Thursday’s Open Commentary

“Are you a God person ?”

Go to full screen and watch the entire 12 minute film.

I reserve a special compassion for any man, woman or child who lived through and survived the Holocaust.  If ever a people had reason to doubt the existence of a benevolent Creator, it is those people, mostly now passed from this earth.

Wednesday One Man’s Courage Thread

Dan Schneider, Registered Pharmacist, St Bernard’s Parish, Louisiana
Justice for Danny From NOLA.com by Jed Lipinski:

Those boxes also contain a story never before told about New Orleans in the early grips of what has become the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history. They catalog the local rise of opioid addiction and the police, pushers and medical professionals who profited from it. They provide a glimpse into the frustrated efforts of federal and local investigators to thwart a crisis that few saw coming — and that was enabled by society’s desire for a miracle cure for pain.

But most of all, the boxes hold the story of one man who, despite the odds against him, set out to right a wrong in his community and rewrite a dark chapter in his family’s life.

It all started around 2 a.m. on April 14, 1999. Schneider and his wife, Annie, woke to the sound of a knock at the door. Two young sheriff’s deputies were standing in the doorway. They asked to come inside.

Seated in the kitchen, the two men explained that the Schneiders’ 22-year-old son, Danny Jr., had been shot in the head while sitting in his truck in the Lower 9th Ward. From the crumpled bills in his hand, investigators suspected he was trying to buy crack.

and,

As the year 2000 came to an end, he reflected on the impact of his son’s death. “It’s difficult to think this,” he wrote in his journal, “but my brain, my life somehow seems improved because of this tragedy. I feel more charitable. I’m closer to God. I seem to have a purpose, where before the tragedy I was a little depressed or indecisive about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”

He continued: “I wish it would not have happened. I wish I could go back to where I was and have Danny. But I’m going to try to do good and make the best of things.”

With his son’s killer locked up, Schneider redirected his energies toward the OxyContin problem. For the moment, Cleggett was only a name on a prescription slip. But others knew better. An experienced investigator for the DEA, speaking of Cleggett’s clinic, would later say: “I’d never seen anything like it.”

and yet,

For the past few months, Schneider had reluctantly reined in his investigation, worried the FBI might burst into his living room if he persisted. The medical board had never contacted him, confirming his belief that it was unable or unwilling to take action. He had also returned to work at Bradley’s, on the condition that he stop hassling paying customers.

Throughout this period, Schneider had attended more than a dozen funerals for young overdose victims. He often knew the family. Mingling with the mourners, he dug for details: What drugs was she using? Was he seeing a doctor? The sight of parents sobbing over the coffin – many of which were closed, since asphyxiation causes the skin to turn blue — inspired him to keep fighting.

A truly powerful story of one man with a lot of guts and grit.

Just read the whole damn thing.

Tuesday Fake Psych Science Comments

As one blogger captioned a recording of Thornton’s song in a post: “That’s right…Elvis stole the song ‘Hound Dog’ from a Black female blues singer named Big Mama Thornton…ain’t that sum sh*t? White males have stolen every aspect of Black music from the beginning and this is just a lil’ taste of how famous one can become off of a stolen song. This woman got no credit for her song for decades!”

It only takes a few keystrokes to discover that Thornton did not actually write the song herself. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two Jews from New York with a love for the new R&B sound, wrote the song and retained the rights to it. Elvis simply bought the right to record the song from the songwriters. And in the recording he nods to Thornton with his howling style, while adding his own upturned-lip swagger. Thornton was upset that Elvis made a lot of money from his recording, but as George Will noted in an essay about cultural appropriation for National Review, no cultural figure is entirely original. Elvis had to build off of the music that he loved, and that music just happened to be what people called “race music” in the 1950s. Thornton didn’t own the song, and Elvis loved her style so much that he tried to emulate it.

