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Follow-up: Nazis VI: Excursion on Roe v. Wade and the Nazi-attitude of the Left

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The actual overturning* of Roe v. Wade has now taken place—and the Left has done everything that it can to prove its Nazi-attitude. We are simply and plainly reaching a point where it is disputable whether the Left can ever again be considered politically legitimate, where, drawing on the hypocrisy of Marcuse,** we might be forced to simply stop tolerating it, where even an ardent supporter of free-this-and-that must contemplate the possibility that McCarthy had the right general idea.***

*For details of the overturning, see “Dobbs” (PDF), with multiple convincing opinions in favor of the decision. (Yes, I have, apart from appendices, read them.)

**The promised text will probably follow at some point during the summer. In short—by their own words, they are condemned: The Left is (and was, even at Marcuse’s time of writing) the greater source of intolerance and often by a very large distance; if we must not tolerate the intolerant, then we must not tolerate the Left.

***Without necessarily agreeing with the details of his opinions and methods.

This includes:

  1. Unprovoked* threats of and attempts at violence against the SCOTUS.

    *No, a legally correct finding of law, correcting a previous gross error, is not provocation. (Also note below remarks on misrepresentation by the Left.) Even if it were, by some absurd stretch of the imagination, the following two items concern persons and entities that did make the finding.

  2. Unprovoked violence and riots directed at the public, including and especially “pro-lifers”.
  3. Unprovoked acts of violence against the state of Arizona* (and maybe some other governmental entities) that go far beyond the alleged “insurrection” of the January-6 victims, including attempts to storm the Arizona Capitol.

    *If there is a particular reason for Arizona, as opposed to e.g. Mississippi (the victorious party in Dobbs), I have missed it.

  4. Calls to delegitimize or abolish the SCOTUS for actually doing its job–and for actually relinquishing (!) arrogated powers back to the legislative branch and the individual states.
  5. Calls for undemocratic and in-violation-of-separation-of-powers attempts to circumvent the decision. (As opposed to legitimate law changes—which the SCOTUS would not object to.)
  6. Gross and often obviously deliberate misrepresentations of what the decision contains, what it implies, and what the motivations of the court were—and often such that have spread to international media.

    Here I point to my original text for details of the ideas, but note in short that the decision does not make abortion illegal, but moves the choice back to the democratically elected state parliaments—as opposed to the appointed federal justices. Any state that wants to keep abortion legal can do so; a sufficient majority of the states and congress could even add an amendment to create the same effect as “Roe” once had.

    (I would go as far as to argue that the central issue at hand in Dobbs was not abortion at all, but Leftist judicial activism versus non-Leftist attempts to preserve the constitution, the division of powers, and the states’ rights—or, equally, Leftist dictatorial methods versus non-Leftist democratic ones.)

  7. Gross and often obviously deliberate misrepresentations of the availability of abortion (both before and after) relative the rest of the world. (The U.S. had among the laxest laws in the world, much of the U.S. still has and will have, and even the Mississippi law tested in Dobbs was entirely unremarkable internationally.)

Violence, intimidation, lies, …—very Nazi.

Excursion on a weakness in Dobbs:
In my impressions so far, there is a small weakness in Dobbs. This weakness is outweighed by far by the sum of argumentation, but might be worth noting:

Going counter to the principle of “stare decicis” must consider the effect on those who might have relied on the previous ruling(s). This is done with regard to pregnant or potentially pregnant women, but the issue of abortion clinics/physicians/whatnot is not* discussed. It is for instance possible that someone has invested half a fortune in setting up a clinic—and that this clinic suddenly is forced to severely reduce its business and/or to branch into other fields, because a dormant state law now becomes active again.

*Or only superficially: There is a mountain of text and I might not have been at full concentration throughout.

(No, I do not have sympathies for this type of clinic, but everyone is equal in front of the law.)


Written by michaeleriksson

June 27, 2022 at 12:34 am

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Nazis VI: Excursion on Roe v. Wade and the Nazi-attitude of the Left

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Preamble: Keep in mind that this text concerns various abuses, e.g. of the SCOTUS, and odd attitudes around abortion—not whether abortion, it self, is good or bad resp. should be legal or illegal.

The recent “Roe v. Wade (RW) will be overturned” leak is a good reason to illustrate some similarities in attitude between the Nazis and even some Leftist groups (including the current U.S. Democrats) often considered “mainstream” or “moderate Left”.*

*I do not consider “moderate Left” a very reasonable label for (at least, large parts of) the current U.S. Democrats; however, it certainly matches the typical self-portrayal. The “mainstream” claim might well be true, but is then a negative sign for the Left as a whole, more than a positive sign for the Democrats.

