IDF Public Relations Analysis

IDF Strikes Houses in Gaza Used for Military Purposes is an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) blog post. I support the IDF, but want to criticize their communication. The IDF does an amazing job militarily, in tough circumstances. I offer this criticism in friendship, hoping to help the IDF better deal with those who would do harm to Israel.
When houses are used for military purposes, they may become legitimate military targets under international law.
Talking about houses being used for military purposes is good. That's something more people should know about before condemning Israel. But this statement grants authority and legitimacy to "international law". International law is a vague concept often used to attack Israel. It's mentioned again towards the end:
The IDF will continue to conduct its operations in full accordance with international law, including by attacking only legitimate military targets, and will continue its efforts to minimize harm to Palestinian civilians.
This statement treats "international law" as a higher authority, above the IDF, which the IDF has to obey. That's a dangerous position because the international community of nations contains some irrational, unelected, unaccountable and even anti-semitic actors which the IDF should not obey. After all the ridiculous United Nations condemnation of Israel, the IDF should understand that it must not give any control over its military defense to (often hostile) international outsiders.

Many of Israel's detractors demand the IDF follow international law. What they want from the IDF is suicide. They are trying to use international law as an authority to pressure the IDF into sacrificing Israel's interests. The proper response is to deny the legitimacy of international law in general. It has no authority and the IDF should use its own moral judgment to protect Israel.

There are some international laws which are good ideas, which the IDF rightly follows. Name and explain those. But do not promote the authority of international law as a vague abstraction, and diminish the IDF's legitimacy to act independently.
On July 8, the IDF initiated Operation Protective Edge in order to restore security to Israel’s civilian population under constant rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. During the operation, the IDF has struck a number of houses throughout Gaza that were being used for military purposes.
Using the operation name reads a little like evasive corporate speak. Some people are going react like, "You mean you blew stuff up and don't want to call it that." That's bad. The IDF should be proud of what it's doing and say so more clearly! Any hesitation, evasiveness or defensiveness conveys shame over misdeeds, or suggests socially illegitimate actions that are hard to defend in public.

The phrase "restore security" is a noble goal. But it also reads as a possible euphemism referring to violence. The IDF has nothing to hide, so it should communicate accordingly: avoid euphemisms.

The second sentence is better, it's upfront about striking houses which were valid military targets. But it's still lacking pride. The IDF is making the world a better place! Say that!

The IDF is using amazing technology, and hard (and dangerous) work from brave people, to improve the world. Hamas is a blight on the world, a curse. These are not just military targets (meaning it's justified to shoot them), they are Hamas targets (meaning it's good to shoot them). The IDF is not just striking "valid" targets, it is destroying weapons caches intended to be used for hateful anti-human destruction.

Everyone should be thanking the IDF. But the IDF does not communicate as if it believes it should be thanked, and receives little thanks from non-Israelis. (But I, for one, am grateful to the IDF for the good work it does. Although I'm American and live far away, I still value IDF actions. Thank you.)

And, why start on July 8th? This fact is introduced, but not explained. July 8th wasn't chosen because of "constant rocket fire", that doesn't explain why not July 4th or 10th. And when did this constant rocket fire start? It doesn't say. How many rockets were fired before the IDF decided to take action, and why was that amount chosen? By explaining issues like these, the IDF could better persuade readers about its ability to make good decisions.

The start of the blog post also sets the tone. Leading with a date and operation name is a boring tone. Avoiding any direct references to people dying, when that's the topic, sets a tone of not speaking frankly. I know the IDF is speaking frankly, I just want them to communicate it to everyone else too.

An alternative way to introduce the issues would be to say that Israel is under violent attack by thugs who do not respect human life, people are dying, and here is what the IDF is doing about it. By presenting the issues as if the IDF is clearly in the right (which is true), and acting and speaking accordingly, the IDF will be more persuasive.
Furthermore, when an IDF commander determines that an attack is expected to cause collateral damage that would be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated, the attack will not be carried out.
What does this mean? How much military advantage justifies how much collateral damage? What's excessive?

The facts on the ground are the IDF bending over backwards to be humanitarian, to the point of fighting less effectively. And that lowered combat effectiveness implies more rockets fired at Israeli civilians. The context is the IDF fighting to stop Hamas from murdering Jews. Any lowering of combat effectiveness therefore, logically, puts Jews at greater risk.

(That is a truth that some people find uncomfortable. Hamas does not merely want to slaughter Israelis, it wants to kill Jews. Say this and deny the discomfort. It shouldn't be uncomfortable for the IDF, because the IDF has done nothing wrong. If even the IDF doesn't want to look at the issues this way, few other people will.)

Meanwhile, as the IDF does everything it can to promote human life, Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields, on purpose. They do this because they do not respect human life, they want to disrupt IDF military operations so that more people die, and they use it in (very cynical and disgusting) public relations.

Israel takes actions to protect Palestinians and Hamas takes actions to get them killed.

This is a good-and-evil conflict with clear facts. The IDF has done nothing wrong and should be proudly explaining how moral it is (and how evil Hamas is, but that's secondary to the IDF being good). The IDF should not be making any vague, defensive comments about avoiding "excessive" "collateral damage" (which is a euphemism for dead Palestinians who aren't the intended target the IDF wanted to kill).

The IDF should not minimize offense to people who don't like the IDF and cannot be pleased by any reasonable IDF actions or communications. Don't let opponents have any control over how the IDF presents issues. Instead, explain issues clearly and objectively (even though the IDF's enemies will complain). Do not leave out any moral facts just because opponents don't want to hear them.

If the IDF won't clearly state the moral facts and assert its own virtue, who can be expected to? If even the IDF doesn't consider itself 100% pure good – and have the confidence to look people in the eyes and say it with a straight face – then no wonder the IDF's detractors think they have legitimate complaints. Better, bolder communication can make a big difference.

In the short run, moral clarity is hard. It can get negative reactions from opponents who would have reacted somewhat more nicely if appeased. But in the long run, making the moral case for Israel is the only possible way to end the violent conflicts and fully protect Israelis (and innocent Palestinians). Until enough people are persuaded of the Israel's morality, violence will recur.

Overall, I think the IDF blog post uses too much of a factual tone, avoiding moral statements. That's bad because it's defensive and indirectly implies that the IDF doesn't want to have a moral discussion. That indirectly implies that moral discussion would go badly for the IDF, and the IDF is scared of moral discussion (because it does immoral things). That's false, so I think the IDF should adjust its communication strategy.

Hamas is immoral. Showing a video of a Hamas leader asking civilians to get on rooftops to serve as human shield is good. But if the IDF won't state the moral conclusion (that Hamas is evil), how can they expect others to understand a conclusion the IDF shies away from?

Israel is moral. Explaining how Israel protects Palestinian civilians (many of whom are not innocent bystanders) is good. But again, state the moral conclusion. Israel is virtuous and moral because it respects human life in ways Hamas does not. If the IDF won't say it, it will be difficult to persuade anyone else of it.

Trying to avoid (irrational) controversy makes things worse, not better. It partially concedes the moral high ground in the debate when people righteously condemn Israel, thinking themselves moral crusaders, and the IDF blog doesn't want to talk about what's right. If the IDF is so good, why don't they confront these issues head on? The IDF is good, and should communicate more assertively about moral issues.

The IDF blog post explains some important truths. That's great. But for IDF communications to persuade people about the key issues, it's important to directly discuss the right conclusions. (For example, that every other military in the world should wish they had the integrity of the IDF, and that Hamas is evil.) A blog post which doesn't say these things will not persuade people of them. By being defensive not proud, the IDF actually helps damaging, false narratives spread.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Feminism Helped Men Become Better Than Women

This is a philosopher's history of feminism. I didn't do historical research (I do know a little about this history). I'm going to talk mostly about ideas, and use philosophical methods to understand the issues.

Once upon a time, feminism was a pretty good idea. Women were oppressed. Women were considered inferior to men, by everyone, and were treated badly. Women were mistreated a bit like children still are. They couldn't vote, they couldn't work in most jobs, and no one expected them to have good ideas. In any disagreement between a man and a women or child, the man was presumed correct.

Men could intimidate their wife and children. And even hit them. Obedience was expected. Even the legal system was unfair. Up until 1993, some U.S. states had special exceptions in rape laws so that raping your wife wasn't a crime.

Eventually, feminism won (in the U.S. but not in Iran). Not 100%, but pretty close. Women are no longer an especially notable victim group. The situation (in the West) isn't perfect, but there are lots of other things that are worse (like the treatment of children or the "mentally ill"). The treatment of women, by society, doesn't stand out. Women are no longer oppressed, much.

Lacking oppression to criticize, feminists today complain about non-problems like the fictitious campus rape epidemic. They created this "problem" by saying if a women regrets sex later, or had one beer, then it's rape. And they put a lot of money towards encouraging females to come forward with rape accusations along those lines.

Women can vote. Women can be top executives or scientists or politicians. It's hard for feminists to find legitimate things to complain about. Women aren't being externally oppressed.

Feminists claim women are paid less for doing the same job. But they compare different jobs. For example, a women who takes time off from work to have a baby isn't offering the same services to her employer that a typical man would. 2.3 lengthy vacations (which the employer may or may not have to pay for) make her service less valuable (due to having to hire and train a part-time replacement, or other downsides). Another difference is that women, on average, put less effort into negotiating for a higher salary. In that case, a company which pays people partly according to their salary negotiation efforts would pay women less. Whether that's a good system or not, it's pretty common and is applied equally to men and to women.

Not everything is equal, but feminists don't want to address the main remaining issues. No longer are women particularly oppressed by men or by society. But women are often more passive, less persistent/tough/responsible, more emotional, worse at negotiating, worse at math, and have worse job skills. And plenty more. Why?

Some people believe women are genetically inferior (as a matter of unfortunate scientific fact, not sexism). I'm not going to argue about that topic here, but I will say I don't believe genetics are the issue. I think it's a cultural issue.

A big part of the issue is women, on average in aggregate, have different priorities than men. They put more effort towards parenting, socializing and appearance. They place a higher value on emotional sensitivity, tact and certain kinds of relationships. What feminists don't want to face is that you can't have it both ways. Neither men nor women have the magic ability to be really good at everything. Lots of women are worse at math because they put less effort into being good at math, preferring other skills instead. Lots of women have worse careers than men because they put more effort into other things besides their career. That isn't oppression, it's choice.

Another part of the issue is that women are encouraged, at a young age, primarily by their mothers, to pursue a female-appropriate lifestyle (e.g. not math). Men are also encouraged, at a young age, to pursue a male-appropriate lifestyle. Everyone is under tremendous social pressure to conform to gender roles. This is primarily from first their parents and early teachers, and then themselves and their peers. It's not enforced by the authorities, by business, by scientific leaders, by university teachers, or by men. Feminists aren't very happy with this perspective because it's not the fault or men or authorities. It's the fault of everyone pretty equally including all the women, and it hurts men too.

Women can be, and often are, oppressors of little girls. Women especially are the oppressors here because they are more often the active parents and teachers of young children. This is not compatible with feminist blame-men-as-oppressors ideology.

If a women deviates from her social role, she'll be punished socially. People won't like her or want to date and marry her. But that's basically it. There's no real oppression of women. The same thing happens to men, they're also socially punished for role deviation. That's bad in both cases, but it's not what feminism is about.

The gender roles in our culture are not equal, feminism doesn't want to take a frank look at them and how to change them. Instead, it blames men. It's criticized a lot of flaws of the male gender role. And it's had a lot of success. Men have changed, the male gender role has improved. Result? Men are now better than women. Feminism helped men improve while shielding women from the criticism that could be the source of their own progress. And feminism doesn't want to take on gender roles themselves in a serious way because it's committed to defending some amount of feminine behavior as non-bad.

Feminists want to retain lots of the female social role and then blame the consequences in reality on oppression by others. Ideas have consequences, living particular lifestyles has consequences. Women aren't paid less for being women, they are paid less for living a lifestyle that's less productive and assertive in terms of career. (There are always exceptions. Some individuals are sexist. But most people find sexism offensive and horrible.)