Back in the early 90s, I was driving across Texas in the middle of the night on a business trip when I picked up Jim Bohannon’s show on the radio.  His interview guest that night was Pat Boone.  Bohannon is an excellent interviewer who always does his homework and he explored Boone’s early years and the state of the music industry in the early 1950s.  He would often keep guests on for as much as 2 hours if the call-in boards lit up.

Pat Boone mentioned a few of his first recordings of black R&B music in those days and Bohannon asked about the racist practices of the industry and the injustice of black artists blocked out of the mainstream.  The most interesting thing happened next when older black artists and songwriters began to call into the show and thank Boone for recording their music for the much larger white audiences.  One black songwriter told Boone he would never have survived without the royalties from Boone’s recordings in those days.  Bohannon kept Boone on for a good 2 hours and the listener calls never slowed down.  It was a fascinating, eye-opening show about the unknown fact Pat Boone was a hero to many of these older black artists.

Are We All Unconscious Racists?

Few academic ideas have been as eagerly absorbed into public discourse in recent years as “implicit bias.” Embraced by a president, a would-be president, and the nation’s top law-enforcement official, the implicit-bias conceit has launched a movement to remove the concept of individual agency from the law and spawned a multimillion-dollar consulting industry. The statistical basis on which it rests is now crumbling, but don’t expect its influence to wane anytime soon.

Implicit bias purports to answer the question: Why do racial disparities persist in household income, job status, and incarceration rates, when explicit racism has, by all measures, greatly diminished over the last half-century? The reason, according to implicit-bias researchers, lies deep in our brains, outside the reach of conscious thought. We may consciously embrace racial equality, but almost all of us harbor unconscious biases favoring whites over blacks, the proponents claim. And those unconscious biases, which the implicit-bias project purports to measure scientifically, drive the discriminatory behavior that, in turn, results in racial inequality.

So, how did race relations in America seem to improve for so long and then suddenly deteriorate over the last decade or more ?  Heather MacDonald has a highly informative piece in City Journal examining how the insidious “implicit bias theory” and the Implicit Association Test appeared in the public square and how it’s been perpetuated now for nearly 20 years.

The implicit-bias conceit spread like wildfire. President Barack Obama denounced “unconscious” biases against minorities and females in science in 2016. NBC anchor Lester Holt asked Hillary Clinton during a September 2016 presidential debate whether “police are implicitly biased against black people.” Clinton answered: “Lester, I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.” Then–FBI director James Comey claimed in a 2015 speech that “much research” points to the “widespread existence of unconscious bias.” “Many people in our white-majority culture,” Comey said, “react differently to a white face than a black face.” The Obama Justice Department packed off all federal law-enforcement agents to implicit-bias training. Clinton promised to help fund it for local police departments, many of which had already begun the training following the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

There is considerable push back against this this fakery though:

Even if we accept at face value that the placement of one’s chair in a mock lab interview or decisions in a prisoner’s-dilemma game are significant “discriminatory behaviors,” the statistical connection between IAT scores and those actions is negligible. A 2009 meta-analysis of 122 IAT studies by Greenwald, Banaji, and two management professors found that IAT scores accounted for only 5.5 percent of the variation in laboratory-induced “discrimination.” Even that low score was arrived at by questionable methods, as Jesse Singal discussed in a masterful review of the IAT literature in New York. A team of IAT skeptics—Fred Oswald of Rice University, Gregory Mitchell of the University of Virginia law school, Hart Blanton of the University of Connecticut, James Jaccard of New York University, and Philip Tetlock—noticed that Greenwald and his coauthors had counted opposite behaviors as validating the IAT. If test subjects scored high on implicit bias via the IAT but demonstrated better behavior toward out-group members (such as blacks) than toward in-group members, that was a validation of the IAT on the theory that the subjects were overcompensating for their implicit bias. But studies that found a correlation between a high implicit-bias score and discriminatory behavior toward out-group members also validated the IAT. In other words: heads, I win; tails, I win.