  1. The original RW decision illustrates the use of the courts as a tool to press the preferred ideology and to engage in judicial activism—the courts become a tool for the Cause, not the instrument for fairly and impartially applying the law that they were intended to be. By all appearances, RW was poorly reasoned, lacked constitutional justification, and served to achieve a political and/or quasi-legislative purpose—neither of which should be the realm of the courts. Keep in mind that judicial activism within a democracy is not just undemocratic but outright anti-democratic.

    To this, note that the pro-abortionists would have been perfectly entitled to suggest a constitutional amendment,* which, if passed, would have reached the same result in an acceptable manner. If it did not pass? Well, if so, it would have not passed within a democratic framework, implying that the SCOTUS-of-reality had not only violated the separation of powers but also the will of the people by its decision, making this piece of judicial activism the more worthy of condemnation and repeal.

    *Or maybe even a “regular” law. (I am not certain how far a regular federal law could stretch in a case like this. They could certainly have lobbied for regular laws in the individual states.) Of course, RW was decided on (flawed) constitutional grounds, which makes a constitutional amendment the natural comparison.

    Further note that many who oppose RW do so because of aspects like its dubious reasoning and its quasi-legislative effect—not necessarily because they would be opposed to abortion, per se. (A distinction, unfortunately, which the Left is either unable or unwilling to make. See excursion for my own take.)

  2. The debate (or, often, “debate”) around RW and the straw-men presented by the Left illustrate reality distortion and evil propaganda on the Nazi level. This includes much of the Leftist reactions to the leak.

    Consider e.g. the claim that overturning RW would make abortion illegal. This is a severe distortion that could send many ignorants into a panic. In reality, it would remove a federal ban on state bans and move the decision whether to allow abortion back to the states. Some states would subsequently institute bans; others would not. If they do institute bans, it would be within a democratic framework, and a woman would always have the option to leave for another state to have an abortion. (I cannot know now in detail what would be in the future bans, but I fully expect most, maybe all, to contain reasonable exemptions, e.g. in cases of rape or medical issues that threaten the life of the presumptive mother. This would weaken the panic-making claims further.)

    Or consider how opposition to RW is construed as attacks on women or women’s rights. Again a severe distortion: the point of overturning RW is not to attack women, or even to attack abortion, but to remove a poor SCOTUS decision and to restore the status quo ante. (Many Republicans or “pro-lifers” on the street might have an anti-abortion motivation, but they are not on the Supreme Court or, in most cases, even lawyers. More importantly, extrapolating “anti-abortion” to e.g. “anti-woman” is a truly despicable straw-man even in their case.)

    Equally important, if less obvious in the debates, is overlooking secondary aspects, most notably the rights of the states in relation to the federation. Since the creation of the Union, there has been a continual drift of influence and rights from the individual states to that Union, in a manner that has often been constitutionally dubious, has been very contrary to what e.g. Thomas Jefferson envisioned, and might well have gone past what even the old Federalists would have welcomed. Most of the time,* this drift has been for the worse, and the COVID-era, e.g. through Florida and DeSantis and their attempts to protect the civil rights violated on the federal level, has shown how important it is to have some degree of rights for the states. Overturning RW would be a small step towards turning the tide. (Or, sadly, to temporarily delay it.)

    *A notable exception is the extension of the “Bill of Rights” to the states. Even here, however, it would have been better, had this extension taken place through amendments to the respective state constitutions on a voluntary basis.

    Similar arguments apply to distortions around abortion it self, e.g. through cheap cliches like “My body, my choice” that ignore central aspects of the issue, notably that it is the body of the fetus at stake. (Sloganeering is, of course, something that was very prominent among the Nazis and is ever recurring among Leftist groups.)

  3. Abortion, it self, has been turned into a quasi-religious* issue comparable to some of the Nazi excesses—to the point that some seem to consider abortion outright virtuous. (Like a “Lebensborn” in reverse.) I have even seen claims that rising abortion rates would be a sign of societal progress or of women’s rights improving, which is not just a non sequitur, but also borders on the sickening.

    *Not to be confused with the actually religious take of many, but by no means all, “pro-lifers”. These have still, so far, appeared less fanatic to me.

    Or consider the drive towards “free” (i.e. paid by tax payers) abortion. Outside rape and occasional medical complications, this borders on the absurd. Even assuming that abortion is allowed: If a woman is sloppy with prevention or changes her mind after the fact, she should carry the costs and consequences—not the taxpayers. (And certainly not the taxpayers who oppose abortion in the first place.) This should be so obvious, even to a pro-abortionist, that another reason must be sought.*

    *However, there also appears to be a globally widespread Feminist drive that someone else should pay for everything remotely medical that a woman needs. For instance, I have heard demands that health “insurance” (making a mockery of the word) should cover contraceptive pills or that employers should be forced to provide free tampons in the women’s bathroom. (To what degree these demands have been successful is unclear to me.)

