MSM And James Damore

The Guardian reports that James Damore is considering legal action against Google.  James was fired because he suggested alternative diversity actions that Google did not want to consider or discuss.  Below we have taken the first two paragraphs of the article and made comments in bold with [].

The computer engineer fired by Google
[A good start] 
for suggesting women are less suited to certain roles in tech and leadership
[Nope. It is about overlapping distributions with different means.  He does say that the percentages by gender and race can be different because of mean differences.]
is considering taking legal action against the company.
[That’s what they report]
James Damore, a chess master who studied at Harvard, Princeton and MIT and worked at the search engine’s Mountain View HQ in California,
[We didn’t look these things up but we accept them]
caused outrage
[Boy did he ever!]
when he circulated a manifesto
[Well, yes it is a written statement by James outlining his views.  We see manifesto as akin to fascist in terms of its negative connotation.]
at the weekend complaining about Google’s “ideological echo chamber”
[Yup.  The evidence, his firing, confirms he was right.]
and claiming women have lower tolerance of stress
[The whole point of his memo was that populations can have different means but substantial overlap.  James said that women, on average have more openness, extraversion, and neuroticism.  The latter causes them, on average, to have higher levels of anxiety.]
and that conservatives are more conscientious.
[Don’t worry he said lots of negative things about conservatives.  What he did actually say (p. 8) is that Google should stop alienating conservatives because viewpoint diversity is arguably the most important, conservatives need to express themselves, and conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, part of the Five Factor model that James uses elsewhere.]

It seems to us that The Guardian missed the most pro-conservative point in the memo when James went the full George Will and said that viewpoint diversity is (arguably, he hedged) the most important.  Every progressive should be aghast at that statement but we have not seen mention of it.

James, we predict, will get enough money from Google that he doesn’t need to sue The Guardian.  Of course, his relationship with the paper is different than with Google so his opportunity is not as great but they are clearly part of the echo chamber he wants to have a discussion with.  It is unfortunate that they do not want to have a discussion with him.


Diversity Again

Mike Wilbon is upset about an election.  No, not that one.  Tiger Woods was left off the list of 50 greatest black athletes as voted on Survey Monkey.  Tiger’s greatness is not in question.  Tiger, Jack, and Bobby are the three greatest golfers.  We will wait while you decide the order.

OK.  Mike says, “But it ain’t a credible list of the greatest [black athletes] if it doesn’t include Tiger.” We agree on greatness so Mike has decided that Tiger is black.  It is a binary choice and we would vote the other way unless given criteria.  Tiger, as Mike says, calls himself “Cablinasian.”  It means he is multiethnic.  Since he is half asian then he is less than half black and we would think that (at least half) would be the criteria.  If you go by the old Jim Crow criteria of one drop then he should be on the list.  Tiger surely is the greatest asian golfer of all time.

The good news is that many of the challenges of diversity will go away as folks become more multiethnic.  It can’t happen too soon.

Bias By Viewpoint

James Damore, the fired Google employee, tries to identify biases by viewpoint in his email that led to his firing.

Sidebar: Part of the title of the cite above describe the email as “An Anti-Diversity Screed.”  It is not Anti-Diversity as it tries to find ways to increase diversity.  It is not a screed as in a ranting piece of writing.  Since screed also includes a lengthy discourse and the email runs ten pages then it might sneak in as a screed but it is the opposite of a rant.  It is a plea to be rational in augmenting diversity  End Sidebar.

James tries to identify biases of the left and right.  Below is his analysis of the biases of the left and right and the text that follows from the email.

Left Biases

  • Compassion for the weak
  • Disparities are due to injustices
  • Humans are inherently cooperative
  • Change is good (unstable)
  • Open
  • Idealist

Right Biases

  • Respect for the strong/authority
  • Disparities are natural and just
  • Humans are inherently competitive
  • Change is dangerous (stable)
  • Closed
  • Pragmatic

Neither side is 100% correct and both viewpoints are necessary for a functioning society or, in this case, company. A company too far to the right may be slow to react, overly hierarchical, and untrusting of others. In contrast, a company too far to the left will constantly be changing (deprecating much loved services), over diversify its interests (ignoring or being ashamed of its core business), and overly trust its employees and competitors.

