March 5, 2012

Conspiracy Theories

From the Atlantic and the National Journal:
Disparate Impact: Black Lawmakers and Ethics Investigations 
by Shane Goldmacher 
A disproportionate share of cases have been brought against Congressional Black Caucus members. African-American lawmakers would like to know why. 
Emanuel Cleaver, a Methodist minister and the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, stood up and began searching his desk for a Bible. Cleaver wasn't looking up a particular verse or Psalm. He grabbed the Good Book for emphasis. He wanted to hold it in his hands as he declared, with a firm shake, that the way Congress investigates the ethics of its own lawmakers is horribly broken. 
"I think," Cleaver said, "the facts speak for themselves." 
The facts say this: African-Americans make up 10 percent of the House, but as of the end of February, five of the sitting six named lawmakers under review by the House Ethics Committee are black. The pattern isn't new. At one point in late 2009, seven lawmakers were known to be involved in formal House ethics inquiries; all were members of the Congressional Black Caucus. An eighth caucus member, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, had also been under investigation, but his probe was halted temporarily while the Justice Department undertook an inquiry of its own. 
All told, about one-third of sitting black lawmakers have been named in an ethics probe during their careers, according to a National Journal review. 
Only two members of Congress have been formally charged with ethics violations in recent years and have faced the specter of public trials -- Reps. Charles Rangel of New York (censured) and Maxine Waters of California (investigation ongoing). Both are black. There are no African-Americans in the Senate. Remember the most recent black senator, Roland Burris of Illinois? Reprimanded by the Senate Ethics Committee in 2009. 
Those are the facts, as Cleaver said. The question is why so many African-American members have been in the ethics spotlight. 
In interviews with more than a dozen members of the CBC, an unsettling thread emerges: They feel targeted. There could be no other explanation, many said, for what they see as disproportionate treatment at the hands of ethics investigators. They describe a disquieting reality of being black in Congress today: a feeling that each move they make is unfairly scrutinized. "We all feel threatened," said Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, as he sat by the fireplace off the House floor. "If the only reason that you would suffer a complaint is because of your skin color, that is a cause for concern."

In general, the legal doctrine of “disparate impact” — that racial discrimination can be inferred merely from statistical disparities in outcomes — is a version of conspiracy theory thinking. Occamite explanations (e.g., blacks tend to be more crime prone and/or less competent at getting away with their crimes) are ruled out as unthinkable, leaving as the most likely explanation some kind of shadowy conspiracy against blacks.

Of course, some kinds of conspiracy theories are more socially acceptable than others. The really interesting question is why some conspiracy theories are considered the mark of a social pariah and other conspiracy theories are considered the mark of the Right Sort of Person.

As we see here, The Atlantic / National Journal takes it seriously enough to devote many pages to a conspiracy theory held by numerous members of the Congressional Black Congress that whites are out to get them.

Conversely, while you might think that the president of Harvard would be automatically be the right sort of person, when Larry Summers argued that it wasn't a conspiracy that not many women were tenured professors in Harvard math and engineering departments, that there were other explanations than powerful men in closed rooms discriminating against women, he immediately became a Bad Person. Every right thinking person knows that the lack of female math professors is too a conspiracy. To try to save his job, Larry handed $50,000,000 to Drew Gilpin Faust to spend on feminist causes at Harvard. But he still lost his job and, through sheer coincidence, Dr. Faust had somehow acquired enough supporters within Harvard to replace him.

Of course, only complete losers believe in the existence of a feminist conspiracy to get nice jobs for feminist critics of Summers such as Dr. Faust, Nancy Hopkins, and the late UC Santa Cruz chancellor Denice Denton, who leapt to her death from the roof of the luxury high rise of her lesbian lover, for whom she had arranged a $192,000 per year job.

49 comments:

Svigor said...

Yeah, that's the ticket. Loads of implicit White racists disproportionately seeking out Black wrongdoing. Blackness is not a political shield. Et cetera.

Not nuts at all.

Anonymous said...

I guess there is nothing left to do but abolish ethics complaints then.

a Newsreader said...

Don't forget that the Gerrymandering of black districts encourages sloppier vetting. A bunch of these congressmen were elected from districts with no real competition.