Friday Open Comments

I have seen the morning burning golden on the mountain in the skies
Aching with the feeling of the freedom of an eagle when she flies
Turning on the world, the way she smiled upon my soul as I lay dying
Healing as the colors in the sunshine and the shadows of her eyes
Loving her was easier than anything I’ll ever do again

Tuesday Colloquium

Destruction by Thomas Cole

Richard Fernandez writes of our current civilization…

The new variability is overwhelming the old political elite. As the World Wars and the Black Death demonstrated upheaval can produce wild mood swings in a populace. “The tremendous emotional shock [of the Black Death] … created a state of … depression and sometimes even panic” which turned people to fanaticism as others sought scapegoats for their troubles or lost themselves in a debauchery made famous by Poe’s Masque of the Red Death and the wild abandon of Weimar.

The underlying disruption is creating a similar volatility today.  Currently we are obsessed with 71 genders but a nuclear or biological disaster can can flip decades of political correctness and deference to technology into their opposite. Considering all the freedoms and privacy the West has already given up to preserve the status quo the mantra “we can’t let it change us” is mockingly ironic.  It is change, not changelessness which is characteristic of the present.

Perhaps the world is living through history’s first information epidemic and like the medievals who fell to unseen pathogens we can scarcely understand the catastrophe befalling us.  Many are at a loss to explain entropy and anomie on a scale never seen before.  But we cannot respond effectively to chaos without realizing the threat is not merely physical but an information corruption challenge.

and this,

Human sanity was long anchored in reality. Religions might have been flawed but they usually tried to explain things in the light of contemporary knowledge. Common people spent the greater part of their day in contact with society and family in a smartphone-free world that seems to be lost forever.  They were innoculated against much craziness. That world had a self-centering property that is now missing.

Today we have live in an environment where whole populations are immersed in an ocean of deliberate lies. People can believe anything — and often do.  The Narrative is malware corroding our sense of humanity and reality.  Instead of increasing privacy so data miners cannot engage in the targeted lying which makes “fake news” so effective we decrease it the better to help the manipulators.  We’ve reached the point where having real human networks instead of social ones is slightly suspicious.  “Fear the man,” we are told when pondering Steven Paddock, “with no digital footprint.”

Lee Smith writes of the state of the American body politic…

A friend reminds me that there was a period when Miramax bought the rights to every big story published in magazines throughout the city. Why mess with Weinstein when that big new female star you’re trying to wrangle for the June cover is headlining a Miramax release? Do you think that glossy magazine editor who threw the swankiest Oscar party in Hollywood was trying to “nail down” the Weinstein story? Right, just like the hundreds of journalists who were ferried across the river for the big party at the Statue of Liberty to celebrate the premiere of Talk—they were all there sipping champagne and sniffing coke with models in order to “nail down” the story about how their host was a rapist.

That’s why the story about Harvey Weinstein finally broke now. It’s because the media industry that once protected him has collapsed. The magazines that used to publish the stories Miramax optioned can’t afford to pay for the kind of reporting and storytelling that translates into screenplays. They’re broke because Facebook and Google have swallowed all the digital advertising money that was supposed to save the press as print advertising continued to tank.

Look at Vanity Fair, basically the in-house Miramax organ that Tina failed to make Talk: Condé Nast demanded massive staff cuts from Graydon Carter and he quit. He knows they’re going to turn his aspirational bible into a blog, a fate likely shared by most (if not all) of the Condé Nast books.

Si Newhouse, magazine publishing’s last Medici, died last week, and who knows what will happen to Condé now. There are no more journalists; there are just bloggers scrounging for the crumbs Silicon Valley leaves them. Who’s going to make a movie out of a Vox column? So what does anyone in today’s media ecosystem owe Harvey Weinstein? And besides, it’s good story, right? “Downfall of a media Mogul.” Maybe there’s even a movie in it.

Read both of these men, two of the most perceptive and bright thinkers in America.  Though the subjects appear unrelated, they are fundamentally homologous in describing collapsing foundations in the informational age.