    Or what of the drive towards “late term” abortion?* Even post-natal “abortion” has been proposed by some extremists.** Here the mother has had plenty of time to perform a regular abortion. She chose not to. Moreover, for every day that has gone by, the “my body”*** pseudo-argument has lost strength, and the position that the fetus is a human, not a mere clump of cells, has gained strength. This position of “I should be allowed to abort any time I like and for whatever reason!” is near impossible for me to comprehend without assuming a motivation that is more fanatical and quasi-religious than reasoned. It is no longer a matter of even misconstrued women’s rights—it is a matter of pushing something to its extreme out of fanaticism. (Unless it is a matter of “Republicans are against abortion! We must extend abortion further and further to thwart and annoy them!”, a position that, sadly, is not impossible within the current U.S. Left.)

    *Again, excepting cases where medical reasons are present; however, not rape, as medical issues might occur late, while the rape necessarily takes place at approximately the time of conception.

    **I.e. that an already born child might be killed off. An interesting twist is that stories of similar behaviors in the past, as with “infant exposure”, have often been met with outrage, laments over the barbaric past, or self-lauding words of how much more civilized we are today… (And very often by exactly the type of “Progressive” who also sees abortion, at whatever terms the woman wants, as a positive.)

    ***However, it does apply to the increased risk of complications, compared to regular abortion. If the woman wants to take that extra risk for herself then that is her business.

  4. The leak, it self, might be seen as a further example. Indeed, the attitude of “When the rules are in our favor, demand compliance; when they are not, break them.” is disturbingly common on the Left. Ditto that “the end justify the means” attitude and the, often, low moral integrity.

    At the same time, the leak, or rather the fact that the apparently-first-leak-ever took place in just this case, is a strong sign of a lack of reason combined with a quasi-religious drive and/or a sign of what a ridiculous “symbol issue” abortion has become. Note that the leak does not in anyway alter the legal arguments of the case; however, it was likely to (and certainly did) cause tumultuous reactions among many Leftists. These reactions, in turn, might well have caused a weak justice* to cave for fear of his life or his family’s lives, or in order to avoid outright riots** in the wake of the official judgment. At the extreme end, it cannot be ruled out that some Leftist extremists take it upon themselves to take out a few members of the SCOTUS in order to delay judgment until a more Leftist set of justices is in place (or to force judgment in a reduced court with a Leftist majority).***

    *I leave unstated whether any of the current justices are weak. The principle applies even if they are not.

    **Note that some politicians and civil servants took approaches towards e.g. BLM rioters that were quite sub- and permissive. I have also seen repeated recommendations like “leave your car unlocked so that the burglar doesn’t have to smash the window” and “cooperate with the robber to avoid any violence” concerning the increased crime levels since then.

    ***I have long been puzzled, and positively surprised, by how rarely such things are attempted. In a country with a population in excess of 300 million, there would be more than 300 persons who are one-in-a-million. Are those with a sufficient degree of both fanaticism and competence that much rarer than one-in-a-million?

Excursion on me, abortion, and RW:
As I have stated in the past, I do not have strong feelings, in either direction, concerning abortion (but I do have them about weak argumentation and thinking around abortion), and I would tentatively consider myself exactly an RW opponent not motivated by his feelings about abortion. In this, I have to make the dual reservation that the law is a complicated matter and that I am not a lawyer. However, the arguments that I have seen so far have favored the “anti-RW” side, while the “pro-RW” side has had little or nothing to offer, seeming based almost entirely in a pro-abortion stance, rather than legal arguments. The anti-RW take of Justices Thomas (has made his negative opinion known in the past) and Alito (author of the leaked draft), alone, is a very strong sign that RW was wrong.**

*No, “Women’s rights!” is not a legal argument.

**I am against arguments to authority, and I do not claim that “You must agree, because Thomas and Alito said so!”. My claim is rather that there are some persons whose competence, and integrity,*and professionalism* is sufficiently well proven that I am, personally, willing to take much on faith in their area of expertise. Thomas is among the best examples of this that I have ever encountered, while my impressions of Alito have, so far, been quite favorable. Sonia Sotomayor? Not so much.

*Too many competent persons fail at integrity and/or professionalism, and these characteristics really do make a difference—the more so in a judge/justice.

Excursion on abortion due to Dawn’s Syndrome and similar:
Whether such abortions, including or excluding “late term” abortions, should be allowed is an interesting ethical question, where I have not formed an opinion—and do not hold a grudge against either side. However, I note that I have repeatedly seen various Leftist groups push the angle that interventions against e.g. Dawn’s Syndrome justify abortions—which would have met with the wholehearted approval of the Nazis. (And it is almost funny how what amounts to Eugenics is suddenly acceptable when it supports the Cause.)

