Friday, May 31, 2019

Who's to Blame for Rising Anti-Semitism?

As anti-Semitic incidents proliferate in Western Europe, the burning issue seems to be: who is to blame? Should we all blame right wing populists like the German AfD and the French Marine LePen or should we blame the politicians, like German Chancellor Merkel, who opened her nation to Muslim anti-Semites?

Obviously, the leftist media is spinning as fast as it can. It’s true enemy is the radical right, and thus, anything bad must be the fault of the right. Recently, The New York Times Magazine reported that German anti-Semitism was being caused by a resurgent German right.

Jonathan Tobin wades through the propaganda and arrives at the facts (via Maggie's Farm):

Earlier this month, a New York Times Magazine story earlier titled “The New German Anti-Semitism” reported that “police statistics attribute 89 percent of all anti-Semitic crimes to right-wing extremists.” But the same article went on to question that statistic. According to the Times, when German authorities can’t directly attribute a motive for an attack on a Jewish target (and they often cannot), they ascribe it to the Right. But a European Union survey of German Jews conducted last year showed that a plurality of Jews who say they experienced anti-Semitic harassment said the perpetrators were Muslim extremists. Yet, as the Times noted, the German government has been insisting that country’s anti-Semitism problem has not been imported from the Middle East….

Yet the government seems far more focused on the threat from the right and the growth of what it describes as Islamophobia in response to the massive influx of Syrian refugees who arrived after Merkel opened up the borders to them.

Surely, the authorities in Germany and other European countries could have predicted that an influx of Muslims would produce more anti-Semitism:

As in many other European countries, the recent wave of immigrants from Muslim and Arab countries has created a vast new constituency for Jew-hatred. There is a long tradition of contempt for Jews in Islamic culture that has only been exacerbated by their resentment over the creation of Israel. Muslim expressions of hatred for Israel and Jews are now indistinguishable from the anti-Semitic invective of many Europeans. This has created a bizarre alliance among Muslims, leftist academics, and other elites who aim to delegitimize Israel, Zionism, and Jews.

Writing in The Spectator Daniella Greenbaum Davis reminds us of a recent survey of European attitudes toward Jews:

An ADL study from 2015 highlighted some interesting data regarding anti-Semitism within German society, and in western Europe more broadly. Eleven classically anti-Semitic ideas were posed to respondents. For each of the 11 statements, Muslims living in Germany had a much higher rate of responding “probably true” than did the overall population when asked the same question. Asked whether Jews “have too much power in international finance markets,” 74 percent of German Muslims agreed, compared with 29 percent among the overall population. When asked whether Jews “are responsible for most of the world’s wars,” 33 percent of German Muslims agreed, compared with 9 percent among the overall population. When asked whether Jews “think they are better than other people,” 40 percent of German Muslims living in Germany agreed, as compared to 16 percent for the overall population. And so on and on and on.

When it comes to the European right, the verdict is mixed:

Most Jews don’t feel comfortable making common cause with parties such as AfD or Le Pen’s National Rally party, despite shared concerns about Muslim violence. But the notion that those parties, for all their troubling baggage, are responsible for the increasing anti-Semitism doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. In the case of the AfD, the party has earned the enmity of the Jewish community for its resistance to Germany’s “culture of remembrance,” in which Holocaust education is compulsory and memorials have proliferated. But AfD has also gone out of its way to state its support for Israel and made clear that it would like improved relations with Germany’s Jews.

Let’s not forget, Tobin reminds us, that the intelligentsia in these countries has joined the Palestinian cause and has worked long and hard to attack and discredit Israel:

Both the French and German governments have said the right things about opposing anti-Semitism. But academic and other elites have helped delegitimize Israel and Jews in the name of anti-Zionism, and this has inevitably led to tolerating violence against Jews at the hands of Muslim immigrants.

Should Government Produce Happiness?

Martin Wolf writes economics commentary for the Financial Times. Apparently, this makes him an authority on happiness. It also seems to make him believe that he is an expert in philosophy.

