Other People’s Money

by Andrew Stuttaford

A Labour win in the upcoming British general election (or even a strong showing by the inaccurately named Liberal Democrats, something that I would not rule out) would be terrible news for the UK, but Theresa May’s Tories seem intent on proving that they are no more than the least bad option for Britain’s unfortunate voters.

Just today, for example (The Guardian reports):

Theresa May moved to quash speculation that the government might drop its pledge to spend 0.7% of national income a year on foreign aid, saying the commitment “remains and will remain”.

The prime minister said Britain should be proud of meeting the UN target, but stressed the need to spend the money more effectively, after days of speculation that she would water down the commitment.

And also today (via the BBC) there was this:

The chancellor has given a major hint that he is no fan of the 2015 Tory manifesto pledge not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT. After the embarrassing U-turn on the attempt to raise taxes for the self-employed, Philip Hammond told me the government needed “flexibility” on taxes. The manifesto is not yet final, so no irreversible decisions have been taken.

So let’s get this straight. Cutting foreign aid is out of the question, raising taxes, not so much.

This, by the way, is (The Daily Telegraph reports) how a very small sliver of that foreign aid has been spent (there are other horror stories to pick from, believe me, but this seems, well, timely):

North Korea has received more than £4 million in foreign aid from the UK in just six years despite the country’s status as an international pariah, according to reports…Despite the country’s status as a rogue state, official statistics cited by the Daily Mail show that £740,000 was sent to North Korea by the UK to fund aid projects in 2015 with the Foreign Office reportedly committed to continuing the handouts.

The UK sent £32,000 of aid to North Korea in 2009 but spending increased under [David Cameron’s] coalition government, peaking at just over £1 million in 2013.

The cash has reportedly been spent on items such as providing English lessons for regime officials and physiotherapy equipment.

There had been concerns that “regime officials” had been mangling the phrase “sea of fire”

The Foreign Office told the Daily Mail that aid spending is not given directly to the North Korean regime and argued that the cash can be used to improve relations.

A spokesman said: “The projects we carry out in North Korea are part of our policy of critical engagement, and are used to promote British values and demonstrate to the North Korean people that engaging with the UK and the outside world is an opportunity rather than a threat.”

Critical engagement.



Scholars Begin to Refute the Micro-aggression Theory Rampant in Academia

by George Leef

All humans have to put up with things other people say that are bothersome, but leave it to American academics to elevate that into a great social problem. About ten years ago, a few scholars began arguing that when members of certain minority groups (oddly enough, the same ones that colleges and universities always feel obliged to succor and protect) hear words or phrases from “dominant” people, they are wounded in ways only they can know. They came up with a name for this: micro-aggression. Ever since, college and university officials have been bending over backwards in efforts to stop the hurting.

A few daring scholars have taken issue with the micro-aggression mania, however, and I write about their criticisms in this Martin Center piece.

Althea Nagai of the Center for Equal Opportunity has penned a sharp critique of the pseudo-research behind it for Academic Questions, the quarterly journal of the National Association of Scholars. Her big point is that the micro-aggression researchers violate the rules of science in their techniques, such as the way they conduct focus groups: with leading questions meant to elicit answers that bolster their theory.

Scott Lilienfeld, professor of psychology at Emory, has also published an academic paper recently. In it he calls out the micro-aggression theorists for bad technique and inflated, unsupportable claims.

And what if the furor over micro-aggressions is counterproductive? Professors Jonathan Haidt and Lee Jussim have argued that it is: It further encourages a victim mindset among members of those protected groups, whose members are supposedly so mentally fragile that they must be sheltered from any words one of them might find offensive — “America is a land of opportunity,” for example.

College officials should back away from the micro-aggression mania and focus on actual education, but that would take some daring on their part. The social-justice warriors would undoubtedly attack them for their insensitivity and “privilege.” I’d bet that this silly movement continues to pick up momentum.

The Clintonites’ Disunity Whine

by Peter Spiliakos

One of the more irritating parts of the new book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign involves Clintonites whining about Bernie Sanders criticizing Clinton and dividing the party. Bernie’s challenge to Clinton was a perfectly normal event, given that there was no Democratic incumbent running for reelection. If the Clintonites wanted to see some real division and bitterness, they just needed to look at Trump and the GOP.

