Saturday, July 26, 2014

The phenomenon called “motivated reasoning”—we tend to use logic and reason, not to discover what we believe, but to confirm what we already think we know

The sexes can't be warring tribes, says Christina Sommers as the author of Freedom Feminism—Its Surprising History and Why it Matters Today is interviewed by Ravishly's Katie Tandy (thanks to Instapundit).
In the new video series that you've created with American Enterprise—"Factual Feminist"—you recently answered the question, "Why Call Yourself a Feminist?" A reader wrote in and asked you to drop the moniker because it's been so "sullied" with man-hating rhetoric. You basically responded that you simply want women to be "free, responsible, self-determining beings." That your concept of feminism has nothing to do with "denigrating men or fixating on victimhood." How do your studies and writings help forge a much-needed, "healthy, evidence-based women's movement." What does evidence-based mean exactly?

Classical equality of opportunity feminism (I call it “freedom feminism”) is a legitimate human rights movement. There were arbitrary laws holding women back. Women organized and set things right. But, as I try to show in my writings, that reality-based movement has been hijacked by male-averse, conspiracy-minded activists. (I call them “gender feminists"). American women happen to be among the freest, most self-determining people in the world, but the gender feminists seek to liberate them from an all-encompassing “patriarchal rape culture.” What is their evidence that such a culture exits? They point to their own research as proof. But most of that research, including their famous statistics on women’s victimization, is spurious. Gender feminism is the opposite of an evidence-based movement—it’s propaganda based. Social movements fueled by paranoia and fantasy tend to be toxic.

What's your take-away from the #YesAllWomen phenomenon? Is it more gasoline on the gender-dividing fire, a societal zeitgeist or something in the middle?

Hashtag feminism (e.g. #YesAllWomen) is a scourge. It brings out the worst in contemporary feminism: injustice-collecting, trauma-valorizing, male-bashing. It also encourages group think and vigilanteeism. Other than that, it’s fine.    
What's the most interesting thing you've learned recently?

I only recently came to appreciate the limited power of logic, reason and evidence to change minds. Most of us, whether we know it or not, are driven by emotion and group loyalty. Cognitive scientists have long known about a phenomenon called “motivated reasoning”—we tend to use logic and reason, not to discover what we believe, but to confirm what we already think we know. Instead of changing our minds in the face of contradictory evidence, we are more likely to seize on rationalizations for what we already believe. I see this tendency in myself once in a while and try mightily to resist it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Smart Diplomacy: Regarding the BNP affair, "there is a perception that France was targeted"

As the American authorities announced a record penalty on Monday against BNP Paribas for violating United States rules on trading with blacklisted countries, the French political establishment had an unusual reaction: silence.
Thus writes Liz Alderman in a New York Times story to which one is tempted to react to with biting irony: "So, Messieurs les Français, you finally got him, the U.S. president you dreamed of — the one who like the visionary Europeans is against bankers and other dirty capitalist pigs. Ain'tcha happy?!" Having said that, we must remember that Obama's outstanding, second-to-none smart diplomacy is nothing to laugh at.
American prosecutors obtained most of what they fought for, but financial authorities here are warning of a potential negative consequence for the United States.

The dollar clearing at issue in the BNP Paribas case was conducted in the United States. But, said a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations, there is concern that using dollars in international trade could ‘‘trigger risks even if you do things outside the United States, because one day the dollar you used may be seen as an opening for an extraterritorial application of U.S. legislation.’’ 

‘‘That means that using the dollar is now perceived as less safe than before the episode, and it will probably reinforce the willingness of many countries to trade as much as possible in other currencies,’’ the person added.

Nor will the French government easily forget the episode. French officials are still upset that American prosecutors appeared to be imposing a standard of justice on foreign banks that has not been applied to American financial institutions.

 … ‘‘There is a perception that France was targeted,’’ the French official said.

  … France could turn up the heat on the United States on other fronts, especially in negotiations underway on an American-European trade deal. ‘‘It will probably mean that the French attitude will be even tougher,’’ said the French official close to the discussions. 

Intensifying French resistance to the deal could undermine the European Commission’s ability to champion trans-Atlantic trade, Famke Krumbmuller, a London-based analyst for the Eurasia Group, wrote in a recent note to clients. But those talks are only limping along as it is, and increasingly look doubtful to advance significantly during the Obama presidency.

Also unclear is how the American action will ricochet at a European level. The European Commission has already imposed hefty fines on Microsoft and other large American technology companies for violating anti-trust behavior in Europe’s backyard.

Given that the financial penalties by the American authorities against not only BNP, but other European banks, have been eye-popping, ‘‘the temptation may be there to also raise the level of the fines in Europe,’’ Mr. Godement said, ‘‘and we could get into a kind of tit-for-tat war, which has the added advantage of replenishing public coffers.’’ 

Whatever the softening of the penalties, the BNP affair will sting in France. ‘‘This amounts to targeting probably the closest ally that the U.S. has had in Europe over the past four to five years,’’ Mr. Godement said. ‘‘It is very disquieting.’’