Anonymous said...

The greater the implied conspiracy the odder it is, where are all the outed conspiracists? If they are so powerful how come these racists cant stop immigration or pack blacks of to Liberia etc?

blighty said...

I find the "right-wing" conspiracies theories more outrageous than the "left-wing" ones.

Anonymous said...

Rrrreality is rrrracist. :-(((((((((((

Anonymous said...

If Blagojevich is in jail for trying to sell Obama's Senate seat, why isn't Jackson in jail for trying to buy it?

Anonymous said...

That's not conversely, though- Summers said "there is no conspiracy," and here someone who said "there is no conspiracy" would be just as vilified.

Or was "conversely" meant to be sarcastic?

Anonymous said...

A criminal caught red handed will always try to make excuses and claim they were unfairly targeted.

Anonymous said...

As we see here, The Atlantic / National Journal takes it seriously enough to devote many pages to a conspiracy theory held by numerous members of the Congressional Black Congress that whites are out to get them.


Conversely, when Larry Summers argued that it wasn't a conspiracy that not many women were tenured professors in Harvard math and engineering departments, he immediately became a Bad Person.



And heaven help anybody who has a conspiracy theory in which Jews are the bad guys ... that's the most not allowed of the not allowed list of things to think or say.


This is the inevitable result when the bounds of public discourse are set by left-wing ethnic grievance groups. Women, Jews, "people of color" and so on become immine to crticism, while white men are seen as inherently evil.

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...

Both the prevalence of black malfeasance and the lack of white conspiracy are attributable to the same thing: most blacks are elected to office from ultra-safe districts where they face no serious threat of electoral defeat.

Not having any serious challengers for re-election, it's easy to be corrupted. At the same time, it makes no sense for conservative whites to expend any energy conspiring to trump up charges against blacks. This is because, even if the charges lead to removal, they'll just be replaced by another black liberal. Wouldn't it make more sense to bring false charges against someone in a swing district instead?

This form of actively malicious racism, where whites supposedly go to bed dreaming of new ways to hold the black man down, has steadily lost credibility everywhere except NAACP conventions and humanities faculty lounges. Hence, the new emphasis on "institutional racism," which supposedly operates to similar effect despite the best intentions of everyone involved.

Nanonymous said...

A disproportionate share of cases have been brought against Congressional Black Caucus members. African-American lawmakers would like to know why.

That's an interesting question, actually. Besides the evil racist conspiracy, there are at least two more distinct but not mutually exclusive possibilities: 1) Congressional Black Caucus members violate rules more frequently, and 2) Congressional Black Caucus members are not as smart as their non-black colleagues to cover up their violations. Hmm...

Anonymous said...

A lot of black politicians, at least in Louisiana where I'm from, come from very poor districts and are poor themselves. Therefore they are much easier to bribe or "buy" than a Kennedy, Romney, Bush, etc. However in Louisiana, politicians of all races are getting tagged by the authorities. As Representative Tauzin said about Louisiana, "Half the state is under water; the other half is under indictment." We never hear a mess about white politicians such as Blagojevich or James Traficant being unfairly "targeted" for bribery.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be great though, if we were as evil as they think we are?

(Or turning it around: are these people not aware of Stereotype Threat? Cue ooga-booga music)

Gilbert Pinfold.

tl;dr said...

Enh, no conspiracy, the beatdown starts on page 3:

"But the question persists: Do African-American members simply commit more ethical lapses? "Nobody wants to say that, because as soon as you do, you're accused of being racists," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group. Sloan said it anyway: "The black caucus really does have more ethics problems."

"Sloan said she empathizes with those innocent lawmakers who feel targeted. But, she said, plenty of African-Americans have been guilty of bending the rules. For the past six years, at least one black lawmaker has graced her group's list of the "Most Corrupt Members of Congress." Last year, five out 19 were black. One former fixture on that list, African-American ex-Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., is in prison, after the FBI raided his home in 2006 and found $90,000 stashed in his freezer.
"

Pages 4 and 5 say how it's initiated by outside watchdog groups and, blacks are in cities where there's more energy and, the watchdogs do hit whites.