Only facts and reason can shed light on these biases, but when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies. For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation.

You can decide if James is a man of the left or just trying to curry favor with the left as almost all the biases on the left are positive and the majority of biases on the right are negative.  Certainly compassion for the weak, change is good, open, and idealistic are positive attributes.  Whereas alleged conservative biases: Authority, change is dangerous, and closed are certainly negative.

A great book would be (please cite us but no need to send a check) to examine postulates and biases of the left and right.  We don’t have the time or inclination to write it.  Metaphysics just doesn’t interest us that much.

In the two paragraphs below the lists, James tells us he is trying to reason with the authorities at Google using evidence.  As we would expect, it didn’t work.

The nature of biases is that we don’t notice them.  Thus, both the left and the right commonly accuse the other of being impervious to facts.  The outcome with James would suggest that at least one of the groups is correct.  [Yes we are scoring points.  We agree that both sides can be guilty of ignoring the facts.]  The larger point, however, is “You’re biased!” is a good way to start a fight but a bad way to start a discussion.  Even though James said you’re biased in the kindest and gentlest way by giving the left nicer biases than the right he still started a fight that he could not win.  It is unfortunate that James was figuratively burned as a heretic.  We do need a discussion about how the means of genders and races can be different.  Otherwise, the liberals in Silicon Valley and academia will continue to bang their heads against the walls of statistics and get nothing more than a headache while the liberals in government will give folks headaches.

Sorry But No

Mary Anastasia O’Grady discusses the Venezuela-Cuba connection at the WSJ.  We like her columns but we love her name.  She starts off with three assertions:

The civilized world wants to end the carnage in Venezuela, but Cuba is the author of the barbarism. Restoring Venezuelan peace will require taking a hard line with Havana.

We think the first one, “The civilized world want to end the carnage in Venezuela,” is false because the second, “Cuba is the author,” and the third, “Restoring Venezuelan peace will require taking a hard line with Havana,” are true.

There is no evidence that the civilized world wants to end the carnage in Venezuela.  Certainly Obama did not want to end it.  The Donald has only shown interest in humanitarian aid. No country outside of the Americas wants to confront Cuba or become enmeshed in American, and particularly South American, politics.  The Canadians, under Trudeau are not interested in defending civilization as this indicates.  No other country in the hemisphere dares to intervene because of either fear of or support for Venezuela-Cuba.

We are not sure that we want to end the carnage in Venezuela.  We certainly want to make folks aware of it but it is not casus belli.  On the other hand, if Maduro asks for transport to a safe haven we should provide it.  In addition, we hope that The Donald continues to support the Cuban people rather than the Cuban government. There is much between war and weak support that is the business of politics.  We hope that progress starts.

Tenure Battles

TaxProf Blog has the story from Inside Higher Ed of Carolyn Brown, an assistant professor of journalism at American University, who was denied tenure and promotion.  For those of you who are not academics, this means Ms. Brown was given a one-year contract for next year but she must leave after that.  Academic firing, like almost every other academic thing, is slow.

There is one really important piece of information and two important issues.  The important piece of information is that the Provost’s letter to Ms. Brown is available online.  You can click on at the link above.  One issue is that Ms. Brown identifies as Latina and has been very active in promoting diversity.  The second issue is that the Provost’s letter

Sidebar: It seems odd that the director of the division and others are appealing to the provost.  The letter makes clear that the Committee on Faculty Actions (CFA) voted unanimously against tenure and promotion for Ms Brown.  The beef is with the CFA as it is unlikely that a provost or dean would overturn a unanimous faculty rejection.  End Sidebar.

We will consider the contents of the letter today.  The letter is entirely about what we call student evaluation of instruction scores or SEI scores.  The letter focuses on the number of poor SEI scores rather than the mean score.  For example: 83.3% of the class gave you a rank of 1, 2, or 3, classifying you on the form as “one of the worst.”

We believe that SEI scores are useful but imperfect information.  What is undeniable is that we live in an assessment age.  What will the outside accreditation reviewers think when they see this letter that fires a faculty member over teaching concerns without mentioning assessment?  This document is a smoking gun.  American University could lose accreditation over these four pages.  At best, they have dug themselves a deep hole.  We can’t imagine how the CFA and the provost did this the way they did.  Ms. Brown may not have deserved tenure but the CFA must include assessment in the evaluation.  Ms. Brown is appealing the decision.