Feminism wants a lot of special treatment for women. Women can follow their gendered role of dressing up sexy, but then if a man follows his gendered role of how to respond to sexy outfits, he might be accused of sexual harassment. Feminists want women to have this weird hybrid of reason and femininity, in whatever way their whims decide, while men aren't allowed to do an arbitrary hybrid of reason and irrational masculinity. They don't blame the woman for initiating and participating in that gender role interaction by dressing sexy. Instead they pretty much set things up so the women has, at her whim, the choice to name you an attractive suitor she wants to date, or a harasser she wants to sue. She can do this in response to identical behavior just because of a man's appearance, with no regard for the fact that the "harasser" was just doing normal courtship behavior like everyone else, male or female.

There is also such thing as real harassment, which is different, and not especially common. Many of the worst cases I read people yelling about involve a woman encouraging lots of it, playing along in lots of ways, never being clear to stop, then complaining later. Note that statements like "omfg stop" are things women often do as part of flirting, they are not clear communications to stop. If you really want to tell a guy to stop, you need to be clearer than that. For example, use a cold tone of voice and boring repetitive language. If you say, "Stop, I do not consent, I want you to stop" in a monotone voice, several times, people are going to realize this is not in good fun. If you squeal "omfg stop, what if we get caught? no no you can't do that, omg, this is so intense" then that isn't actually telling him to stop.

Lots of women routinely say a half-hearted "no" in order to avoid responsibility (in their own minds, not in fact) for what happens next. In that context, actually saying no requires substantial clarity. Saying "no" should be a clear confrontation, if it really means "no". Many women try to avoid confrontation by saying "no" in unclear ways that won't offend anyone, then later say "well i told him no! he abused me!". If you aren't willing to say "no" in a confrontational way, you played along. Bullshit harassment claims are a big problem.

Anyway, gender roles often conflict with reason. Feminists selectively use reason to criticize when men pursue gender roles contrary to reason, but not when women do. They want men to change, but women don't have to change. This is sexist against women. Why shouldn't women make changes to improve? Why should they be told they are fine the way they are, and don't worry about changing? Feminists are now on the side of preventing the progress of women by saying women aren't ever to blame for anything bad.\

Feminism identified external oppression as the problem women face. 200 years ago, there was a lot of truth to that. There was a lot of oppression of women. Today, there isn't much oppression of women. And it turns out, oppression was never the whole problem. The female gender role has plenty of problems that have nothing to do with oppression. So feminism is trying to solve the wrong problem while actually denying the real problem exists. Feminism is now part of the problem.

The male gender role also had lots of flaws. However, feminism had a lot of success pointing out some of those flaws. So feminism managed to improve the male gender role. It still has flaws, but less so.

Big picture, the feminists complained about men and got them to reform a lot (not completely). So, feminists helped men improve. Meanwhile feminists did not help women improve. The results is men are now, on average in aggregate, better people than women. Long ago everyone sucked. Now men have improved a lot (thanks partly to helpful feminists), but women keep saying they don't need to change anything, they want reality (and men) to do all the changing to improve the lives of women. That is a big mistake.

So to summarize, feminism criticized some problems with men. Thanks to the helpful criticism, men improved. Meanwhile feminism denied women have flaws and should make any changes. Then feminism is mad that men are now better than women. (What did they expect? Criticism is helpful. Encouraging people to see themselves as helpless victims is not helpful.)

Feminism demanded more responsibility from men, and less obedience to their flawed gender role. But for women, feminism defends their irresponsible obedience to their own gender role. (With superficial exceptions like feminists often dislike makeup, which they incorrectly blame on men.)

Feminism got men to be less like assholes and reduce some other flaws. It meant to help women. This did help women some. But it helped men more. Men being assholes was worse for men than it was for women. Feminism doesn't understand.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (6)

No Path Forward
Therefore, I now announce that Eugine_Nier is permanently banned from posting on LessWrong. This decision is final and will not be changed in response to possible follow-up objections.
I thought this was notable for how explicitly it goes against the path forward idea. There is no path forward for any issues with the decision to be resolved.

He's specifically saying that this decision will not be changed even if it turns out to be a mistake. And this open irrationality is from a moderator at a community that claims to care about reason. If the community in general thought this was grossly irrational, this guy wouldn't have status there.

The decision is "final" meaning infallibilist.

They don't understand reason or paths forward.

I tried to explain reason to them a few years ago, but it didn't work because they reacted irrationally. That's a common problem. Does anyone know how to deal with it? How do you explain reason to people who don't understand what you're saying because they discuss irrationally?

By the way, the guy was banned for clicking voting buttons using the site's user interface. That does not impress me. I don't think you should give people vote buttons, but then say certain voting choices aren't allowed (especially when what will get you banned or not is a bit vague). You can't just vote your conscience, you have to consider whether your intended voting decisions will get you banned or not.

He was banned for downvoting too much. As a user with negative 702 karma (at time of this posting), I wonder why the people who downvoted me so much didn't get any bans. (I think some people didn't like a few things I said, then downvoted a bunch of others.)

No one would ever get in trouble in US elections for something like "mass downvot[ing]" all Democrats. Or mass downvoting everything to do with a specific person you dislike, such as Obama. You're allowed to do that. It's fine.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bad Scholarship by Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) doesn't care about scholarship like accurate quoting. They write:
According to an abstract of the study, "for people who had positive content reduced in their News Feed, a larger percentage of words in people's status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive. When negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred."
They link the study and the abstract doesn't say that. They made that quote up. It's a paraphrase, not a quote, but it's in quote marks. And more confusing, the ending words, "... reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.", are a quote.

It's cool that they are linking a source, but they need to learn to actually take quotes from the source, instead of fabricating them.

Instead of misquoting the study, the WSJ should have tried thinking about the study. For example:
Data from a large real-world social network, collected over a 20-y period suggests that longer-lasting moods (e.g., depression, happiness) can be transferred through networks [Fowler JH, Christakis NA (2008) BMJ 337:a2338], although the results are controversial.
The WSJ could have questioned the wisdom of letting these researchers toy with hundreds of thousands of users in order to produce a paper with a grammar error in the abstract. There should be a comma after "period". This isn't a minor point. The sentence would be confusing enough with the comma, and is harder to understand without it.

On the one hand, I wouldn't expect a publication that misquotes papers (which they could trivially copy/paste from correctly) to notice this. But on the other hand, I don't think they should report on things they don't understand.

Or here is a part of the study that maybe the WSJ would understand:
As such, it was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research.
Instead of misquoting, the WSJ could have accurately quoted this part (it's not very hard, I used copy/paste) and questioned whether it's really "informed consent" when most of Facebook's users have never read Facebook’s Data Use Policy.

How can people give informed consent to something they haven't read? That's the sort of issue newspapers are often better at discussing.

Or maybe the WSJ could put their efforts towards useful commentary on this part, instead of lying about what the study says:
First, because News Feed content is not “directed” toward anyone, contagion could not be just the result of some specific interaction with a happy or sad partner.
The WSJ could have pointed out something interesting and useful here. They missed the opportunity to mention that this is completely false – some News Feed posts are directed at specific individuals. I rarely read Facebook, but I've seen people post stuff directed at a specific individual (this shouldn't be particularly surprising). (How many? I don't know. The study doesn't know either, they just stupidly assumed none are. Apparently Facebook is too far away from their ivory tower to ever read anyone's News Feed.)

There's so much great stuff to discuss here, but the WSJ would rather destroy their own credibility than provide useful commentary.

The WSJ did try to say something worthwhile, but they messed it up. They wrote:
The emotional changes in the research subjects was small. For instance, people who saw fewer positive posts only reduced the number of their own positive posts by a tenth of a percent.
Looking at how big an effect we're talking about is important, and helps put the study findings in context for readers. However, this is factually incorrect and not what the study says. It's bad scholarship again. The study actually said:
When positive posts were reduced in the News Feed, the percentage of positive words in people’s status updates decreased by B = −0.1% compared with control [...]
People who saw fewer positive posts reduced their own positive posting by 0.1% more than the control subjects did.

The WSJ should try hiring people who know how to read and understand studies – and who don't fabricate false quotations – if they want to report on studies.

Note: The article provides a contact email. On 2014-07-02, I explained the two clear factual errors (fabricated quote and misunderstanding of what paper said) and asked about fixing them. No reply. (I'll update my post if I receive a late reply.)

Providing a contact email implies being open to discussion and correction. It implies there is a path forward. If one isn't actually willing to make corrections, it's dishonest.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

People are Wrong then Ignore Criticism

In my linked comment, I specifically replied to an important idea Scott Aaronson had put in bold. He himself identified it as a key idea of his, and I quoted it for clarity. I then pointed out a (large) problem with it.

I also brought up how his approach was in conflict with a book (The Beginning of Infinity) which he's familiar with and thinks he understands, likes and agrees with. This way he can't just be like, "Some commenter on my blog disagrees with me, who cares?" (which would be irrational because it's not truth-seeking. If the commenter is right, he never finds out and changes his mind). Even if he doesn't care about someone disagreeing with him that his blogs posts weren't good enough to persuade, I brought up a conflict between two of his own ideas. Most arguments bring up a conflict between an idea you have and an idea I have, and if you don't care about my idea maybe you ignore this conflict of ideas. But when an argument points out a conflict between two ideas of one person, that's harder for him to ignore. So I was working around a common issue.

I made my comment extra interesting for Scott Aaronson by replying specifically to what he emphasized in bold as a key point (and pointing out how his key point was wrong!), and by bringing up a conflict with another idea of his own.

I received no answer. Scott Aaronson did continue posting plenty more in the discussion after my comment. Some people who agree with Scott Aaronson also continued discussing, and my argument applied to them too (the main part, maybe not The Beginning of Infinity aspect, though they could wonder how and why they are coming in conflict with that book and if maybe the book could have a good point or at least a point worth refuting).

How can/should this problem of non-answers be dealt with? (The issue also comes up in my Paths Forward essay, which has some answers.)

Fundamentally I think a lot of people have no real answer to the question, "If you're mistaken, how will you learn better?" And since they have no methods set up for error correction, it's really hard to do anything about any of their mistakes. That is what irrationality is.

(BTW it's a pattern, I've posted several other comments which also went unanswered.)

(Also, to be clear, I don't really mean to pick on Scott Aaronson in particular. He's just a convenient recent typical example. Alex Epstein did similar, as have others. I see these as pervasive problems, not problems with a few bad apples. In comparison to his peers and colleagues, I don't think Scott Aaronson is particularly bad about the issues I'm criticizing here.)

I also tried emailing Scott Aaronson who I've spoken with a bit in the past. I brought up a different topic there, which is that I disagree with his approach to climate change issues. I wondered if he was open to debate and criticized his approach of saying the debate was already over. Declaring a debate already over is a common irrational approach that blocks off any further learning. About the debate already being over, he wrote: "Within physics and chemistry and climatology, the people who think anthropogenic climate change exists and is a serious problem have won the argument—but the news of their intellectual victory hasn’t yet spread..." Then true to the idea of the debate being finished, as you'll see below, he didn't want to address criticisms of his position.

He replied to me to assert he was open to debate while subtly blowing me off, then didn't respond to some questions I sent him in reply. I think he's more interested in convincing himself that he's rational – which required dealing with a direction question about his openness to debate – than he is interested in actually discussing the issues.

After some questions, I concluded my reply, "If you don't wish to answer all of these questions, could you tell me where to get answers to my satisfaction which would persuade me about the climate consensus and related issues? (If there is nowhere, what do you suggest?)"

He didn't answer that either. When people don't answer something like that, isn't it disturbing? He says climate change is a settled debate, but he won't answer questions about it, and he won't even refer people to anywhere they can get their doubts answered. (Presumably because there actually isn't anywhere, which means the debate isn't actually settled in a reasonable way. Which is an important enough problem with his side's "victory" on the issue that he ought to have some comment.)

This is a common problem where people are more interested in the social role of a rational intellectual than truth-seeking discussion. They're more interested in feeling smart than being smart. They're more interested in self-image than action. They care about popular opinion and socialized legitimized status, and only feel much need to address arguments with some kind of (social) authority behind them. They look at the source of ideas and then wonder whether, socially, they can get away with ignoring the ideas (ignoring arguments is something they seem to treat as desirable and try to maximize).

It's not about, "Have I already written an answer to this argument? Has someone else written an answer to it that I can endorse? If yes, I'll give a link/cite. If no, maybe I or someone else better write something." That'd be rational but few people think that way.

Instead it's about, "If I don't answer this, will other people think it was a serious argument I should have answered? Am I expected to answer it? Do I have to answer it to protect my social status? Do I have any excuses for not engaging with the argument that most people (weighted by their status/authority) will accept?"