Put it all together and you read Wolf on the proper role for government. It is, to produce happiness. Or well being. After all, he explains, Thomas Jefferson said so, and who are we to dispute Thomas Jefferson.

In March 1809, Thomas Jefferson wrote, on his departure from the US presidency, that “the care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government”. It is hard to disagree. The question is how this idea might be turned into policy. How might one measure “happiness”? What promotes it?

As an amusing sidelight, a young Harvard graduate, by name of Theodore Roosevelt, declared, in his book, The Naval War of 1812, that the second term of the Jefferson administration was an unmitigated calamity. This suggests that TJ was not a rousing success as president; apparently, his administration did not produce gales of happiness.

For his column Wolf begins with and challenges the word of Richard Layard a London School of Economics professor, who wrote a book called The Origins of Happiness.

The answer, this book suggests, is self-reported “life satisfaction”, which rests on people’s own preferences and judgments. But does this objective give robust findings on the relevant inputs? The argument is that it definitely does.

Income explains a small part of variations in happiness, partly because relative income matters so much. Human relationships, especially partnerships, matter. Unemployment is very harmful. But mental health is the most important determinant of life satisfaction. The best predictor of happiness in adult life is emotional wellbeing as a child. That, in turn, is determined by the parents, especially their mental wellbeing (above all, of mothers). Conflict between parents is damaging. Given such conflict, separation may not add to the harm. Schooling is also important.

Given what we already know, argues the book, policy appraisal based on wellbeing “will eventually become totally accepted as the standard way to evaluate social policies . . . And hopefully experimentation will become the standard prelude to policy change.”

There is truth and nonsense in this compendium. True enough, children who grow up in intact families tend to do better than do those who do not. True enough, the mother is the most important person in that equation.

And yet, if mental health is the most important determinant of happiness, why bother with economic policy at all? Why not just give everyone therapy? To be fair, very few people would ever claim that therapy produces happiness. Heck, it has enough trouble curing mental illness.

And besides, the notion that we should rely on self-reported happiness fails almost any test you can devise. Keep in mind, young people who graduate from college and move into their parents’ basements to play video games report a high degree of happiness. Besides, if we found a pill that could produce happy feelings, would we really want to say that everyone had become happy.

Wolf believes that the proper course of governmental action should begin with eliminating harms. But then, he adds that we must spend more money treating mental illness… as though today’s treatments have ever been shown to be really effective, anyway. And then, he suggests that we spend more money on education. This means that the proper role of government is to coddle and to mother people:

I have doubts. It will be extremely hard to relate many policy choices to the wellbeing of the population in any precise way, but we can identify relatively clearly the determinants of “ill-being”. We can also identify policies that are likely to alleviate ill-being relatively effectively. We should eliminate harms.

The UK’s all-party parliamentary group on wellbeing economics recently drafted a report on how this underlying concept could be applied to the forthcoming government spending review. It argued for a package of additional spending amounting to £8bn (0.4 per cent of GDP). The top priority would be increased resources for the treatment of mental illness. Furthermore, it argues, the budget for physical and mental healthcare should be separated, to protect the latter from encroachment by the former. The second priority would be investing in the wellbeing of children in schools. The third priority would be skilled employment. This requires a much higher resource priority for non-university-based further education, which is being squeezed by the explosion in the number of university students. That is also precisely what the Augar Review of post-18 education and funding recommends. A fourth priority is funding social care for children, the disabled and the old, as well as centres for children, youth and old people. The last priority is a shift in prison policy towards promoting rehabilitation, skill acquisition and mental health....

This suggested new approach to wellbeing can thus be viewed in two different ways. The broader path is to reconsider all government policy against its contribution to social wellbeing, as New Zealand is trying to do. The narrower is to shift resources, at the margin, towards areas of spending most likely to reduce the causes of great harm, such as mental ill health and loneliness. One does not have to buy all of the broader package to accept this shift in priorities toward alleviating the biggest harms. All parties should agree on this as the minimum goal for policy in a civilised and prosperous society.

And precisely how is spending government resources on mothering people going to produce prosperity? That, after all, is the rub.

