Thursday, October 06, 2005

Can a Clump of Cells be Black?

First, a math/computer science joke that only balding men (some of which may have beards by coincidence) or women are likely to understand. There are only 10 kinds of people in this world: those who understand binary, and those who don't.


I found these comments about Miers very disturbing (from David Frum's diary on NRO):

"Her critics say the problem goes beyond what Miers does or doesn't know about policy -- and right back to a near-obsession with detail and process.

"'There's a stalemate there,' says one person familiar with the chief of staff's office. 'The process can't move forward because you have to get every conceivable piece of background before you can move onto the next level. People are talking about a focus on process that is so intense it gets in the way of substance.'

"One former White House official familiar with both the counsel's office and Miers is more blunt.

"'She failed in Card's office for two reasons,' the official says. 'First, because she can't make a decision, and second, because she can't delegate, she can't let anything go. And having failed for those two reasons, they move her to be the counsel for the president, which requires exactly those two talents.'"

I've worked for people like that, and it sucks. Another source I read said that she was obsessive about correcting typos and editing documents herself, another sure sign of trouble, and a classic symptom of the problems mentioned above. I think the root of this behavior is the sub-conscious knowledge that you are in over your head; rather than contemplate the problems that may stem from that, you convince yourself that the value-add of editing a document for its grammer (rather than its content) is why you get paid the big bucks. Thus convinced, you think it is OK that you don't understand the content, and you cast a suspicious eye at English graduate students who are capable of doing your job, and willing to do it, at $30 per hour.

Maybe she'll turn out to be a good judge, but I wouldn't be surprised if every good lawyer who ever clerks for her leaves with an extremely bitter taste in the mouth.


Meanwhile, Bill Bennett is getting skewered for recent comments, where he cited the Freakonomics argument that more abortions implies less crime. He made the mistake of saying that you could reduce crime by aborting every black baby, and then went on to say that would be morally reprehensible. He could have made the same point with any race, or with no race (i.e. all babies), but instead, in unscripted remarks, he focused on the race with arguably the largest crime problem. Now he is being skewered as a racist. Jonah Goldberg had the following remarks in a column today on NRO:

And Democrats and many liberals have been trying to distort what Bennett said. Former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe: "The point he was trying to make, I guess, he said, you know, if you were to go out there and kill the black babies, the crime would go down." Ted Kennedy and a predictably long list of others have called him a racist. Radio host Ed Schultz said: Bennett is "out there advocating the murder of all black babies."

There are too many ways in which this anti-Bennett backlash is cheap and tawdry to discuss here. (Though I should note that a considerable minority of liberal writers who loathe Bennett refuse to participate in the witchhunt.)

My first objection is more of a delicious irony. Notice how so many righteously offended liberals keep referring to fetuses as people. In the New York Times, Bob Herbert proclaims that Bennett considers "exterminating blacks would be a most effective crime-fighting tool." Schultz and McAuliffe say Bennett wants to exterminate "babies."

Funny, I thought the bedrock faith of pro-abortion liberals is that fetuses aren't babies. Isn't it interesting how this lynchpin of liberal morality evaporates the moment an opportunity to call Bennett a racist presents itself?

Can a clump of parasitical cells really claim a race? The other interesting aspect of this is that the origins of NOW were racist in nature - too many black people having these wild kids. Arguably the only person or organization that can be credibly accused of advocating abortion for the purpose of reducing crime by killing black "clumps of cells" is NOW. Bill Bennett is staunchly pro-life, and would counsel any black woman contemplating abortion to consider otherwise. What would Teddy counsel? How 'bout Jesse? He could have avoided paying out a lot of hush money.


Anonymous the_giant said...

I get it! 10 = 2 mod(ulo) 1! Hooray for number theory. Dr. Hecker would be proud...

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Jado said...

I, of course, understood the joke immediately.

But then, I have a beard, so real surprise there.

F-A-R-M. Yup, I still got it.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Bennett said the crime RATE ( crimes divided by population) would go down, so you can't just pick any group. For example, aborting all female fetuses would cause the crime rate to increase dramatically.

But in saying that, I'm assuming men are more prone to crime, and that no adjustment to the environment in which men and women are raised would change that , at least not completely. Bennett was clearly implying something similar. He said ALL black babies, not, say, just those of lower income parents.

Do you really believe that it was random? That there was a wheel spinning in his head that included "White", "Hispanic" , "Asian", etc. but that it just happened to land on "Black" at the moment he opened his mouth?


12:19 PM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

Re. the binary joke, you're all eggheads. All of ya.

Re. Bennett's comments, it figures that Bennett's remark that aborting black babies to reduce crime would be "morally reprehensible" is ignored by McAullife, Teddy Kennedy, Louis Farrakan, etc. Good catch, Hatch, that the "parasitic lump of cells" are suddenly "babies" to those like Ted Kennedy who support a woman's constitutional right to choose. (Mary Jo Kopechne was unavailable for comment.)

You're the first person I know who caught this.

I did appreciate Bennett's reply to Kennedy: "He can't lecture me. He let a woman drown. He shouldn't even be in the Senate."

12:34 PM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

I didn't realize he actually said rate, but now that I know that, let's explore your comments. If you were to pick a race with a higher crime rate, which would it be? And even if you were wrong about that calculation, what percentage of the population do you think would make the same calculation.