Sanders was a challenger who took some rhetorical shots, won some states, and then endorsed the eventual nominee. This isn’t unusual. In 1980, Reagan faced the same kind of challenge from George Herbert Walker Bush. In 2000, George W. Bush faced the same kind of challenge from John McCain. In 2008, Obama faced the same kind of challenge from Hillary Clinton. So did party nominees who didn’t win the presidency: Walter Mondale, Mike Dukakis, Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney. Given that she wasn’t an incumbent, Clinton’s road to the nomination was about average.

And then there are the Republicans. The shots that Trump took from his Republican rivals were much sharper than anything Sanders threw at Clinton. There is nothing from Sanders that even begins to compare to Rick Perry’s calling Trump a “cancer on conservatism.” Sanders said he didn’t care about Clinton’s e-mails while Marco Rubio attacked Trump from head to . . . well . . . you know.

Sanders gave a prime-time speech at the Democratic convention endorsing Clinton. Ted Cruz, Trump’s main GOP rival, gave a prime-time speech at the Republican convention whose implicit theme was that voters should elect Republicans to Congress in order to protect the Constitution from both Clinton and Trump. The resulting scene of a GOP convention booing a former candidate who was passive-aggressively attacking the nominee was like something out of the GOP disaster in 1964.

One of Clinton’s many advantages was that her party’s elected elites rallied around her to a normal degree, while the GOP’s elected elites obviously hated and despised Trump. House Speaker Paul Ryan would take every opportunity to distance himself from Trump whenever things got hot. Ryan made it a point to publicly disinvite Trump from a party unity rally. There is no keeping track of all the Republican elected officials who refused to endorse Trump, or unendorsed Trump (however temporarily), or suspended their support for Trump at one point or another. It was a lot.

Clinton had the advantage of a normal road to the nomination and a unified party. Trump faced the kind of intraparty hostility that is usually associated with blowout losers like Barry Goldwater in 1964 and George McGovern in 1972. The Clintonites (and their candidate) blew it.

Wean Colleges Off Federal Funding

by Peter Augustine Lawler

James Patterson has written an able — if quite arguable — commentary on my dispute with Stanley Kurtz on what’s wrong with higher education and what can be done to make things better.

This, is of course, a friendly dispute. And I agree with Stanley completely that the higher-education establishment has become in certain crucial ways an enemy of authentic human freedom in our country.

It is also a timely dispute, insofar as many are joining Stanley in urging President Trump and the Republican Congress to declare war on our institutions — and especially our elite colleges and universities — of higher education.

The defenders of this approach rightly say that the key precedents were set by the Obama and even George W. Bush administrations. It was Bush’s secretary of education, Margaret Spellings, who demanded that accrediting agencies become obsessed with the details of the accreditation process, forcing accreditation to become considerably more intrusive — a problem that morphed into an opportunity for our establishment educational administrators. And it was under Obama that the Department of Education began writing menacing “Dear Colleague” letters that went far beyond anything the law actually said.

As in the case of executive orders, we should regard these as precedents Republicans should reject.

You might respond: The federal government gives colleges and universities lots of money, and so regulations are appropriate. And surely colleges and universities should be made to protect academic freedom. I don’t think that can be done effectively. Endless attempts at effective oversight would ensue, with inconclusive results. Well, I’m for individuals relying on litigation — our courts — to defend academic freedom in particular cases, just as I’m for genuinely liberal public intellectuals and experts showing how weasly and insincere the statements of behalf of said freedom are at places such as the American Association of Colleges and Universities.

Plus: I doubt that intrusive bureaucracies ever serve the “moral good.” Consider the ways the Democrats were trying to script our institutions. And Trump was elected to preserve the freedom of our countercultural religious institutions of all kinds. His futile attempt to discipline Middlebury would produce a more than compensatory boomerang when the Democrats come back to power, which is inevitable and probably sooner rather than later.

To repeat myself once more: I’m for libertarian means for non-libertarian ends. That means I’m for weaning our colleges off federal money — slowly, and with due attention to issues of accessibility. Meanwhile, I’m particularly interested in Republicans setting as many deregulatory precedents as possible.