After all, Aristotle first philosophized the notion of happiness, called eudemonia, well before utilitarian philosophers. To his mind, happiness was the feeling accompanying accomplishment and achievement. When people are allowed to compete and to succeed in the marketplace, in the arena or even on the battlefield, they might win and they might lose. If they succeed, they will gain a sense of accomplishment, but this is certainly not what is meant by the notion that we will all be happy if only the government takes care of us in order to produce a therapy-induced stupor that we mistake for well-being.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Does More Trump Mean Less Racism?

Ah yes, the indignity of it all. It is an article of secular faith that Donald Trump stokes racism. His detractors have labeled him the crown prince of white supremacy, so a rational mind would reasonably conclude that his presidency would see a significant spike in racism. The same detractors, being wholehearted Obama supporters, believe that the Obama presidency struck a blow against racism, and thus that racism must have declined during his eight years in office.

Such are our articles of secular faith. Imagine the shock felt by two University of Pennsylvania researchers when they discovered that American racism had declined during the Trump years. From Zero Hedge via Maggie’s Farm.

Depending on where you derive your intellectual amusement, you will be delighted to see the contortions the sociologists need to perform in order to maintain their biased view of the Trump presidency and their faith in the curative properties of the Obama presidency.

Here are the results:

Sociologists Daniel J. Hopkins and Samantha Washington conducted a study to analyze the impact of Trump’s election on prejudice against blacks and Hispanics. They used a panel of 2,500 Americans whose views on race and other matters had been documented since 2008. According to the report, the researchers expected to see an increase in racial prejudice in the Trump era. Yes, it might be difficult to believe that professors at a major university would immediately assume that the president singlehandedly made the country more racist, but it’s true.

They believed that we, that is, white people, are all racists beneath the skin. If you are not a manifest bigot you must be a repressed bigot. By this reasoning the Trump presidency must have awakened everyone’s repressed racism.

And why did they make this assumption? Apparently, they formed their hypothesis based on the idea that people have deep-seated racism lying dormant within themselves, waiting to be awakened by a provocative event. The theory was that Trump’s election somehow pushed the magic “I’m totally a racist” button that lurks in the hearts of men – probably white men, specifically – and instantly transformed them into a legion of slobbering white supremacists bent on the utter destruction of minorities.

Obviously, the researchers refused to accept the conclusions. Because, fact must always yield to the narrative:

But the findings were surprising, and likely a bit disappointing, to the researchers and the media establishment. Instead of an increase in racism, the study revealed a marked decrease. Between 2012 and 2016, racist attitudes had decreased by a small degree, but after 2016, when Trump was elected, racism plummeted. The drop was equally present in Republican voters and Democrats.

It is apparent that the findings of the study put the researchers and the press in quite a quandary. How could they spin the results in a way that doesn’t damage the narrative? Fortunately for them, being a progressive makes one highly proficient in the sport of mental gymnastics. Instead of acknowledging that America is not as racist as Al Sharpton wants us to think, the researchers posit that perhaps Trump’s racism has been so abhorrent, it made racist Americans want to be less bigoted.

Better yet, the Spectator offered a novel rationalization. It argued that the Obama presidency had so stoked the flames of racism that the Trump presidency allowed racism to revert to the mean or the norm or some such:

But some on the left had another idea. The Spectator suggested the reason racism declined was that it had risen to drastic heights when Obama was in office. It argues that, “maybe social science has got it the wrong way round: it was the sight of a mixed race man in the White House who brought out in the inner racist in Americans who are inclined towards those feelings, while the reassuring sight of white man back in the Oval Office has calmed them down.”

Author Jeff Charles has a more reasonable approach:

The reality is that the president does not have the power to make the country more or less racist. And yes, this also goes for Obama, who many conservatives blame for escalating racial tensions during his time in office. While neither president handles racial issues perfectly, American attitudes evolve on their own and are not subject to the whims of the person who happens to occupy the Oval Office.