What is to be done about these problems?

I followed up with Scott Aaronson to check if maybe he was on vacation or something. I explained I was trying not to misinterpret. It seemed like he had claimed to be open to debate, then immediately acted the opposite way. But silence is ambiguous, so I wanted to clarify what was happening and not misinterpret. He replied clarifying (indirectly) that he isn't open to debate and doesn't care about answering my questions or criticisms.

I replied explaining why that's a bad idea, and he ignored me. I also showed him my Paths Forward essay which covers these issues, and he didn't want to answer that either.

One thing I said to Scott Aaronson is that no one ever won the climate change debate against me. So in what sense is the debate concluded? Do I not count? He replied that no one had ever won it against him either. I believe him. But isn't this a great opportunity to discuss? At least one of us would learn a lot. At least one of us could lose the debate and learn better. Doesn't it make tons of sense to get people on both sides who've had lots of debates, and won all of them, and then have them debate? Then some people will lose their undefeated streaks and change their minds, that'd be awesome.

(It'd be tricky though because people usually debate too irrationally for the debate or discussion to actually resolve disagreements or reach a conclusion. That's another problem that needs addressing.)

I'm open to discussing it with Scott Aaronson or anyone else. I take on all comers and am undefeated about this particular issue (global warming). Scott Aaronson on the other hand achieves his undefeated status by ignoring critics like myself. He implied symmetry, but actually my undefeated status is a badge of honor, while his is a badge of irrational evasion. I see a great opportunity for learning, but he's too busy being a professor or "intellectual" or whatever to spend his time engaging with criticism.

(No doubt he will claim it's a matter of priorities. So, there's this climate consensus but no one prioritizes answering criticism? If Scott Aaronson wanted to refer me to something he already wrote, or someone else wrote and he endorsed, or another person who'd answer questions/criticism, that'd be fine as long as there is some way I can follow up if the thing he refers me to is mistaken. I want answers, but I don't care if they come from another person or are pre-written or whatever, as long as they are actually answers. He claims he doesn't have time to give answers, but why aren't there any answers for him to refer me to? Isn't that a huge problem with his side of the debate? But he doesn't approach things this way, instead he's content to simply block criticism with no followups or answers, so that even if I'm right he never ever finds out.)

What is to be done when respected "intellectuals" evade intellectual challenges, and ignore real intellectuals?

And, by the way, I'm not some completely random nobody to Scott Aaronson. I don't think it would matter if I was. But for example, he's written to me in the past at different times that, "I basically agree with your analysis" and "Thanks so much for the Godwin ref -- I'll take a look!" But despite recognizing some things I said as good, he still won't engage in a serious discussion or deal with criticism or hard questions from me.

If you won't even consider criticism from people with a track record of good analysis and good references (in your opinion), then ... what the fuck? What else could you want from a potential discussion partner than some previous discussion that you think went well? What are people supposed to do to get his attention? Get a PhD or otherwise get socially sanctioned as having authority? What a hoop to jump through! One that many of best people will not want to jump through. If that's how it works, he's blocking criticism from many of the best people. (And if it works some other way instead of that cultural default, then he'd need to advertise that somewhere. He'd need to tell people his criteria. But he doesn't, implying he does use the cultural default social-authority approach for allocating his attention.)

There is a legitimate concern that people overestimate how good their points are. If someone thinks they have amazing ideas and contacts you, they could easily be wrong. It could be time consuming to explain it all to them. But I don't think that's what's happening here, and if it was he's handling it wrong. (I don't think it's happening from his perspective because I have a demonstrated past ability to say things I think are good points and have him agree that they are good points. Also, I focused on asking questions rather than making bold claims. It's way harder to go wrong with overestimating your knowledge when you ask questions.)

If it was what was happening, he should simply state that he thinks that is the situation (I'm overestimating my knowledge) and link to something explaining the issue that I could learn from. But he doesn't handle it anything like that. He handles things to block off future progress, block off resolving disagreements, block off error correction, rather than allow any paths forward.

Why don't people handle stuff so there is a way forward, a way for progress to happen, a way for disagreements to actually get resolved instead of lasting forever? Why do they block off problem solving? What is to be done about this?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

Paths Forward: Additional Thoughts

Have you read my Paths Forward essay yet? Read it first. It's more polished writing. If you like it and you want more, then read this.

These are some additional thoughts about paths forward. They're a little bit disorganized, but that shouldn't stop you from learning. This post has additional points and different ways to look at the topic. It covers some issues with a lot more detail. But seriously do read the Paths Forward essay first.

When two ideas conflict, either or both could be mistaken. Resolving conflicts of ideas is the key to learning, problem solving, and progress. It's one of the big topics in epistemology (the study of knowledge and ideas).

If both ideas are mine, then I must be mistaken about something. I should try to resolve the conflict. I can resolve the conflict by coming up with some better ideas. These ideas will need to solve the same problems as before (or else explain why some of those problems are misconceived), while fixing the conflict. A simple case is if I figure out a conflicting idea is mistaken, then I can replace it with a better idea to resolve the conflict.

Sometimes both ideas are pretty good, and I'm mistaken that they conflict. That's important too. Neither idea was good enough to explain why there wasn't a conflict. There's still something to learn.

Commonly, my idea conflicts with your idea. That's called a disagreement. This is a learning opportunity too. At least one of us is mistaken. And if neither of us knows enough to persuade the other, then we each have more to learn, even if our idea is correct.

It's important to look for conflicts between ideas (disagreements) and resolve them. If we don't do that, then our bad ideas won't get fixed; we won't learn new things and make progress.

Every disagreement (conflict of ideas) involves at least one mistake somewhere. Resolving conflicts of ideas means correcting errors. Correcting errors is how progress is made. It's how things get better. It's the best thing in life.

There are several important topics here. One is how to resolve conflicts between ideas (the answer involves using criticism, among other things). Today, I want to talk about openness to critical discussion (which is one of the important ways to resolve conflicts between ideas in order to find and correct mistakes).

People say things like, "I'm too busy" or "I can't debate everyone". They block off discussion. Then they miss out on learning opportunities, stagnate and die.

Everyone has a time limit of 24 hours per day. Being busy is not some kind of special exception. No matter how empty your schedule is, you still wouldn't have time to debate everyone on the internet or everyone in a big city. Time management is an issue everyone faces and saying you're busy doesn't address anything.

The philosophical issue of how to be open to discussion, while having limited time to talk with everyone who might wish to discuss, has basically the same answer whether you're busy or not.

Bad Approaches

Sometimes people decide who to discuss with by social status or authority. They figure they can't talk with everyone who disagrees with them, so they'll try to pay attention to the best people. But what if they are mistaken about who is the best? Or what if the guy who comes up with a great new idea isn't one of the best people? By looking at the speaker of an idea, instead of the idea itself, they are acting irrationally. Ideas should be judged by stuff like whether they make sense, whether they are logical, whether they give helpful explanations or whether they solve problems. Judging ideas by the social status or authority of the speaker is no good. (Authority actually is a kind of social status.)

This is a "who should rule?" approach as the philosopher Karl Popper called them. It's deciding who (or what) gets to make the decisions, who (or what) matters more than who, which sources of ideas get special privileges, and that kind of stuff. Instead, what we should be doing is making it easy to fix mistakes. People with high social status have enough advantages already, we should be trying to minimize that so reason can operate, rather than reinforce it so if they're wrong they keep their status anyway.

Second bad approach: Sometimes people have a disagreement and they skim over the other guy's conflicting idea. They take a quick look. Then if it seems amazing, they will try to resolve the disagreement. But if they aren't impressed, then they ignore it without resolving the disagreement. This is irrational because an idea that doesn't seem awesome to you immediately could still be true. This approach will miss opportunities to correct your mistakes.

A Path Forward

The rational approach to disagreements involves what I call a "path forward". It has to do with setting things up so there is some way that, if you're mistaken, you could find out and get your mistake corrected. This way progress and learning are never blocked off.

Note the goal here isn't just any path forward. It's a good one. What does that mean? Well, if you ignored every critic in the world, you still might happen to think of your mistakes yourself. Figuring out everything yourself is a path forward that's theoretically capable of correcting any mistake and allowing for unbounded progress. But it's not very realistic. We want a path forward that works better than that.

Thinking of everything yourself is too hard. You have blind spots. Other people can be a source of good ideas including criticisms. (It can work kind of like comparative advantage from economics, because other people have different stuff they are best at than you.) What we really want is to be able to make progress whenever we have a good new idea, or whenever someone else does. That'd be optimal. If no one thinks of something, oh well, what can you do? But if someone else figures something out and we block off that progress instead of learning it, that's bad!

It's important that good ideas can spread. It's important that if I'm wrong, and someone else knows I'm wrong, then I can find out.

But lots of times when someone thinks I'm wrong and tries to tell me, he'll actually be wrong. Just discussing with everyone who disagrees with me – who thinks they have a good idea I should learn – isn't going to work. We all have limited time, and there are a lot of people in the world.

So we need ways for good ideas to be able to reach me, even though I don't personally talk with everyone.


There are some things set up to help spread ideas. Books and other publications help. A decent amount of the good ideas people think of get published via books, journals, magazines, newspapers, blogs, websites, radio or TV. If I read some books, I can find some good ideas there and learn about some of my mistakes.

But how do publications work, exactly? It used to be that it was hard to get published unless you had high social status or a gatekeeper thought you had a good point. This kept the amount of published work manageable, but it also prevented some good ideas from being published.

Today, anyone can publish online. That's great because now everyone with a good idea can share it. Few important ideas go unpublished, if the author wants to share them. However, so much stuff gets published that no one can follow a thousandth of it. It's easy to miss out on good ideas that would be easily available if only you knew the right webpage.

There's a fundamental problem here. If you limit communication and block off some ideas then that will include some good ideas. You'll miss out on opportunities to learn things that someone knows. But if you don't limit communication and block anything off, then there's too much stuff and we run out of time, so we still might miss an opportunity.

There are hard problems here, but there's a lot you can do to deal with it well. And almost no one is handling these issues very well. People routinely ignore those with lower social status without realizing that's irrational. People routinely look at the ideas that make it through gatekeepers or curators and naively think they aren't missing out on anything good. No! Gatekeepers are fallible! Don't assume something is good because a curator liked it, or bad because a curator disliked it. Start thinking for yourself, and with effort and skill you could learn to notice lots of mistakes by curators.

A Path Forward Example

Let's look at an example of a good path forward. This is pretty generic and illustrates the main concepts.

A critic disagrees with me. I point him to something that's already written. It can be by me, or it can be something I endorse by someone else. Either way, I'm responsible for any mistakes in it. Now there's a path forward. It may persuade him. He can learn. His learning isn't blocked off (while his life isn't exactly my problem, I think it's really great if you leave your critics with a path forward too!). If he finds a mistake in it, he can tell me, and then I can learn.

He may be mistaken about what he thinks is a mistake. If his point is new to me, I should talk with him and we can try to figure out what's true. If I already know about his idea and disagree, I can refer him to something that addresses his misconception, which again I'm responsible for.

This process can repeat a lot with very little time investment on my part. If he's unwilling to deal with pre-written answers to his points, and wants me to write new stuff, that's irrational. What's wrong with pre-written material? If he won't address things I refer him to, he's blocking progress, at which point there's no path forward.

If he blocks the path forward, there isn't a lot I should do about it. That's sad, but some people are irrational and you can't lose sleep trying to help them all. You should try to be forgiving and give people several chances because there could easily be a misunderstanding. But if someone is actually putting their effort towards blocking progress instead of making progress, and they don't want to cooperate for mutual benefit, then let it go and deal with people who care about reason.

The path forward discussion process uses people's time roughly according to how much they already know (that's relevant). If I refer a critic to some argument and he isn't familiar with it, he'll have to put time and effort into studying it. If he doesn't want to do that, he's in no position to correct my thinking on this topic. On the other hand, if he already is familiar with the answer I gave him, then he'll be able to answer me much more quickly. (Note it doesn't matter if the answer is pre-written or not, nothing really changes.)

