Thursday 12/8/16

  1. What won in 2016?
  2. Democrats’ racist appeals
  3. Who was Roshi?
  4. The obvious now needs a federal case
  5. Time to start an inquition
  6. Torturing data

Secondary Things

1

[O]ne force that has been all but overlooked this year, but which remains central to understanding the emerging political scene, is the triumph of philosophical nominalism.

Over and against the understanding that sound thinking can be measured through its conformity to the given-ness of creational order, nominalism sees reality as raw material that derives its meaning only after the imposition of will.

… [S]ince reference to God has largely been evacuated from public discourse, the question has become whether there is a prior ordering to which man’s will is obligated to confirm, or whether reality is fluid enough to be defined and redefined by human choice.

In the flurry of cases this year about bathroom issues, transgender rights, and religious freedom for business owners, we have seen the full outworking of the nominalist logic in last year’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. When the Supreme Court discovered that an eighteenth-century document known as the Fifth Amendment, together with a nineteenth-century document known as the Fourteenth Amendment, both contained a fundamental right to for same-sex couples to get “married”, they made their argument on explicitly nominalist grounds. The court’s majority opinion noted that “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach,” but then added that such liberty necessarily enables people “to define and express their identity.”

On this view, the enemy of liberty is not type of over-anxious state that Jefferson and the anti-federalists feared (and for that matter, the federalists too); rather the enemy of liberty is any view of reality that is static enough to foreclose on our ability to define and redefine our own identity.

… [W]hat was so radical about the logic behind Planned Parenthood v. Casey was that such debates became irrelevant at best and a category mistake at worst. After all, if liberty requires that our answers to such questions (and the actions we perform based on those answers) be relativized, then they must necessarily be evacuated of all objective content.

… [I]f liberty really does require that questions of ultimate meaning be relativized, as our Supreme Court has claimed, then all that is left for public conversation is to see who can yell the loudest.

(Robin Phillips)

Tertiary Things

2

If it weren’t for double standards, we’d have no standards at all:

Only liberals could get away with bashing the incoming Trump administration for its alleged ties to white nationalists while simultaneously backing a former supporter of black nationalistLouis Farrakhan for head of the Democratic National Committee.

Chuck Schumer, the next Democratic Senate leader, has called past statements by Donald Trump’s senior counselor, Stephen Bannon,“dangerous and bigoted.” This would be the same Chuck Schumer who has endorsed Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison to be the next chairman of the DNC. According to CNN, Mr. Ellison was affiliated with Mr. Farrakhan’s openly racist Nation of Islam in the 1980s and 1990s and regularly defended the group’s leadership. In 2006, while running for Congress, he finally disavowed the organization, though apparently not all of its anti-Semitic views. In a 2010 recording, Mr. Ellison can be heard telling an audience that Israel controls the U.S. government. “The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people.”

Liberals are still trying to persuade voters that alt-right bigots are responsible for Mr. Trump’s victory last month, even though the evidence is overwhelming that he won on the strength of voters who had previously supported President Obama. Regardless, Republicans should know better by now than to be taking outrage cues from today’s Democrats. Liberals have a problem with identity politics only when non-liberals practice it. What is Black Lives Matter if not the flip side of white nationalism?

(Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal)

3

Was Leonard an artist consumed by despair? No, his work was shot through with the opposite of despair.

But in Leonard’s world, the opposite of despair was not hope — it was clarity. From this clarity came the vision of a prophet: “I’ve seen the future, brother/It is murder.”

(Shozan Jack Haubner, Ode to Leonard Cohen, From a Fellow Zen Monk)

I get that. My “declinism” isn’t despair. But I can’t decide whether sometimes-poet Garrison Keillor has achieved clarity or sunk into despair. Either way, it’s entertaining.

Back to Jikan Leonard Cohen. I would not have guessed that Jikan was an NRA member. The Ode also gave me the key to all Jikan’s poetic references to Roshi, for which I’m grateful.

4

The First Amendment prevents the government from compelling people to create, express, support, or promote a message not of their own choosing or to speak when they would rather remain silent.

Not long ago, that sentiment was uncontroversial. Now the specter of punitive damages and a 90-day misdemeanor sentence threatens it in Minnesota and it takes a federal case to vindicate it. (H/T Howard Friedman, though I already mentioned this case obliquely already.)

It is a very troubling sign that what was almost axiomatic so recently might be axiomatically a loser today because LGBT Juggernaut.

5

It appears that we need to start an Inquisition into the suspect views of Buzzfeed Editor Ben “There Is No Second Side to These Issues” Smith. His father, after all, is a pretty shady character:

New York’s highest court issued a ruling on the same issue as Obergefell in 2006. It looked at virtually the same constitutional issues as Obergefell did and rather than discovering a foundational right to same-sex marriage, it concluded that if the legislature wanted to change the law, it could, but that defining marriage as the union of husband and wife made tons of sense.

That reference leads to an article in The New York Times, published at the time:

By a 4-2 majority, the Court of Appeals found that the State Legislature, in laws dating back nearly 100 years, intended to limit marriage to a union between a man and a woman, and that the Legislature had a rational basis for doing so. …

The majority decision, written by Judge Robert S. Smith, found that limiting marriage to couples of the opposite sexes was based on legitimate societal goals, primarily the protection and welfare of children. It could well be argued, he said, that children are better off raised by a biological mother and father, rather than by a gay or lesbian couple.

But wait, noted M.Z. What was the name of that judge?

Yep, none other than Ben Smith’s own father.

So to repeat the question: What does it mean to say that there are not two sides on an issue that has divided Americans (We will leave the world out of this, at the moment) to this degree?

(Terry Mattingly, quoting M.Z. Hemingway on the ongoing kerfuffle over Buzzfeeds hit job on the HGTV Fixer Upper stars.)

6

As every statistician knows, if you torture the data long enough, it will eventually tell you whatever you want.

… [I]t has become clearer and clearer that accepting social science research as gospel is naive. Apart from a parade of high-profile researchers found guilty of out-and-out fabrication of their data, it has been demonstrated, incredible as it seems, that most research cannot even be replicated.

In a 2015 project, 270 academics teamed up to test the robustness of 100 psychology papers. They found that only 39 percent could be replicated.

(Michael Cook)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.