This report showed that racial tensions were already decreasing under Obama, albeit at a slower pace. Perhaps some whites reaffirmed their opposition to racism when Trump was elected and the media tried to convince America that he was the Führer, who was going to bring back slavery and put Hispanics in catapults to launch them back over the southern border.

But, what would the left do without its narrative? It would be lost and bereft, intellectually vacuous, hellbent on fighting racism by impeaching the racist president named Donald Trump.

Alan Dershowitz Calls Out Robert Mueller

For your edification, here are a few words by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz about Robert Mueller’s press presentation yesterday. Considering that Dershowitz is an expert on the law but he is anything but a Trump partisan. Thus, we give his words special weight.

As you will see, Dershowitz believes that Mueller disgraced himself and his office. Strong words, indeed:

The statement by special counsel Robert Mueller in a Wednesday press conference that “if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said that” is worse than the statement made by then FBI Director James Comey regarding Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. Comey declared in a July 2016 press conference that “although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive highly classified information.”

Comey was universally criticized for going beyond his responsibility to state whether there was sufficient evidence to indict Clinton. Mueller, however, did even more. He went beyond the conclusion of his report and gave a political gift to Democrats in Congress who are seeking to institute impeachment proceedings against President Trump. By implying that President Trump might have committed obstruction of justice, Mueller effectively invited Democrats to institute impeachment proceedings. Obstruction of justice is a “high crime and misdemeanor” which, under the Constitution, authorizes impeachment and removal of the president.

And, finally, Dershowitz makes the salient point, point that the legion of Trump’s detractors have missed. The rules must be the same for everyone. They should not be changed for anyone. In a constitutional republic everyone follows the same rules. If not, you are building bias and division into the system:

No responsible prosecutor should ever suggest that the subject of his investigation might indeed be guilty even if there was insufficient evidence or other reasons not to indict. Supporters of Mueller will argue that this is not an ordinary case, that he is not an ordinary prosecutor, and that President Trump is not an ordinary subject of an investigation. They are wrong. The rules should not be any different.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Creepy Joe Biden Can't Help Himself

Guess what? He can't help himself. Creepy Joe Biden, hair sniffer in chief, has a special yearning for children. The girl in this picture, taken yesterday, is 10 years old.

This is Joe Biden earlier today at a campaign event. Even after severe backlash, he still can’t stop himself from being really creepy. He also told this 10 year old girl “I bet you’re as bright as you are good looking” He has learned absolutely nothing.

America Competing against China

Three decades ago our intellectuals were agog over the fact that liberal democracy had won and that history had ended. Dare we say that it was slightly arrogant for Westerners to declare themselves the victors. They wanted to encourage the world to join us, to adopt liberal democracy, with its free enterprise, free elections, respect for human rights and license for unbridled free expression.

If anyone in those halcyon days had evidenced the least perspicacity, and had been willing to get down off his moral high horse, he would have noticed how China, at the time a rising hegemon working its way out of its Cultural Revolution, had dealt with student pro-democracy protests.

When student demonstrators occupied the central square in China's capital city, Chinese leaders did not see Woodstock. They did not see the dawn of a new democratic era. They saw a return to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution… and mowed down the student encampment with tanks.

We do not now how many students died, but it was not an insignificant number. Of course, compared to the number of people murdered by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, to the number that died as a result of Mao’s Great Leap Forward, it was relatively insignificant.

At any rate, it should have told us that China was not going to adopt our liberal democracy. It was not about to empower student mobs and to let them run wild. It has been happy to adopt capitalist free enterprise reforms, but is not about to hold elections. Considering who we elect to public office, do you honestly believe that our own practices have made free elections look like a sociocultural panacea.

These notes to introduce Gerald Seib’s astute analysis of the current showdown between the United States and China over trade. Seib writes some of the best news analysis available today, so we pay close attention to his views.

He theorizes that the impasse between the two hegemons has been produced by a misreading-- though it would be more accurate to say, two misreadings. From the American side, we are still bedevilled by the notion that China is going to become a liberal democracy. And thus, we are misreading China.