Thursday, July 24, 2014

If you want to know what US Government-run healthcare looks like, the VA is a pretty good case study

The Veterans Administration scandal is worse than you think
dissects Benny Huang.
A report out this week from retiring Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) found that approximately one thousand veterans have died in the last ten years while languishing on wait lists. Doctors, nurses, and administrators within the system say that they faced retaliation when they spoke out about unethical practices. One VA employee in Phoenix says that deceased veterans’ medical records were altered post mortem so that it would appear that they did not die on the VA’s watch.
The VA’s biggest problem, besides dishonesty of course, is timeliness. Delayed healthcare can mean the difference between life and death, as this scandal illustrates in vivid color.

If you want to know what US Government-run healthcare looks like, the VA is a pretty good case study. I understand that some of those vets probably wouldn’t have any healthcare at all if it weren’t for this system but is that really a testament to their quality? What healthcare system would adopt as its motto, “Hey, it’s better than nothin’!”

There is an alternative to the wholly government-run model that is the VA. Vets could be given vouchers redeemable with private physicians. It might work better; it could hardly work worse.

Strangely, 31% of Americans polled this month said that they expected Obamacare to function better than the VA system. In other news, 31% of Americans are too stupid to vote.

 … Of course, Obamacare differs from the VA in that it is not a self-contained system wholly operated by the US government, or what we might call the single payer policy that liberals really wanted and may still get. They will therefore shrug off Obamacare’s faults by saying that it doesn’t go far enough. If only we allowed the government to take over healthcare completely we’d have a great system, like they do in Canada and France!
Well, no. What we’d have is a VA-style system for everybody.
While the VA scandal may be a tragedy, it is also a teachable moment. Now is a good time for conservatives to explain to the American people that we are not against universal healthcare. We are opposed to more government meddling in our medical system because our health is too important to entrust to a bunch of incompetent buffoons who destroy everything they touch.

 … Conservatives aren’t against people seeing the doctor, we just think that the government sucks at almost everything, from education to mortgage-lending to energy production. Nothing in the last decade has persuaded me that our government is anything but incompetent and corrupt.

 … We all want healthcare for everyone. The question is how to best provide it. Should we provide for our own medical care, just as we buy our own groceries? Or should we look for the generous hand of government to give it to us for “free”, no matter how crappy it is? Conservatives don’t want to prevent poor people from receiving life-saving medications or getting a yearly checkup, we simply don’t want to be trapped in the shameful system that has already killed a thousand veterans.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reminder to the NYT: Saddam Hussein had slaughtered several thousand Kurds with sarin and other poison gases

Margaret McGirr speaks up at the liberal partisanship of the New York Times and at that of one of its star columnists. (At least, the newspaper has the decency to publish the letter — although, to be fair, the letter to the editor is but a token one.)
Re Nicholas Kristof’s column “Obama’s weakness, or ours?” (June 27): Terrorists killed nearly 3,000 Americans and people of several other nationalities on Sept. 11, 2001. There were real concerns at the time about follow-up attacks, a threat that many of us seem to have forgotten. 

Saddam Hussein had slaughtered several thousand Kurds with sarin and other poison gases. Many Western governments, including the Clinton administration, believed that he had chemical weapons. President George W. Bush was repeatedly rebuffed in his efforts through the United Nations to get the Iraqi dictator to allow a complete inspection of his country by international weapons inspectors. 

Finally, with the responsibility for the safety of millions of Americans resting on his shoulders, President Bush made the decision, supported by Congress, to invade Iraq.

This painstaking, deliberative process Mr. Kristof describes as “swagger.” He is irritated by what he sees as over-harsh treatment of our current president but is happy to dish it out to our previous one.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

5 Things To Remember Before You Quit And Say, ‘I’m Done With America’

Have you ever looked at all the schlock we’re currently mired in thanks to BHO’s “fundamental transformation” of America and thought, or actually said, “Screw it. I’m done. I officially don’t give a crap anymore”?
asks Doug Giles.
I have. And I prize myself as being somewhat of a scrappy-faith-filled dude. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I get sick and tired of being sick and tired.
 … After I have these little pouting sessions of pathetic wussiness, I realize two things: 1). I’m being a hamster; and 2). Historically, that’s pretty much the crumble of the cookie, in that things usually turned repugnant before they turned around. Indeed, in the very formation of our blessed union we tend to forget King George’s oppressive hell spawned a defiant and free rebel nation; and that didn’t happen with ease or overnight.
 … So, little kiddies … we need to cheer up. You and I can’t curl up in the fetal position and wet our big diaper since things seem bad right now, because that’s exactly what the enemies of our nation would like us to do, namely … check out. Give up. Lose heart. Instead, we must realize the historical pattern of things usually gets real frickin’ bad before it gets better.
Read the whole thing

Monday, July 21, 2014

Putin's Dreamin' of a Greater Russia

(A Serguei cartoon that was published in Le Monde before the Malaysian airliner was shot down)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Good-Bye, Friend — James Garner

James Garner

Eastern Europe Leaders Protest Paris's Sale of High-Tech Mistral Warships to Russia

One East European leader on an official Paris visit after another voices his apprehension about France's decision to sell high-tech Mistral warships to the Kremlin.

Estonia's prime minister, Taavi Roivas:
I am not convinced that it would be opportune to deliver sophisticated and high-tech weaponry to Russia at this moment. 
Poland's foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski:
When countries forcefully seize a part of their neighbors' territory, it's not the best moment to furnish them with sophisticated armaments.

There are two online petitions protesting the Mistral sale to Moscow: