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Archive for the tag “father”

Studies Are Usually Bunk, Study Shows

An interesting detail went overlooked in the fury over fired Google engineer James Damore ’s “diversity memo.” At the end of the document he calls for an end to mandatory “Unconscious Bias training.” Large corporations often force employees into re-education classes, this one a dull, hourlong, 41-slide seminar supported by study after study. Can these studies be trusted? Doubtful. Hands down, the two most dangerous words in the English language today are “studies show.”

The world is inundated with the manipulation of flighty studies to prove some larger point about mankind in the name of behavioral science. Pop psychologists have churned out mountains of books proving some intuitive point that turns out to be wrong. It’s “sciencey,” with a whiff of (false) authenticity.

Malcolm Gladwell is the master. In his 2008 book, “Outlier,” he argues that studies show no one is born better than anyone else. Instead success comes to those who put in 10,000 hours of practice. That does sound right, but maybe Steph Curry shoots hoops for 10,000 hours because he is better than everyone at basketball in the first place. Meanwhile I watch 10,000 hours of TV. Facing criticism, Mr. Gladwell somewhat recanted: “In cognitively demanding fields, there are no naturals.” News alert: Professional sports are cognitively demanding.

Many of the studies quoted in newspaper articles and pop-psychology books are one-offs anyway. In August 2015, the Center for Open Science published a study in which 270 researchers spent four years trying to reproduce 100 leading psychology experiments. They successfully replicated only 39. Yes, I see the irony of a study debunking a study, but add to this a Nature survey of 1,576 scientists published last year. “More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments,” the survey report concludes. “And more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments.”

Bunk medical studies are worrisome, but who really cares about pop behavioral science? It’s easy to write this off as trivial, except millions take these studies and their conclusions seriously. The 2008 book “Nudge,” from academics Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, called for “libertarian paternalism” to push people in the right direction. But who decides what’s the right direction? Turns out the answer is Mr. Sunstein. He was hired by the Obama administration in 2009 to run the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Call it psychobabble authoritarianism.

In his best seller “Blink,” Mr. Gladwell finds studies suggesting we are all unconsciously biased sexists, racists, genderists, ableists, and a litany of other “ists”—victimhood’s origin story. Newer research has deflated this theory, but the serious conclusions, and boring training seminars they inevitably lead to, remain. In her first debate against Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton channeled her inner Malcolm Gladwell and declared: “Implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.” Everyone? Speak for yourself. It’s as if she called an entire slice of society deplorable.

Psych labs are being replaced. In the past decade, companies have built vast platforms to probe, test and study humans every time they search, like or snap. Google runs what are called Split A/B tests, dividing users into groups and testing usability and other features to see what works best. In 2014, Facebook caused a bit of a stir after altering 689,000 users’ newsfeeds to see if the company could manipulate their emotions. It could. Good or bad, this is the future of studies.

The world is not binary, but conclusions drawn from studies always are. These studies show whatever someone wants them to. So stay skeptical and remember: Correlation doesn’t equal causation. If only I could find a study that shows this.

Mr. Kessler writes on technology and markets for the Journal.

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Appeared in the August 14, 2017, print edition of the Wall Street Journal and can be found here.

Suit Challenges North Carolina County’s Refusal To Recognize Marriages Performed By Universal Life Clergy

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

Suit was filed this week in a North Carolina federal district court challenging the refusal by the Cleveland County, North Carolina marriage official to issue marriage licenses to couples whose weddings were performed by Universal Life Church (ULC) ministers. ULC ordains anyone “who feels the call” as a minister. Ordination takes place online for free and credentials are sent to applicants by mail. North Carolina Gen. Stat. §51-1 allows “an ordained minister of any religious denomination to officiate at weddings.  The complaint (full text) in Universal Life Church Monastery Storehouse v. Harnage, (WD NC, filed 8/26/2019), alleges violation of the Establishment, Equal Protection and Free exercise clauses, as well as of Art. VI and of the North Carolina constitution, saying in part:

Defendant’s apparent policy of refusing to recognize the validity of marriages performed by ULC Monastery ministers officially prefers certain religions or religious denominations over ULC Monastery by allowing other religious leaders to solemnize marriages but declining to extend that same benefit to ULC Monastery ministers.

Charlotte Observer reports on the lawsuit.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Family Law Tip: Child Support Paid by the Primary Custodian?

I post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too. Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

Bums

Living the low-stakes life

I have lost touch with my friend Mark, and, assuming he is alive, it will be some work to track him down, because he is periodically homeless or semi-homeless. My first impression was that his economic condition was mainly the result of his having been for many years a pretty good addict and a pretty poor motorcyclist, a combination that had predictable neurological consequences. I never knew Mark “before” — there is something in such men as Mark suggesting an irrevocably bifurcated life — but the better I got to know him, the more I came to believe that he probably had been much the same man, but functional, or at least functional enough.

Part of it was an act, but not all of it. If you saw him on the street and called his name, he’d spin around on you, fists balled up, half enraged and half afraid, ready to fight, until he recognized you, which could sometimes take a few seconds longer than it should have. But then he was all smiles and wry commentary on the passers-by and the police. He’d gesture at passing police cars (he lived about two blocks from the police station) and say, “They all know me,” which was true. We talked about motorcycles and his longing to ride again, and he’d explain to me all the reasons why that was never, ever going to happen. “They’d lock me up,” he’d say darkly, which also was true. He’d sometimes ask to borrow mine, and I’d explain to him all the reasons why that was never, ever going to happen. “You’re a maniac.” This was an approved line of argument. “That’s right!” he’d thunder. Maniac was fine, but he objected to lunatic. He didn’t like bum very much, either, but he was a realist.

A 20-year-old man with adequate shelter, cheap food, computer games, weed, and a girlfriend is apt to be pretty content.

Necessity used to be what forced us to grow up. That was the stick, and sex was the carrot, and between the two of them young men were forced/inspired to get off their asses, go to work, and start families of their own from time immemorial until the day before yesterday. A 20-year-old man with adequate shelter, cheap food, computer games, weed, and a girlfriend is apt to be pretty content. Some of them understand that there is more to life than that, but some do not. David Foster Wallace’s great terror in Infinite Jest was entertainment so engrossing that those consuming it simply stopped doing anything else. (Is it necessary to issue a spoiler alert for a 1,000-page novel that’s 20 years old? Well, spoiler alert: It’s Québécois separatists.) He revisited the idea later in “Datum Centurio,” which is one of the all-time great short stories, one that is written in the form of a dictionary entry from the future for the word “date.” Over the course of the definition (and the inevitable footnotes), we learn that pornography has become so immersive in the future that conventional sexual behavior has been restricted entirely to procreation. The final footnote reads: “Cf. Catholic dogma, perverse vindication of.”

Tyler Cowen considers some of this in his new book, The Complacent Class, in which he argues (in the words of Walter Russell Meade’s review) that “the apparent stability of American society . . . is an illusion: behind the placid façade, technological change and global competition have combined with domestic discontent to bring forth a new age of disruption.”

By Kevin D. Williamson and published in National Review on February 26, 2017 and can be found here.

A Spectral Witness Materializes

The Salem witch trials turned on what was called “spectral evidence.” That was testimony from witnesses—either malicious or hysterical—who claimed the accused had assumed the form of a black cat or some other devilish creature and had come visiting in the night in order to torment the witness with bites and scratches, or to rearrange the bedroom furniture, or to send the baby into paroxysms.

The judge, William Stoughton, admitted this nonsense into evidence. Hysterical fantasies had real consequences: Sarah Good and four other defendants were hanged on July 19, 1692.

Three hundred twenty-six years later, an anonymous woman—a spectral and possibly nonexistent woman, for all that one knew when the story emerged—accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago, when he was a high-school student. It seemed as if the American constitutional process might be drawn back to the neighborhood of Salem, Mass. According to this phantom testimony, 17-year-old Brett held the girl down, pawed her and tried to force himself upon her, and held his hand over her mouth when she screamed, until a second prep-school devil piled on top, they all tumbled to the floor, and the girl managed to slip away. The boys were “stumbling drunk,” according to the account.

You were supposed to feel the sudden wind-shear of hypocrisy. The nominee was a seeming paragon—perfect father and husband and coach of his daughters’ basketball teams. He is a Roman Catholic with an Irish name, but now the script became as gleefully Calvinist as a Hawthorne tale. What imp of hell had possessed the Kavanaugh boy? The Protestant tale seemed to obtain subliminal verification against the background of Catholic sex-abuse scandals.

Thus the constitutional process takes on an aspect of the 21st-century medieval. The accuser’s story first emerged in a letter that came into the hands of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Ms. Feinstein brought it to light only after the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing, which featured somewhat Salem-like drama—costumed apparitions from “The Handmaid’s Tale” arranging themselves outside the committee room; inarticulate background screams of people being led away for disrupting the proceedings. It seemed as if Ms. Feinstein, not liking the odds of defeating Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, had found a devilishly clever way to head it off after all.

But then the accuser materialized, in the form of a 51-year-old California professor of clinical psychology, Christine Blasey Ford.

What to make of it now? The tale became a lot less spectral. Still, there had been no police report, and there were no witnesses. The second boy allegedly in the room said he had no memory of such an incident and called the accusation “absolutely nuts.” Judge Kavanaugh flatly denied it. Her therapist’s notes from 30 years later are not objective reporting, merely a transcription of what Ms. Ford herself said.

The thing happened—if it happened—an awfully long time ago, back in Ronald Reagan’s time, when the actors in the drama were minors and (the boys, anyway) under the blurring influence of alcohol and adolescent hormones. No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred. The sin, if there was one, was not one of those that Catholic theology calls peccata clamantia—sins that cry to heaven for vengeance.

The offense alleged is not nothing, by any means. It is ugly, and stupid more than evil, one might think, but trauma is subjective and hard to parse legally. Common sense is a little hard put to know what to make of the episode, if it happened. The dust of 36 years has settled over the memory. The passage of time sometimes causes people to forget; sometimes it causes them to invent or embellish. Invention takes on bright energies when its muse is politics, which is the Olympics of illusion. Inevitably, people will sort the matter out along mostly partisan lines. A lot will depend upon the testimony of Ms. Ford, who has volunteered to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If the left expects a windfall from all this in November, it may find itself instead the victim of a terrific backlash.

These are part of the 21st century’s strange sectarian struggles. In another Senate hearing a year ago, Ms. Feinstein addressed Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor, about her nomination to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Ms. Feinstein began fretting earnestly about the nominee’s Catholicism. “The dogma lives loud within you,” the senator told the professor—an oddly mystical locution.

But 21st-century progressivism is also a religion—a militant faith, a true church in nearly all important respects. It is a community of belief and shared values, with dogmas, heresies, sacraments and fanatics; with saints it reveres and devils it abhors, starting with the great Satan Donald Trump. If religion were to disqualify a Catholic from public service, it would logically have to disqualify a practicing progressive, who is the creature of a belief system that is, on the whole, considerably more dogmatic than the one with headquarters in Rome.

By Lance Morrow , a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a former essayist for Ti

Published in the Wall Street Journal on September 17, 2018 (see here) and Wealth Creates Good on September 18, 2018 (see here).

EEOC Wins Settlement of Suit Brought On Behalf of Seventh Day Adventists

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

EEOC last week announced the settlement of a lawsuit it had filed against an  Ooltewah, Tennessee, senior and assisted living community.  Garden Plaza at Greenbriar Cove required two Seventh Day Adventist employees to work on Saturdays, and asked them to resign when they refused to do so.  In the settlement, Garden Plaza will pay $92,586.50 in damages, and enter a 2-year consent decree requiring it to train employees on Title VII matters.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Gov. Wolf signs Roosevelt Boulevard speed camera bill

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights and I encourage you to read my articles on this here.  The encroachment on our rights has recently crept a little further still as Governor Wolf signed a bill allowing even more cameras on our streets.

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Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill on Friday to allow the installation of speed cameras along the entire length of Roosevelt Boulevard.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday signed a bill that will allow for speed cameras to be installed on Roosevelt Boulevard from 9th Street in Hunting Park to the Bucks County line as part of a five-year pilot program.

Once the cameras are set up, drivers who travel 11 miles over the speed limit or more will be ticketed. There will be a 30-day grace period during which violators will get a written warning.

Mayor Jim Kenney and safety advocates praised the legislation and said it will make the Boulevard safer.

“Our city and our families deserve safer streets,” Kenney said. “With around 100 people being killed in traffic crashes on Philadelphia streets every year, we are committed to continuing to bring to together street design, education, enforcement and policy changes that will manage speeds and, thus, save lives, making Philadelphia streets safe for everyone.”

Although the bill had bipartisan support in Harrisburg, not everyone supports speed cameras. The National Motorists Association has argued that the cameras are a money-making scheme for state and local governments.

As part of the pilot program, signs will be placed near the cameras and at two-mile intervals along the entire length of the Boulevard.

The speed camera program will be operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

City Council has to pass an ordinance for the pilot program to go into effect, according to the Governor’s Office.

The bill signed by Wolf also calls for speed cameras in work zones around the state.

By Jack Tomczuk and published in the Northeast Times on October 25, 2018 and can be found here.

3rd Circuit Upholds Cross On County Seal

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In one of the first cases to rely on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June rejecting an Establishment Clause challenge to the 94-year old Bladensburg Cross, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday rejected a challenge to a Latin cross on the 75-year old official seal of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. In Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. County of Lehigh(3d Cir., Aug. 8, 2019), the 3rd Circuit said in part:

American Legion confirms that Lemon does not apply to “religious references or imagery in public monuments, symbols, mottos, displays, and ceremonies.”… Instead, informed by four considerations, the Court adopted “a strong presumption of constitutionality” for “established, religiously expressive monuments, symbols, and practices.”…

WFMZ News reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Family Law Tip: Settlements or Awards and Divorce

I post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too. Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

Court Refuses To Order Return of WWII Remains To Supposed Next-of-Kin

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Patterson v. Defense POW/ MIA Accounting Agency, (WD TX, July 29, 2019), a Texas federal district court refused to order return to plaintiffs of the remains of seven servicemen who were killed or perished as POW’s in the Philippines in World War II.  The court explains:

The parties dispute the extent to which the remains are identified. Plaintiffs argue that they have a property interest in these remains and that Defendants’ retention of these remains impinges on Plaintiffs’ religious practices and Plaintiffs’ interest in securing proper burial.

The court rejected plaintiffs’ due process, 4th Amendment, free exercise and RFRA claims to the remains at issue, saying in part:

They state “the facts alleged in the Amended Complaint show that the Government has placed a substantial burden on the Families’ exercise of religion.”…

The record reveals nothing further about Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs or how Defendants have burdened them. Plaintiffs do not indicate the nature, substance, or contours of their beliefs, or even whether all Plaintiffs share the same religious beliefs. In the complaint, Plaintiffs allege that a “proper burial is essential for many practicing Christians,” but they produce no declarations or other evidence outlining these beliefs. Defendants thus contest whether Plaintiffs’ beliefs are sincerely held.

The Court is inclined to grant summary judgment on the sincerity grounds … given Plaintiffs’ total lack of evidence. Courts have cautioned, however, that “[t]hough the sincerity inquiry is important, it must be handled with a light touch….

In keeping with this tradition … the Court assumes Plaintiffs show sincerely held beliefs and concludes alternatively that Plaintiffs do not show a substantial interference with these beliefs. As Defendants note, Plaintiffs allege only that their beliefs require a “proper burial,” but without any explanation of what makes a “proper burial in accordance with each respective family’s religious beliefs,” the Court cannot assess the alleged interference…. Thus, Plaintiffs do not meet their initial burden for either their RFRA or Free Exercise claims.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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