Extremely late-breaking thoughts on the Lewinsky scandal.

  1. Committing sexual harassment, under its legal definition, should be an impeachable offense. Conduct that falls just short of the legal definition by not being “severe” or “pervasive” enough should often be an impeachable offense, especially if there’s a pattern of it.
  2. Having an exploitative-but-consensual relationship with someone should definitely not be an impeachable offense, and I do not believe it’s possible to argue otherwise while taking consent seriously and without infantilizing forty-four-year-old Monica Lewinsky, who has been telling us a consistent story for twenty years. Sexual harassment is by definition “unwanted,” so anyone who says this was “textbook sexual harassment” is using the wrong textbook.
  3. Creating the appearance or risk of sexual harassment, by having a relationship that’s unethical and makes it difficult (at the time) for outsiders to know whether consent is genuine, should probably not be an impeachable offense; however this is a closer call, and I don’t think it’s illiberal or infantilizing to argue otherwise.
  4. The actual crime Bill Clinton was impeached for, and that no one seems to be talking about currently, was lying under oath in a sexual harassment case. That case was initially dismissed because the judge felt Clinton’s alleged behavior was not severe enough to count as sexual harassment, a decision that looks dubious in retrospect (at very least, there should have been no summary judgement.) That decision was appealed and the case was later settled. In retrospect, I think lying under oath in a sexual harassment case should be an impeachable offense, given that the behavior he was lying about – a pattern of having affairs with subordinates – was clearly relevant to the case.
  5. I don’t think most people should beat themselves too much over not realizing this at the time, because the credible allegations of sexual harassment and assault were mixed in with a deluge of blatantly false accusations and conspiracy theories about other things; it simply wasn’t possible, back then, for the average person to pull up a bunch of documents about the accusations and realize they credibly pointed to a pattern of abuse. I feel differently about journalists who covered the case, activists who made public statements, or politicians who voted on impeachment; they had a greater responsibility to weigh all the available evidence.
Advertisements

Against “The Toxoplasma of Rage.”

“The Toxoplasma of Rage” is regularly cited as one of Scott Alexander’s best essays, and I think it’s fundamentally mistaken, at least about the high-profile incidents it showcases.

He calls it “toxoplasma” because – like toxoplasmosis in rats and cats – there are supposedly two stages to how a story goes viral:

  1. Activists promote dubious stories because that demonstrates their zeal to their fellow activists.
  2. Counteractivists promote the same dubious story to demonstrate how dumb the original activists are.

 

I have a different theory: Continue reading

Research papers from policy school

Today I went digging through my hard drive for a research paper I wrote in policy school that used structural equations modeling to analyze the 2004 United States presidential election.  Sadly, it seems I lost the final version and only have a rough draft.  I did, however, find another research paper on population changes in Wayne and Oakland counties (roughly, Detroit and its wealthier suburbs.)

WayneAndOakland.doc

You might find it interesting if you like Detroit or pretty choropleths:choro

Some mixed, sort-of tooting my own horn: I independently discovered one of the most important urban trends in the United States – the dispersal of poor, urban blacks to inner ring suburbs, which in many ways laid the ground for the recent conflict in Ferguson.  Of course, by that time, the professionals had already discovered it.

I also found, in retrospect, absolutely no evidence for gentrification in Detroit from 1990-2000; at the time I worded my conclusion a bit more weakly, probably because no one I talked to wanted to hear this conclusion.  Fortunately, I’m coming to care less what others think in my old age.  Also in retrospect, the most likely cause of the changes I observed is the Third Great Migration.

I guess I’ll take a stab at explaining the lost structural equations modeling paper as well.

Continue reading

Concentric circles of free speech, via Colin Kaepernick.

(copied from a months-old Facebook post)

1) If someone calls Colin Kaepernick unpatriotic for kneeling during the national anthem, there’s no free speech issue. It may be a violation of some other values – civil discourse, reasoned debate – but definitely not free speech. Of course, it’s a bit disingenuous of me to pick Kaepernick as an example, because this fallacy is currently far more common on the right – the Kaepernick incident is one of the few recent cases when I’ve seen columnists invoke it from the left.

Continue reading

Sanders versus Clinton supporters in the American National Election Studies data

Were it not for Trump, the great drama of the 2016 election would have been the primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  Sanders generally fit the mold of a “leftist protest candidate”, but was far more successful than previous such candidates have been.  In this post, I will examine the 2016 American National Election Studies data, hoping to find clues that explain why.

Continue reading

Other people study Obama/Trump voters

Slate.com reports on several papers using data from the Voter Study Group, focusing on Obama/Trump voters – the same voters I analyzed in my series of posts.  (I’m also linking to the article because I take petty joy in being responsible for a correction in a published piece – the one from June 22nd was my catch.) They reach basically the same conclusions as I did: That Obama/Trump voters were ethnocentric but economically populist.

Jamelle Bouie, the author of the piece, raises a possibility that I did not mention in my posts: That Trump’s economically moderate campaign messages may have mattered almost as much as his ethnocentric messages on immigration and crime.  Given Trump’s governing record, he will be unable to re-run convincingly as an economic moderate in 2020, which may mean that the Democrats can win back some of these voters without changing their messaging in any way.

(It’s also possible that if Black Lives Matter protests become fewer or less visible by 2020, the racially-loaded politics of crime may seem less salient to these voters.)

Book Review – Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control in America

Dividing Lines would be a dry read if immigration control weren’t a hot issue now.  And hey, maybe it’s still dry to you, but I found it interesting.  It’s a blow-by-blow history of immigration policy in the United States since the founding, with special attention to the political coalitions that supported several very different policy regimes.
Continue reading