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The Power Line Show, Ep. 110: C.S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law

Prof. Dyer looks like a wrestler

Just in time for the long holiday weekend, an early edition of the Power Line Show, with special guest Justin Buckley Dyer of the University of Missouri. Prof. Dyer is the co-author (with Micah Watson) of a terrific book on C.S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law. Though Lewis was known as a literary critic and Christian apologist, a lot of his work bears on the deepest political and philosophical problems of our time, even though Lewis wasn’t primarily interested in politics at all. I sat down with Justin recently to talk about the greatness and profound impact of C.S. Lewis, and also the problems of the university today, which listeners may recall have been especially on display at Mizzou over the last few years.

There’s a surprise opening for the show this week for movie buffs, and the exit music track for this episode  is “New Word Order” by The Word.

As usual, listen below or download the episode from Ricochet. Please subscribe to Power Line in iTunes (and leave a 5-star review, please!)

And buy this book.

Acosta DOL doubles down on spurious suit against Oracle

Days before President Obama left office, the Labor Department sued Oracle for alleged pay discrimination against blacks, Asians, and women. The suit was grounded in the Obama-Tom Perez DOL’s misuse of statistics. I discussed that misuse here.

When a center-right administration inherits lawsuits grounded in leftist dogma, it faces a dilemma. It can simply drop the case, but that would alienate staff and arguably make the agency look bad. It can continue to pursue the case, but it’s improper for the government to pursue meritless cases and foolish for it to pursue weak ones.

Often agencies escape the dilemma by settling cases. Defendants are satisfied because the settlements are favorable and enable them to costly avoid litigation. At the same time, the agency saves face. Staffers usually aren’t thrilled, but neither are they outraged.

The Oracle litigation offered Alex Acosta, the new Secretary of Labor, a perfect opportunity to execute this maneuver. The legal proceedings were halted in October 2017 to allow the two sides to mediate. The table was set for a settlement.

But instead of settling, the Acosta Labor Department has reinstated legal proceedings. Not only that, it has (1) added new claims against Oracle, (2) allegedly used data obtained in discovery as the basis for the new claims, in violation of DOL regulations, and (3) allegedly disclosed to the public confidential information for the purpose of trying its case in the press.

The new claims include allegations that Oracle is “channeling” blacks and women into lower paying jobs and giving hiring preferences to immigrant visa holders whom it can underpay. The DOL also accuses Oracle of discriminating against newly hired females and blacks by using prior salaries to set starting salaries at Oracle. This is a perfectly sensible practice and most courts, accordingly, have found it lawful.

The new allegations are marred by the same flaw as the original ones — reliance on unrefined statistical analysis. As I explained here, the underlying fallacy of the Obama Labor Department’s approach to alleging pay discrimination based on statistics is the aggregation of dissimilar jobs for comparison of pay:

When comparing male and female pay rates, it’s vital to compare the pay of people who are performing the same kinds of work. For example, in the tech industry, a prime target of the Solis-Perez-Acosta DOL, it makes sense to see whether male and female engineers performing highly complex work (e.g., on the cloud or on artificial intelligence) are paid about the same. If they aren’t, the contractor should have to explain why.

But it makes no sense to lump all people holding the title “engineer” together. One would expect engineers performing sophisticated work to be paid significantly more than those performing relatively unsophisticated work, such as tweaking Outlook. Thus, no inference of pay discrimination arises from pay differences within such a broad classification.

The original pay discrimination case against Oracle suffers from this fallacy.

Some of the new claims also substitute broad statistics for refined analysis. For example, as the Wall Street Journal points out, the DOL relies for its hiring discrimination claim on evidence that 82 percent of employees hired by Oracle for technical positions are Asians, whereas Asians were “only” 75 percent of applicants. But without an analysis of comparative qualifications, this evidence is insufficient to prove discrimination.

No one should be shocked that Asians applicants for technical positions at Oracle fare somewhat better than non-Asian applicants. At Harvard, the acceptance rate of Asian applicants, based on objective criteria, would vastly exceed the Asian applicant rate. (Harvard avoids this outcome only by tilting the process against Asians by finding that they fall short on “personal qualities.”) Why should we expect a different outcome for technical positions at Oracle?

The DOL’s suit is problematic in other respects. The Wall Street Journal does a good job of highlighting them.