Our elite institutions are going to continue to be what they are, and they can’t be saved by government. If you don’t like them, there are plenty of other choices. It’s not like they really give the best education in our land in the social sciences and humanities. And if you’re a science/STEM nerd, you can just ignore all the silliness from the rest of the campus.

Another Reason Men Earn More: How Far They Go For Their First Job

by Carrie Lukas

Women and men make different choices about the number of hours to work (even when working full time), industries, specialties, physical risks to take on, and how much time to take off.

Those are the factors that we mostly hear about when people explain the wage gap statistic that consistently shows that men, on average, still earn more than women do. This new study adds another factor to the mix, how far men and women move for their first job:

We used data from more than 115,000 resumes — 54,000 women and 61,000 men — and found that on average women move 318 miles from their college for their first jobs, while men move 370 miles….

According the Census data, this larger search area brings in an additional 3,873,908 jobs total…

Access to more job possibilities means that men also have the potential to find higher paying options. It’s another reason that men end up earning more than women do.

This study is similar to one I wrote about here on working men having longer commutes, on average, than women do. Once again, it shows men tend to be willing to take on big burdens—longer drives and moves—in order to increase their pay.

Different societal expectations for the sexes may explain why women and men make these different choices. Certainly, working women may feel they can’t take on longer commutes because their assume the bulk of family responsibilities. Similarly, young women may feel that a longer move away from college (and potentially from home and family) would be considered unacceptable.

Yet this research and new factor to consider still chips away at the suggestion that workplace discrimination is the root cause of the wage gap. This is important information for young women to have. If earning more is the goal, they ought to consider expanding a job search to include new cities. That’s far more actionable advice than the Left’s focus of blaming intractable sexism for the wage gap.

It’s Now Racist to Question Whether a Hawaii Judge Should Make Immigration Policy for the Entire United States

by Rich Lowry

This is a stupid controversy even by the standards of the Trump years, but Jeff Sessions is getting slammed for a comment about a judge on “an island in the Pacific,” a.k.a. Hawaii, blocking the president’s travel ban. Sessions said on the Mark Levin show, “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.” Clearly, Sessions was highlighting the geographic remoteness of Hawaii as a way to emphasize the ridiculousness of a single judge making such a sweeping national judgment. But Sessions is being accused by his critics of denying Hawaii’s statehood in keeping with his racism, slandering a federal judge, and playing to vicious and long-standing anti-Hawaii sentiment. It’s obviously too much to ask these critics to get a grip (they won’t for the next four-to-eight years). So, it’s probably best to adopt a tone of light dismissiveness in response, which is why the DOJ statement is just right: “Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born. The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”

The Blinding Optimism of the Elites, Here and Abroad

by Jim Geraghty

A short offering from the last Morning Jolt of the week…

The French Elites, Comfortable with American Elites’ Playbook from 2016

Writing in the New York Times, Kamel Daoud contends that France’s political elites are telling themselves reassuring lies about how Marine Le Pen couldn’t possibly win:

Why is it, finally, that Ms. Le Pen cannot become president? Because while the far right has changed its discourse, the mainstream elites still hold on to their old ways of seeing the world, or imagining what it is.

Their analysis of the rise of populism is out of sync. It rests on assumptions, faulty reasoning and denial. The prospect of a Le Pen presidency upsets a kind of political positivism: the view that democracy can go only from good to better, from being a necessity to being a right. Ms. Le Pen’s election would run counter to the course of history, the reasoning goes, and therefore it cannot be. This is a happy ending for elites: a narrative convention, a marketable concept, a variant form of utopia — and the basis of an irrational political analysis.

Out-of-touch elites believing that they are destined to win forever because they represent progress? We know the feeling.

Abortion Lobby Doesn’t Want Women Informed About Choices

by Wesley J. Smith

Pro-abortion types claim they are “pro-choice.” But they apparently don’t want women considering abortions to be fully informed about what it is that they are making a choice about, most particularly the nature of the being that is the subject of the decision to be made.

Witness the brouhaha over Senator Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison endorsing Democrat candidate for mayor of Omaha, Heath Mello. NARAL, the Daily Kos, and others have gone into a fit because Mello is “anti-abortion.”

