a US presidential race. Which gives you some idea of the bafflement and resentment of racist white men in response to Obama's career. Naturally Sailer makes sure to remind you Obama is half-white, right in the title. To get a sense of what Half-Blood Prince is about, here's a helpful paragraph from page 39:
This book serves as a reader’s guide to Obama’s Dreams from My Father. The would‐be President has written a long, luxuriant, and almost incomprehensible book, so I have penned a (relatively) short and brusque book that explains who Obama thinks he is. I mostly follow his life as it unfolds in Dreams, up through his marriage to Michelle in 1992. I especially emphasize the little‐understood but critical four years he spent in Indonesia from age six to ten, during which his white mother, for surprising reasons of her own, set about systematically inculcating in him the racial grievances, insecurities, and ambitions that make up the pages of Dreams.
I've read "Dreams" and it is not in any sense "almost incomprehensible" and of course the most important thing for Sailer is Obama's mother "inculcating in him the racial grievances..."

Most interesting of all to me is Sailer's thanks to his patrons in the introduction:
I am especially indebted to my many patrons, most of whom wish to remain anonymous, who have donated sums of money, small and large, so I can continue to get by as a full‐time professional writer. Due to political correctness, we’re heading into an era when individualistic writers once again depend not upon the mass media for their pay, but upon enlightened patrons. Fortunately, the Internet allows heretical thinkers to help scratch out a living from the small donations of people around the world.
He includes a link to a page on another version of his web site, still online, asking for money.

Like Razib Khan, Sailer owes his career to wealthy racist patrons. But both of these racist hacks would be lifted above the far-right fringe thanks to their association Steven Pinker.

In Sailer's case, Pinker edited a book called The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2004 and included work by Sailer.

So in summation: just four years after Steve Sailer, whose academic credentials are limited to an MBA from UCLA in finance and marketing, was opining for VDARE that while blacks were intellectually inferior to all other "races" at least they were good at jazz and basketball, Steven Pinker included Sailer's work in "The Best American Science and Nature Writing."

I have yet to find any evidence that Steven Pinker has ever repudiated any claims Steve Sailer has made about race. He prefers rather to pay him to write, and as recently as 2011, quote him for a blurb for one of his books ("Better Angels.")

I emailed Pinker's co-editer Tim Folger about the inclusion of Sailer in the publication. If he responds I will post on this blog.

But there is still the question of what, exactly Steven Pinker thinks is "race." More soon.


UPDATE: Tim Folger wrote back:

Hi Nancy,

Thanks for letting me know about this. In hindsight Sailer's story shouldn't have been included in the anthology, and we should have looked into his background more carefully. Until reading your email today, I knew nothing about Sailer's alt-right connections. Steven Pinker selected the story, and unfortunately I never discussed the article with him, an oversight that I regret.

Tim
I am waiting for my second-hand copy of "The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004" to arrive so I can find out exactly what Pinker hired Sailer to say. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Steve Sailer, Steven Pinker, the Obamas

I've been researching Steve Sailer's oeuvre in even greater detail along with his connection to Pinker, and I noticed that Sailer really really hates Michelle Obama.

Newsweek has a long article on the wonderfulness of Mrs. Obama, but she sounds like she’s got a log-sized chip on her shoulder from lucking into Princeton due to affirmative action. For predictable reasons, being admitted into one of the Big Four super colleges and being given lots of financial aid didn’t instill in her a feeling of gratitude toward the benevolence of white people. Instead, it just fed her adolescent self-consciousness and racial paranoia. The bad news is that she doesn’t seem to have gotten over it yet. (She’s 44).
Sailer demonstrates what I realized some time in the middle of Obama's presidency - the right/racists believe that Obama isn't really all that smart, he was just helped by the do-gooders. Sailer reprints something one of his readers wrote, with approval:
Virtually everything he’s been given has been donated willingly on the basis of what he is–pan racial, seemingly articulate and forthright exotic who wears clothes brilliantly and is highly charismatic–than what he’s done. No grades, no scores, no actual accomplishments. So how smart is he? Is he really smart? He’s articulate but he uses his charm in any circumstance where he’s out-IQed, and if his charm fails, so does his confidence, and he lurches in gibberish, well documented. 

What do the evo-psycho bros think "race" is?