Anonymous said...

1. CBC members violate rules more.
2. CBC members aren't as good at getting away with violation.

There is a third possibility that is most likely.

3. CBC members almost always get re-elected because of majority-minority districts.

morleysafer said...

The ever-more-DC-centric Atlantic Monthly is a good source of one's daily irony requirements. As noted by comments ^, entire CBC is a bipartisan conspiracy, gerrymandered safe seats made out of usually poorer districts. Would love to know what's the control group.

Matthew said...

It's the ethical bell curve. If one group is slightly more likely to be dishonest, then they will have a substantially greater number of people whose dishonesty gets them into legal trouble.

Whites are also a lot smarter at how they go about their ethical indiscretions. Black lawmakers are more likely to demand cash money, jobs for family members, or other forms of immediate payback in exchange for their votes, while white congressmen are happy to settle for promises of lobbying positions, "speaking fees," etc. after leaving office. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have both gotten very rich this way after leaving office.

On the other hand...I could see why white & Jewish Democrats might be more than happy to throw their fellow black lawmakers to the dogs. Those black seats are safely part of the Democratic Party, yet black congressmen themselves present a fair threat to the whites in the party for control.

Anonymous said...

OT: I love how we can continue to have this national conversation about ever illusive black-white differences and ignore Hispanics and Asians. Blacks lifespan shorter than white lifespan.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120224194315.htm

Anonymous said...

The term "conspiracy theory/ist"
is a weapon of the establishment that implies truth and insight are
determined by what most folks (often within one or another parameter) believe about a particular question or a particular perception. It is the enthusiastic lack of regard to history in America that reinforces this conformity compass. As a perjorative term, "conspiracy theorist" could justly be applied to people who specialize in sensational theories or reinterpretations that are not amenable to research or to fact-based reasonable disputation.

Whiskey said...

Thus you see the bankrupt legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Which was never about abolishing racial discrimination and demanding equal treatment in front of the law as individuals, but group preferences. All King wanted and got was special treatment for Blacks reversed. Like a Star Trek technobabble "Reverse the polarity!" The discrimination flows in the opposite direction but it still flows. Which leaves the (still) majority population hostile to Civil Rights since it basically means anti-White discrimination.

In turn that's bankrupt. Unsustainable. No matter how many lawyers feast on it. And THAT is no conspiracy, just idiocy in the open worshiped as dogma. Straight out of Cotton Mather. Again no conspiracy -- just SWPL status-mongering ("I'm so high in status/power that AA and other Black preferences don't hurt me like you little people.")

And THAT is socially powerful. Most conspiracies fall apart whenever they reach goals, not the least of which is the nasty habit of conspirators generally trying to shorten the cut by various ugly means.

Marc B said...

"Wouldn't it be great though, if we were as evil as they think we are?"

Occasionally somebody will mention the ongoing oppression of blacks by whites as the reason for blacks low position on the social order, usually in an attempt to elicit white guilt or shame from me. I always tell them that as much as I wish that were really the case, black pathology does most of that job for us.

Anonymous said...

Could it be cuz black Congressmen be coming from places like Detroit and South Side of Chicago, Watts, and the like? Do folks who live in such communities vote for quality candidates? Even Obama was rejected by blacks and had to win some white/Jewish district in the South
Side.

morleysafer said...

lesbian networking/favoritism is a sane response to social realities, i.e. what does not go away when closing one's eyes. The lack of interfamilial interaction via kids and (more critically) lack of an entrepreneurial/indolent male leaves you the last to find out about any good bourgeois opportunities that come along. Plus there is the attrition factor.

However, the Balkans narrowcast & Internet sorting culture is eventually going to obviate that dilemma along with everything else.

morleysafer said...

The CBC is such a sui generis artifact, there is the risk that people will actually look at it and start scratching their heads (probably why Cleaver picks his moment to darkly warn of racism). Even though my own white boy's mental picture tends to run to all of them resembling the "Go Gator" woman, you have also this guy (half-S.Asian like the California AG). Tim Scott isn't in it but Allen West now is--the former has a large black pop in his S.C. district, the latter is more in the mold of previous critics of said caucus. The Compton/Long Beach member is a half-white Obamian technocrat, probably the sole representative of that breed in the arbitrary grouping. A smokescreen campaign about "black legislators being targeted" is maybe pure exclusion bias right off the bat. Are the relatively uncorrupt ones not black enough?