He was making a quick point to a caller on a three hour show. He could have added a thousand nuanced caveats about controlling for income, environment, etc. But then no one would listen to his show, because he would be clouding his main point by bending over backwards so that the thought police wouldn't accuse him of being a racist.

If your a priori belief is that he is a racist, you'll take his comments as proof of your belief. But again, this is based on your leap of omniscience - you can read his inner thoughts, you know his true motivation. If there is an innocent explanation that excuses him of racism, you see it as a prepostorous explanation, because of what you assume going in.

Civility (and maybe I shouldn't be the one lecturing on this) would seem to demand that we don't pretend we know the hidden motives of our political opponents, and permit them the benefit of the doubt.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Why did he play the race card at all? They were discussing Leavitt's theory, which is basically about class or income. Race has nothing to do with it. He could have just said "Dr. Leavitt is probably right that greater access to abortions among low-income women lowered the crime rate, but it would be reprehensible to base social policy on his findings".

In terms of the respective crime rates of the groups under discussion, this is a better example than the one Bennett then introduced ( I'm pretty sure that the difference in the statistical crime rates between the poor and the rich is much greater than between black and white). If he felt, since it was his show, that he needed to provide some value added to Leavitt's idea, then the most obvious ( by far) example would be aborting all the male babies.

By the way, my inner thoughts did not include an a priori belief that Bill Bennett held racist views. I just think that his statement provided compelling evidence to that effect.


3:32 PM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

John W,

First, it wasn't a prepared statement. Second, what he said would be, according to Levitt, a factually correct statement. Sure, if he were actually advocating it as a policy, you would be correct in saying that there are alternative criteria for genocide that would achieve the goal more efficiently.

His caller was saying that some of the problems with social security have been exacerbated by abortion, which has reduced the population available to support the boomers. His response to the caller was that a pro-life view should not be based upon a utilitarian calculation of future economic harm or benefit. He then correctly pointed out that some, namely Levitt, could argue that there are offsetting benefits of abortion via reduced crime.

His point was that arguments for or against abortion based upon social benefits and costs is barbaric - i.e. you don't disallow abortion to save social security, and you don't allow it in order to reduce crime. By picking blacks, he was (purposely or not) highlighting the fact that such reasoning could nominally support a "reprehensible" (his word) policy of aborting, or encouraging the abortion of, blacks.

Maybe he picked blacks just to highlight the fact that one can draw truly racially offensive conclusions from trying to justify certain policies based upon utilitarian criteria. I don't know if that's true or not. But I do know the context in which he said it, and I suspect you don't.

So, in summary, he made a factually correct statement, recognizing it would be a barbaric policy, intending to show the severe problem with utilitarian anaysis of an issue like abortion.
Given this context, do you still see it as racist? I could see myself making the same statement even if I had prepared what I wanted to say and was trying to be cautious not to be racist. The race angle helped pound home the fallacy of the logic.


3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm not fully convinced, but I'm wavering. I still think it's odd that he would interject an argument that blacks are more prone to crime in the middle of a conversation where it's not at all germane. But your frame is interesting: that he wasn't expressing a personally-held racist view, only role-playing what a racist would say. I hadn't thought of that.


5:07 PM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

I'm late to the the party on this one I realize, but my first impression on Bennett was that he was being unfairly screwed by liberals for making a reasonable intellectual argument. (In every media account I read, it also mentioned that he immediately followed his comments up with the appropriate disclaimer although none of the critics seemed to point this out.)

I personally immediately thought of the Leavitt paper as well. William Raspberry in the Washington Post, however, pointed out that at no time in Leavitt's paper does he mention race.

Apparently both Bennett and I unwittingly assumed that Leavitt's paper had to do with black crime rates and abortion. Subconcious racism on both of our parts.

I think it is a subtle but important point brought up by Raspberry. Mind you, I don't think the people castigating Bennett are subtle thinkers on this issue, but I think some guilt can be placed on Bennett if one thinks a little deeper on the comment.

P.S. A-G-R-I-C-U-L-T-U-R-A-L
C-O-M-M-U-N-E. Yes, indeed. The ivory tower of liberal academia.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

agricultural commune ... I'm still laughing about that one. Jeez, this is what we're reduced to doing on a Friday night. Sad, very sad.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bennett should have known better to say what he did. I don't think he is racist, just stupid. Maybe he was too drunk on Chartreuse. It's a great excuse. Always works for me.

By the way, although I was never a miler, my PR was 4:27. Not bad for an alcoholic with expensive tastes.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Jado said...


Professor Vic qualifies for Super-Genius status with that bit of Ivory Tower prowess.

I would want to study at the feet of the Master, if it weren't for the fact that the only other Super-Genius I am familiar with is Wile E. Coyote, and he always ends up falling off a cliff.

I think I will stick with my Genius status, and be happy. I am allergic to falling off cliffs.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Other John W said...

Well Hatcher you certainly caught some liberals in a bit of a bind. I guess a fetus is only a person, or only has rights acknowledged by the state to that effect, if you are insulting said fetus by assuming it will one day grow into a criminal person (or a non-caucasion -- apparently Bennett thinks you can take your pick).

WHo is the other John W? We need cool nicknames like "hatcher"

John W.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Upon looking over past entries, I now realize that " the other John W." was here first. My bad. I'll be "JWins" from now on.


1:55 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Sign up for my Notify List and get email when I update!

powered by