The evo-psycho bros (evolutionary psychology proponents) I have in mind are Steven Pinker, Jerry Coyne and Razib Khan, because of their mutual aid society. Pinker was accused of echoing alt-right talking points, Razib Khan expresses his admiration for Pinker as one of his favorite public intellectuals, then links to Jerry Coyne defending Pinker.

Steven Pinker was justifiably accused because he said this:
...I wouldn’t want to say persuadable but certainly um, whose affiliation might be up for grabs, comes from the often highly-literate, highly-intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right, Internet-savvy, media-savvy, who um often are uh radicalized in that way, who swallow the red pill as the saying goes, the allusion from the Matrix, when they are exposed for the first time to true statements that have never been voiced in college campuses or the New York Times, in respectable media, ah that are almost like a bacillus to which they have no immunity and they are immediately infected with both the feeling of outrage that these truths are unsayable uh and no defense against taking them to what we might consider rather repellent conclusions...
The issues Pinker claims are being suppressed by "college campuses or the New York Times, in respectable media" are, as described by PZ Myers:
  • Capitalist societies are better than communist ones. How odd. I don’t see anyone insisting on that: instead, I see a lot of academics who point out the flaws in capitalism, which, apparently, are lies and don’t exist. Then he makes it worse by using as more specific examples the difference between North and South Korea (I’ve never met anyone who thinks North Korea is a better place to live than South Korea.) or between East and West Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall. You will rarely encounter a more pure and absolutely dishonest straw man. How about if the comparison is between, say, a ragingly capitalist country like the USA, and a socialist democracy like Sweden? It gets a bit less obvious.
  • Men & women are not identical in their life priorities or sexuality. Again, who is arguing that men and women are identical? He says there is someone on the Harvard campus who argues this, but doesn’t bother to name names. Generally what I’ve seen on the left is approval and encouragement of differences — that men and women are different, but that the bigger differences are between individuals, and that those differences should be respected. We do object to being compelled to fit into the straitjacket of just two stereotypical gender roles. We also don’t think you can go from a karyotype to a flawless description of life priorities or sexuality.
  • Different ethnic groups commit violent crimes at different rates. Oh, yeah, he went there. Look at crime statistics and all those violent black criminals! We’re done, that’s all the analysis you need to do (and, by the way, those leftist college professors do not deny the statistics at all). But why do black communities have higher crime rates? It wouldn’t have anything to do with poverty, or discriminatory policing, or the existence of laws that basically criminalize being poor, would it? And of course he brings up that always-useful distinction, that Islamic people are more likely to be suicide bombers, as if that were the sole kind of violence that one ethnic group can perpetrate on another. How many Muslims have been killed by Christians? This is not to excuse either kind of violence, but to point out that playing selective games with the statistics to ignore institutionalized violence is profoundly dishonest.
I want to focus on the race issue because the capitalism argument is just bizarre, and the evo-psychos make no secret that they think women have too much estrogen to care about critical thinking (per Sam Harris) and have evolved to have lesser aptitude for STEM careers than men (per Larry Summers although in the video Pinker misrepresented and downplayed what Summers actually said) and Coyne at least makes no secret of what he really thinks about Islam.

But when it come to race the evo-psychos are not at all clear what they mean, and I've been looking for quite a while.

Well, Razib Khan has been pretty clear about race and that's why he lost an opportunity for a steady gig at the NYTimes, something I played a part in. You can read all my posts about Khan - I've been tracking his racialist career on this blog for 12 years. It's Khan's fate that may give us some indication on why Pinker and Coyne are so unclear about race. Khan is kind of bitter about how he was targeted when, as he said in last year's Undark article:
Still, Khan insisted that his writing about the biology of race was sound. “It’s not socially acceptable to say that there might be group differences in an endophenotype — in their behavior, intelligence, anything that might have any genetic component,” Khan said. “You cannot say that, okay? If someone’s going to ask me, I’m going say, ‘It could be true.’” 
Other scientists, he insisted, believe the same things. They just won’t admit it. “I’m sick of being the only fucking person that says anything,” said Khan. “I know I make people uncomfortable, but a lot of times I say what they’re thinking.”
Pinker is more than just Khan's favorite public intellectual, they have a mutual admiration society as I discuss here

But even more blatantly racist has been Pinker's connection to Steve Sailer. 

I recently discovered an exchange in the New York Times between Malcolm Gladwell and Pinker, although it's about something I have blogged about before.