Excursion on raising use or abuse to virtue:
Some pro-abortion attitudes go counter to one of my own principles of a (hypothetical) Libertarian society (and life/society in general): that we have the right to do something does not imply that we should do it. We all have the right to eat potato chips (and there is nothing wrong in doing so, if done with sufficient moderation). Does this mean that we should eat several bags a week? A bag a day? Several bags a day? No.

Equally, it commits what I tend to think of as the “salt in the soup” fallacy, to reason that “if a little salt is good for the soup, then more salt is even better”. This might work for a little while, but soon the soup begins to taste worse—and it ends up inedible, if too much salt is used. (To which health concerns might be added.)

However, some seem to have an attitude that abortion is an outright virtue or that “the more, the better”. Other errors of a similar type are not unheard of among Feminists, in particular, and the Left, in general. Consider e.g. the common Feminist attitude that women would have an obligation to work in the office instead of the home, where a much more sensible attitude, common among non- and anti-Feminists, is that a woman (or, m.m., man), even if a mother, should have the right to work in the office, should she so choose—and, equally, the right to remain at home with the children, should that be her preference. (Of course, assuming sufficiently favorable circumstances, e.g. with regard to availability of kindergartens resp. money.)

Written by michaeleriksson

May 4, 2022 at 9:54 pm

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What is a woman? (In partial defense of Ketanji Brown Jackson)

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Disclaimer: This defense notwithstanding, I am highly skeptical to her suitability, and I suspect that the true reason for her answer is an attempt to dodge any gender-controversy.

Apparently, during confirmation hearings, SCOTUS-nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson was given the question whether she could define what a woman was. She is now being criticized for answering in the negative—even ridiculed by some (e.g. in [1]).

But is this wrong? My immediate own reaction was that I, too, would be hard pressed to give a good off-the-top-of-my-head definition. (How do you define a sandheap?) Let us say that we go by the general idea that a woman is a human biological female (more on that assumption below). Without controversy, we could then say that a human biological female who is forty years old is a woman. But what about the same female when she was four? Was she already a woman by dint of being a human biological female—or do we have to consider her youth and physical immaturity and call her “girl”? If we conclude “girl”, which seems more reasonable to me, when and where do we draw the line? At first menstruation? When she turned eighteen? When she first had sex? …?

Next, what makes a biological female? Double X chromosomes?* If so, do we only consider XX or do we include combinations with more than two sex chromosomes (as happens on occasion)? Do we require a female phenotype for such combinations? (I am under the impression that XXY presents as male.) What if we have a pure XX who, for some reason, maybe some variation of estrogen insensitivity, has a male phenotype? (Vice version, should we exclude an XY who appears female due to androgen insensitivity?) What about a male/female genetic chimera, which could have XX and XY in different cells within the same body?

*Even discounting that sexual differentiation is not universally based on X and Y chromosomes. This is safe, as human differentiation is (approximately; cf. above) based on this system and as we could go back and replace “biological female” with “has two X chromosomes” or something similar.

Even a biologist might need to tread carefully—which brings me to the next point:

Apparently, she based her inability to answer on not being a biologist. This is interesting, as it implies that being a woman is a matter of biology. She could have said that she was not an expert on e.g. gender-studies or anthropology, but did not—she spoke of not being a biologist. (A very positive surprise.)

Then we have the issue of what questions are appropriate/valuable/whatnot in proceedings like these (also see excursion). Under somewhat normal circumstances, asking a nominee whether she can define “woman” would be absurd, and she might have been justified in outright refusing to answer. In the current climate, of course, we have the problem of various “gender issues” that would have been near unthinkable just a few years ago, e.g. whether young children should be encouraged to begin sex-change programs, whether biological males (i.e. men) should be allowed to compete with (real) women on the grounds that they would have preferred to be women (or claim so, to win in a weaker field), etc. This does give the question some justification, but a more direct question, e.g. regarding the importance of biological sex vs self-perceived gender or who should be allowed to compete against whom, would have been better.*

*Disclaimer: I have not followed the hearings in detail. Such questions might have been asked without my being aware of it. If so, however, the wish for a definition, in addition to other answers, seems misplaced, except to the degree that it might have been needed to clarify some detail of another answer. (Then with a more reasonable question being “How would you define [this-or-that]?”.)

Excursion on what to ask:
If I were a participant in the confirmation hearings, my central question would be a check for the right general attitude, through something along the lines of* “Do you swear to forego all judicial activism, to rule according to law and constitution as they are, not as you wish them to be, and to work to fulfill the Supreme Court’s role within the established division of powers, serving as a check-and-balance without attempting to usurp the authority granted to the other branches?”. Any candidate unwilling to do so, I would deem unsuitable. Among those willing, I would likely have no objections unless there were major problems with e.g. qualifications or personal character. Of course, an analogous question should apply to lower courts too. Indeed, I would favor making it an official oath as prerequisite for the respective office, not merely my own personal question. (The formulation is not accidental.)