According to Seib, and as hinted in this blog on several occasions, China sees America as a failing system, politically, economically and culturally. They see a weak, decadent nation led by fanatics and zealots. Why, it was just yesterday that the Supreme Court let stand a local law allowing children to use whatever restroom conformed to the gender they believed they are. When you sacrifice biological reality to ideology you are heading off a cliff. Not enough Americans see it. The Chinese seem to see it clearly.

Seib opens his analysis with this observation:

Since the great opening to China in the 1970s, successive U.S. administrations have operated under the belief that China wanted to update its economy and then become a full, card-carrying member of the international economic system of the First World. The question was simply what that transition would look like, and what rules China would follow along the way.

China is comfortable with its authoritarian capitalism. After all, it sees what happens when school teachers have no control over their classrooms, can exercise no authority, and it does not want the consequences of such dereliction. That’s not all. China is also rejecting the Western financial and trade systems:

As China’s economy has grown, and its global reach has expanded, it no longer feels the need to adapt simply to be accepted into a Western-led financial and trade system.
Instead, it has developed an alternative to that system—its own kind of authoritarian capitalism—that it believes is at least as viable, and perhaps the better model for others to follow.

China wants to expand its influence. It wants to build and construct. America seems less interested in doing the same. Consider the simple fact that when America has a financial crisis it tries to solve it by ballooning the national debt. One day, the debt will come due. One day, the dollar will cease to be a reserve currency. And we will all be screwed. It will not be a happy day.

Seib continues:

“China sees itself less as slotting into an existing system and more as a creator and shaper of a new system,” says Keyu Jin, a professor at the London School of Economics and an expert on the Chinese economy. “It finds the so-called Western financial wisdom and the liberal democratic model unappealing and unconvincing, and in the process of breaking down.”

While America’s infrastructure is crumbling and while Congress seems ill-equipped to do anything about it-- any more than it seems willing to change immigration laws that China must see as self-destructive-- China is working to establish a worldwide trading network. Naturally, the initiative has had its problems. Some countries have taken on too much debt and are at risk of defaulting. And yet, America, in the person of its bored billionaires, seems more concerned with giving alms to the poor and with fighting against the climate.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructure development project undertaken with Chinese financing in countries stretching from Southeast Asia across the Indian Ocean and into East Africa, eventually may create an entirely new economic bloc under Chinese influence—and perhaps in debt to China, literally and figuratively.

As for the current trade negotiations, America wants China to change its system, to decouple government from industry. As noted on this blog, even though America has less government interference in business, it has far more bureaucrats, lawyers, environmentalists and diversity activists gumming up the works. Anyway, China is not buying the American way:

American negotiators are trying to force the Chinese to make systemic changes in their system, particularly in the dominance of state-owned businesses and the ability of the government to extract technology and intellectual property from the business sector.
But such components of the Chinese system no longer appear to be simply temporary structures as China matures, but rather pieces of the new model. Chinese officials are more interested in making temporary changes to their buying and selling patterns to satisfy the U.S. than they are in changing a system they now consider the wave of the future.

We are not prophets and do not know the future. And yet, it is sobering to think that China believes authoritarian capitalism to be the wave of the future. They believe that it will prevail over what they see as a decadent liberal democracy, a system of government that cannot even control its borders, that has homeless encampments in its major cities and whose House of Representatives cares more for destroying the president of the United States than for getting anything done:

Yet even a trade deal in coming months will represent only a pause in what appears to be an inevitable, and lengthy, period of competition between the U.S. and China.

To be sure, China has plenty of work to do. Millions of Chinese peasants still aren’t sharing in the country’s prosperity, and China has to show that its Belt and Road projects can actually advance other nations without weighing them down with debt.

Meanwhile, though, Chinese officials have had a change of attitude, experts say. They see a Western financial system that led the world to the brink of depression with the 2008 financial crisis, and Western democracies trapped in debilitating paralysis, and aren’t sure that is the model for them.