Conservatives In Academia

David French has an article at NRO entitled, “Here’s How Anti-Conservative Academic Discrimination Works.”  We think (they are on vacation and we can’t find an example) the way someone else puts it is: Analysis true.  David starts with the example of a UCLA part-timer Keith Finks and properly expands his discussion because part-timers provide much heat but little light.  Part-timers are a small percentage of instructors and have almost zero influence outside of their class.  The discussion of part-timers may help enthuse folks but it isn’t the import part.

The important parts, as David recognizes, are tenured faculty, department chairs, and deans.  These folks make the decisions about hiring, firing, job descriptions, and what students study in grad school. As David quotes from a Harvard ad :

It is understood that applicants will employ forms of analysis that address race, gender, sexuality, and/or other intersecting forms of social power, such as womanist, feminist, and/or queer approaches. [Emphasis lost in translation]

Programs, courses, and research are created or approved by the tenured faculty etc.  The courses, programs, and research opportunities attract folks on the left.  The approval of their research and acceptance of their teaching keeps them.  Today, a budding Victor Davis Hanson (here he is on NRO) faces a much more difficult market for military historians than VDH did.

Well, one might argue, it is a problem in liberal studies but the business school is surely different.  Well, we have had experience with a leftist accounting professor that was listing accounting poetry as an academic publication.  There are 17 sections in the American Accounting Association and most of them are focused on accounting topics like taxes.  Here are four others: Accounting Behavior and Organizations, Diversity, Gender Issues and Worklife Balance, Public Interest.  It is safe to say that the left has substantial influence in the business school although it is not as extensive as liberal arts.

We agree with David that the solution to leftist control of academics will not be quick or easy.  It has taken them decades to gain control.  It will take time and effort to create a more balanced environment.


Firing Adjunct Professors

Adjunct professors at both the University of Delaware and Essex County College in Newark, NJ have been fired.  Delaware fired (it says here that she will not be rehired and that makes more sense) Katherine Dettwyler  for her comments about Otto Warmbier on Facebook and in the comment section of David French NRO article on the Left’s hate as shown toward Otto and others.  David concluded:

It’s incumbent on each of America’s great political movements to do their best to police their own, and the Left has failed, utterly, to address the hatred in its midst. [We agree]

It appears that Katherine took exception with David’s point although her comment has been taken down.  Here is what she reportedly said on Facebook:

[Katherine] wrote in part that [Otto] “got exactly what he deserved.” She continued by saying that [Otto] was “typical of a mindset a lot of the young, white, rich, clueless males” she teaches.

Essex fired Lisa Durden because:

[She] appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to defend a black-only Black Lives Matter event has been fired after the college’s president said she made racially insensitive comments on the show, according to reports.

We have three issues to consider: Public schools, adjunct professors, and free speech.  Both of these are public schools so free speech is a real issue.  Private schools have more legal flexibility in hiring and firing.

These are adjunct professors.  That usually means that they teach one or two classes, are hired on a short-term basis, e.g., a semester at a time, and are not paid much.  Neither school had to “fire” them because it was unlikely that Katherine and Lisa had a contract for the fall.  It is an important point that both schools chose to act in such a public matter.  Although we disagree with Katherine and Lisa’s opinions, we also think that the schools acted improperly.

Sidebar: We don’t agree with Katherine that being white and male was the cause of of Otto’s death but we do wonder why he chose to go to North Korea.  We crossed a few feet into the North inside a building at the DMZ with an ROK guard to protect us and still felt nervous.  End sidebar

We support Katherine and Lisa’s right to free speech.  They chose to give their opinions on Facebook, NRO, and Tucker Carlson.  We don’t see that they give up their First Amendment rights because of their opinions.

The political part of this is very interesting.  We see that schools are taking actions against what appears to be leftists.  School are aware that their brands are slipping because of identity politics.  They need, however, to work on bigger issues like majors offered, curriculum, and external speakers and not make such a big, and inappropriate, fight about a couple of part-timers.