*Chances are that something better around the same general idea can be found.

Excursion on the need for a differentiation in terminology, etc.:
I stand strongly by the idea that (with reservations for special cases, as mentioned above), we should use “woman” to refer to biological women and “man” to refer to biological men. This is what these words have meant since time immemorial. If e.g. the PC crowd wants to have a word that implies “biological woman or biological man who wants to be a woman”, this is fine—but they must then find another word. It is not acceptable to take a word with an established meaning and one-sidedly give it a new meaning, let alone condemn those who use the correct meaning. For instance, even if the infamous Lia Thomas should be allowed to compete in (what hitherto was) the women’s category, he* still is and remains a man—and, notably, a transgender man, not a transgender woman. He might also be something else covered by this new word, but that does not remove him from the category of men or add him to the category of women. Of course, his hypothetical right to compete should not be forced on the rest of the world by the right of women to compete, but, then, be achieved by a change of classification that replaces a women’s category with a whatnot category that explicitly (!) covers both women and wannabes.

*The same applies, obviously, to pronouns.

In a bigger picture, this is yet another example of a Leftist inability to understand that concepts matter more than words and/or of Leftist attempts to control thoughts and beliefs through abuse of words. If, e.g., a man is allowed* to live as a woman, wear women’s clothes, use make-up, etc.—why would it matter to him whether he is referred to by “he” and “man” or by incorrect labels like “she” and “woman”. I do not flip out on those occasions when German language rules cause a feminine (grammatical gender) noun or pronoun to be used about me, say, “die** Person”, nor do I insist that the rules are bent out of shape to allow e.g. a “der*** Person”. The obsession with forcing such a mislabeling points strongly to agenda pushing instead of a legitimate interest or benefit.

*Why he, even if transgender, would want to, puzzles me to some degree—just like it puzzles me why a woman would want to do quite a few things that women do.

**Female-gender article, as is always the case with female-gender nouns like “Person”.

***Male-gender article, as is never the case with female-gender nouns like “Person”.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 25, 2022 at 8:10 am

Treatment of accusations

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The recent accusations* of sexual assault against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and especially the situation around them, is highly troubling.

*Disclaimer concerning the specific accusations: I make no claim about whether the accusations are true or false. (But admit to finding them fishy. Cf. some of the below.) The main point is not whether Kavanaugh, specifically, is guilty or innocent of something, but how various scenarios should be handled in general, including accusations that lack proof, accusations that are raised belatedly, actual events that took place a long time ago, etc.

Again, a mere allegation is used to discredit someone, potentially ruining both a career and a reputation. Worse, now the democratic processes are threatened: If Kavanaugh’s nomination is defeated, then what is next? There are many political fanatics who justify even thoroughly anti-democratic means through their holy end—and if they see that, for instance, Kavanaugh was kicked out based on mere allegations (even truthful allegations), the risk that some of them will raise false allegations against others increases severely.* A justice with the “wrong” opinions is nominated? The “wrong” candidate is leading in the polls? That professor is a registered Republican? Now there is a remedy!

*And, no, in light of many actual, anti-democratic events documented on sites like Minding the Campus, or the very high rate of false accusations in other areas (I have briefly discussed the subject in e.g. [1] and [2]), this is not a hypothetical to just be shrugged off—the risk is very, very real. To boot, albeit with a smaller likelihood, there are at least some cases where such accusations could be used as an extended filibuster, e.g. to block the appointment of anyone to the Supreme Court nominated by the “wrong” President. (The attempts, then by the Republicans, to eliminate Obama by questioning his country of birth is another indication of a faulty attitude.)

In order to reduce such risks, I would suggest the implementation of some or all of the following rules:

  1. An unproved* accusation is void for the purpose of appointments, hiring, firing, … It must** be ignored in the decision-making*** process. Failure to do so amounts to illegal discrimination and considered e.g., in the case of a firing, wrongful dismissal. (This is a special case of the presumption of innocence.)

    *Exactly what level of proof is needed might require further discussion. A formal criminal conviction is certainly enough, but there might be instances where a finding in a civil suit, considerable evidence never presented in court, or e.g. personal knowledge might also suffice. (For an example of the latter, consider a decision maker who personally witnessed a certain event—but not a decision maker who merely is convinced that the accuser is truthful.)

    **Such a ban is doomed to fail when it comes to e.g. voter opinion, but should work reasonably in cases like Kavanaugh’s and very well when it comes to e.g. firings with no other credible support. Similarly, that a judge instructs a jury to ignore a certain statement will not erase the statement from the minds of the jurors—but it is the best he can do. (Assuming that the instruction was justified.)