(excerpt from Gladwell)
In one of my essays, I wrote that the position a quarterback is taken in the college draft is not a reliable indicator of his performance as a professional. That was based on the work of the academic economists David Berri and Rob Simmons, who, in a paper published in The Journal of Productivity Analysis, analyze 40 years of National Football League data. Their conclusion was that the relation between aggregate quarterback performance and draft position was weak. Further, when they looked at per-play performance — in other words, when they adjusted for the fact that highly drafted quarterbacks are more likely to play more downs — they found that quarterbacks taken in positions 11 through 90 in the draft actually slightly outplay those more highly paid and lauded players taken in the draft’s top 10 positions. I found this analysis fascinating. Pinker did not. This quarterback argument, he wrote, “is simply not true.” 
I wondered about the basis of Pinker’s conclusion, so I e-mailed him, asking if he could tell me where to find the scientific data that would set me straight. He very graciously wrote me back. He had three sources, he said. The first was Steve Sailer. Sailer, for the uninitiated, is a California blogger with a market research background who is perhaps best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people. Sailer’s “proof” of the connection between draft position and performance is, I’m sure Pinker would agree, crude: his key variable is how many times a player has been named to the Pro Bowl. 
In his response, Pinker does not deny Gladwell's claim that Sailer is "best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people." Instead he justifies using Steve Sailer as a reference like this:
Gladwell is right, of course, to privilege peer-reviewed articles over blogs. But sports is a topic in which any academic must answer to an army of statistics-savvy amateurs, and in this instance, I judged, the bloggers were correct. 
It strikes me as odd that of all the sports blogger statisticians he could pick, he uses someone best known for saying blacks are intellectually inferior.

But it's what Pinker says about IQ that's most interesting. Before Gladwell points to Sailer he says:
(Pinker) is unhappy... with the fact that I have not joined him on the lonely ice floe of I.Q. fundamentalism.
And Pinker replies:
What Malcolm Gladwell calls a “lonely ice floe” is what psychologists call “the mainstream.” In a 1997 editorial in the journal Intelligence, 52 signatories wrote, “I.Q. is strongly related, probably more so than any other single measurable human trait, to many important educational, occupational, economic and social outcomes.” Similar conclusions were affirmed in a unanimous blue-ribbon report by the American Psychological Association, and in recent studies (some focusing on outliers) by Dean Simonton, David Lubinski and others.
What Pinker is saying about IQ is that it is a driver of social outcomes, the implication is that IQ is not nurture but nature.

So who are Dean Simonton and David Lubinski? Simonton's biggest accomplishment seems to be ranking all US presidents by intelligence from Washington to G. W. Bush in what appears to me a pointless exercise one step up from astrology.

My own books are not about IQ or IQ testing, so I don't go over the history myself. The Bell Curve, though treated as toxic by many intellectuals, has some clear historical discussion, and the journalist Daniel Seligman (who died a couple of weeks ago) wrote a history of intelligence testing a while back. An interesting article on the original embrace of intelligence testing by progressives was written by Adrian Wooldridge: "Bell Curve liberals," New Republic, February 27, 1995. Linda Gottfredsen has documented the predictive power of IQ tests in her work, and Camilla Benbow and David Lubinski have many papers on the predictive power of high SAT scores in their sample of people who were given the test in early adolescence. J. B. Carroll has written a number of books and edited handbooks on intelligence, and I suspect that one or more contain histories of the field. Ian Deary is probably the most active researcher today on neural correlates of intelligence as measured by IQ tests, and Robert Plomin the most active researcher on its heritability. I also have citations to a number of reviews of Gould's book that challenge his prosecutorial history of testing:
  • Blinkhorn, S. 1982. Review of S. J. Gould's "The mismeasure of man." Nature, 296, 506.
  • Jensen, A. R. 1982. The debunking of scientific fossils and straw persons: Review of The Mismeasure of Man. Contemporary Education Review, 1, 121-135.
  • Rushton, J. P. 1996. Race, intelligence, and the brain: The errors and omissions of the "revised" edition of S. J. Gould's The mismeasure of man. Personality and Individual Differences, 23, 169-180.
  • Samelson, F. 1982. Intelligence and some of its testers (Review of S. J. Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man"). Science, 215, 656-657.
Pinker doesn't appear to have any criticisms of The Bell Curve, and his main focus is on liberals and political correctness - clearly a long-standing theme with Pinker. He also uses the topic as a chance to bash Gould. There's nothing the evo-pscho bros hate so much as Stephen Jay Gould. Probably because he used to slice them to ribbons. Please note that the critics Pinker cites include notorious racists Arthur Jensen and J. Philippe Ruston.