If he knows a bunch of things I don't, I might find myself being the one spending a bunch of time learning things to continue the discussion. But that's OK if I spend lots of time in the cases where the other guy knows more about the topic than I do! What we wanted to avoid was me spending a lot of time dealing with lots of people who know much less than me. (But without just ignoring them, in case someone I think knows less is actually right about something. Even if I think someone doesn't know much and their idea sounds dumb to me, it's important there be a path forward so potential progress isn't blocked.)

What if I haven't already written an answer to something? Well if I've never addressed a topic before, maybe it'd be good to write an answer. Then if I think my answer is good enough, I can reuse it later to save time. I can and should consider topics in the first place. And I should write down what I think so that it's exposed to criticism and I can reuse it instead of complaining I'm busy.

Writing about every topic would be a lot though. Material written by others works fine too, if I agree with it. As long as someone wrote it down, then people who disagree can learn from it, and it's exposed to potential criticism. But the important thing is, whether I am using my own writing or someone else's, I have to take full responsibility for it. If I use a book to speak for me, I have to be just as concerned with any errors in the book as if I wrote it myself. If the book contains errors and isn't good enough to stand up to criticism, then I can't use it to speak for me. I'll have to find a webpage with better answers or write my own, or write some extra material to fix the problems with the book (or change my mind).

Suppose there is nothing written by you that answers a person's criticism or question. And nothing written by anyone else which is good enough for you to endorse and take personal responsibility for. And nothing in other mediums like an audio recording of a lecture. (Writing is overall the best medium for learning, and I usually use it as my example, but other mediums have some advantages and are OK too.) Then it's really important to deal with this disagreement. If you don't, there is no path forward. If you ignore this, and he's right, you won't find out.

Saving More Time: Agreers

Even referring people who disagree with you to pre-written material could be time consuming if you're popular enough. How can that be handled? Let's look at another example.

When you're a beginner, you talk with many people, and encounter both agreement and disagreement. You read many books and webpages, and decide a few are good enough to speak for you and start referring to them. You write many ideas yourself. Many are refuted by critics and you improve your thinking. Some things you reference get refuted, others don't. Because you change everything that gets refuted, over time you build up a collection of ideas that is harder and harder to refute.

And because you (or others) write things down to expose them to criticism (instead of just thinking of them in your head and deciding they are awesome, without others getting a chance to review them for errors), you build up a collection of difficult-to-refute written material which you can refer new people you meet to, as relevant. Over time, as your collection builds up and you become one of the best intellectuals, you find that when you talk to new people, usually they have nothing to teach you, and you already have material to refer them to which covers all their arguments.

Because example-you is so amazing and so much better than most people, you get popular, and attract people who wish to learn from you. At first you personally help some people learn, but then later on there are too many of them. And now you have so many critics, who so rarely surprise you, that even sending them links to answers is not something you want to be doing anymore.

OK, great, so example-you's time is super valuable. But now you have a bit of a following. These generally go together. If your time is super valuable, normally some of your great material will be public and will impress some people. It's not guaranteed. You could be right but unpopular, or you could do confidential secret work; I won't address those special cases today.

Now what you do is create a discussion place online (if you haven't already). Or you can use a discussion place that someone else created, if you're willing to take personal responsibility for it being good enough. Then what you need is for your fans/followers/students to start answering critics for you. I'm going to call these people agreers, in contrast to the people with disagreements we've been considering how to deal with.

(Don't take these categories too seriously, you should treat people's ideas identically whether they are agreers or disagreers. And people can switch which one they are acting like frequently. They're just rough labels to help explain.)

If someone asks a question that you already have an essay answering, one of your agreers can link him to it. If someone has a question about your essay, one of your agreers can answer it. That saves you time!

In general, if you have agreers who want to learn more about your way of thinking, they will act like you did when you were a beginner, less popular and less awesome. There are people getting started learning what you now know. They can deal with critics similar to how you did when you were initially learning it yourself. They are in the situation you used to be in, and they can deal with the stuff you used to deal with.

You mostly directly help the people who know the most, which isn't too time consuming since that's a smaller group. If your agreers are unable to answer a critic, they ask you, and you deal with it (by explaining an error or learning something or whatever is appropriate). Most things are answered by your agreers. The more awesome and popular you get, and the more valuable your time, then the more agreers you'll have to answer things. Get more awesome, get your time more sheltered; it all works out. This way, all disagreeing ideas can get answered, but your own limited time is conserved.

The big point here is you can save a lot of time while making sure all issues get answered. As long as you take responsibility for every issue having a path forward, then compatible time savers are fine.

If you can't attract any agreers who want to learn the stuff you know about, maybe you're overestimating yourself. If you can, the business problem is solved. If you think you're too busy, apparently you don't have enough agreers of high enough quality (why hasn't your material explained enough to them to make them high quality?) That's your fault and your problem. You think you're busy when actually you're overestimating how good your ideas are. (And possibly you're doing some other mistakes like sharing too few ideas in ways the ideas can be spread around without you repeating yourself. If so, you should get better at teaching and also place a higher value on exposing your ideas to critical examination from the public).

There's a few things to keep in mind, though. What if your agreers think they answered a critic but they're wrong? They have to be good enough that you can take responsibility for what they are doing. To the extent you can't take responsibility for their judgment, you need to be monitoring what's going on.

Monitoring your discussion place lets you understand what's going on there, and if you should answer something. If something gets a lot of attention, take a look. If something's different than you've answered before, take a closer look.

And about your agreers, remember you can't really trust someone else's judgment until there's been a huge amount of communication, which most people never do (they are too "busy", and ineffective at persuasion, to ever have serious intellectual relationships that actually resolve tons of differences). If you've seen how someone deals with a particular issue several times, that helps. If you've criticized their thinking on dozens of issues and seen how they deal with criticism, that helps. If you've given them a book to read and then discussed it with them to see how well they understood it on their own, that helps. Stuff like this. You really have to know all about your agreers or you shouldn't be trusting them with much of anything. And you still need to do some ongoing monitoring no matter what, or else you're irresponsible.

Note that even if your agreers aren't all that amazing, they can still do things like answer a question so you don't have to. Just monitor it. Check that the link they gave is a good answer to the question. Check that you agree with the answer they wrote themselves. Comment if you disagree with something. You can cut down on writing stuff yourself a lot even with some beginner agreers.

When you handle discussion this way, then if you're good enough you can shelter your time enough, and any good idea can still reach you. Answers about your ideas will be available in some way, and people who disagree can learn from and/or criticize those answers. If you know something they don't, they can find out. If they know something you don't, you can find out. That's what rationality is all about – setting things up so there is a path forward, so mistakes can get fixed, and so learning and progress can happen.

Multi-Step Paths Forward

You might write something yourself. You might refer a critic (or agreer!) to something you already wrote. This may itself contain references. You might have an essay that references a book. And that book might footnote another book which footnotes another book. It's OK if a path forward involves lots of steps. It's fundamentally the same thing as long as each step connects and there really is a path the whole way.

(Note, by the way, that it doesn't really matter if you're dealing with a critic or an agreer, the methods stay the same. This is very important because basically everyone and their ideas need to be treated equally, fairly, objectively. All people, regardless of your fallible judgment of their (social) status, are one category. All ideas, regardless of source, are one category. You should be acting with principled methods that deal with the whole categories, not making special exceptions.)

And if you have agreers answering questions for you, there might be multiple steps there too. A critic might have a discussion with your newer agreers. When he raises some issues they don't know how to answer, some intermediate agreers might take an interest and comment. If he manages to bring up questions or criticisms they aren't able to resolve, then some advanced agreers could comment. And if that doesn't settle things, you should have noticed the issue. If you know the answer but no one else does, you ought to explain it. It doesn't hurt anything for the critic to go through several steps. If he knows a lot and his time is valuable, it's OK, he'll be able to say very little and get past the agreers who don't know how to deal with it. Or his own agreers might talk to yours.

These multi-step path are potentially necessary for protecting your time if you're awesome enough. And the structure of knowledge gets complicated as enough good ideas build up. That's fine, because they still allow a path forward. Nothing is being blocked off.


You don’t have to know if you're an agreer, a disagreer, at the top of the pyramid, or whatever. And you can be all of them for different topics. The thing is, you should act the same no matter which place you have. And you should treat people the same. People are people. Ideas are ideas. Treat them rationally and objectively, not according to your prejudgment about who knows a lot (or their social status or whatever else). You don't really know who is who until after the discussion, and even then hindsight is fallible.

Paths forward not only don’t make assumptions about the status of people, they are also better in every way than status-based approaches. They are better if you turn out to be right because acting in the rational paths forward way gives other guy a path forward too, and makes for more rational discussion. And if you help people learn your ideas u can gain agreers who may get awesome enough to teach you stuff or work productively in your field. And not acting like Mr. Awesome is way way better if you're wrong. Don't ever be the asshole who is mistaken, and is going around saying how much of a big authority he is while pompously ignoring criticism. Don't ever do anything that risks being that guy.

Other Paths Forward

The concept of a path forward is useful in multiple ways. We've talked about how setting up a path forward is a good standard for being open to discussion or debate. It makes sure good ideas can spread to you (in case you're mistaken and someone else knows better), and also it's important that there's a path forward for others to learn what you know (in case you aren't mistaken).

It's also important when having a discussion to make comments that leave a path forward. If you are confused, you have to make some clear statements about what the issue is (preferably about the topic, but failing that say that you're confused and not sure how to proceed and ask for help with your confusion). If you don't do that, how will progress happen?

If someone asks questions and you give a vague reply that doesn't actually answer his questions, you're blocking off a path forward. What if his questions were leading to some good points? You won't find out. (If he's particularly patient he might repeat himself, but you shouldn't rely on his patience for your path forward to exist!)

If someone says something long, commenting on one disagreement leaves a path forward. Commenting on the whole thing isn't necessary to keep the possibility of progress. Resolving disagreements one at a time is a multi-step path forward, it's fine. It makes all the difference from not answering even one point, which leaves no path forward.

Final Thoughts

Reason involves a kind of back-and-forth (you can do all the steps yourself, though). When confronted with something, you point out an issue (or concede). Then the issue gets answered and now the ball is in your court again. Or it doesn't get answered, in which case they better concede or else they are irrational and don't understand paths forward.

When dealing with rational people, there's always answers to any doubts you may have. Whenever you can't get answers to your doubts, people are either mistaken or irrational. Tell them about paths forward. Give them the benefit of the doubt at first. Maybe they don't understand reason. Maybe they lost your email. Try a few times to make it clearer what's going on. If they openly refuse to give answers or concede, then you know they are irrational.

Finally, consider that paths forward depend more on how you think about discussion and learning – on your rationality – than on your ideas about specific topics like farming, chess or painting. They are an epistemology issue. To be rational, you should apply them to all discussions about everything.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (4)

Paths Forward

I've added a new essay, Paths Forward, to Fallible Ideas. Read it. Comment here or at the Fallible Ideas Discussion Group.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Starting Anew by Angela Ahrendts

Starting Anew by Angela Ahrendts discusses some thoughts about her new job as Senior Vice President, Apple Retail.
In honor of the great American poet Maya Angelou, always remember, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I would argue this is even more important in the early days.
She would argue it? why doesn't she argue it instead of saying she would? will she actually be arguing this in a future post, anywhere, ever? does she actually think she is arguing it?

shouldn't part of her job as an executive/leader/manager be to organize things so she can say stuff it's remembered and acted on? And shouldn't she aim for lasting achievements?

would it make more sense to hire people who care more about thinking than feeling, rather than cater to (often illogical) emotions?

would it be better to have a company culture more focused on how people rationally evaluate your decisions and actions? have people judge with reason rather than via feelings.

don't companies face large problems that don't feel like problems, but need to be solved anyway? aren't some things that feel like problems, actually important solutions to the problems presented by reality (not by arbitrary emotions)?

how will Angela Ahrendts cater to the often conflicting feelings of different people she works with? how will conflicts between feelings be resolved? what about conflicts between feelings and reason?

what good will this focus on feelings do that a focus on reason wouldn't do?

will Angela Ahrendts respect everyone's completely arbitrary feelings? that would allow them to make basically unlimited demands on her. or will she only respect feelings she and her social group consider socially legitimate? if she thinks your feelings are illegitimate, unreasonable, not something you should be feeling, how much effort will she still put into bending to your whims?

will she be doing what she thinks you should feel good about, or what you actually feel good about? the first isn't really caring about your feelings, it's just assuming you already are similar to her (presumably by both being socially-culturally normal). but the second would mean your feelings get to control her, which is not realistic for how an important executive leader would operate. what's going on?
Also, trust your instincts and emotions. Let them guide you in every situation; they will not fail you.
This is mysticism.
create positive energy
This is a vague metaphor. Why doesn't she say what the actual thing is, clearly? What is it?
And don’t be afraid to ask personal questions or share a few of your personal details. Talking about weekend interests, family and friends can give you a more complete view of your peers and partners, their passion and compassion. Building a relationship is also the first step in building trust, which quickly leads towards alignment and unity.
Is a major part of her job to socialize with others and get them to like her? Is this something like a popularity contest from high school? Should companies function that way? Is this like a subtle more nice-seeming version of cutthroat corporate politics?