    ***However, it might legitimately lead to an investigation. Such an investigation can, obviously, provide proof, after which the situation changes. Even so, such investigations should normally be left to the proper authorities, and e.g. the type of kangaroo court used by some U.S. colleges is not defensible.

  2. No accusation is to be considered that was not raised in a sufficiently timely manner. For instance, if Christine Blasey Ford (Kavanaugh’s main accuser) had gone to the police within some reasonable* time after the alleged event, pointing to that accusation today would be a legitimate move on her behalf—but she waited some 36 (!) years before going public.

    *What a reasonable time is, needs further discussion. In the current case, days would have been best, but weeks might have been tolerated if the experience was traumatic or other circumstances made “days” unconscionable. Even months, however, would be very hard to justify. If nothing else, we have to consider the risk of false accusations and the reduced ability of the innocently accused to provide e.g. alibis as time goes by—the rights of the accused are just as important as those of the accuser. A timely report to the police is, obviously, also in the interest of a (truthful) accuser, so that evidence can be gathered in time.

    In addition to arguments in favor of statutes of limitation in general (cf. below), we also have to consider that when an accusation is raised so long after (even a real) event, the memory of the accuser might be too faulty to be trusted. Did the events really take place that way or have they been exaggerated after mulling over them a few dozen times? Were the intents involved interpreted correctly?* Was it really the accused or might it have been his brother? Etc.

    *For instance: Looking at the specific alleged Ford–Kavanaugh situation, Ford seems to frame it as a rape attempt. However, from what is written on Wikipedia, it is not clear that the intentions went beyond molestation (even assuming that the event took place). Such intents even seem unlikely, with two older boys interacting with a girl of fifteen in situation controlled by them. Had this been an actual rape attempt, her chances would not have been great. (Wikipedia on the nomination: “According to Ford, Kavanaugh pinned her to the bed, groped her, ground against her, and tried to pull off her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream.” The one thing potentially pointing to specifically rape is the clothes, but here too much room for interpretation is present, including whether her pants were involved—and what about his pants? To speak of “sexual assault” is justified, but “attempted rape” is, unless vital information has been left out, speculation.)

    Reasoning that e.g. the “risk” of a high appointment for an unsuitable candidate might justify coming out even after a long time, is flawed, as per several below points and the fact that there are plenty of innocents that might need protection in the life-path of almost everyone—not just of holders of high offices. If someone sees a need to act when a high office is involved, then she willfully exposed smaller groups of people in the past. In the specific case of Ford and Kavanaugh, we also have to consider that this is not his first high office. Why did she not speak up e.g. when he was appointed to the circuit court?*

    *The obvious speculation is that we now have a situation where an accusation, be it truthful or false, has a greater political impact, and a “Republican” Supreme Court can at least be delayed—that it is a matter of mere political expediency, by a Democrat with some history of political activism. (Cf. Wikipedia on Ford.) However, I stress that my knowledge of Ford’s character, history, whatnot, are far too limited to consider this more than speculation.

  3. The relevance of an alleged act/event/whatnot to suitability for a certain position must be considered. In many previous incidents, mostly relating to issues like being non-PC (e.g. [3], [4]), no such relevance has been obvious or even remotely proved. With sexual assault and movie producer, a case for relevance is obvious, because the position gives opportunity for further events, and an effect e.g. on what-young-actress-is-hired-why is plausible. With Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court, the case is far weaker: Not only is there no reason to assume that he would have more opportunity on the Supreme Court than in his current position (if at all*), but he does not have an adult record of such behavior—the alleged incidents that have come to my attention have been in the early 1980s, when Kavanaugh was still a teenager.

    *I am not aware of what opportunities, obstacles, whatnot, might be present, but the rest of the Supreme Court is bound to be safe. There might be some possibilities among assistants and similar, but nothing comparable to the opportunities of a movie producer.

    A possibly relevant angle is that of moral integrity: Someone with a known behavior of questionable ethics, morals, whatnot might be disputable, even when no questions of ability and performance are present. For instance, a top-notch accountant with an embezzlement conviction is not an ideal candidate for treasurer of even the local PTA. Similarly, with high offices, we want people who are likely to not e.g. confuse private and public funds, make favorable decisions in exchange for bribes, change regulations in a manner that benefits them personally (for the sake of that benefit), … While I would tend to err on the side of caution in this area, sexual misbehavior is lesser indication than e.g. financial misbehavior when it comes to public office. (Excepting the vulnerability to extortion; however, here we have a Catch-22: Either the misbehavior is known and not useful for extortion, or it is not known and therefore not a possible criterion.) Further, the judicial branch is likely less susceptible than the executive branch.

