25 May 2006

Bill Clinton v. George W. Bush

The Objectivist
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

When it comes to corruption, the Clinton administration is to the Bush II administration as Mike Tyson is to Gary Coleman. The real question is how mainstream politicians and the dirty Janet Reno got away with looking past the third-world-style corruption.

The Clintons committed extraordinary campaign finance abuses. They took in beaucoup bucks in the Chinese funny-money scandal. Three individuals (Charlie Trie, Johnny Chung, and John Huang) funneled illegal money to the Clintons. Trie fled to China when faced with indictment; the other two were convicted of fundraising crimes. Chung admitted that he took funds from the Chinese government, Huang unquestionably funneled money from an Indonesian business owned by ethnic Chinese. This was not a one-time only event: Chung visited the White House over 45 times (more than did Monica Lewinsky) and Huang was a member of the administration with top-level FBI security clearance. Al Gore went to an illegal DNC fund-raiser at a Buddhist Temple in which money was washed through monks who had taken an oath of poverty. Maria L. Hsia (again, ethnic Chinese) pled guilty for this scam.

The Clintons also used their executive power as a sword to attack their political rivals. The Clinton administration illegally had over 900 Republican FBI files. Initially the administration called it a “snafu,” but later admitted that President Clinton’s friend and close advisor Anthony Marceca requested them. The pattern of IRS investigation strongly suggests that it was used to attack political enemies. There were audits of political enemies (e.g., Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, and Juanita Broaddrick) and opposed groups (e.g., The Heritage Foundation, the NRA, The National Review, and The American Spectator). The administration also illegally bypassed the required criminal background check for thousands of immigrants in order to add sympathetic voters before the 1996 election. One shudders at the extra rapes and murders in the U.S. that resulted.

The Clintons didn’t just engage in corruption for political gain, they also did it for personal gain. They gave pardons for money. For example, Clinton pardoned Marc Rich who had engaged in illegal oil deals with Iran during the hostage crisis and was a fugitive from the U.S. Clinton disregarded pardon protocol and pardoned him following his ex-wife’s donation of $1 million to Democratic causes, including $450,000 to Bill Clinton’s library fund and $70,000 to Hillary Clinton’s senatorial campaign. This type of corruption was nothing new to the Clintons. Earlier Hillary had received $100,000 from a $1,000 investment that was done through highly suspicious transactions by the attorney of a major Arkansas employer. Similarly, the investigation of the dirty Whitewater land deal and related corruption led to convictions of Clinton’s business partner, the Arkansas governor, and other Clinton associates.

This brings us to the Lewinsky scandal. Many Americans don’t think that a person’s sexual behavior is anyone else’s business. Let us assume that it is irrelevant whom Bill Clinton had sex with, harassed (Kathleen Willey), or possibly raped (see the underreported case of Juanita Broaddrick). Philandering in the White House has a long history, including Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, and JFK. However, in response to a civil suit by Paula Jones, the president then engaged in perjury (this eventually led to his law license being suspended and his being fined for contempt of court) and more likely than not obstruction of justice (Clinton associates arranged for Lewinsky to be offered a high-paying job and helped her hide evidence).

None of the facts I have cited is controversial. Together they provide an airtight case for the following claims: Bill Clinton’s administration was deeply corrupt and those we depend on to check executive misbehavior (Congress and the media) shamed themselves in failing to do anything about it.


The Constructivist
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

We’re having a pop quiz today, people, so please have your pens ready.

Identify, if you will, the fundamental American principles and practices from the next paragraph that have been violated by the Bush administration or its cronies and proxies in the paragraph that follows it. (For extra credit, you may add items to one or both paragraphs, with bonus points for items beginning with any letters of the alphabet that may happen to be missing from the lists below.)

The Bill of Rights. Checks and balances. Fiscal responsibility. The free market. Government of the people, by the people, for the people. Minimal government. Presidential oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The rule of law. Separation of church and state. Separation of powers.