Is she setting things up to say "I was always very respectful of his feelings and reached out to him by asking about non-work stuff, but I felt disrespected when he didn't run that decision by me"? Is that how she wins disputes? If so, this method doesn't depend at all on whether her ideas in dispute are good or bad. This kind of contest isn't truth-seeking.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fact Checking Ann Coulter

I've encountered a lot of scholarship errors in books (and elsewhere) and learned to watch out for false claims. Even if a book gives a lot of footnotes, it can easily still be wrong. I often check the sources for claims, rather than trusting footnotes, and I've caught problems. I've written about the bad scholarship of the Cato Institute, the Ayn Rand Institute, the New York Times, Thomas Sowell, Robert Zubrin, Alex Epstein, Steven Mosher, Isaac Kramnick, Fred Pearce, Matthew Connelly, Robert McGee, and Ari Armstrong.

I didn't have to look for scholarship errors to find any of those. I just read things normally and investigated issues that stood out to me. With Coulter, I did the same thing when reading her books. I investigated several of her claims. The difference is, with everyone else I found an error within the first few issues I investigated. With Coulter, I never found an error, so I decided she was a good scholar.

But Coulter's weekly column rarely gives sources for its many factual claims. I find that uncomfortable. I was concerned I was being too trusting by reading her column and generally believing its facts. Plus, I disagree with Coulter on some important issues (like psychiatry). When you have substantial disagreements with someone, that indicates you think about the world in some different ways, so it's good to tread carefully. Perhaps she treats factual accuracy differently than I do (I know many people take it less seriously than me). So I decided to fact check Ann Coulter more thoroughly.

To be objective, I used a random method. I'd already tried checking things that stood out to me. This time I investigated 10 random footnotes from her books. For each one, I picked a book, then I selected a chapter with a random number generator, then I went to the footnotes for that chapter and selected one with a random number generator. Whatever was randomly chosen, I committed to investigate it and reach a conclusion, even if it was hard; reselecting any footnotes would compromise objectivity.

This is not a perfect approach. If 1% of Coulter's footnotes are mistaken, I could miss it. Maybe she approaches her columns with a different respect for scholarship than the books I'm checking (why?). Maybe she has mistakes with no footnote. If I missed something, please tell me (with specifics!). Leave a comment below or email me [email protected]

In my experience, I often find scholarship errors within the first three things I check for an author. Because errors are so common, I think a spot check like this is valuable. If you doubt how common errors are, I recommend you fact check some other authors. Plus, I've already read Coulter's books and checked a few claims I found suspicious, so adding random checking provides good variety and objectivity. And, while reading, I already had the opportunity to spot claims in her books that should have a footnote but don't, or notice other issues.

I checked 10 randomly selected footnotes from 5 Ann Coulter books. For each one, I present my analysis below and I score Coulter's scholarship from 0 to 5 points. Her final average score was 5, which is perfect. (I decided on the scoring system before I started.) I found no scholarship errors. Well done!

In addition to fact checking Coulter myself, I also reviewed other people's criticism and fact checking of Coulter. Click through for details; in summary, their own scholarship was terrible. Also, my friend fact checked one random Coulter cite I gave him, which was correct.

Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America

Cite: Chapter 12: 29. Lynn Sweet, “Dems Seek Strategy Against ‘Birthers,’ ” Chicago Sun-Times, August 5, 2009.
The Democratic National Committee called the Tea Party movement “rabid right-wing extremists” and “angry mobs.”29
(Yellow quotes are from Coulter's books, teal quotes are from her sources, red indicates other quotes.)

Here, Coulter has given two quotes. I found the article here. It has the text Coulter quoted:
The Obama-controlled Democratic National Committee is portraying its foes as on the political fringe, accusing "Republicans and their allied groups" of "inciting angry mobs," calling them "a small number of rabid right wing extremists."
The only difference is Coulter added a hyphen in "right-wing". I think that's a reasonable English style change, not a misquote.

The article's source is the author personally speaking with Democratic Senator Dick Durban and providing quotes. Good.

Score: 5/5

Cite: Chapter 15: 25. Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Thomas Nelson, 2010), 170–71.
Reminiscent of France’s “Cult of Reason,” the Nazis planned to replace Christianity with the “Reich Church,” based on a 30-point plan drawn up by Nazi leader Alfred Rosenberg. Crosses were to be stripped from churches, cathedrals, and chapels and replaced by the swastika. Bibles, crucifixes, and saints would be forbidden from the altars, which would instead display a copy of Mein Kampf and a sword.25 (If they had thought of it, they might have put Christ in a jar of urine.)
I got the book. Page 170 says:
Rosenberg was an "outspoken pagan" who, during the war, developed a thirty-point program for the "National Reich Church."
Five of the thirty points are given in the book on page 171. Coulter gets everything right:
18. The National Church will clear away from its altars all crucifixes, Bibles and pictures of Saints.

19. On the altars there must be nothing but Mein Kampf (to the German nation and therefore God the most sacred book) and to the left of the altar a sword.

30. On the day of its foundation, the Christian Cross must be removed from all churches, cathedrals and chapels ... and it must be superseded by the only unconquerable symbol, the swastika.
But what about this book's source? I was worried for a second because there's no footnotes. But it does have endnotes with sources, they just go by page number and brief quotes rather than by footnote number. There are five reasonable-looking sources given for pages 170-171.

And if you search for this material on Google you get lots of hits with these points, some of which give more sources. For example:
(The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer, p. 240 in some editions, p. 332 in others. Chapter headed "Triumph and Consolidation", subsection "The Persecution of the Christian Churches")
He even checked the page numbers for different editions! That Shirer book is actually one of Bonhoeffer's sources. Let's see if there are any Amazon reviews criticizing Shirer's scholarship. There are 16 1 star reviews out of 930 reviews. Looking through them:
This review is not of the excellent scholarly work of William Shirer but of the Kindle version of this book
The serious flaw in this book is the extremely poor editing by the publisher [for the Kindle version]
The book is excellent..a classic. There is a problem with the new audiobook service and the Kindle Fire HD.
Lots of 1 star reviews are either about problems with the e-book or the audio book. One guy wants to defend Nietzsche from charges of anti-semitism, but I didn't find his comments persuasive. Someone says Shirer's book is outdated and there is new information available, but doesn't point out specific mistakes. Someone even says:
The simple fact is if I want an anti Nazi soapbox filled with opinion and no facts, I will read a political blog or something along those lines.
Shirer's book is anti-Nazi? Fine with me. These Amazon reviews look like what you would expect for an accurate book that offends a few people. I'm giving Coulter full credit.

Score: 5/5

High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton

Cite: Chapter 4: 9 John M. Broder, “Testing of a President: The Investigation,” New York Times, March 7, 1998.
Jordan told the grand jury that he personally gave the president regular progress reports on his efforts to get Lewinsky a job. He partially confirmed Clinton’s statement that Betty Currie was the one who referred Lewinsky to him. Yet he also explained that he assumed the referral was made at the president’s request.9
Here's the article.
Mr. Clinton, in his deposition, acknowledged talking to Mr. Jordan about finding a job for Ms. Lewinsky. And Mr. Jordan has told his lawyers and the grand jury that he personally kept the President up to date on his job search efforts.


Mr. Jordan has said that it was Mrs. Currie who referred Ms. Lewinsky to him. But his attorney, William G. Hundley, said this week that Mr. Jordan assumed that Mrs. Currie was acting at the President's behest.
The footnote does have the material for all three of Coulter's sentences, and she presented it accurately. A problem I've seen before is a section of text makes multiple claims and then gives a footnote for one of the claims. Then the other claims have no source. But Coulter did it right.

Score: 5/5

Cite: Chapter 12: 6 Investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held hearings on “Filegate” in 1996, discovered this.
This was not the sort of thing that tended to promote the appearance of innocent bungling. In addition, a six-month gap in the log used to sign out the sensitive files from the White House Security Office was never explained. One page of the looseleaf log ends on March 29, 1994, and the next page picks up again with September 21, 1994.6
I'm not very happy with this cite because it doesn't give any source to look up. But there is information online:
(e) Secret Service entry logs indicate Craig Livingstone's access to the White House residence when he had no logical reason for being there, other than perhaps to share FBI files with its occupants. Indeed, a "check out" log of FBI files from his office shows a six (6) month "gap" -- from March 29, 1994 to September 21, 1994 -- where there are no entries, reminiscent of the eighteen (18) minute gap in the Nixon tapes during Watergate. See Secret Service Entry Logs, attached as Exhibit 9.
Looks like Coulter had it right. I'm still not happy about the lack of a source I could directly check, but I'm hesitant to subtract any points when she was factually correct. To resolve this, I searched for newspaper articles from the time. If it was common knowledge, then I'll give her full credit.

LA Times:
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called the gap troubling and asked former White House aide D. Craig Livingstone to explain missing entries in the log between March 29, 1994, and Sept. 21, 1994.


"There was a period of time evidently that the log wasn't kept," Livingstone testified.
Well, OK, Livingstone admitted it himself, in Senate testimony, and it was in a major newspaper. And it's not that hard to find, even 18 years later.

Score: 5/5

Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama

Cite: Chapter 14: 62. Mark Hosenball, “The Death-Threat Debate,” Newsweek, October 27, 2008. Available at
The Obama campaign responded to Newsweek’s inquiries about the candidate’s lie by saying that even if the report wasn’t true, “what is true is that the tone of the rhetoric at McCain–Palin campaign events has gotten out of hand.”62
I like cites with URLs! Coulter's quote exactly matches the webpage. The source is, "An Obama campaign spokesman told NEWSWEEK". Looks good.

Score: 5/5

Cite: Chapter 15: 18. Mark Mooney, “Obama Aide Concedes ‘Dollar Bill’ Remark Referred to His Race,” ABC News, August 1, 2008. Available at
Maybe he’d be the first Hawaiian on a dollar bill. Apparently, there were limits to the press’s credulity and eventually, the Obama campaign admitted that, yes, the dollar bill line was about race.18
Another URL, and another correct cite. Easy one.
But Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, acknowledged on "Good Morning America" Friday that the candidate was referring, at least in part, to his ethnic background.

When pressed to explain the comment, Axelrod told "GMA" it meant, "He's not from central casting when it comes to candidates for president of the United States. He's new to Washington. Yes, he's African-American."
Score: 5/5

Cite: Chapter 4: 33. Jim Dwyer, “Race Victim’s Mom: I Wanted a Better Life for My Kids,” (New York) Newsday, January 8, 1992.
The only definitive proof that the paint attacks were hoaxes was that the police, the mayor and the New York Times suddenly dropped the subject, never mentioning the white-paint attacks again. Needless to say, there would be no investigation into whether the alleged victims had wasted police resources by falsely reporting a crime.

The shoe-polish hate crime had made the front page of the New York Times and the cover of New York Newsday in massive in-depth interviews with the “victims.” The Times’s story, titled “Victim of Bias Attack, 14, Wrestles with His Anger,” was 1,228 words long.32 Newsday’s account, written by the most easily fooled journalist in America, Jim Dwyer, clocked in at 1,016 words and was titled “Race Victim’s Mom: I Wanted a Better Life for My Kids.”33 The racist attack was talked about in France, Toronto, Seattle, Chicago, on the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour, in endless stories on National Public Radio and still today, in Anna Quindlen’s living room.
I quoted a lot in this case to make the context and issue clear. This article is tough to find. The only thing Google found was from Coulter's book. found nothing. Newsday's website search is broken. Searching for the author "Dwyer" brings up a bunch of sports articles that give an error when clicked on. Jim Dwyer may have won a Pulitzer Prize while at Newsday, but their link to his articles is broken.

