Friday, May 17, 2013

Truth is no defense: The case of Jason Richwine

Richwine's resignation is emblematic of a corruption that has spread throughout American intellectual discourse, says Charles Murray

On Monday, May 6, Robert Rector and Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation published a study of the fiscal effects of immigration amnesty, arguing that the costs would amount to $6.3 trillion. Controversy greeted the report, but of the normal kind, with critics making specific allegations that the costs were calculated using unrealistic assumptions.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post revealed that Richwine’s 2009 Ph.D. dissertation at Harvard’s Kennedy School had said that, on average, Latinos have lower IQs than do non-Latino white Americans and the nation should consider incorporating IQ into immigration decisions. The blogosphere and some elements of the mainstream media erupted in denunciations.

On Friday, the Heritage Foundation announced that Richwine had resigned.

I have a personal interest in this story because Jason Richwine was awarded a fellowship from my employer, the American Enterprise Institute, in 2008–09, and I reviewed the draft of his dissertation. A rereading of the dissertation last weekend confirmed my recollection that Richwine had meticulously assembled and analyzed the test-score data, which showed exactly what he said they showed: mean IQ-score differences between Latinos and non-Latino whites, found consistently across many datasets and across time after taking factors such as language proficiency and cultural bias into account. I had disagreements then and now about his policy recommendations, but not about the empirical accuracy of his research or the scholarly integrity of the interpretations with which I disagreed.

In resigning, Dr. Richwine joins distinguished company. The most famous biologist in the world, James D. Watson, was forced to retire from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 2007 because of a factually accurate remark to a British journalist about low IQ scores among African blacks. In 2006, Larry Summers, president of Harvard, had to resign after a series of attacks that began with his empirically well-informed remarks about gender differences. These are just the most visible examples of a corruption that has spread throughout American intellectual discourse: If you take certain positions, you will be cast into outer darkness. Whether your statements are empirically accurate is irrelevant.

In academia, only the tenured can safely write on these topics. Assistant professors know that their chances of getting tenure will be close to zero if they publish politically incorrect findings on climate change, homosexuality, race differences, gender differences, or renewable energy. Their chances will not be much higher if they have published anything with a distinctly conservative perspective of any sort. To borrow George Orwell’s word, they will have proved themselves to be guilty of crimethink.

Everybody who does research in the social sciences or biology is aware how treacherous the environment has become, and so scholars take defensive measures. They bury important findings in obscurely worded technical articles lest they be discovered by reporters and lead to disastrous publicity. A few years ago, a brilliant young evolutionary geneticist publicly announced he would not pursue his work on the evolution of brain size after his preliminary results were attacked as crimethink. Others have deliberately refrained from discussing race or gender differences in works that ordinarily would have called for treating those topics. When I chided the author of a successful book for avoiding some obvious issues involving race, he quite rightly replied that if he had included anything about race, everything else in the book would have been ignored.

These examples are only the visible tip of a much broader problem of self-censorship in the questions that scholars are willing to ask. I am not referring just to scholars who might otherwise engage the taboo topics directly. We can have no idea of the full extent to which important avenues of inquiry in economics, sociology, genetics, and neuroscience that indirectly touch on the taboo topics are also self-censored by scholars who fear becoming pariahs.

But let’s not pretend that the problem is confined to academia or intellectuals. It infects the culture more broadly.

Freedom of expression used to be a big deal in the United States. When the Founders wrote the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech was first on the list. Americans didn’t originate “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (maybe Voltaire said it, maybe not), but it became part of the American credo. The celebration of freedom of expression was still in full flower in the 1950s, when a play based on the Scopes trial, Inherit the Wind, was a Broadway hit. The American Civil Liberties Union of that era was passionately absolutist about freedom of expression, defending the right of free expression for even odious groups such as neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. The lonely individual saying what he believed in the face of pressure to keep silent was a staple of American films and television drama.

Few remnants of those American themes survive. We too seldom engage our adversaries’ arguments in good faith. Often, we don’t even bother to find out what they are, attacking instead what we want them to be. When we don’t like what someone else thinks, we troll the Internet relentlessly until we find something with which to destroy that person professionally or personally — one is as good as the other. Hollywood still does films about lonely voices standing up against evil corporations or racist sheriffs, but never about lonely voices standing up against intellectual orthodoxy.

I’m sick of it. I also have no idea how to fix it. But we can light candles. Here is what I undertake to do, and I invite you to join me: Look for opportunities to praise people with whom you disagree but who have made an argument that deserves to be taken seriously. Look for opportunities to criticize allies who have used crimethink tactics against your adversaries. Identify yourself not just with those who agree with you, but with all those who stand for something and play fair.



See below


The IRS Wants You

The scandal over politicized tax enforcement is growing

President Obama famously joked in a college commencement address in 2009 that he could use the IRS to target political enemies but of course he never would. It appears that people at the Internal Revenue Service didn't think he was joking.

That's become clear since IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner admitted on Friday that the agency targeted conservatives for special tax-exempt scrutiny during the 2012 election season. The story has already blossomed into the latest abuse of government power, as documents show the IRS targeted tea party types and groups that specifically opposed the Obama Administration.

According to an appendix to a forthcoming Treasury Inspector General report obtained by the Journal, in June 2011 the IRS expanded its special attention to groups that met the following criteria:

 * 'Tea Party,' 'Patriots,' or '9/12 Project' is referenced in the case file.

