The Jury Talks Back

4/28/2019

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:51 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “What I’ve Been Reading” post. I thought I’d post a few of the titles and give brief reactions.

Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn’t by Edward Humes. I have read many books by Humes. He’s a good writer and smart, and makes some interesting points, but his overwhelming antagonism towards the criminal justice system, police, and prosecutors is distracting. I read the book because I know some of the participants and something about the case described.

Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Jonathan Hari. Hari has faced allegations of plagiarism, but the book was recommended by Sam Harris and I enjoyed it. Hari has a penchant for making one-sided arguments, however. His disdain for pharmaceuticals is understandable and may be correct, and his observations about the underlying causes of depression certainly have validity, but his polemic style can be off-putting. I ended up casting aside Hari’s Chasing the Scream after about 80 pages because it got boring and lost its credibility with its unrelentingly hyperbolic tone. Maybe I’ll return to it, but I doubt it.

Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I enjoyed Bloom’s previous book Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil, but I liked it OK. I got both books after Bloom was recommended by Jonah Goldberg in a talk I saw him give at UCSB. Bloom’s title is designed to be a Hot Take, but his opposition to empathy depends upon a technical definition that is not always what people mean when they use the word. He spends a lot of time explaining this, and reminding the reader that he is not actually against compassion, sympathy, and many of the concepts that the term often connotes. Also, the two books use a lot of the same stories. I’d recommend reading “Just Babies” and skipping “Against Empathy.”

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping by Robert Sapolsky. Very heavy on the science, particularly physiology, but interesting. If you forgot a lot of your high school physiology but find such things interesting, it’s a good book. It’s also a good reminder to meditate and get your equanimity in order.

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris. Some of these books deserve (and may receive) their own posts. I disagree with Sam Harris on his atheism, obviously, as well as his (to me) rather goofy and impossible-to-understand views on free will. But I admire much about his honesty and he has a lot of interesting things to say. Here, I’ll say mainly that the title is bad (and I think Sam might agree at this point): what he means by “science” is really what Jonathan Rauch meant by “liberal science” in his book Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, Expanded Edition, which I also read recently and loved. Rauch’s view is that “liberal science” means a system of rational debate in which everything is decided by evidence and nothing is off the table. This one might merit its own post too. A great book that I don’t totally agree with but that opened my mind a lot.

Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff, and Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff. Great books. Saw the movie, which I really enjoyed and should have received more awards than it did.

Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House by Cliff Sims. Reviewed already, here.

A Man’s World, by Steve Oney. Still making my way through this one. A collection of portraits of manly men by my erstwhile acquaintance whom I have not seen in years, Steve Oney. Great guy and great book so far.

Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes by Frans de de Waal: I’m most of the way through this. A fascinating take on the social interactions of intelligent apes.

I finally finished The Chickenshit Club by Jesse Eisinger — a book I started in late 2017 on the recommendation of Ed from SFV (which, where did he go?). Good book that explains why there were so few prosecutions after the 2008 financial crisis.

Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious by Timothy Wilson. One of those books that was recommended by Amazon and looked interesting, so I got it. I liked it but I can’t say I found it to have a terribly profound impact on my worldview. I like the thesis: that a lot of analyzing goes on unconsciously and efficiently.

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Jonathan Haidt and FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, and Them: Why We Hate Each Other–and How to Heal by Ben Sasse (both affiliate links). I mentioned the Haidt book here and here and saw a lecture by him. I was accompanied at the lecture by our guest blogger Dana, and that was a treat. The Sasse book was excellent, as was his other book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis–and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance. Sasse is a big fan of gumption; it’s shocking that he wasn’t born in New England. I like him. He’s a good guy.

Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden, and A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea, by Masaji Ishikawa. Both books reviewed here.

I say all this partially by way of saying that I am finally tackling Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action, which is a 900-page monster. I think it will probably take me until July to finish it. I plan to finish off the series summarizing Bob Murphy’s summary of the book once I’m done, but I figure the summaries will mean more to me once I have read the whole thing.

It’s a masterful work, difficult to follow at times and wildly entertaining at others. I already have a couple of posts envisioned based on things Mises says about political and social affairs.

What have you guys been reading?

New York Times: We’re Sure Sorry About Publishing That Anti-Semitic Cartoon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 2:26 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Oops. A cartoon appeared in the Op-Ed section of The New York Times’ International edition on Thursday that depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dachshund wearing a Star of David collar and leading a blind President Trump who is wearing a yarmulke:

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After receiving criticism for its publication, The New York Times subsequently released a non-apology on Saturday that weaselly claimed that it was a cartoon that included anti-Semitic tropes, rather than a forthright description: it was an anti-Semitic cartoon:

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Knowing that this error of judgement didn’t happen in a vacuum, this can be seen as nothing but yet another effort at normalizing anti-Semitism in the pages of The New York Times. Thus the claimed “error in judgement to publish it” becomes as laughable as does the quasi-apology. Given that at least one editor of the International edition had to approve publication of the cartoon, one presumes said editor is educated and has some real awareness of the skyrocketing levels of anti-Semitism, both here and throughout Europe. Further, said editor must be familiar with the blowback the paper receives every time they engage in anti-Semitism. Therefore such an error in judgement would appear to be an intentional decision. Interestingly, no employee names are mentioned, and no mention of whether those who made the error in judgement will lose their jobs as a result of actively pushing anti-Semitism in the newspaper.

Seth Franzman, op-ed editor of The Jerusalem Post makes it simple enough for even the editors at the NYT to grasp:

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It’s instructive to remember what executive editor Dean Baquet told the public editor in 2015 about his decision made to not run the Charlie Hebdo cartoon in the pages of the NYT:

Mr. Baquet told me that he started out the day Wednesday convinced that The Times should publish the images, both because of their newsworthiness and out of a sense of solidarity with the slain journalists and the right of free expression.