  4. Even when accusations were raised in a timely manner, some type of “statute of limitations”* must be present:

    *An older post has some discussion of criminal statutes of limitation.

    Firstly, if an accusation is “escalated”*, or even repeated, after too long a time, the accused is put at a severe disadvantage, because his opportunities to defend himself are worsened. For instance, he might have had a witness that has since forgotten too much, moved, or even died; unknown witnesses that might have come forward after two weeks might not even realize that they are relevant when the event took place two or twenty years earlier; he might have had phone records that are now long gone; he might himself be too uncertain about the details to give a plausible statement; etc. (This is even worse when no prior accusation had taken place, and the innocently accused might not even know what he was doing at what time all those years ago. A prior accusation at least increases the chance that some memories are present and that some preparations were taken.)

    *E.g. in that an accusation is raised in a social circle today and brought to the police two years later, or that the police originally dismissed a charge without deeper investigation and the accusation is repeated in a public forum decades later.

    Secondly, the individual changes over time.* He matures, develops a better feel for what is and is not acceptable, gains greater insights into ethics, becomes better at withstanding peer-pressure, sorts out emotional problems, … In the case of a teenage boy, even the physiological maturation of the brain is not yet complete. When enough time has passed, judging someone over past events is not that much different from judging him over something someone else did. When it comes to extremes such as whether a Presidential candidate, once long ago, actually inhaled marijuana or just smoked it, something is seriously wrong.

    *Here I can give myself as a case in point: While I have never done anything like what Kavanaugh is accused of, I was quite “handsy” in my early teens. Not only have I stopped such behaviors as I grew up, but I cannot even, today, understand what motivated me. My best speculation is that it was more “attention getting” than something truly sexual, combined with a yet undeveloped understanding of issues like personal borders (in turn caused by some mixture of youth, family problems, and “spectrum” issues).

    Thirdly, society and what is considered acceptable also changes over time. If we take an old man and go back to what he did sixty years ago, we might find things considered perfectly normal back then—but condemned whole-sale today. Consider, as extreme examples, the horrifyingly flawed concept of microaggressions or stories of how even asking someone out has been considered sexual harassment. Or consider objections against various pre-abolition U.S. Presidents because they, perfectly normally at the time, owned slaves. Or consider how prostitution was relatively recently legal in Sweden, is now forbidden, and how it can be assumed that any politician caught out having visited a prostitute when it was legal will be severely condemned post-facto. If older events are to be considered at all, they must be considered in the light of the norms at the time they took place.

    As a special case of the above, there might also be some need to consider more “local” norms, e.g. those of a sub- or youth-culture. While such norms should be called upon only with caution, they can often shine a different light on something or make it less severe, especially when all the involved parties belong to the same group, follow the same norms, and have the same expectations.

Excursion on statutes of limitation and the changing individual:
One way to handle this complication would be to say that we are only ever culpable for what we did in the previous third* of our lives. What happened before is beyond the reach of the law, societal condemnation, the ire of a spouse, the complaints of a parent, … A human aged six is only responsible for what he did in the last two years, aged fifteen only for the last five, aged sixty only the last twenty, etc.

*The exact fraction and the exact modalities are open to discussion.

Such a system simultaneously reasonably protects from the sins of our prior selves, ensures a reasonable remainder of culpability, and takes the different rate of change as we age into consideration. There might, however, be some complications to iron out. Consider e.g. someone who commits a crime at twenty and is incarcerated with a multi-year sentence at twenty-nine: Should he be let out when thirty? This would be consistent with the idea, but might lead to problems like some perpetrators not being prosecuted due to pointlessness, effectively shortening the statutes-of-limitation phase below the intent. (A possible compromise might be to set some lower limits or proportions for sentences that are exceptional to the overall system.)

Excursion on the Clintons:
Some of the accusations against Bill might be open to similar arguments, although the shorter time-frame must be considered. The Lewinsky affair* might even be something best considered a private issue between her and the Clintons. Others against Bill and all (?) against Hillary are not or only weakly affected, e.g. because of more-or-less immediate action, delays caused by lack of knowledge, the use of formal investigations instead of public-opinion courts, and the greater relevance to the job.

*Per se: Any ensuing cover-ups and later manipulations are a different matter. (My memory is much too vague to make a definite statement.)

Written by michaeleriksson

October 6, 2018 at 7:19 pm

A clarification of my opinions on schooling and education

with one comment

In my recent writings, I have noticed an apparent paradox that might confuse the recurring reader: On the one hand, I speak negatively about schooling; on the other, negatively about people with a weak(-ish) educational background. (Including concerning the U.S. Supreme Court.)

As with most paradoxes, it resolves it self with the proper understanding (cf. below); however, it is true that more or more advanced degrees are not an automatic proof of greater ability, and when we look at someone with dozens of years of experience and accomplishment in a field, the sum of that experience and accomplishment is almost always more important than degrees.