 *  Issues include Government spending, Government debt, or taxes.

 *  Education of the public via advocacy/lobbying to 'make America a better place to live.'

 *  Statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run."

We've also learned that IRS officials knew about this earlier than they have let on. News reports suggest that Ms. Lerner knew about the targeting of conservatives in June 2011, and perhaps as early as 2010. That's a long time before IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman flatly denied any political targeting when he testified at a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing in March 2012.

IRS officials are still claiming that the questions weren't meant to intimidate these groups. But the evidence that the inquiries were political is already voluminous.

The IRS sent questionnaires to conservative groups that included requests for everything from the resumes of directors past and present to whether an employee or employee family member had plans to run for public office. Cincinnati Tea Party founder Justin Binik-Thomas wrote in the Washington Examiner recently that one nonprofit received a questionnaire that demanded that it "Provide details regarding your relationship with Justin Binik-Thomas."

According to the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents some of the IRS targets, the IRS letters did not come only from the Cincinnati office (as Ms. Lerner implied on Friday), but also from IRS offices in Laguna Niguel and El Monte in California as well as from Washington D.C. In addition to intrusive questionnaires, the groups were subjected to unusual delays in obtaining tax-exempt status. Of the law center's 27 clients, 15 were approved, two withdrew out of frustration and 10 are still pending.

Some Democrats took to the airwaves on the weekend to suggest that while the IRS shouldn't have been targeting conservatives, no one was harmed.

The harm is in fact real, if hard to measure precisely, because any missive from the IRS is enough to chill political spending and speech. Answering the IRS questionnaires can take hundreds of hours. The Jefferson Area Tea Party dropped its plan to register as a 501(c)(4) to avoid the atmosphere of intimidation.

Asked about the IRS news on Monday, Mr. Obama said that "if in fact IRS personnel" targeted conservatives, that would be "outrageous" and those responsible would be held "accountable." That's nice to hear, but he was making conditional what the IRS has already admitted, which is not as bad as what we are learning it really did.

Our Kimberley Strassel reported last year that Idaho businessman and Mitt Romney donor Frank VanderSloot was first maligned publicly by an Obama campaign website as disreputable, and then was mysteriously targeted by the IRS and the Labor Department for audits. The press corps ignored that ugly coincidence and no one to our knowledge was punished.

In other words, there is a pattern here. Oppose the Obama Administration or liberal priorities, and you too can become an IRS target.



Obama unmasked

Friday’s bombshell admission that the IRS has been targeting political opponents since 2010 may have been trumped on Monday as it was revealed that the Obama Justice Department used its immense information gathering power against Associated Press reporters.

What a disaster for the Obama administration.

Now more than ever, Obama needs his media partners to rally the wagons against those who are trying to learn whether their failure to act caused the deaths of four Americans in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Yet, at this very time of need, Holder's Justice Department may have turned Obama’s media allies against him.

It is one thing when that weird Tea Party kid you don’t like gets bullied. The media can rationalize that he deserved it for having radical pro-constitutional government views. But it is quite another when your buddies get a heavy dose of Obama’s Big Brother government. At that point, something has to be done.

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt sent a warning to the media that this can happen to you when he called the Obama administration’s actions a, “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

Pruitt went on to explain the devastating impact of the Justice Department's actions, writing,

    “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

A little truth to the formerly complicit Fourth Estate: The actions of the Justice Department are a direct attack on your ability to protect sources, develop stories and have those you speak with have any expectation that their anonymity will be preserved.

If Richard Nixon had Eric Holder doing his bidding at Justice, Deep Throat’s identity would not have remained a secret for more than 30 years, and it is likely few would have ever heard of Woodward and Bernstein.

Every reporter instinctively knows this, and their willingness to turn a blind eye toward Obama’s Chicago way of governing has hopefully been irrevocably shattered.

The first test will not be the IRS story that everyone in D.C. is scrambling to uncover. Instead, it is Benghazi.

Yesterday, the media were subjected to a standard Obama Jedi mind trick when he declared, “There’s no there, there,” referencing the Benghazi hearing in the House last week.

Now the only question is will the media go back to their mesmerized state of awestruck obedience, or will they wake up and do their jobs?

How aggressively they pursue Benghazi will provide the answer. The ball is in the media's court.



Socialist French President faces fresh pressure as France plunges back into recession

France plunged back into recession last night exactly a year after Francois Hollande took office, piling more misery on the beleaguered socialist president.  Figures showed the single currency’s second largest economy shrank by 0.2 per cent in the first three months of the year.  As it shrank by the same amount in the final three months of 2012, it means France has experienced a double-dip recession – after the economy contracted in 2009 when the banking crisis sparked the deepest global slump since the Second World War.

Mr Hollande is the most unpopular president in French history, according to opinion polls. He has often been criticised for his handling of the economy, ridiculed for attempting and failing to introduce a 75 per cent tax on the wealthiest, and lampooned for his personal life and his relationship with partner Valerie Trierweiler.

Under the tenure of the tax-and-spend Left-winger, the country has seen unemployment soar and business confidence drop. Unemployment in France has reached 3.22 million, or 10.6 per cent, the worst since 1997. Youth unemployment is  25.4 per cent.



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