He said he had spent “about half of my day” on the question, seeking out the views of senior editors and reaching out to reporters and editors in some of The Times’s international bureaus. They told him they would not feel endangered if The Times reproduced the images, he told me, but he remained concerned about staff safety.

“I sought out a lot of views, and I changed my mind twice,” he said. “It had to be my decision alone.”

Ultimately, he decided against it, he said, because he had to consider foremost the sensibilities of Times readers, especially its Muslim readers. To many of them, he said, depictions of the prophet Muhammad are sacrilegious; those that are meant to mock even more so. “We have a standard that is long held and that serves us well: that there is a line between gratuitous insult and satire. Most of these are gratuitous insult.”

Clearly the sensibilities of Jewish readers were not considered in this decision making process. But then again, even the NYT understands that the only real risk in offending the Jewish community is a short-lived collective outcry and the possible cancellation of subscriptions. Impacts they have previously absorbed.

This morning, however, an actual apology was published. Of course one has to wonder why such a direct, we-own-it apology wasn’t made right out the gate? That it took four days after the fact diminishes its intended impact. In a sad bit of irony, the apology comes as :

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This “faulty process,” however, is nothing new, not even in New York.

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens addressed the publication of the cartoon an op-ed this morning, pointing out that “The Times wasn’t explaining anti-Semitism. It was purveying it”:

Here was an image that, in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer. The Jew in the form of a dog. The small but wily Jew leading the dumb and trusting American. The hated Trump being Judaized with a skullcap. The nominal servant acting as the true master. The cartoon checked so many anti-Semitic boxes that the only thing missing was a dollar sign.

The image also had an obvious political message: Namely, that in the current administration, the United States follows wherever Israel wants to go. This is false — consider Israel’s horrified reaction to Trump’s announcement last year that he intended to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria — but it’s beside the point. There are legitimate ways to criticize Trump’s approach to Israel, in pictures as well as words. But there was nothing legitimate about this cartoon.

While he questions its placement in the NYT, Stephens cuts the publication (and individual editors) slack, and is willing to give them a benefit of the doubt that I am unwilling to do:

For some Times readers — or, as often, former readers — the answer is clear: The Times has a longstanding Jewish problem, dating back to World War II, when it mostly buried news about the Holocaust, and continuing into the present day in the form of intensely adversarial coverage of Israel. The criticism goes double when it comes to the editorial pages, whose overall approach toward the Jewish state tends to range, with some notable exceptions, from tut-tutting disappointment to thunderous condemnation.

For these readers, the cartoon would have come like the slip of the tongue that reveals the deeper institutional prejudice. What was long suspected is, at last, revealed.

The real story is a bit different, though not in ways that acquit The Times. The cartoon appeared in the print version of the international edition, which has a limited overseas circulation, a much smaller staff, and far less oversight than the regular edition. Incredibly, the cartoon itself was selected and seen by just one midlevel editor right before the paper went to press.

An initial editor’s note acknowledged that the cartoon “included anti-Semitic tropes,” “was offensive,” and that “it was an error of judgment to publish it.” On Sunday, The Times issued an additional statement saying it was “deeply sorry” for the cartoon and that “significant changes” would be made in terms of internal processes and training.

In other words, the paper’s position is that it is guilty of a serious screw-up but not a cardinal sin. Not quite.

The problem with the cartoon isn’t that its publication was a willful act of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t. The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism — and that, at a publication that is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice, from mansplaining to racial microaggressions to transphobia.

Imagine, for instance, if the dog on a leash in the image hadn’t been the Israeli prime minister but instead a prominent woman such as Nancy Pelosi, a person of color such as John Lewis, or a Muslim such as Ilhan Omar. Would that have gone unnoticed by either the wire service that provides the Times with images or the editor who, even if he were working in haste, selected it?

The question answers itself. And it raises a follow-on: How have even the most blatant expressions of anti-Semitism become almost undetectable to editors who think it’s part of their job to stand up to bigotry?

The reason is the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by this paper, which has become so common that people have been desensitized to its inherent bigotry. So long as anti-Semitic arguments or images are framed, however speciously, as commentary about Israel, there will be a tendency to view them as a form of political opinion, not ethnic prejudice. But as I noted in a Sunday Review essay in February, anti-Zionism is all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism in practice and often in intent, however much progressives try to deny this.

Add to the mix the media’s routine demonization of Netanyahu, and it is easy to see how the cartoon came to be drawn and published: Already depicted as a malevolent Jewish leader, it’s just a short step to depict him as a malevolent Jew.

It will interesting to see if the editor is actually fired over this error in judgement, and to learn exactly what an investigation reveals. But, in the end, will anything really change? After all, the publication of the cartoon occurred during the Jewish Holy Week, and the subsequent apology comes as Holocaust Remembrance week begins.

-Dana

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 149

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:07 pm

It is the second Sunday of Easter. Today’s Bach cantata is “Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg” (One sings with joy about victory).

Today’s Gospel reading is the same Gospel reading used every year for the second Sunday of Easter: John 20:19-31.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus Appears to Thomas

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words, exulting in the Lord’s victory:

There are joyful songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord claims the victory, the right hand of the Lord is exalted, the right hand of the Lord claims the victory!

Power and strength be sung
to God, the Lamb, who has conquered
and driven out Satan,
who plagues us day and night.
Honor and victory is upon the righteous
brought about through the blood of the Lamb.

Happy listening! Soli Deo gloria.


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