The Phony Campaign

2016-06-12 Update

PredictWise stubbornly continues to hold Bernie Sanders with just enough regard to mandate his inclusion in our phony survey. (Gary Johnson still missing, though.)

And Hillary has surged to a lead over Donald Trump. How exciting!

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Hillary Clinton" phony 621,000 +96,000
"Donald Trump" phony 584,000 -45,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 442,000 -40,000

  • Our Googling often takes us into LeftWorld, where Deep Thinkers (in this case, someone named Alexander Reed Kelly) posit questions like "Is Elizabeth Warren a Phony Progressive for Failing to Endorse Bernie Sanders?"

    Now, if you're like me, you could have answered that question after its first five words.

    Is Elizabeth Warren a phony?


    Could you expand on that?

    Um,… OK. Hell, yes.

    But as it turns out, Alexander Reed Kelly doesn't seem to have any thoughts of his own on the issue. Instead he quotes another Deep Thinker, Cenk Uygur, who makes the Really Important Distinction:

    I believe that she genuinely thought that the best way to keep progressive ideals alive was to make sure there was a voice for progressives in the very likely event that Hillary Clinton won. That is a calculation that she made. Now, you could say hey, I’m being overly generous to her or I’m being naive about it, and that is possible, but that’s my sincere belief.

    Uygur knows that failing to endorse Bernie is a big red X on the 2016 American Progressive Purity Test, so how can we get Fauxcahontas at least partial credit? By imagining (without evidence) the Senator's inner motivations as those of "practical calculation" instead of those of (Kelly's words) "a self-interested traitor".

  • In related YouTubeness, it's lefty talking to lefty about how corruptible Hillary is:

  • In Trump news, pundits fell all over themselves to (a) be outraged about Trump's claims about the Hispanic ethnicity of the judge overseeing the Trump University case while (b) maintaining that Sonia Sotomayor's 2001 musings on the same theme ("Whether born from experience or inherent physiological [!] or cultural differences, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.") are perfectly OK.

    [My view, in case you were wondering: both reprehensible.]

  • Your tweet of the week:

  • And your bonus tweet of the week is one of my own. (Default embedding of a GoComics cartoon, you may need to click for the whole thing.)

Last Modified 2019-01-07 12:41 PM EDT

Galileo's Middle Finger

Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science

[Amazon Link]

A century after Galileo's death, his body was exhumed from its undistinguished location (appropriate for a heretic) and moved to a more exalted site (appropriate for a scientific genius-hero). During the move, a fan took the opportunity to snip off a middle finger. (He also apparently took a thumb, index finger, and a tooth, but those aren't as symbolic as the bird-finger.) Today these remains are on display at the Florence History of Science Museum.

The author of this book, Alice Dreger, takes the Galilean digit as a talisman: if you are devoted to facts, especially facts that your peers view as inconvenient or reprehensible, you should be prepared to be branded as a heretic, as Galileo was. It's a daunting position to be in, and your response, should you be brave enough, could well be symbolized by this appropriate articulatory gesture.

The book is a rambling history of Dreger's history as a historian/philosopher of science, branching into activism and advocacy. It starts with her investigation of the surgical treatment of intersex (for old fogies like me: hermaphroditic) infants. Despite the fact that these babies are otherwise healthy, and little evidence that their unconventional naughty bits would cause major problems in later life, there was a movement to (more or less) guess what the "correct" arrangement of organs should be, and to use scalpels to approximate that in risky surgery. Dreger found herself as part of a movement to stop that. Pointing out that scads of doctors were performing unethical procedures that had no basis in sound medicine won her some enemies, and set her on the path to full-time hereticism.

After that initial struggle, Dreger found herself involved in a controversy about the psychology behind transsexualism, defending a researcher who claimed, well, there's more than one simple thing going on with that, at least for the men who want to be ladies. That view was anathema to a certain segment of activists, and the researcher was quickly vilified and smeared. In attempting to ferret out the facts of the matter, Dreger was subjected to the shitstorm herself.

Dreger also found herself in opposition, once again, to the administration of a drug, dexamethasone, to pregnant women in hopes of preventing masculinized genitalia in their female babies. Dreger alleges this treatment is risky, with potential harm outweighing any possible benefit, and the research was conducted without appropriate oversight and avoided appropriate ethical guidelines.

And more. Dreger makes a convincing case that the dispassionate search for truth in science and medicine can quickly go off the rails when matters like sex and politics intrude; then things quickly get nasty and personal, careers are ruined, reputations tarnished. She realizes that this modern-day inquisition is entirely a left-wing phenomenon.

Ironic, since she views herself as a solidly leftist feminist herself. She fails to extend her analysis to many controversies beyond the ones she was directly involved with. (Race and IQ are briefly mentioned, once; one can almost detect the here-be-dragons repulsion Dreger feels in even bringing it up.)

In addition, caution is warranted since Dreger is only telling her side of her various stories. (Google appropriately, and you'll discover a lot of naysayers.) Interestingly, one of those is Deirdre (used to be Donald) McCloskey, an economist/historian whose works I've found remarkably insightful and fun. I wouldn't put Deirdre and Alice alone together in a room full of weapons.

But Dreger's general thesis rings disturbingly true, and deserves to be underlined. In way too many fields, "scientific consensus" has been arrived at by relentless leftist squashing and silencing of heretics.

For example, from earlier this month, a headline at The College Fix: "Sex researcher’s article pulled from feminist website because it’s not ‘inclusive’"

The researcher: Alice Dreger.

The Homesman

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Despite a number of big-deal stars (e.g., Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, John Lithgow, James Spader, Meryl Streep) in major and minor roles, this movie went to DVD after a few microseconds in movie theatres. It is based on a 1988 novel by Glendon Swarthout, which I won't be reading anytime soon.

It starts out in a small community in 1850's Nebraska, a bleak and inhospitable place, which nonetheless attracts settlers trying to eke out a living from the unforgiving soil. It's a soul-rotting place for men, and even worse for women: three of them have (to use a clinical term) gone totally bonkers, and the only humane solution is to pack them up and ship them back to civilization. (Surprisingly, Iowa.)

Taking up the challenge is Mary Bee Cuddy (Ms. Swank), a single woman of steely determination. She enlists/extorts the assistance of Briggs (Mr. Lee Jones), a lowlife claim-jumper who she rescues from a frontier-justice hanging.

Things don't go well.

Friends, if your tastes run to feel-good movies that show the noble human spirit triumphing over adversity, against all odds, you'll want to look elsewhere.