At least that what Politico calls Mellow in its headline about the story. Let’s see what theocratic imposition of anti-choice tyranny Mello supported. From, “DNC Rally with Anti-Abortion Candidate Fuels Backlash” (my emphasis):

The addition of an anti-abortion Nebraska mayoral candidate to a Democratic National Committee “unity tour” sparked blowback from the left on Thursday.

Democrat Heath Mello, a Bernie Sanders-backed candidate for mayor of Omaha, is scheduled to appear with Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the DNC’s new deputy chair, at a sold-out rally on Thursday.

But Mello’s sponsorship of a 2009 state Senate bill to require women be informed of their right to request a fetal ultrasound before obtaining an abortion prompted a leading abortion-rights group to slam the DNC for elevating him.

Did you get that? Politico’s reporter, Elana Schor brands the very pro-choice Mello–who has expressed strong support for Planned Parenthood–”anti-abortion” because he supported a bill that requires abortionists to tell women they have a right to receive information that could impact their decision.  

The Hill deployed the same (for them) epithet to describe Mello, as did NPR

Notice that Mello did not support a bill that would in any way restrict access to abortion. Still, the usual suspects have had a conniption, joined by the abortion lobby’s mainstream media camp followers.

That’s not “pro-choice.” It’s pro-abortion. And it explains why the pro-life Democrat has become a more endangered species than the California condor.

Howard Dean Is Peddling ‘Hate Speech’ Hogwash

by Charles C. W. Cooke

This again, and from a former governor no less:

This is incorrect, and dramatically so. There is no such thing as “hate speech” in American jurisprudence, nor is there any associated or comparable principle that comes close to it. Whatever moral determinations an individual might make about the hatefulness of a given set of words, there is simply no mechanism by which the government can back him up with force. In the United States, there is speech, and then, at the bleeding edge, there are incitement, obscenity, and libel. Contrary to Dean’s implication, none of this country’s “beyond-free-speech” categories are defined by subjective judgments such as “hatefulness,” “cruelty,” or “divisiveness,” and for good reason: If they were, we would all suffer under an effective Heckler’s Veto, and there would be no point in our having protections in the first instance.

It is often lost on the uninformed just how extraordinary are this country’s free speech protections. The stupidity of her comment notwithstanding, Ann Coulter is entirely free in America to say that she wishes the New York Times had been bombed, and she is free to do so without fear of recriminations or ill-treatment by the government. Indeed, Coulter is free to say far, far worse things than she has. With impunity, she could say that she thinks that slavery was a good idea; that the Holocaust didn’t happen; that blacks or Hispanics or Jews are genetically inferior to whites; that Iran has the correct policy toward gays — and that America should adopt it; that Asians should be ineligible for immigration; that the Nazis had it right, all told; and, even, that it would be a good thing if Americans staged a revolution. Under the Brandenburg standard, she couldn’t phrase her words in such a way as to incite imminent lawbreaking — there is a difference between saying “I think the government should be overthrown” in the abstract, and saying to a group of armed rebels, “Meet me in a hour, let’s overthrow the government” — but what constitutes “imminence” and “incitement” is extremely narrowly drawn, and, in any case, “hate” doesn’t enter into it. As has been shown time and time again — including recently in a case that involved the rights of the Westboro Baptist Church to picket funerals — were Howard Dean to bring his theory to the courts, he would be swiftly laughed out of them.

And so he should be. I am no fan of Ann Coulter’s, and nor am I impressed by the turn that certain self-described “conservatives” have taken toward turning the movement into a haven for the worst sort of trolls. But if I have to choose between the people who say rotten things and the people who want to point bayonets at them, I’ll pick the former every time. That I’m being asked to make that choice illustrates the profound mistake that the contemporary Left is making on this question at present.

Friday links

by debbywitt

This 1983 episode of The Family Feud pitted the cast of Gilligan’s Island vs the cast of Batman.

Jazz was America’s “Secret Sonic Weapon” Against Communism.

South Indian frog oozes molecule that inexplicably devastates flu viruses.

April 22 is Earth Day: here’s the story of the co-founder who killed, then composted, his girlfriend.