Some sobering thoughts.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Living or Not in Cuba Today

Whereas the Obama administration wanted to open doors to Cuba… on the assumption that more contact between America and Cuba would advance the cause of democratic reform in the island nation… the Trump administration has cracked down on the Caribbean Communist tyranny… on the assumption that it might therefore cease supporting the Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro. You see, Cuban troops are stationed in Venezuela, the better to defend Maduro against any attempts to overthrow him.

In a sense you have two different approaches to reforming leftist dictatorships. We already know that the Obama approach merely helped to save Cuba from disintegration. We will see how the Trump approach works.

Now, Reuters reports on life in today’s post-Castro, still Communist Cuba. (via Maggie’s Farm) The story shows that life in the Worker’s Paradise is not very paradisal for workers. One might ask, because leftist American politicians continue to do so, whether Communist dictatorship has brought more equality to Cuba. In fact, it seems to have done that… up to a point. All Cubans are equally impoverished and starving… like their comrades in Venezuela. The sole exceptions, we imagine, are party officials and perhaps government bureaucrats, who live in a different world.

As always, Cubans begin by blaming America. Here is daily life in Cuba, as described by Reuters:

Long lines outside shops with mostly bare shelves are increasingly common in Cuba, and the government has indeed signaled that things are going from bad to worse.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, in a speech last month, accused the Trump administration of engaging in an “asphyxiating financial persecution that makes the import of goods and resources of primary necessity particularly difficult.”

The degree to which new U.S. sanctions, due in part to Cuba’s support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, have compounded its economic woes is open to debate.
The economy had already stagnated in recent years in tandem with the implosion of strategic ally Venezuela, resulting in cuts in fuel and energy use by state entities and this year shortages of basic goods such as bread, chicken and eggs.

But the increase in sanctions, which have hit the key tourism sector and added to investor and bank jitters about dealing with Cuba, has some economists predicting the economy will slip from stagnation into a full-blown recession later this year.

In truth, Communist Cuba has always been on life support. It was supported by the Soviet Union until the Soviet Union imploded three decades ago. Then, it was sustained by the largesse of Venezuelan dictators like Chavez and Maduro. Once the largesse ran out, Cuba was in big trouble. The problem was that Communist economic policies never work:

Some Cuban economists say the developing crisis stems fundamentally from an inefficient centrally-planned economy that imports more than two thirds of its food needs. Calling rationing little more than a short-term solution, they say the government must open up to a series of market-oriented economic reforms before the crisis deepens.

“This could be a critical moment that generates the consensus necessary to apply changes,” said Vidal. “The government needs to give more space to the private sector and investment.”

Cuba has enacted some economic reforms in recent years, including expanding the private sector from 2010 onward and introducing a new foreign investment law that cut taxes by around 50% in 2014.

But local economists like Omar Everleny say the reforms undertaken have been too cautious so far. The government has backtracked on overhauls of areas like agriculture and the dominant public sector remains deeply inefficient.

How are American sanctions contributing to the situation?

U.S. sanctions against its old Cold War foe are also hitting the two bright spots in the otherwise glum economy: tourism and foreign investment. Both had boomed briefly after the announcement of a Cuba-U.S. detente in 2014.

And then there is this:

Meanwhile the Trump administration has activated a long dormant law under which Cuban-Americans can sue foreign companies that profit from their properties nationalized during the first years of the 1959 Revolution.

Western diplomats and businessmen have called the threat of potentially costly U.S. court battles another clear disincentive for banks and outside investors to do business with Cuba.

The United States has also threatened to further tighten restrictions on travel and to impose a cap on cash remittances to Cuba, measures that could hit the economy hard.

Of course, these policies are part of the American effort to cause Cuba to cease supporting the dictator Maduro in Venezuela. To be fair and balanced, it might not work:

Instead of opening the economy further, some Western diplomats and analysts say there is risk Cuba’s leadership will adopt a siege mentality in the face of increased U.S. hostility. That could mean turning to allies like Russia, Vietnam and China for help to muddle through while keeping its stranglehold on economic life.

“The U.S. sanctions could be counterproductive,” said one diplomat who asked not to be identified. “Cuba has historically closed up at times like these.”