But I eventually managed to find it. Coulter's cite is correct except for two punctuation changes. The version I found online has the apostrophe moved to the wrong place and has quotes around the dialog from the mother:
Race Victims' Mom: `I Wanted A Better Life For My Kids'
I don't see a meaningful problem. And the visible text of the article fits what Coulter was talking about.

Score: 5/5

Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right

Cite: Chapter 2: 3. Editorial, Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 14, 2002.
The California Coastal Commission was forced to intervene to demand that the Hollywood left stop blocking access to the beach. Steve Hoye, former head of the Malibu Democratic Club, expressed shock at the arrogance of what he called "some of the best, most liberal people in Malibu."3
The issue here is the Hoye quote. Although the Las Vegas Review-Journal deleted the article from their website, the Internet Archive still has a copy:
"Some of the best, most liberal people in Malibu turned their backs on me over this issue," said Steve Hoye, former head of the Malibu Democratic Club and now a champion of open beaches, to the Los Angeles Times.
I think their source is this L.A. Times article. Coulter's quote is correct.

Score: 5/5

Cite: Chapter 8: 12. Jo Mannies, "Bradley Touts New Book, Ideologies; Public Trust Tops Priorities in New Appeal," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 9, 1996, p. 1C.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described Bradley's run-of-the-mill, tax-and-spend liberalism as "his cerebral approach to politics."12
The article is behind a paywall. I paid.
His personal disclosures, in the book and in interviews, are a departure for Bradley, a private man known for his prowess in basketball and his cerebral approach to politics.
Coulter's quote is correct.

Score: 5/5

Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism

Cite: Chapter 6: 78. Lawrence Van Gelder, "Harold Cammer, 86, Champion of Labor and Rights Lawyer," New York Times, October 25, 1995; William Glaberson, "F.B.I. Admits Bid to Disrupt Lawyers Guild," New York Times.
The New York Times has variously referred to the Guild as "a nation-wide organization noted for its concern with liberal causes and civil rights" and "a national lawyers organization that has long been associated with the labor movement and liberal causes."78
These articles were easy to find and the quotes are correct. Harold Cammer, 86, Champion of Labor and Rights Lawyer:
Mr. Cammer was also a founder and active member of the National Lawyers Guild, a nationwide organization noted for its concern with liberal causes and civil rights, as well as a volunteer lawyer in the civil rights movement in the South in the 1960's.
F.B.I. Admits Bid to Disrupt Lawyers Guild:
The Guild, a national lawyers organization that has long been associated with the labor movement and liberal causes, was tarred for years with charges that it was a "Communist front" organization.
Ann added a hyphen in "nation-wide". That's fine. Otherwise the quotes are exact.

Score: 5/5

Congratulations to Ann Coulter for her perfect score. It's great – and too rare – to see high quality scholarship.

EDIT: I want to be extra clear about a misconception some readers have had. Of course checking random cites is not comprehensive. First, I checked anything that stood out to me as suspicious or interesting, like I do with everyone. Other people never pass that phase 1 checking. Then for phase 2, I checked random cites for Ann Coulter as a supplement. I wanted to be extra hard on Coulter, rather than treat phase 1 checking as adequate. Coulter passed both phases, her rivals all failed in phase 1.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reviewing Ann Coulter's Critics

In this post, I review criticisms and fact checks of Ann Coulter. Teal quotes are Coulter, yellow quotes are from critics, red is other stuff.
"No doctors who went to an American medical school will be accepting Obamacare."
lol. I remember reading that. This site considers that "pants on fire" lying, and says:
Our experts say: "outrageous," "ridiculous," "ludicrous"
They are appealing to the authority of people who suck at reading comprehension. Sigh. It wasn't meant at a factual-literal statement. This criticism is stupid. They try to defend it:
We are sure the claim wasn't intended as a joke, because it's included in a bullet-point list of straightforward criticisms of the law.
I don't think these people are familiar with Coulter's style. Also on that list was
-- Merely to be eligible for millions of dollars in grants from the federal government under Obamacare, programs are required to meet racial, ethnic, gender, linguistic and sexual orientation quotas. (That's going to make health care MUCH better!)
Using sarcasm isn't what I consider a list of "straightforward criticisms" which couldn't include a joke. Ann (who is not alone in this) has often mixed serious points and humor. Just assuming she wasn't joking about this isn't a reasonable way to interpret her.

in a "lie of the year" contest, Coulter is given a runner up award because:
Conservative author Ann Coulter’s claim that “no doctors who went to an American medical school will be accepting Obamacare.” It received the “pants on fire” rating, the most extreme type of lie by PolitiFact’s rating.
Same issue again. I'm including this because I just clicked everything I saw on Google, I wanted to be thorough. Coulter was not making a literal-factual claim. she was making a correct point about how Obamacare screws up market incentives. BTW she explained in a column how she herself couldn't get any medical care she valued above $0 from any obamacare plan, so the half-joking quote doesn't even seem like much of an exaggeration.
Coulter said Fox News broke the story of George W. Bush’s 1976 drunk driving arrest. In terms of being the first to broadcast the story, that is correct.


We rate Coulter’s statement Half True.
So Coulter was correct, but they rate it "Half True". I don't get it. (They make some excuses about Fox News only broadcasting it first, but one of Fox's affiliates having done the research.)

This guy complains that Coulter dislikes Ezekiel Emanuel. Emanuel is an Obama health care advisor and a would-be philosopher. What is wrong with Coulter's position? He says Emanuel has been misunderstood and links to Unfortunately the Youtube video with Coulter's comments is no longer available and he only quoted Coulter as saying, "Zeke Emanuel is on my death list."
McCaughey, a former New York lieutenant governor, claimed that Ezekiel Emanuel advocated that "medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those ‘who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens.’ "
What did Emanuel actually say?
Emanuel, Hastings Center Report, 1996: Communitarians endorse civic republicanism and a growing number of liberals endorse some version of deliberative democracy. … This civic republican or deliberative democratic conception of the good provides both procedural and substantive insights for developing a just allocation of health care resources. … Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity – those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberations – are to be socially guaranteed as basic. Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia. A less obvious example is guaranteeing neuropsychological services to ensure children with learning disabilities can read and learn to reason.
Sounds awful. For those who missed the meaning, he basically wants the government authorities to be in charge of healthcare and decide who gets what by deciding which healthcare services are "basic" (government provided at taxpayer expense) or not. So like, death panels. Emanuel's defense is:
Emanuel conceded that the article is "pretty abstract" and may be difficult to follow for those who are not academics, but he said that one should not then "take two sentences out of context."

"This is clearly not written in my own voice," he said. "I am not advocating this."

We’ll leave it to you to determine the merits of Emanuel’s philosophical observations. But the context makes it clear that Emanuel is describing the implications of a particular philosophical trend, not offering a policy prescription.
So his defense is that he was just writing about bad stuff, not advocating it? And also he's smarter than us, so we shouldn't try to use our own judgment. I'm not sold. Oh and the link to the report doesn't actually work. And I don't trust this site because it screws up the next issue really badly:
McCaughey also pushes the idea that Emanuel would want to ration care for seniors by quoting from a January 2009 article that Emanuel coauthored in The Lancet journal. Here, McCaughey says, he "explicitly defends discrimination against older patients."

What Emanuel and his two coauthors were actually writing about was how to decide which patients are to receive organ transplants, vaccines or other "very scarce medical interventions" when there are not enough to go around. The three authors advocated favoring younger patients over older patients as part of a "complete lives" decision-making system aimed at saving the most years of life using the available resources. Age would be only one factor, however. Also weighing in the "complete lives" system would be such factors as a patient’s likelihood of full recovery (prognosis) and the use of a lottery when deciding between two "roughly equal" patients.

The authors disputed the idea that this system discriminates against older people in the way that favoring one race or one sex over another would discriminate. "Treating 65-year-olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not." The authors stated that the complete lives system "empowers us to decide fairly whom to save when genuine scarcity makes saving everyone impossible."
So it's not OK to accuse him of explicitly discriminating against older patients because he has the excuse that he's doing it rationally instead of due to bigotry? Umm. No. Discrimination for any reason is discrimination. That doesn't necessarily make it bad, but it does make it discrimination. He did explicitly advocate treating old people differently due to their age. And, no, also considering other factors does not change that. If I discriminate against homosexuals unless they're white, thus considering multiple factors, that does not make it stop being discrimination.

If you want to do credible fact checking you can't attack factually accurate statements like this. I'm done with this guy.

Despite this guy being dumb, I found another copy of the report he brought up anyway, and took a look. It begins:
Is there a relationship between defects in our medical ethics and the reason the United States has repeatedly failed to enact universal health coverage?
This is politics disguised as academics. Read it if you can stomach it. He's a power-hungry statist authoritarian.

Oh and I found a copy of the video of what Coulter said.

She was joking. Here's the quote:
"Totally ironically, Zeke Emanuel is on my death list. Hold the applause. I'm going to be on the death panel."
The assholes at didn't bother mentioning that Coulter was making a joke about personally being on Obama death panels, prefaced with "Totally ironically".

Again, quoted "Totally ironically, Zeke Emanuel is on my death list. Hold the applause. I'm going to be on the death panel." as "Zeke Emanuel is on my death list."

I guess misquoting was the only way they could come up with to attack Coulter.

This site does not have permalinks for some stupid reason. Anyway in a section called "The Lies" we read:
Regarding the War On Terror, on page 5 and 6, Coulter makes the accusations that “[i]n lieu of a military response against terrorists abroad and security precautions at home, liberals wanted to get the whole thing over with and just throw conservatives in jail” and “[l]iberals hate America, they hate ‘flag-wavers,’ they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam (post 9/11). Even Islamic terrorists don’t hate America like liberals do.”
Coulter having different political opinions than you does not make her a liar.
Two of the sources Coulter uses to arrive at these scurrilous conclusions are New York Times columns by Frank Rich and Bruce Ackerman. On page 5, Coulter writes, “New York Times columnist Frank Rich demanded that [Attorney General] Ashcroft stop monkeying around with Muslim terrorists and concentrate on anti-abortion extremists.”

REALITY: I checked the column Coulter cited and found that nowhere in the column does Rich even remotely suggest that Ashcroft curtail efforts against Islamic terrorists. In fact, I checked every post-9/11 Times column by Rich and found that Rich has not made any such demands of Ashcroft. This is one of Coulter’s lies that I e-mailed to Alan Colmes who interviewed Coulter last night (6/25/02) on Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes show. Colmes confronted Coulter with this. Coulter’s response: “that is an accurate paraphrase...” (For a transcript of Coulter and Colmes’s exchange, check the addendum at the bottom of this post).
ok let's see the addendum
Addendum: Partial transcript of Hannity & Colmes, June 25, 2002. Interview with Ann Coulter

Colmes : [ Quoting from Slander, pg. 5] ‘New York Times columnist Frank Rich demanded that [Attorney General] Ashcroft stop monkeying around with Muslim terrorists and concentrate on anti-abortion extremists.’ You referred to a particular column that Frank Rich wrote. He never said that in the column. He never said that Ashcroft should stop monkeying around. I can’t show you what he didn’t say because he didn’t say it. It wasn’t in the column.

Coulter: Yes, he did. I mean, I do know what the column says. No, I wasn’t quoting him precisely—

Colmes: I read it today.

Coulter: That is an accurate paraphrase—unlike his quotes of me, I might add, which are, I can show you how they are deceptive. But, no, he was specifically saying, here just so the viewers don’t have to go to the trouble of looking it up. He was specifically complaining that Ashcroft was not meeting with the head of Planned Parenthood when he was purporting to investigate terrorism. That is true and you can’t deny it.