The Science Behind Your Cheap Wine.

The Coffee Revolt of 1674: Women Campaigned to Prohibit “That Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor”.

ICYMI, Tuesday’s links are here, and include the history of women pirates, the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed 80% of San Francisco, the 8 year long McDonald’s Monopoly Fraud, and some history – T’was the eighteenth of April in seventy-five (the midnight ride of William Dawes and Samuel Prescott (and Paul Revere))

Monkman and Monkmaniac

by Jay Nordlinger

As regular readers may know, I am a fan of University Challenge, the British quiz show. I even wrote a little appreciation of it for Standpoint magazine last year (here).

This season, a standout was Eric Monkman, of Oakville, Canada. He captained the team from Wolfson College, Cambridge. They went all the way to the final round, before losing to an Oxford college (Balliol).

Monkman became a huge star, all over the world. (Many of us watch on YouTube.) There was even a hashtag: #monkmania. Why?

I could write an essay on this, but I think these are the basic reasons: his staggering knowledge, yes; his speed in answering; his obvious generosity of spirit. But I think the biggest reason of all is the following: Monkman is absolutely himself. Not trying to be anything else. Not wanting to be anything else. Not adopting a different persona for television.

I don’t pretend to be a societal shrink, but I think that people — monkmaniacs — reacted to a certain authenticity.

Anyway, Eric is my guest on Q&A. We recorded this afternoon (go here). I ask him a slew of questions: about his acquisition of knowledge; about such concepts as “elitism”; about the Internet. (He thinks that Wikipedia will be remembered as one of the great achievements of the early 21st century.)

In podcasts and elsewhere, I’ve interviewed many, many people, from many walks of life. It was a kick to talk with this quiz hero.

BREAKING: Terrorist Attack in Paris Leaves 1 Policeman Dead, 2 Wounded

by NR Staff

Via the New York Times:

PARIS — A gunman jumped out of a car, killed a police officer and wounded two others on the Champs-Élysées in central Paris on Thursday night, French officials said.

The gunman was shot dead by the police as he tried to flee on foot, Pierre-Henry Brandet, a French Interior Ministry spokesman, told the BFMTV news channel.

Mr. Brandet said that shortly before 9 p.m a car pulled up to a police vehicle that was parked on the famous boulevard.

The man opened fire on the police vehicle with an automatic weapon, killing an officer. He then “tried to leave by running away while aiming at, and trying to target, other police officers,” Mr. Brandet said.

“He managed to wound two others and was shot dead by the police forces,” Mr. Brandet added.

French authorities have confirmed that the shooter, who has not yet been named, was on a terror watchlist, and the French government is treating the attack as an act of terrorism.

The shooting comes just days before the first round of France’s presidential elections, scheduled for Sunday.

House Republicans Debut AHCA Amendment

by Alexandra DeSanctis

The House GOP has created an amendment to the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a product of ongoing negotiation between House leadership, moderate Republicans, and the conservative members of the Freedom Caucus. Republican leadership hopes this new compromise will garner enough votes to pass the bill, perhaps even right after Congress returns from recess next Tuesday.

The newest iteration of the bill, as indicated in the MacArthur Amendment, will reinstate essential health benefits as the federal standard and keep the key provisions of the original AHCA bill, which was scuttled last month after the GOP lacked the votes to pass it. According to CNBC, a member of the Freedom Caucus said the amendment would change the AHCA enough to gain the support of 18 to 20 new “yes” votes from his group.

Among the provisions maintained are guaranteed coverage, community-rating rules, coverage for preexisting conditions, and allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ health-care plan until the age of 26. But, in an attempt to reconcile the desire for greater coverage with conservative concerns about Obamacare’s regulations and ensuing premium hikes, the amendment will also offer states the option of obtaining limited waivers for some of the AHCA’s requirements.

States could seek these waivers for essential health benefits and community-rating rules, except for those regarding gender, age, and health status (with the exception of states with high-risk pools). States can only access these waivers if they intend to do so for the purpose of reducing premium costs, increasing the number of people insured, or otherwise benefiting the state’s public interest.

Although it is possible that Congress might revisit the AHCA and this amendment as early as next week, the looming possibility of government shutdown next Friday will likely force them to first deal with a spending bill.