Cubans are not going hungry like they did during the so-called “Special Period” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But they are increasingly connected to the rest of the world via the internet and foreign travel, and many have grown weary of government attempts to blame the U.S. embargo for the bulk of their country’s woes.

As the old saying goes, the jury is still out. People are starving in Venezuela. People are starving in Cuba. It is long past time that they both chose to enter the modern world and to give up on their discredited socialist policies. It’s not too much to ask, is it?

More Notes on Bias

A couple of follow-up notes on bias-- see previous post for background.

First, in her lust to blame Donald Trump for anti-Semitism, Konnikova neglects to mention that many members of Trump’s family are Jewish… orthodox Jewish, for that matter. And she says not a word about the fact that Trump has been the most pro-Israeli American president in many, many years.

Nor does she mention the fact that when the Obama administration sent planeloads of cash to the anti-Semitic Neo-Nazis in Tehran, the money quickly found its way into the coffers of groups dedicated to killing Jews… that would be Hamas and Hezbollah.

In addition, when talking about worldwide persecution of Muslims, the highly estimable Julie Burchill reminds us that far more Christians are murdered and persecuted in Muslim countries than are Muslims in Christian countries:

Christianity is now the most persecuted religion in the world, with Christians 140 times more likely to be murdered for their faith in Muslim countries than Muslims are in Western Christian countries. Some estimates claim that one Christian is killed every five minutes.

Nothing quite like facts to counter your or Maria Konnikova’s bias. True bias is blind to fact.

Maria Konnikova's Bias

Maria Konnikova’s analysis of bias in The New Yorker and stereotyping starts out hopefully. But then, as you might imagine, it turns into an attack on the man she considers America’s bigot-in-chief… that would be President Trump. When she writes about anti-Semitism, she talks only of hateful white people. It's her own private bias.

So, could it be that Konnikova's own culturally influenced bias has blinded her to the anti-Semitism coming to us from the Democratic Party, from the Congressional Black Caucus’s embrace of Rev. Louis Farrakhan, from the failure of the leaders of the Women’s March to denounce Farrakhan and from Barack Obama’s notable and public contempt for the prime minister of the state of Israel?

Donald Trump said two bad words about some demonstrators, and this has apparently caused the nation to be awash in anti-Semitism. And yet, Barack Obama ran policies that manifested clear bias against the state of Israel and Konnikova utters not a peep about it. Wouldn’t that count as bias? When the Congressional Black Caucus boycotted a speech that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave to Congress, wasn't that bias?

When Muslim terrorists murdered people in a kosher supermarket in Paris, President Obama refused to say that the attack was motivated by anti-Semitism. And he consistently refused to label Muslim terrorists as Muslim terrorists. Why isn't that bias?

Today, we see Jew hatred dripping from the lips of Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And the Democratic Congressional leadership is incapable of calling them out about it. Doesn't that mainstream anti-Semitism.

About these instances of bias, the biased Konnikova has nothing to say. Still, allow me to present some of her thinking on the topic.

She begins with a useful observation, namely, the the human brain stereotypes people. Bias is built into the brain. We cannot function without it. There is, effectively, nothing irrational about it, though Konnikova does believe that a baby who prefers the faces and voice of those who are familiar to him is thereby manifesting bias. Since certain faces and sounds signify comfort and protection, it makes rational good sense that a baby would be drawn toward them.

Anyway, the notion of perfect impartiality is unrealistic. It never really exists, except in the fantasies of people who want to use pretend science to attack conservatives.

Konnikova writes:

… although we may wish to be perfectly rational and impartial, bias is an inescapable part of what it means to be human. At three months old, we already prefer the faces of people who share our skin color over the faces of those who don’t. By five years old, we’re aware of our group’s status and have imbibed certain community ideas about how various groups are perceived and treated. As we grow older, these ideas are constantly reinforced by popular culture, our social environments, and even our language and symbolism. The question, therefore, isn’t “Do biases exist?” but, rather, “How much do we let them affect our behavior?” In 1990, Susan Fiske and Steven Neuberg, then psychologists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Arizona State University, respectively, described the process by which bias sways behavior using what they called the “continuum model of impression formation.” According to their model, our reliance on stereotypes in decision-making exists on a continuum and shifts by degrees, rather than operating in absolutes. No one is ever bias-free, but some people let their biases influence their actions more than others.