So back to Steve Sailer, Pinker's go-to guy for sports statistics.

Wikipedia says this about Sailer:
Sailer cites studies that say, on average, blacks and Mexicans in America have lower IQs than whites,[31][32] and that Ashkenazi Jews and Northeast Asians have higher IQs than non-Jewish whites.[33][34] He says that prosperity helped blacks close the IQ gap.[citation needed] He suggests that a problem with mass immigration of non-white Mestizo Mexicans into America is that native-born whites in the US will become a master caste to a non-white servant caste.[35] He also considers that "for at least some purposes—race actually is a highly useful and reasonable classification",[36] such as providing a very rough rule-of-thumb for the fact that various population groups may inherit differences in body chemistry that affect how the body uses certain pharmaceutical products,[37] for "finessing" Affirmative Action when that's economically convenient,[38] and for political gerrymandering. Sailer has also argued that Hispanic immigration is "recreating the racial hierarchy of Mexico" in California:[39]
Steve Sailer (born 1958) is a racist, misogynist, white supremacist, anti-Semite, Islamophobe, homophobe, classist, ableist, transphobe, transmisogynist, xenophobe, pseudo-scientist and all-round champion dickhead who can arguably be credited—if such a resumé can be to someone's credit—as the godfather of pseudo-scientific online hate. If it's foul, fetid and attempts to give itself a biological and/or intellectual veneer, then Sailer will have had a hand in it somewhere, trust us. Another way of putting this is that Sailer was alt-right before it was "cool". 
For example, Sailer crafted, christened and cruise-controlled the "Human Bio-Diversity"/HBD meme in an attempt to leverage the inadequacies and insecurities of white nerds for the white supremacist cause. His online acolytes include the likes of "geek-girl" Hbdchick and dweeb-duo Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending at West Hunter,[2] all three of whom parlay their ignorance, stupidity and non-existent grasp of elementary logic to promote a hi-hate, lo-intellect pseudo-scientific agenda of which even creationists would be ashamed to admit ownership.
(End RationalWiki quote)
  • In 2004 Pinker apparently co-edited a collection of work called The Best American Science and Nature Writing and included Steve Sailer in it. What are Sailer's qualifications to write about science? Funny you should ask. He apparently has "earned an MBA from UCLA in 1982 with two concentrations: finance and marketing." 
Interesting. With all the science writers out there who are actual scientists, whatever could it be about Sailer's writing that would make Pinker want to include him in such a collection?
“Pinker’s range is extraordinary….The Better Angels of Our Nature is a major accomplishment.”
   —Steve Sailer, The American Conservative, Nov. 11, 2011.
Now how alt-right is Steve Sailer? 
So when the evo-psycho bros deny that Steven Pinker has no sympathies with the alt-right, you have evidence, right here, that they are one-hundred percent full of shit. If Steven Pinker has ever repudiated anything that Steven Sailer has ever said, I have yet to find evidence. He rather prefers to hire him and use him for blurbs.

We see that Pinker shamelessly aligns himself with alt-right racists, but what does Pinker himself say about race? And what about Coyne? I'll get to that next.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Back from Montreal

I came home early because it was so bitterly cold in Montreal and I couldn't do any sight-seeing. It's 33 degrees in Manhattan and it feels balmy by comparison.

I made some theater contacts so that's good.

Making connections at the Centaur Theatre

Saturday, January 13, 2018

On y va a Montréal


Ugh, too much Twitter drama this week. It's time to go to Montréal!

Passer en français...


Il y a 13 ans depuis j'avais aller la, and ce temps je parle un peu de français. J'ai été pratiquer mon français tous le dernier semaine, quand je n'étais pas tousse. Le tousse ce n'est pas douce!

(Un peu du rime français quoi quoi!)

Le voyage sera de 4 jours mais c'est une journée à faire et un autre retourner en train, donc je n'ai que deux jours pour rester sans voyager.

Il fera froid pendant les 4 jours! Bien sûr, c'est Montréal, mais il fait plus froid que d'habitude. Siri me l'a dit (à droite):

Ca fait un froid de canard!

J'aimerais tellement voir mon amour le Premier ministre pendant le voyage mais je n'ai aucune idée d'où mon petit ami sera les 4 jours. Probablement pas Montréal.