Colmes: That’s not what you said—

[Hannity interrupts and begins to interview Coulter]
ok and what's the article say? "Planned Parenthood, which has been on the front lines of anthrax scares for years and has by grim necessity marshaled the medical and security expertise to combat them, has sought a meeting with the attorney general since he took office but has never been granted one."

so, Coulter was right? what's the problem? the article was complaining that Ashcroft didn't meet with planned parenthood when he was supposed to be dealing with terrorism. the article also said, "A close friend of George W. Bush, [Mr. Ridge] should have been in the administration from the get-go, and was widely rumored to be a candidate for various jobs, including the vice presidency. But after being pilloried by the right because he supports abortion rights, he got zilch. Instead of Mr. Ridge, the administration signed on the pro-life John Ashcroft". so the article really did focus on the abortion issue. and for those who don't know, Ashcroft was busy working on stuff like the patriot act. his resignation letter stated, "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

These people seem to consider anything an error if they don't like it and it involves any interpretation they disagree with. They ought to learn the difference between false factual statements and disagreeable (to them) opinion statements.

moving on to another website by the same guy
Now that it's been thoroughly established that Coulter engaged in plagiarism, not only in the book Godless but for her syndicated column
the link to the plagiarism info doesn't work. (there was also a second link but it went to a blog mainpage with no mention of plagiarism to be found)
I can only speculate but here's my hypothesis: Coulter is a mendacious and venal cynic who has no heart. As an educated person, she hardly believes her own bullshit
OK I guess this guy is just a political opponent of Coulter's who isn't doing objective analysis. done with him. let's google for plagiarism though, that sounds interesting.

i laughed out loud when i saw Daily Kos defending Ann Coulter from the plagiarism charges. the Kos article says all Coulter did is use some arguments she didn't come up with herself, which it considers "lazy" but recognizes isn't plagiarism. so it's like when I use arguments that Ayn Rand thought of – does studying Objectivism make me lazy? Kos links to details but the link doesn't work.

the plagiarism accusation was made using software plagiarism checking. this kind of thing needs manual checking. also apparently the accuser didn't release his detailed evidence initially. An executive at Coulter's book publisher said, "The number of words used by our author in these snippets is so minimal that there is no requirement for attribution."

things get more fun as Coulter herself addresses the issue. Coulter says:
You can't plagiarize the name 'George Bush.'
See? Fun issue. I laughed. and even more fun:
And if I'm plagiarizing I want to know who's saying all those awful thing about the Jersey Girls. Liberals can't really get it straight. Either I'm writing vile horrible books or I'm not writing vile horrible books.
...[E]ven liberal lunatic Daily Kos says it's not plagiarism.
lol, similar to my reaction (except the "lunatic" psychiatry part).

discussing libel, Coulter says she won't sue, she's a public figure, people can and do say whatever they want about her. then:
Cavuto, interrupting:

Do you find that a touch ironic? You've blasted public figures all your life. They turn around and blast you and you can't do a lick about it.


I don't lie about them. I mean, we ought to have the same libel law, and I've always believed this, that Britain does and that is pure truth or falsity. Fine, put a cap on damages. Have a pure truth or falsity here but that is not what libel law is. You can say anything about a public figure.
Truth or falsity sounds like a good criterion for libel to me.

And, indeed, Ann does not lie about the people she criticizes. I've fact checked her, plus I did this big post you're reading right now. i've looked through her stuff and what her critics say. (let me spoil the ending for you: her critics are incompetent).

ok let's get back to wading through the less fun stuff.
Misleading quotation and sourcing of claims

Coulter engages in a series of deceptive practices in quoting people and sourcing her claims. Most commonly, she distorts the authorship of articles she's citing. Throughout the book, she attributes outside book reviews, magazine profiles and op-eds to media outlets as if they were staff-written news reports, feeding the perception of bias on the part of these institutions. These include a New York Times Week in Review article by historian Richard Gid Powers cited as "According to the Times..." (p. 6); a Washington Post book review by Patricia Aufderheide described as "the Washington Post said..." (p. 97) and "The Washington Post called..." (p. 98); and a New York Times Magazine article by reporter Leslie Gelb cited as "the New York Times reported..." (p. 171). At one point, she cites a single Washington Post magazine article by journalist Orville Schell four separate ways (implying multiple stories to the casual reader), in one case calling it "a two-part, four-billion-column-inch Washington Post story" in which "the Post said..." (p. 92).
if you want the exact details of a cite, look it up. if someone is lazy, that is their own fault, not Coulter's. you can't expect Coulter to provide every detail about something you might be interested in, upfront. people who don't check cites are going to make mistakes no matter what Coulter does.

and why doesn't Spinsanity, so concerned about cites, give us links to the articles it's talking about?

in general, organizations are responsible for what they publish, so I don't see what's wrong with referring to it that way. Unless it's something like a letter to the editor.

when something like the Times' Week in Review or Magazine shares the website (same domain) and logo (their name in that iconic font) with the Times, they are choosing not to be a clearly separate entity. they should clearly separate their own stuff before demanding Coulter add words to her book about the separation.
Coulter also repeatedly cites quotations out of context from the original source material, implying that reporters reached conclusions that were actually presented by sources quoted in the piece. In one particularly dishonest case, she claims that the New York Times "reminded readers that Reagan was a 'cowboy, ready to shoot at the drop of a hat'" after the invasion of Grenada (p. 179). However, the "cowboy" quote is actually from a Reagan administration official quoted in a Week in Review story who said, ''I suppose our biggest minus from the operation is that there now is a resurgence of the caricature of Ronald Reagan, the cowboy, ready to shoot at the drop of a hat.''
Bringing something up (which the NYT did) does remind people about it. ok two strikes and we'll move on to the next article by the same website.
Yet if readers can leave aside all of these problems (admittedly not an easy task), Coulter is actually driving at something important about the state of political debate in the media. She's right, for example, that left-leaning politicians and editorial pages sometimes mount sophisticated and unfair rhetorical campaigns against their political enemies. The example she chooses -- attacks against former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his policies -- is exactly on point. She also chooses other examples to good effect, such as Rep. Charlie Rangel's equation of Gingrich's policies with those of Nazi Germany. Absurdly, though, she steadfastly refuses to admit that conservatives can be guilty of exactly the same thing -- an asymmetry so glaring that only the most partisan readers can accept it at face value.
Coulter is certainly not shy about criticizing conservatives. Anyway, what problems? apparently she wrote "sweeping judgements":
"Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do."
"[T]he left is itching to silence conservatives once and for all."
"[I]f Americans knew what they [liberals] really believed, the public would boil them in oil."
""Principle is nothing to liberals. Winning is everything."
So basically the "problems" are Coulter's political ideas.
Another problem plaguing Slander is the deceptive way Coulter uses footnotes to lend a false sense of legitimacy to questionable points. To take one example, in her discussion of media treatment of former Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., she provides a list of 10 quotes alternating between positive coverage prior to his political demise following allegations of sexual harassment, and negative coverage afterward. Coulter introduces the list with the claim that "What happened to Packwood is a stunning example of the media's power both to destroy and protect ... In the case of Packwood, the media's good dog/bad dog descriptions were applied to the exact same human being."

To the casual reader, the list must seem fairly damning. Yet if one flips to the back of the book and checks her sources, it turns out that her claim about "the media" rests on a very small sample. Rather than the 10 different articles the casual reader would assume Coulter is quoting, she relies on one article for four of the five negative quotes, a second for three of the five positive quotes, and a third for the other two positive quotes. In all, the list comes down to four articles -- thin evidence at best for the broad suggestion that coverage of Packwood proves "[t]here is no intellectual honesty whatsoever in media descriptions of politicians," which she makes two paragraphs later.
OK let me check the book. Coulter writes, "There are literally hundreds of news items using these words in connection with Bob Packwood." What words? "Maverick", "gadfly", "courage" and "political savvy". so why is spinsanity claiming Coulter cherrypicked a couple quotes and misled people about there being more, when she actually explicitly said there were hundreds? Why didn't they quote and investigate the much bigger claim?

I think because it's not an issue they can win, and they are scum. Google for "Bob Packwood" and each of the 4 terms. I got 10k hits for maverick, 6k hits for gadfly, 30k hits for courage, and 300 hits for "political savvy". they aren't all news items, but at a glance i can see some are. there's far more news sources for this than the four articles spinsanity dishonestly pretends is the whole story after dishonestly selectively quoting Coulter.

these guys are mad that Coulter described liberals defending evil with the word "praise". Coulter answered the issue, saying in part, "among the praise for the perpetrators of the hoax hate crime was a statement by the president of Duke in a baccalaureate address reprinted in the Duke magazine". the media matters folks screwed up the link Coulter provided, but i managed to find the article
At your opening convocation in August 1997, I spoke on the theme of freedom -- the kind of freedom you might expect at Duke, and my advice on how to use it wisely. I also told you about some of the things you would need to grapple with, freely and responsibly, during your Duke years. One of those predictions was that race would surely matter in your lives. During your first semester, students hung a black doll in effigy on the quad to protest what they saw as our inhospitable environment for African Americans.
The issue is the black doll in effigy. Media Matters thinks this distorted picture of events (no mention that it was hung by a noose by lying scumbags) isn't praise because it was just saying race was relevant when it whitewashed a very nasty hoax. Media Matters refusing to understand what this kind of statement means does not make Coulter a poor scholar.

Next up, a little variety. I ran into a fact check of an attack on Coulter's scholarship. Read it if you want:

Moving on, this is amusing:
If you can find every single problem with American society and put them into one person, it's [Ann Coulter].
That's from "Rational Wiki". I'm not seeing how opening with this kind of hateful flaming is a rational approach. They don't bother trying to present a serious critical case against Coulter or fact checking her. Mostly they quote a bunch of things she said without comment, as if "rational" thinking means assuming your political views are too obvious to need explaining.
Why Ann Coulter Is a Cunt, Part 1856 - The Plagiarism Edition
You might have expected left-wing Coulter haters to be more sensitive to feminist issues, gender respect, or that kind of stuff. If you did, you were wrong. The left likes to lie about having such values far more than it wants to bother having them. And I already covered the plagiarism issue earlier.

also, speaking of obamacare, some people are mad about this:

first of all, dying from obamacare is different than dying of cancer. umm, sure, i know. also there's a blue shield issue.
But the claim that someone "died from Obamacare" because Blue Shield "completely just pulled out of California" is something we can fact-check.
ok and they do check it:
Like other insurers across California and the country, Blue Shield of California could no longer offer some health insurance plans because they did not include "essential health benefits" required by the Affordable Care Act.

These plans could not be grandfathered in under the new law. Blue Shield of California sent letters to 119,000 customers in September notifying them their current plans would end "but we can still have you covered in 2014." PunditFact obtained a sample cancellation letter from the company.
Sounds complaint-worthy to me.
The letters went to 57 percent of the insurer’s individual market customers, she said. For two-thirds of the people who lost their plan, the recommended option was more expensive, the Los Angeles Times reported.
hmm. since the complaints don't provide enough details about the Blue Shield, let's look up what their organization is like:
In 2006, Blue Shield agreed to a $6.5 million settlement relating to its alleged modifying of the risk tier structure of its individual and family health care plans. In 2008, the organization agreed to a settlement with the California Department of Managed Health Care to resolve allegations of improper rescission of individual health plan coverage. Blue Shield agreed to pay $3 million as a penalty. The organization reinstated coverage to 450 members whose plans had been cancelled and agreed to provide compensation for any medical debts incurred by these policyholders due to the rescission.
wikipedia's source link may be dead, but you can still find the source here:
Two of California's biggest health insurers have agreed to collectively pay $13 million and reinstate more than 2,000 insurance policies to settle claims with the state that they illegally dropped policyholders from coverage.
so Blue Shield has a history of illegally dropping people's insurance. given that history, i think critics need to present a little research about the current events before we should trust Blue Shield.

But politifact basically says no one lost their insurance (but lots of people had their rates raised. but they all had spare money to pay higher rates?) so, ok, at this point do i know what happened? no not really. do Coulter's critics know what happened? i don't think so. if they do, why couldn't they write more convincing material with detailed factual information with good sources? and all this is because maybe Coulter exaggerated a bit when speaking on TV, not in writing? at worst she said Blue Shield pulled out of California over Obamacare when actually they just changed a bunch of stuff around and made things worse for more than a hundred thousand people? if this vague stuff is the best criticism of Coulter that anyone has, i'm not impressed.

finally there's this book, Soulless: Ann Coulter and the Right-Wing Church of Hate by Susan Estrich. ok i can respect that parody title, but let's see what it says. (In these quotes, bolding names of speakers in interviews and italics are from the book, bolding other stuff is my emphasis.)

It says if you want to see all of Coulter's errors documented, go to [p10] but i'd already been there above, and i don't see anything about Coulter on their homepage, and when I do a search on the site for "Ann Coulter" it doesn't come up with some organized documentation of her errors as promised. This book is from 2006, but it's Estrich's own fault for linking a homepage and pretending it was a source of something specific.