Go Gata said...

whoops, I meant "incorrupt" of course

TGGP said...

Why don't you link to the Marginal Revolution post you're responding to? What are you trying to hide!?

Anonymous said...

The correct solution here is affirmative action for ethically-challenged whites so they can be elected to Congress in sufficient numbers that they too can be subject to ethics complaints.

Matthew said...

"five of the sitting six named lawmakers under review by the House Ethics Committee are black...At one point in late 2009, seven lawmakers were known to be involved in formal House ethics inquiries; all were [black]..."

Everyone expects black congressmen to be more corrupt and so no one is really surprised that they're overrepresented. But...only 6 congresemen under investigation? With the Congress we have and the mess they've made? No. Effing. Way.

So yes, "whites are better at getting away with it" must be a big part of the answer. Were I a corrupt congressmen what would I do to cash in? Offer great "constituent service" to Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Koch Industries, etc. No explicit promises ever have to be made. These businesses pay back favors so that current members do their bidding. Considering that billions are on the table, it doesn't make sense to be cheap.

For example, I can think of two senators from my state who have left office under somewhat shameful circumstances, but the establishment has had no problem seeing to it they were well cared for, above and beyond their insanely generous pensions.

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

Wouldn't it be great though, if we were as evil as they think we are?

(Or turning it around: are these people not aware of Stereotype Threat? Cue ooga-booga music)

Gilbert Pinfold.


It's always amazed me that they think that whites have such a deep, malignant cruelty in them.

I am Lugash.

Reg C├Žsar said...

In general, the legal doctrine of “disparate impact” — that racial discrimination can be inferred merely from statistical disparities in outcomes — is a version of conspiracy theory thinking.

So what explains the gaping absence of disparate impact complaints in permit-issuance laws and everything else having to do with guns? No conspiracy there...

Actually, this anticonspiracy theory is more suspicious than any of their conspiracy ones.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this a symptom of paranoid schizophrenia? ie the sufferer is utterly convinced of his delusions that the whole world is a conspiacy to destroy him.

Maya said...

" Denice Denton, who leapt to her death from the roof of the luxury high rise of her lesbian lover, for whom she had arranged a $192,000 per year job."

A very exciting sort of a lesbian. The ones I know who are her age tend to bring an extra blanket to the beach, in case it gets colder, keep first aide kits in their cars and speak to each other in quiet even tones.

ray said...

Of course, only complete losers believe in the existence of a feminist conspiracy to get nice jobs for feminist critics of Summers such as Dr. Faust, Nancy Hopkins, and the late UC Santa Cruz chancellor Denice Denton, who leapt to her death from the roof of the luxury high rise of her lesbian lover, for whom she had arranged a $192,000 per year job.



yeah how ridiculous . . . who could believe in the existence of vast PC/Girl's Network nepotism in education, government, and employment? thats just White Male paranoia, wanting to hang on to your Patriarchal Privileges

only Complete Losers and Conspiracy Theorists believe Jesus sent a pack of demons into pigs, who promptly went mad and jumped off a cliff

utter nonsense

slumber_j said...

"Dr. Faust" is a nice touch.

Camlost said...

Both the prevalence of black malfeasance and the lack of white conspiracy are attributable to the same thing: most blacks are elected to office from ultra-safe districts where they face no serious threat of electoral defeat.

Black voters don't really care if their elected black officials are corrupt, since the Marion Barrys and Williams Jeffersons of the world are just misappropriating money from taxes paid by the white man. Blacks have zero financial skin in the game.

David said...

Someone once said, "I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I'm a conspiracy scientist."

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder about how the distribution of public money influences corruption. It could be that black congressmen come from poorer areas that receive higher amounts of federal and state monies, which are notoriously easy to siphon off due to poor local oversight, a history of corruption, and a lack of any watchdog groups (which in my experience are usually all-white affairs). White congressmen who come from areas with more oversight and fewer/more closely scrutinized state/fed monies no doubt find it easier to be in cahoots with local corporations and real estate developers, etc. They're probably also more likely to have a JD or MBA which not only gives them a cognitive leg up but a class-based one as well.