Group status should not really count as bias. We belong to groups. We gain pride and or shame from the behavior of other members of our group. We do not, in almost any case, see people as unique individuals who do not belong to any social groups. In truth, there is no such thing as an individual who does not belong to a group.

As for how these ideas are reinforced, let’s not be so simple minded as to blame it all on social media. We formulate and maintain opinions about ours and other groups through our rational evaluation of the behavior of group members. If people see Islamist terrorists committing multiple acts of terrorism, in the name of their religion, we are more likely to associate politicized Islam with terrorism. It's about probabilities.

The actions, as members of a convocation in Saudi Arabia in 2017 discussed, diminish the reputation of Islam, around the world. The best way for Muslims to restore the good name of their religion is to band together to denounce the terrorists in their midst and then to rid the world of their behaviors. If Muslims in non-Muslim nations want to be respected as citizens of their nations they need to assimilate, to adopt the local culture… not to imagine that they have special rights to do whatever they want. Remember the grooming gangs of Rotherham, England. Was it bias to see them as Muslims? Since members of the local Muslim community allowed it to happen, why shouldn't their reputations suffer? The same applies to the apparently unbiased local constabulary? Oughtn't they to have been relieved of their jobs. Was it a blow against bias to let Muslim men gang rape and sex traffic local high school girls because stopping them would have been racist?

Of course, Konnikova continues, society’s leaders set an example of good or bad behavior. If the Supreme Court says that same-sex marriage is the law of the land, people are more likely to accept it. Or at least, to say that they do. If the president says the wrong thing about Neo-Nazis then this is the root cause of American anti-Semitism.

We also find them in the behavior of people we respect, or who occupy positions we respect. If someone in a powerful position acts in a certain way or expresses a certain view, we implicitly assume that those actions and views are associated with power, and that emulating them may be to our advantage. As a result, while our biases may be slow to change—they’re based on long-standing stereotypes, and we have been learning them since birth—our norms can shift at the speed of social life. We might think of anti-Semitism as stemming from deeply rooted beliefs, and, in some sense, that’s true, but the expression of anti-Semitism depends on highly changeable facts about our social environment.

Again, not a one of the experts Konnikova gathers us suggests for an instant that the Obama administration promoted and fostered anti-Semitism in America. And not one of them is sufficiently perspicacious to remark that a Democratic Party that is wallowing in anti-Semitism has cornered the market in that form of bigotry:

The psychology of norms suggests that you don’t “need a nation of raging anti-Semites to license the use of anti-Semitism as a social weapon,” Paluck said. Instead, an authority figure could make the expression of anti-Semitism—an old bias that had previously been subtle, implicit, and almost imperceptible—suddenly appear to be one of the broadly “acceptable” ways of showing pent-up anger. “A leader could whip up everyone’s frustration and channel it to these scapegoats and make it normative to use this language,” Paluck said, “encouraging people to say, ‘Ah, this is how to express my frustration, to lash out against liberalism and so-called élites.’ ” Such an authority figure can create the impression of a social consensus where none exists.

You see, the fault lies entirely with Donald Trump. Democrats are good people fighting bigotry. Republicans are all bigots. Seriously? As I said, in an essay about overcoming bias Konnikova manages to express her own animus against Republicans and to exonerate the anti-Semites in the Democratic Party, and the bias that was visited on us by Jeremiah Wright’s protege.

Democrats, therefore, must reach out to leaders in the Republican community and ask them to model a different sort of norm. Moderate Republicans must reach out to sympathetic but less vocal colleagues. “Implore your Republican neighbors to get their formal or informal leaders to speak out,” Paluck said. A broad-based, authoritative counterbalance may well have an impact.