To resolve the apparent paradox, consider the following:

  1. Schooling and education are different things; I am very skeptical towards schooling, but a great fan of education; and one of my main objections is that the education system is too much school and too little education.
  2. The problems with the education system today were not always present in the past. Dumbing down, grade inflation, and the like, are paramount examples. When we compare degrees earned today with those earned degrees twenty, forty, or sixty years ago, the latter were usually (!) of greater value in terms of developing the degree holders and in filtering by ability*. That I criticize today’s degrees does not automatically imply a criticism of the degrees of yore.**

    *Notably, this filtering continues to make an important statement long after the degree holder has entered the work-force, even when what was learned has grown relatively less important, been forgotten, grown outdated, …

    **But I doubt that there has been a time when education was anywhere near perfect. By implication, going back to how it was will not make things perfect—merely better. There might even be some areas where the current system is better.

  3. While I am not a fan of what is happening with higher education, my criticism is the harsher the lower we go: For one thing, there is more to be salvaged* by the intelligent student on the post-graduate level than on the bachelor level than on the high-school level … than on the first-grade level. For another, the current negative trends of education have yet to be as pervasive in the higher reaches as in the lower.

    *Especially with regard to the difference between schooling and education.

  4. How much someone gains from advanced education depends much on the individual characteristics. On average, the very bright will see a much better effect than the less bright, making the investment the more worthwhile. (In the specific case of the Supreme Court, all its members should be among the very bright.)

    A caution must be added concerning the relative benefit of formal education vs. informal private studies and autodidactic activities (as well as formal research leading to a new degree vs. that being done as “part of the job”, and a few similar constellations). However, an unfortunate* disadvantage of private studies is that it is very hard for a third-party (and often the student too…) to judge what has actually been accomplished. With a degree there is some clarity.

    *I would love to have a magic fairy create me an academic degree for what I have learned outside of formal settings. I also regularly consider going back to earn an additional degree of some form (e.g. a Ph.D. to move beyond the master level or an “x of arts” degree to complement my “x of science” degrees), even though I know that I could learn the contents of the degree as well or better on my own. This partially through vanity (this is one area where I am not immune to it); partially through the pragmatical advantages of having stronger formal credentials.

Excursion on degrees with different grades:
An annoying complication when comparing degrees is that the requirements for merely passing are often quite weak, implying that not all degree holders have that solid a knowledge. Worse, I suspect that the clear majority does not have the understanding one would expect to be present. A much better approach, in my opinion, would be to grade everything on a pass/fail basis—with “pass” being the equivalent of a (pre-inflation) A! “A-students” would get through in the same tempo as today. “B-students” might need more time, but would leave with a more solid education. “C-students” and below would rarely graduate, not distort the meaning of a degree, not waste time and resources, …—usually discovering in the first or second term that they are not college material. (Something, unfortunately, hidden from them till the day they die, the current system.)

Excursion on the SCOTUS and education:
Instead of just complaining, what would I suggest as an educational background?* I am not knowledgeable enough in the area of law education or the actual work involved to detail what the ideal would be, but something along these lines seems reasonable to me (within the U.S. framework):

*I stress that formal education is not everything needed, just one aspect. Also note that this curriculum is intended for a very select group—it is not a generic legal curriculum.

  1. A bachelor focusing on proving and honing the ability to think, implying a strong math and/or science component. A connection to the law is unimportant (that is what the J.D. is for), but something contributing to an understanding of humans, society, history, or similar would be beneficial.

    Example: Double major in math and philosophy.

  2. Get the basic legal education: J.D. + bar exam.
  3. Master’s degree building a deeper understanding in some relevant area, e.g. jurisprudence or constitutional law.
  4. A real doctorate building a deeper understanding in another relevant area.

Excursion on general education levels:
Similar points about education can be made with many other important positions and organizations than the SCOTUS. I note e.g. the horrifying educational background displayed by many leading Swedish social democrats. Take Stefan Löfven, the current Swedish prime minister: According to the linked to (Swedish) Wikipedia page, his education consists of a two-year vocational high-school program, a 48-week welding (!) class that he did not complete, and a year-and-a-half of college without earning a degree. There are people with better credentials working as cashiers at McDonald’s; while Angela Merkel, his conservative counter-part in my adopted Germany, has a doctorate in quantum chemistry. Importantly, this is not only a very weak academic record, it is also a strong indication both of a poor head and of poor follow-through—I would give a greater benefit of a doubt to someone who had just earned the vocational degree and then remained in the work-force: The latter could be someone with a good head who just lacked the interest for studies, was denied the opportunity through external reasons, found so great success at work that college felt like a waste of time, or similar.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 15, 2017 at 1:39 pm