Abu Ghraib. Cherry-picking and manipulation of intelligence on WMD in Iraq. Denial and delay in dealing with the challenges of America’s oil addiction and the impacts of global climate change. Expansive definition of executive privilege to keep secret the records of Vice President Cheney’s energy task force’s meetings. Extraordinary rendition. Foreign-policy unilateralism. Fueling Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions by convincing them with the invasion of Iraq that they need such weapons as insurance against American-led regime change. Guantanamo Bay. “Heckuva job, Brownie.Illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. “I’m the decider.” Implying that dissent is treasonous in a War on Terror with no end in sight. The Jack Abramoff-Tom DeLay axis of extortion. Lying about the scope of the NSA’s domestic surveillance program. No-bid contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq. Playing politics with our nation’s public health infrastructure and allocation of federal Homeland Security funds. Post-9/11 profiling, detention, and deportation of thousands of immigrants from North Africa to South Asia. Record-setting trade and budget deficits, not to mention gas prices. The Republican war on science. “Scooter” Libby’s outing of a CIA Iran specialist’s identity (which may yet net indictments for Dick Cheney or Karl Rove) to discredit an influential critic during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Secret reclassification of previously declassified government documents. Tax cuts for the wealthy. USA PATRIOT Act. Using denials of security clearance to stonewall official investigations.

OK, time’s up. On to the essay portion of the quiz. First question: how would you assess George W. Bush’s presidency? Please feel free to contextualize your arguments by referring to historical comparisons by Princeton University’s Sean Wilentz of George W. Bush with the worst presidents in U.S. history; political analyses by David Cole and Jim Hightower that Bush has resurrected Nixon’s “imperial presidency”; and debates between liberal blogger “Billmon” and Republican strategist Kevin Phillips over whether the Bush administration is guided more by the political philosophies of Thomas Hobbes or Niccolo Machiavelli.

Follow-up multiple-choice/short-answer question for extra credit: which of the following phrases best describes the Bush administration’s approach to governance, and why? a) borrow-and-spend conservativism; b) discipline-and-punish libertarianism; c) government-is-the-problem-planned-incompetence anarchism; d) all of the above.

Second essay question: in light of your answers to the previous items on the quiz, what, in your view, is the proper remedy for American citizens and their representatives to pursue during the remainder of the Bush presidency? Please support your position by assessing the strengths and weaknesses of arguments put forward by U.S. Senator Russ Feingold for Congressional censure of George W. Bush, the Center for Constitutional Rights for impeachment in Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush, and Glenn Greenwald for citizen action to save American democracy, starting with this November’s elections, in How Would a Patriot Act?.

Please send your answers to your Congressional representatives along with a short essay describing what you’d like them to do during the summer vacation.

11 May 2006

Race v. Racialization II: IQ

The Objectivist
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

Perhaps the most controversial issue in academia concerns the best explanation of race differences in group intelligence. Researchers such as J. Philippe Rushton, Arthur Jensen, Richard Herrnstein, and Charles Murray argue that there are race differences in intelligence and that they are in part due to genetics. IQ scores are test scores that are thought to reflect a person’s intelligence level. These researchers report that in the U.S., whites on average have a higher IQ than blacks (about 15 points higher, roughly a standard deviation). This means that the average white person tests higher than about 84% of black persons and the average black person tests higher than about 16% of whites. They also report that East Asians (e.g., Japanese and Koreans) on average have a higher IQ than whites (about 6 points higher).

There are two competing explanations of these differences: the culture-only theory (culture alone explains these differences) and the hereditarian theory (both culture and genetics explain the differences). In an article that attempts to summarize recent research on the topic, Rushton and Jensen argue that the evidence supports the hereditarian theory. One piece of evidence they cite is the clear worldwide ordering of IQ scores and related tests. Across cultures, East Asians score the best, whites in the middle, and blacks the worst. It is hard to see how the culture-only theory can explain the uniform ordering and similar scoring across cultures. The hereditarian model also explains why American blacks score much better than sub-Saharan blacks given that the former have white ancestors (on some estimates as much as 30% European genes).

A second piece of evidence they cite involves interracial adoption in Minnesota. This study found that Korean and Vietnamese children who are adopted by white families had IQs significantly higher than adopted siblings, despite the fact that as babies many were hospitalized for malnutrition. Black children adopted by white families ended up having IQs at the ordinary level for blacks (in Minnesota) and lower than that of their adopted siblings. Again, the hereditarian theory explains this in a more straightforward manner than the culturalist theory.

A third piece of evidence is that IQ tests show regression to race-specific mean. The idea of regression to the mean is that the children and siblings of persons with very high or low IQs are not as likely to have as extreme scores and the degree to which they move away from the extremes can be measured. White and black children and siblings tend to regress toward a race-specific level, as the hereditarian theory predicts.

Rushton and Jensen argue that cultural factors alone don’t explain these results. For example, socioeconomic status doesn’t account for it since two-thirds of the difference in scores remains even after this is taken into account. Nor statistically do specific factors such as differences in self-esteem, reading material, time spent on homework, parental education, father absence, etc. explain it. Culturally biased tests also don’t account for it. American blacks actually do worse on culturally fair tests than culturally loaded ones, whereas with East Asians the opposite is true.