Kylie said...

"A very exciting sort of a lesbian. The ones I know who are her age tend to bring an extra blanket to the beach, in case it gets colder, keep first aide kits in their cars and speak to each other in quiet even tones."

My boss rented a cottage to some lesbians so they'd have a place to do their ceremonial drumming (which actuallly sounded pretty good). They'd also started their own construction company (by which I mean they busied themselves with hammers and plywood and hired men--"filthy men"--do the all the skilled work of plumbing, electrical, etc.). I was talking to one about home construction when out of the blue, she said about her partner, "Phoenix has had real success with her electromagnetic hypnotherapy." WTF? Don't get me started on how they managed to turn a conversation about petting a dog into a discussion of mutual masturbation.

These gals looked middle-aged and boring but from what I could tell, were anything but. Don't let the Girl Scout preparedness fool you.

Evil Sandmich said...

A black poltician lands in the hot seat for having money in his freezer while a white politician like Barney Fwank gets lauded for running the country into financial ruin; I can kind of see why they might be upset.

Anonymoose said...

The whole concept of disparate impact is a lie.

" A disproportionate share of cases have been brought against Congressional Black Caucus members. African-American lawmakers would like to know why."

I'll tell ya why: because a disproportionate share of African-American lawmakers are crooks.

Let's look at disparate impact of the obesity epidemic on black women now, shall we?

Paul Mendez said...

"I ain't negative! I'm just REAL, my bruthahhhh!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwz9RAVou1U

where's my slice said...

John Liu in NY is showing that stereotype threat can be defeated

Anonymous said...

Speaking of disparate impact, the patent system is both sexiss and raciss.

Gringo said...

" A disproportionate share of cases have been brought against Congressional Black Caucus members. African-American lawmakers would like to know why."

I view corruption in Congress as being a function of having a safe seat. If you do not have a safe seat, you are going to keep on your toes regarding ethic violations,as your next opponent could topple you by charging ethics violations.


If you have a safe seat, you are not going to keep on your toes egarding ethics violations, because regardless of what you do, you are going to get re-elected. Without someone looking over your shoulder, there is greater temptation for ethics violations.

Black congressmen have a disproportionate number of safe seats, as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been interpreted to provide as many Black majority districts as possible.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading up on this Faust woman. Maybe, I'm judging Summers too highly. But what has this woman done before 2006? I don't see any books before one in 2006 or major papers. But what really is telling is the NYT article from 2007, were she defines herself by bashing her parents and family and bravely exsposing their shocking racism (apparently her parents did not refer to black maids as Miss. so-so as much as their white friends, truly shocking stuff). Atleast she is reprsenative of who runs American education and why it is in the state it's in. She has no big ideas. No concern like a Woodrow Wilson would've had for the future of European peoples. No, she has daddy and mommy issues to be resolved (demonizing them) apparently.

Anonymous said...

I DEMAND STEVE SAILER BE ON THE ADAM CAROLLA PODCAST! Someone make a peitition. My two favorite LA dudes.

Steve Sailer said...

Dr. Faust got her start as a professor about the time she divorced her first husband and married the head of her department.

morleysafer said...

I believe the source of corruption is less the safe seats than the limited number of seats in a country of 300 million people. Maxine Waters case, it isn't flamboyantly sleazy like Rangel but looks like very typical insider self-dealing. Honest people with families don't move to D.C. on a salary of 174 grand. So I figure Maxine finally exhausted the favor bank through the course of her district's internal struggles. It's a safe Dem seat, doesn't mean others aren't gunning for it intra-party.

It's in pointed contrast with ethical blunders of a city council princess like Monica Conyers, who is a total idiot and could never reach the upper levers of power even with nepotism and name recognition. Though William Jefferson ended up looking bad with his money freezer and personal helicopter rescue the guy was no dunce. Likewise Marion Barry isn't incompetent at his craft, for what that's worth. It's just that he has to be lucky all the time, per the old IRA saying.