Estrich isn't big on specifics:
[Coulter] makes you so angry sometimes that you become a mirror of her. That is her power. That's why people throw pies and nitpick footnotes. [p11]
When I fact checked Coulter footnotes, was I nitpicking? Was it because I hate Coulter? No. Scholarship matters! Well to me at least, not to Estrich.

Estrich is an angry person. It's a pattern:
I had to erase everything I wrote here, I got so mad. Better write nothing, my mother would have said. What can you say to hate? [p9]
And that's just in the first 11 pages. I tried to look for more anger in the index, but there isn't an index.

Estrich's book isn't about fact checking Coulter. It's about arguing with principles. That would be OK but the method is awful:
Social scientists argue, using polling data, that there is no culture war. Ann needs to create one in order to destroy the possibility that a decent progressive majority might triumph over the forces of hate. [p6]
The book has footnotes, but not for that factual claim about polling data. And note the appeal to the authority of "scientists" as an arguing method.

But the important thing is Estrich thinks there's no disagreement, no debate, Coulter is just inventing one. If Coulter would just shut up and stop spreading divisive hate, then America could be a calm, progressive (left-wing) country. Estrich wants to win by a method other than winning the debate.

"progressive" really does mean left-wing to Estrich, btw
[Coulter] asks: What does liberalism believe? (We're supposed to call ourselves progressives, by the way; it polls much better.) [p12]
now back to denying there are significant political disagreements:
What's clear to everyone except Ann is that the president [George W. Bush] has failed. The war in Iraq has failed. [p6]
Estrich claims everyone except Coulter agrees with "decent progressive" politics like that George W. Bush and the Iraq war were failures.

Coulter recognizes that people disagree and argues her case, strongly. I respect that.

Estrich denies that people disagree (except a few extremists like Coulter). Then instead of arguing for her political views, Estrich writes a book attacking an extremist for not having the "decent progressive" views Estrich is sure all the Americans who count would agree with her about.

You think Estrich doesn't really mean it? That she isn't trying to smooth over political debate so everyone can just agree with her? That she isn't trying to be the reasonable moderate most Americans already agree with, to Coulter's divisive extremism?
You look at every poll and what you find is a decent, moderate, tolerant nation, being torn apart by the divisive, polarizing, mean-spirited politics of a selfish few. You find that on the fundamental issues that are supposed to be tearing us apart, we're far more united than you think, and we're being divided for sport. [p2]
Estrich tries to frame things so everyone already agrees with her and there's no need to debate. Instead of debate, she'll just flame Coulter and anyone else who disagrees as a tiny mean-spirited divisive minority. Polarizing people and being divisive is bad – Estrich claims – unless you're attacking people like Coulter (or, I suppose, me).

Coulter is the intellectual here who argues her points. Estrich is the venom-spewing hater. Ironically Estrich keeps talking about Coulter with phrases like "venom [p5]", "rants [p6]", "forces of hate [p6]", "polarizing [p6]", "trades on hate for the fun of it [p2]", "mean-spirited [p2]", "selfish [p2]". Other than that last one, they all apply to Estrich more than to Coulter. (I'm not sure if Estrich has a self. If you don't understand this comment but want to, read The Fountainhead.)

Look at this attack:
... Ann uses God as a gimmick. [...] She admits this. ... [p7]
This is a flame which Estrich doesn't argue. It's just the sort of wordplay Coulter is frequently accused of doing (but actually Coulter has integrity and standards. She does something kind of similar but better). Coulter did not and would not admit to using God as a "gimmick". Coulter would never say that in her own words or agree with it, and didn't. Estrich has no evidence or argument to the contrary. But Estrich is twisting Coulter's position and paraphrasing to create something mean. Then the big problem comes when Estrich attributes her twist to Coulter. If Estrich wants to claim Coulter uses God as a gimmick, whatever, but claiming that Coulter agrees is over the line.

Bigger picture, Estrich hasn't written a serious fact-checking book and wouldn't claim she did. ("What's wrong with Ann, in my judgment, is not that she is sloppier than anybody else in the political world, but that she's meaner... [p11]").

Estrich has written a book of political rhetoric, but her methods begin by claiming she doesn't need to argue her point. She just assumes her reader already agrees with her, and if not then he must be a tiny minority of non-decent non-progressive people like Coulter. Because of this method, I don't have much to say about the book.

I disagree. If you (Estrich) want a rational debate, I'm open to that. Coulter and I accept that you disagree with us and are willing to argue about politics. When you are willing to analyze the issues instead of putting all your effort into saying that's unnecessary, get back to me.

You doubt Estrich means it this way? "... And why drop the last line, if not to fool us progressives? [p13]", "Since we think the Earth is actually precious, we have to protect it. [p13]", "She is turning us into cartoons [p14]". It's all about "the rest of us [p11]" against "Ann". And immediately preceding this assumption that all of her readers agree with her, Estrich accuses Coulter of "talking to her base [p13]".

So we're pretty much done here. I just wanted to show you one more thing about the book.
[From an interview] Lauer: Do you believe everything in this book—do you believe everything in the book, or do you put some things in there just to cater to your base?

[Estrich commenting] She really does believe them. This is the amazing but true part. Scary, but true.

Coulter: No, of course I believe everything. [p62]
When I saw this I thought maybe I could respect something about Estrich. Estrich admits Coulter means what she says. Except it turned out it was just a tactic to call Coulter "scary". A little later Estrich contradicts herself:
[This is another interview, and the question is whether the 9/11 widows would give up their celebrity, notoriety and money to have their husbands back. Colmes and Shwartz think it's obvious that the widows would make that trade. Coulter isn't sure and says:]

Coulter: I don't know. I can't read into their hearts. But it isn't as obvious to me as it apparently is to you.

[Estrich comments] How can you say this, Ann? How can anyone say it? Even if it's just for effect, how can you say it? [p76]
Part of Colmes' reply is "You've got to be kidding me. [p76]".

But it's not just for effect, Coulter is not kidding, she believes it. And I for one agree with her about the 9/11 widows.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Coal and Progress are Good

In part 1, we discussed "He said, she said" reporting. In part 2, we did a little philosophical analysis. We asked, "Will burning less coal in power plants save lives?" The key issue for government regulation of coal power is whether it's within the government's proper purpose of protecting people. Read the previous parts first. This is the conclusion.

Coal has fans and haters. Electricity has proponents and opponents. Progress in general can be divisive. Some people see potential, others see new dangers. Some see improvement, others see disruption. The potential, new dangers, improvement and disruption all exist. Many people reply that we have to compromise. But we don't.

Burning less coal not only won't protect people, it would hurt people. It's a huge mistake for the government to push for it.

Philosophy is important here because it's the field which addresses fundamental issues like progress and compromise. Compromise and limiting progress are popular bad philosophy. Those mistakes make it hard to clearly see the value of coal. Bad philosophy helps enable mistakes for specific issues like industrial progress, abortion, emotions, dating and parenting.

Coal is mistakenly seen as a compromise with substantial negatives because everyone expects and seeks out compromises. A compromise is an outcome where some problem wasn't solved; it's a partial solution. People think that's the best you can do. Better philosophy explains how genuine full solutions to life's problems can be possible and should be sought. (If you are interested in more about full solutions, look over my archives or ask here.)

Progress (including industrial and scientific progress) is not a compromise. Progress looks like a compromise because it brings with it new dangers. But people have misunderstood the human condition.

The human condition is one of infinite problems. This is a good thing. It means there is infinite improvement possible, life can always be better. Whenever you make life better, it raises new problems – new opportunities. There is no way to avoid problems. If you do nothing, you will die. If humanity tries to live a "sustainable" lifestyle indefinitely, everyone will die. A meteor or plague may come, or something else. The only defense against the unknown potential problems of the future, like new diseases, is progress. The more progress we make, the more we can increase our general purpose problem solving power, giving us a chance against new problems.

Progress brings new problems, but they were coming anyway. Since that isn't avoidable by any means, it isn't a downside. And it doesn't make life bad, it's part of a good active life.

In broad outline, coal electricity, like other progress, brings massive benefits and some new problems. It has transformed life for the better. If you selectively look at the dangers it has brought (e.g. radioactivity in the smoke created), those may seem scary, and coal can look like a compromise. But if you look in a more broad way, instead of selectively, you can see the massive dangers coal solves (like working yourself to death with manual labor), as well as that new dangers are a part of life whether we use coal or not (so coal isn't really to blame).

Examining specifics, electricity makes life better with features like electric lights, computers, phones, stoves, refrigerators and motors. Electric lights give you more usable time, effectively extending your life. Computers automate tasks, saving time and effectively extending human lives. Phones enable friendships that would otherwise be impossible, making life better. Stoves make cooking safer by not having to burn wood or dung (comparing to coal plants, remember smoke is a lot worse when it's right next to you). Refrigerators reduce food poisoning. Electric motors help with transportation and factories. Factories allow mass production, which allows you to have products cheaply (meaning you work fewer hours, effectively extending your life) which help make your life better – example products include medicines, safe portable foods, tools that let you work more effectively, and luxuries that people value.

The massive benefit to human life is a theme of progress, and should be kept in mind as the main issue. People are too eager to dismissively say, "Sure there are benefits, but why not do it in moderation? Let's look at the downsides." Selectively focusing on the downsides of progress, while glossing over the upsides of progress and the downsides of non-progress, results in a biased non-objective understanding of reality.

People are worried the oceans might rise. Some lowland areas may flood. So what? That's way better than dying of cholera like people did before industrial progress. If it were a compromise, it'd be a great deal. But why compromise? Thanks to having an industrial civilization, we are powerful enough to solve problems like increasing temperatures or rising ocean levels. We can build walls, fans, or air conditioning. We can put mirrors in space or moisture in the atmosphere to reflect light. We have a lot of options.

The problems from industrial progress are speculative potential problems. It wasn't long ago that we were warned about global cooling due to industrial progress. But even if they are right, an industrial civilization is so much more able to solve arbitrary problems than a non-industrial civilization. Problems are always a concern, and technologies like coal power plants give us much better ways to solve them, including ways unthinkable to a pre-industrial civilization.

By attacking coal power, the Obama administration is making a huge mistake. Rather than protect people, it's endangering the future. Rather than try to solve the problems associated with coal, Obama wants to avoid them. But there is no such thing as a problem-free technology. Coal alternatives have plenty of problems too.

When should we switch? When other technologies work better. The government, which ruined the cleanest power industry – nuclear – needs to stop micromanaging. People will buy stuff with no coal involved on their own when it's the best option for their lives. Instead, taxpayers work to better their lives and the government takes a cut and uses it to subsidize technologies that can't stand on their own, because the Obama administration thinks its smarter than the rest of us. Obama wants to control people rather than protect people.

(This post has some ideas inspired by the book The Beginning of Infinity. I recommend reading it.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bad Scholarship by Cato Institute

Cato tweeted a graph from their Human Progress project:

This graph is dishonest lying with statistics in several ways.

On the left, the numbers go from 200 to 800. These are millions of chinese people living in some definition of poverty. What happened to 0? They designed the graph so the change goes from above the top to bellow the bottom. A more accurate graph would show numbers from 0 up to China's population size (now around 1.35 billion). Cato cut off around 40% of the numbers on the left to make the graph look bigger, and leaving out 0 is a well known dirty trick.

On the right, it's even worse. The right side shows some kind of economic freedom number, from 1 to 10. But they numbered their graph from 0 to 6. They made the bottom actually go lower than is possible with their own metric. Why? To make the change from around 4.75 to 6 look way bigger than it is and to have it reach the top of the graph. A 6 out of 10 should not be at the very top of the graph! And the graph shouldn't go down to 0 when dealing with something that can only start at 1.

The graph title also suggests the graph has to do with economic freedom for the whole world by using the phrase "Economic Freedom of the World", but the graph is only about China (I think, going by how the two lines are both labelled as being for China only).

Overall, Cato is trying to show economic freedom going up and poverty going down. Eyeballing it, it looks to me like poverty went down more than economic freedom went up, using these metrics. Rather than discuss how correlated they are, or try to explain the right way to think about the issue, Cato created a grossly dishonest graph to mislead people. Cato is prioritizing shiny publicity over truth.

I also made a better chart so you can compare. For the data points, I eyeballed them from Cato's chart (not all of them, that's why it's smoother). Don't it super seriously as a fact about the world, I just wanted to see how it looked with the left and right axes fixed.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)