Voici JT lors d'une rencontre avec des Canadiens, et il doit endurer les méchants et les fous.

Il a la patience d'un saint. Je l'adore!



Friday, January 12, 2018

Jesse Singal, member of the evo-psycho club

I just assumed Jesse Singal who wrote a NYTimes piece defending Steven Pinker while white-washing Pinker's actual views was a disinterested writer on the subject of Steven Pinker and accidentally misstated what Pinker actually said in the infamous PC video.

Turns out Jesse Singal is a member of the evo-psycho club and so soft-pedaling Pinker's actual statements was most likely deliberate, not a matter of carelessness as I initially thought.

Here are some friendly exchanges he's had with Razib Khan on Twitter. No wonder it doesn't bother Jesse Singal that Steven Pinker works with Razib Khan.

October 2017



A year ago:


February 2016


Jesse Singal, Pinkerite, defends Pinker in the NYTimes

UPDATE: it turns out that Jesse Singal is a member of the evo-psycho club

The irony is that many of the people who admire Pinker consider themselves New Atheists and skeptics, yet it doesn't seem to bother them at all that not only does Pinker make extremist claims sans evidence, but also proclaims his opinions to be "the truth."

And if you point out that Pinker has a long history of making common cause with the right, and then the alt-right, they will push back on his behalf immediately. Yesterday's NYTimes published an op-ed by Jesse Singal, Social Media Is Making Us Dumber. Here’s Exhibit A.

I wrote an op-ed response and sent it into the NYTimes but I don't know if they will publish it or not. 

PZ Myers was mentioned by name in Singal's piece:
Steven Pinker has long been a darling of the white supremacist ‘alt-right,’” noted the lefty journalist Ben Norton. “And he returns the favor.” Others reacted to the rumor with simple exasperation: “Christ on a crutch,” said the liberal commentator and biologist PZ Myers, who also wrote a blog post denouncing Mr. Pinker for this supposed alliance.
Myers responded on his blog, Steven Pinker and the New York Times are making us dumber and makes one of the same points I did in my as-yet unpublished op-ed:
Even when they vaguely puzzle out this point, Pinker supporters don’t understand it. What does Jesse Singal say in the New York Times?
The clip was deeply misleading. If you watch the whole eight-minute video from which it was culled, it’s clear that Mr. Pinker’s entire point is that the alt-right’s beliefs are false and illogical — but that the left needs to do a better job fighting against them.
No. He clearly says that the alt-right’s beliefs are the fault of the “PC” Left, which says nothing about making better arguments to oppose them, and is a falsehood. His talk was about doling out the blame to the Left, not about fighting the alt-right. If you listen to the whole 8-minute video, what you hear is Pinker first saying that you can’t voice certain facts on campus, then stating those facts (self-refutation, anyone?), then explaining that his facts are more complex than he let on, which is what the college professors he’s blaming already do. But then this kind of disingenuous denial of reality, of focusing superficially on he said/she said note-taking, is exactly what the New York Times specializes in.
Jesse Singal is a lazy sloppy journalist and that trait is just as apparent in his tweets. Here he is uncritically repeating Pinker's claim that all he is saying is "the biological contribution to gender differences is greater than zero" along with the claim that there are "people" who react to that as if it was alt-right.

Naturally neither Singal nor Pinker provide any evidence there are people doing that. But even more importantly, "greater than zero" is hardly the extent of what Pinker believes. He believes that biological differences are the cause of a variety of social phenomenon. Which is why he defended Larry Summers.




Pinker lies on the anti-PC video about the source of the Larry Summers controversy, in the same way.

He portrays the Larry Summers controversy as though Summers was punished by simply stating that men and women are different. The actual controversy was that Summers, while the president of Harvard and thus having some power over hiring decisions, suggested at a conference on diversity in STEM that the foremost reason women had less successful careers in STEM than men was because their brains were by nature less capable of STEM subjects than the brains of men.

So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.

So what exactly were the dire repercussions of Larry Summers proclaiming "the truth"? A few years later Summers went to work for the Obama administration. Apparently the university/media cabal dedicated to withholding the truth is not nearly as powerful as Steven Pinker would have you believe.

It's because of lazy, careless journalists like Singal that Pinker has been getting away with making common cause with professional rightwing racists all these years.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Steven Pinker has gone full right-wing paranoid conspiracy old man

Well it's like I've been saying for years, Steven Pinker is a right-winger. And you'll never guess what he blames for the alt-right - the mainstream media and "fake news."