Campus Watch

Trevor Noah Reveals Pro-Abortion Double Standard

by Alexandra DeSanctis

When news broke yesterday afternoon that tennis champion Serena Williams had been pregnant in January when she won the Australian Open, Trevor Noah’s commentary on the subject accidentally acknowledged the truth about unborn human life and exposed the hypocrisy of the left on abortion.

Here’s his tweet:

Noah’s reaction is just the latest example of a common progressive trope: treating unborn children as humans when they’re wanted by their mother, and insisting that they’re just “non-persons” or a “clump of cells” when their mother wishes they didn’t exist.

It’s easy to understand how Noah revealed his hand, despite his professed pro-choice sympathies. When the truth of human life is so straightforward, keeping up the pro-abortion charade is hard to do.

Venezuela Nationalizes GM Plant While Its People Are Starving

by Paul Crookston

Amid ongoing protests and a collapsing economy, Venezuela has nationalized the country’s General Motors plant. The move has drawn condemnation from GM, which has halted operations, and from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has accused Nicolas Maduro’s government of “violating its own constitution.” One suspects that an appeal to legal principle will have little chance of moving Maduro.

The socialist dictator’s grip on power appears increasingly tenuous, and asset grabs such as this one will do little to reverse the fundamental dysfunction in the Venezuelan economy. Perhaps more important to his overall strategy will be the distribution of seized civilian arms to the government-loyal “militias” on which Maduro is relying on as the protests escalate. Even in one of the areas in which he is most popular, Maduro has faced protesters armed with rocks.

It does not look good on the ground. Those participating in the so-called “mother of all protests” have suffered waves of arrests and injuries — and at least two have been killed by government-aligned militias. At the everyday level, the people are languishing nationwide from shortages of everything from food to toilet paper. Seizing a car plant might put a dent in GM’s stock, but it will do little else besides.

Attorney General to Enforce the Law: Film at Eleven

by Peter Kirsanow

The United States has immigration laws. They were passed by Congress. Jeff Sessions went to Nogales, Ariz., last week and stated he will enforce those laws. All the right people are apoplectic.

After eight years of ideologically selective enforcement of immigration — and other — laws by Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, Sessions’s otherwise anodyne statement was bracing: If aliens unlawfully enter the country a second time and certain aggravating circumstances are present, they will be charged with a felony. Horrors.

The unremarkable statements of Jeff Sessions and President Trump over the last few months already have had an effect: Since December, illegal border crossings are down an estimated 72 percent, to the lowest level in nearly two decades. Combine that with tackling visa overstays, withholding certain federal funds from sanctuary cities, expanding E-verify, and addressing H-1B visa abuse, and we might just reclaim our sovereignty and the rule of law.

Colleges Teach Division, Not Our Common Humanity

by George Leef

One of the nastiest features of American higher education today is its incessant focus on division — how some groups enjoy “privilege” while others are “oppressed.” The mania over diversity is grounded in assigning individuals to various groups they supposedly represent, then harping on the fact that we don’t have mathematically equal representation. We find race-themed dorms and centers on campus where grievance-mongering simmers. And individuals who don’t want to play along are likely to be attacked as “traitors.”

In this Martin Center article, North Dakota State psychology professor Clay Routledge ruminates on how damaging this is and also on the lack of attention to our common humanity.

“The point,” Routledge writes, “is that people who on the surface appear very different from us actually have many underlying similarities. Indeed, psychologists have established that basic psychological needs as well as the structure of emotion and personality are universal.” But that message doesn’t help advance the leftist cause, which thrives on artificial division and conflict — which then gives campus or government authorities more to do.

This paragraph really nails the truth:

Instead of using diversity to promote a common humanity, they are using it to make students perpetually conscious of group membership. This increases the likelihood of ingroup bias. They are creating spaces, including residence halls, that are segregated by race or designated for the exclusive use of one particular group. This promotes distrust of and hostility toward members of different groups.

Exactly. The “progressives” who are always strutting their commitment to inclusion are (perhaps deliberately; perhaps not) bringing about distrust and exclusion. Theirs is a shameful and retrograde social movement.