We should also reject The Constructivist’s argument that the hereditarian theory should viewed skeptically because of the long history of racial pseudo-science and its use for abhorrent purposes. The past abuse of science casts doubt on its current use only if the latter involves similar sorts of errors and that’s what is at issue here.

To be fair, some scholars (e.g., Richard Nisbett) argue forcefully that a dispassionate reading of the evidence supports the culture-only theory and that researchers such as Rushton and Jensen have ignored and misinterpreted the most relevant data.

The good news for the left is that they need not rest their arguments for wealth redistribution, race preferences, and amnesty for illegal aliens on the culture-only theory. Arguments about equality of persons’ interests, the benefits of diversity, and the value of compassion (albeit with other people’s money) are independent of this theory. Thus, they can continue to support these programs and still avoid taking a side in this debate.


The Constructivist
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

What’s the best proof that racialization matters today? The very arguments of the “racial realists” who claim that races are real, not social constructs. In Racial Formation in the United States, Michael Omi and Howard Winant define racial formation as “the sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed.” By contributing to ongoing debates over the meaning, reliability, validity, and referentiality of race, today’s racial realists are engaging in what Omi and Winant would identify as a “racial project” that “rearticulates” conventional meanings of race and thereby contributes to an ongoing process of racial formation.

When Steve Sailer or the bloggers who created Gene Expression use the term “race,” they define it quite differently than prior generations of racial scientists, who tended to privilege notions of racial purity, assign each individual to a single racial category, and place races within a rigid hierarchy. Today’s racial realists argue that advances in the study of human population genetics allow us to ground definitions of race in science, which produces methods for generating and assessing testable and falsifiable hypotheses. In offering their own hypotheses on the reality of races, they accept the claims (which many nineteenth-century racial scientists rejected) that all humans have a common ancestor, that any man and any woman can produce offspring, that human genetic differences form a patterned continuum. These patterned differences in human gene pools, they argue, arose from the effects of major barriers to human migration (such as the Sahara, the Himalayas, the Pacific, the Atlantic), which lead to migrating populations being geographically isolated from each other long enough for founders’ effects, natural selection, and genetic drift--along with cultural and social practices--to produce different races (understood as continent-scale differences in correlations of literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of alleles) and ethnic groups (understood as sub-groups within these larger gene pools). Rather than fulminate against what was called “amalgamation” or “miscegenation,” as did many nineteenth- and twentieth-century racial scientists, today’s racial realists see all living humans as different combinations of racial mixtures. Racial realists’ definition and use of “race” is so different from prior biologistic definitions and uses that one wonders why they choose to rearticulate rather than jettison the concept.

As an English professor, I find studies in genomics deeply satisfying--what else are scientists doing when “mapping” the human genome than attempting to “read” a very complex code? Where I part company with the racial realists, however, is over the usefulness of combining the social fiction of race with the reality of human genetic differences. Take the study of intelligence, for instance. A small but vocal number of psychometricians argue that IQ tests accurately measure intelligence, that average scores for black, white, and East Asian people on these tests vary, and that these differences are largely attributable to genetic differences between these “races.” Yet by the racial realists’ own logic, those seeking to establish a race-intelligence correlation would first have to do genetic testing on a large number of people and decide on the criteria for assigning them to a “black,” “white,” or “East Asian” race; only after such assignations were made could differences among IQ scores be validly measured. And that’s assuming that IQ tests accurately measure intelligence, that a general factor for intelligence exists, and that correlations between it and “race” mean something. It’s not just that all these are deeply contested debates; it’s that they involve somewhat arbitrary decisions, including the choice to make broad racial/continental analyses rather than narrower ethnic/national analyses. Unlike nations and religions, where one’s membership in the socially-constructed group is fairly easy to establish, there is no objective way of defining a race or identifying criteria for membership in that kind of socially-constructed group.

To argue that racialization matters, that racism is real, and that scholars in the social scientists and humanities have every right to study human differences is not to dispute that genetics matters, that evolution is real, or that natural scientists have every right to study human biodiversity. To argue that awareness of past uses of racial sciences to justify imperialism, slavery, eugenics, and genocide entails the strictest of scrutiny toward current explorations of the human genome is not to call for an end to such explorations. On the contrary, just as new studies of human genetic differences can help us assess the validity of past scientific constructions of race, so, too, can historical studies of racial sciences’ past applications help us evaluate current attempts to draw inferences from the Human Genome Project or the HapMap.