Although he doesn't use those terms. The beginning of the video below begins like this:
...I wouldn’t want to say persuadable but certainly um, whose affiliation might be up for grabs, comes from the often highly-literate, highly-intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right, Internet-savvy, media-savvy, who um often are uh radicalized in that way, who swallow the red pill as the saying goes, the allusion from the Matrix, when they are exposed for the first time to true statements that have never been voiced in college campuses or the New York Times, in respectable media, ah that are almost like a bacillus to which they have no immunity and they are immediately infected with both the feeling of outrage that these truths are unsayable uh and no defense against taking them to what we might consider rather repellent conclusions. Let me give you some examples. So here is a fact that is going to sound ragingly controversial but is not and that is that “Capitalist societies are better than Communist ones.” OK? So if you doubt it, then just uh ask yourself the question: “would I rather live in South Korea or North Korea.” Would I rather live in West Germany in the 1970s or East Germany, or in the 1960s...
Pinker believes that the New York Times and "respectable media" are also suppressing the truth about gender and racial essentialism.

Now the thing is that Pinker is clearly either lying or insane. It's easy to prove that the New York Times et. al have plenty of voices speaking up for "the truth" according to Pinker. In fact it wasn't too long ago when there were no voices speaking out against evolutionary psychology as I complained about here.

Clearly another New Atheist, like Dawkins and Hitchens going the route of delusional paranoid old coot.



Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Pinker, Roiphe, Trump - I can't keep up with all the creeps

Holy crap, today is a big day as far as news about people I detest.

I just mentioned Katie Roiphe in my prior blog post - another "feminist" like her pal Daphne Merkin who makes a living attacking women. Now it appears that Roiphe, no longer content to try to make the lives of women generally more difficult is planning to dox the woman who came up with the "Shitty Media Men" list.



Looks like now is a good time to re-read Katha Pollitt's magnificent take-down of Roiphe "Not Just Bad Sex."

I mentioned that Daphne Merkin likes to justify the way things are via evolutionary psychology "theories" which is heavily promoted by Steven Pinker.

Well it turns out that people are finally waking up to the fact that Pinker is a right-winger. I've only been yelling about it for 12 years.

The reason I know people are paying attention is because my web analytics are telling me people are coming to this article I wrote over a year ago:  Steven Pinker's ongoing bromance with the alt-right.



But Roiphe and Pinker are relative nobodies compared to Trump, and Dianne Feinstein went ahead and released the transcript from the Fusion GPS interview, which focused on the issue of the Trump campaign and Russia.

I'm really looking forward to Rachel Maddow's show tonight.



Friday, January 05, 2018

When plutocrats write about the 99% - the dread Daphne Merkin returns

Oh dear god I really hoped I would never have to write about Daphne Merkin ever again and then the NYTimes asked her to share her opinion and the opinions of her friends and random anonymous strangers at the supermarket on the issues surrounding workplace sexual harassment.

I've disliked the work of Daphne Merkin for years, and when I first wrote about that subject twelve years ago, I heard about it from Merkin herself irately emailing me, insulting me and my feminism. This did not make me feel warmer towards her. And things have only gone downhill from there.

One issue that has remained consistent for me is why Merkin gets paid to write, since she's so mediocre on most topics. I never really thought much about how she managed to get published so often, figuring it was just random bad luck for the reading public. But I finally realize that it's because we have a class system in this country and Merkin is part of the .01% .  Thanks to the affirmative action program for the upper class, the editorial staff of the New York Times would rather hire a plutocrat to write about the lives of working women. Merkin displays her class-enabled victim blaming:


Merkin cannot imagine having to worry about paying the rent. Her response is something like: "these women reacted differently from the way my friends and I would surely have  reacted, therefore there is something wrong with them." Well nobody said plutocrats had excess empathy. Let them eat cake.

So how wealthy is Daphne Merkin? Well in the middle of her defense of Bernie Madoff, she drops:
I remember attending a small dinner party where George Soros was one of the guests; it made sense to me that he held the floor when he discussed matters he was expert on, but I couldn’t figure out why all of his opinions, on whatever subject — be it interior design or the value of single-sex schools — were treated as equally valid. And then it occurred to me: he was much wealthier than the other dinner guests, which meant that everything he said was ipso facto of sovereign interest.
Clearly wealth leading to ones opinions being excessively valued is not exclusive to Soros, but I doubt Merkin possesses enough self-awareness to see how it applies to her.

Her defense of Madoff was called out for its faulty ethics, by the way:
In the fifth paragraph, Merkin noted parenthetically, “I did not know Mr. Madoff nor did I invest with his firm, but have a sibling who did business with him.” True as far as it goes, but about as forthcoming as saying that Milton Eisenhower had a sibling in the United States Army in World War II. Merkin’s unnamed sibling, her oldest brother, is J. Ezra Merkin, a prominent financier and philanthropist who fed more than $2 billion of clients’ money into Madoff’s scheme, collecting more than $470 million in fees, according to New York’s attorney general, who accused him of civil fraud and sued him last Monday.
Daphne Merkin’s mini-acknowledgment, worked out with her editors at The Times, raised the old question of how much disclosure a newspaper owes its readers so that they can assess a writer’s connections and motives. In this case, the answer seems obvious to me: a lot more.
Now the thing is, I don't hold it against Merkin for being born into wealth. I discussed this in my blog posts about my working class bona fides. But the fact is, not only is she not a good writer and so not deserving of being paid to write, she doesn't even need the money.

As I blogged about last week, I do think there's some gray area when it comes to harassment/assault accusations, as I argued with Rebecca Traister. But Merkin doesn't just say that, she has to go all the way into standard anti-feminist rhetoric used for decades by the likes of Camille Paglia and Katie Roiphe (a pal of Merkin.)

Or as Traister and a friend Tweeted in response to Merkin's NYTimes piece: Date Rape's Other Victim - in which Katie Roiphe suggests that the other victim is female sexual agency because feminists are such fun-hating prudes.




Thursday, January 04, 2018

The view from my bedroom window



I guess if you're going to have a nasty cold you might as well do it during a snowstorm when nobody else can go out either.

The view from my window is less arboreal since the downstairs neighbors cut down the evergreen and then a couple of months ago one third of the large elm tree was removed. And on top of that some of the vines growing on the wall - and which can be seen in the window here were killed and left to rot so the view out my living room window features black vines. 

I don't understand the desire to destroy so much the foliage that gives this row of apartment buildings such charm. The more greenery the better in my opinion.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Carl Stormer, 1890s photographer

Norway c. 1893 - I used Photoshop to round the
corners of Stormer's photo, making it look
even more contemporary
The Internet changes everything. Fredrik Carl Mülertz Størmer was...

(3 September 1874 – 13 August 1957) a Norwegian mathematician and physicist, known both for his work in number theory and for studying the movement of charged particles in the magnetosphere and the formation of aurorae.[2][3]

But thanks to the Internet he's now best known as Norway's First Paparazzi. Because...
Long before the professional paparazzi began to make life miserable for celebrities, Størmer was a pioneer in the rather dubious hobby of secret photography.
In the 1890’s, he walked around in Oslo – often along main street Karl Johan – with a hidden camera and took pictures of famous men and women.
Størmer called Henrik Ibsen “an excellent object”, Ivar Aasen was “old and frail” and a number of professors and other prominent persons were “favored objects” caught on film, in addition to a lot of artsy high society women.
The photos really are amazing because virtually all other portrait photography of the time was done in studios where people stood like humorless manikins. They don't look real. Stormer's people look real, including Ibsen.


Monday, January 01, 2018

Il fait un froid de canard!

I commented to Siri that it was a little cold.
Siri responded that the weather is "cold of duck."
Apparently the French expression for very cold temperature is "il fait un froid de canard!" which means literally "it makes a cold of duck" and which means effectively "it's duck-cold" or as Google translate has it: "it's freezing cold."

The French language also has an odd relationship to cows. If you say: "La glace à la vanille est vachement bonne!" it translates into "The vanilla ice create is really good!" But what you actually said was "The ice cream vanilla is cow-ly good." Since "vache" is the word for cow and "ment" is used in place of "ly" in French to indicate adverbs.

I suspect vachement came into use because it's pretty close to "vraiment" which means "very" too. I'll even speculate further that vachement is a type of baby-talk, since probably French children have as much trouble with getting the hang of the throat-abusing R sound in the language as we English speakers do and thus vraiment comes out sounding like vachement. But that's just my theory. 

But I'm completely baffled as to how "duck cold" became a thing.