Carter Page? Really?

by Rich Lowry

The New York Times has a story today on how a Carter Page visit to Moscow initiated the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign:

WASHINGTON — Ever since F.B.I. investigators discovered in 2013 that a Russian spy was trying to recruit an American businessman named Carter Page, the bureau maintained an occasional interest in Mr. Page. So when he became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign last year and gave a Russia-friendly speech at a prestigious Moscow institute, it soon caught the bureau’s attention.

That trip last July was a catalyst for the F.B.I. investigation into connections between Russia and President Trump’s campaign, according to current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials.

I’m prepared to believe the worst of Page, but if he is at the center of this scandal, it is likely to be a nothing-burger. He was the very definition of a marginal player in the Trump campaign, and that probably over-states it. Per Business Insider, this is how Page has described to the Senate his role in the campaign, obviously trying to pump it up, none too impressively:

“For your information, I have frequently dined in Trump Grill, had lunch in Trump Café, had coffee meetings in the Starbucks at Trump Tower, attended events and spent many hours in campaign headquarters on the fifth floor last year,” Page wrote. “As a sister skyscraper in Manhattan, my office at the IBM Building (590 Madison Avenue) is literally connected to the Trump Tower building by an atrium.”

This is not to say there won’t be embarrassing revelations about the likes of Carter Page and (especially) Paul Manafort, but so far we haven’t seen anything even close to the goods.

Bilingualism Makes You Smarter — Or Not

by Jason Richwine

The progressive demonstration with the strange name “March for Science” is scheduled for this weekend. Although organizers call it “the first step of a global movement,” the march actually continues a long tradition of activists invoking science as a cover for positions that are fundamentally ideological. As Heather Wilhelm observed last week, “This March for Science does not appear to be largely about science, or about people who know a great deal about science, or even about people who want to know a great deal about science.”

How did we get to the point where science is a political buzzword for progressivism? Part of the problem is that scientists are people too, and they are subject to the same pressures and biases as anyone else in the public sphere. Perhaps for that reason, research has a tendency to offer “objective” support for ideas that have become politically fashionable.

I encountered an example recently while putting together an essay for The American Conservative on the spread of bilingualism. Whether to encourage immigrant families to retain their ancestral language is a value-laden question involving the larger ideological conflict between multiculturalism and assimilation. Bilingual advocates, however, offer a scientific argument for their position: It makes people smarter. As California’s new bilingual-education law states, “A large body of research has demonstrated the cognitive, economic, and long-term academic benefits of multilingualism and multiliteracy.” How convenient for multiculturalists!

As I detail in the essay, the claim that bilingualism improves cognitive function has fallen victim to the “replication crisis”:

In a profession that rewards novelty, academics and the journals that publish them often take even the slightest hint of a positive finding and run with it, downplaying or ignoring null results. Since researchers have become increasingly interested in large-scale replications in recent years, they have had trouble verifying some of the most well-known results in social psychology.

The alleged link between executive [cognitive] function and bilingualism is no exception. Writing in the academic journal Cortex in 2016, psychologist Kenneth Paap recalled how he and his colleagues initially “had strong expectations that we would replicate a strong advantage” for bilinguals on executive tasks. But they couldn’t. “Three studies, three additional tasks, and 273 participants later we reconsidered the hypothesis and . . . what changed our mind was simply the weight of the evidence.” Many psychologists are no longer convinced that bilingualism improves executive function at all. Given the state of the evidence, there is no clear case for encouraging bilingualism in the U.S. on cognitive grounds alone.

I did not have space to mention that “bilingualism makes people smarter” is itself a reversal in the literature. Before the 1960s, the opposite view predominated. “The general trend in the literature relating to the effect of bilingualism upon the measure of intelligence, has been toward the conclusion that bilinguists suffer from a language handicap,” according to a 1953 review paper [pdf]. So at a time when assimilation was the prevailing ideology among political elites, science told them bilingualism is bad for the mind. Later, when multiculturalism became the prevailing ideology among elites, science told them bilingualism is good for the mind. Which is the cause and which is the effect here?

Thank goodness for the replication crisis and the renewed interest in scientific transparency that has come along with it. If there were a March for Large-Scale Preregistered Replications, I would be on the front lines.