It also occurs to me that, if the Acosta DOL is right that Oracle unlawfully prefers Asians, might not whites be victimized by this discrimination? Are all of the successful Asian applicants in that delta between 82 percent and 75 percent winning jobs at the expense of other minority group members, and not whites? This seems impossible to believe — especially if Oracle’s intent is, as the DOL asserts, to pay its employees less and if, as the DOL asserts also , Oracle pays whites more than other similarly situated employees.

But the Acosta DOL is not claiming that Oracle discriminates against whites.

The Wall Street Journal concludes its editorial by wondering why Alex Acosta continues the “depredations” of his left-wing predecessors at DOL. “Is he running the bureaucracy or getting run over by it,” the Journal asks.

The answer, I think, is that Acosta is happy to accommodate the leftist bureaucracy in order to maintain his standing with Democrats. Now that Acosta is under fire for giving “the deal of a lifetime” to an uber-rich, extremely well-connected pedophile, he can ill afford claims in the press that he’s soft on “discrimination” by Silicon Valley.

But Acosta’s desire to accommodate Democrats long predates the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. It extends back at least as far as his stint as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division during the Bush years.

No wonder the Obama Department of Labor is now in its eleventh year.

If you get your news from the Star Tribune

Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor also owns the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves franchise. He recently fired Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau in his third season at the helm. “We would like to thank Tom for his efforts and wish him all the best,” Timberwolves owner Taylor said in a statement. “These decisions are never easy to make, but we felt them necessary to move our organization forward.”

The Star Tribune is Ilhan Omar’s hometown newspaper and there is much local interest in her doings. If you get your news from the Star Tribune, however, you’re missing out big time. The Star Tribune makes the Timberwolves look like world beaters. Its performance is pitiful, yet Mr. Taylor stands idly by his editors. What will it take to prompt Mr. Taylor to move the Star Tribune forward?

The paper has not yet gotten around to covering Omar’s revealing embarrassment of herself this week — I mean the one involving her interrogation of Trump administration Venezuela Special Envoy Elliott Abrams. In that exchange one could see that Omar embodies the unholy alliance between radical Islam and the American Left. By contrast with the Star Tribune, Bloomberg foreign affairs columnist Eli Lake took note of Omar’s performance (tweet below).

The Klobuchar Kriterion

Senator Amy Klobuchar — Minnesota’s own presidential candidate — proudly joined all but three of the Senate’s other Democrats to vote yesterday against the confirmation of William Barr as Attorney General. Her tweet below provides the short form of her stated rationale.

Klobuchar gave a speech on the floor of the Senate in which she provided the long form of her stated rationale (below). As Klobuchar noted at the outset of her floor speech, she had already stated her opposition to Barr in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Thankfully, Barr was confirmed yesterday over Klobuchar’s opposition. He was a stellar nominee and should be an excellent Attorney General. He is now one of the most well qualified candidates ever to serve as Attorney General. Among other things, Barr has previous experience as Attorney General, the last time around under President George H.W. Bush. On that occasion the Senate confirmed Barr by a voice vote after he cleared the Judiciary Committee by unanimous vote.

Klobuchar predicated her opposition to Barr on her disagreement with Barr’s view of executive power. She purports to maintain a more limited view of the president’s constitutional authority (a view that she never advanced during the Obama administration). Despite her reputation as a moderate, Klobuchar reliably toes the Democratic Party line on the thinnest of pretexts (Barr’s “expansive view of executive power”), as in this case.

When a Democrat next wins a presidential election, perhaps in 2020, he or she will need to staff his Cabinet and fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. The Klobuchar Kriterion establishes senatorial disagreement with a nominee’s views as fair ground on which to oppose the nominees. Indeed, Klobuchar’s floor speech alludes to her previous opposition to the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She says her view of executive power differs from theirs.

If the Klobuchar Kriterion applies to a Democratic president’s likely nominees, why should any conservative Republican ever vote in favor of their their confirmation (for any reason other than pure political calculation)? Someone should ask Senator Klobuchar and her fellow candidates to answer the question.

Showdown in El Paso: A footnote

Following up on the dueling rallies in El Paso this past Monday night, a long-time reader who lives in El Paso writes:

I wanted to alert you to a local news item near my home in El Paso, Texas and offer a little perspective. It’s hard to an illustrative example this profound. On the very night the president held a rally here, prompting the predictable chorus of denunciations and media “fact” checking about his assertions that walls work to keep Americans safe, more than 300 illegal immigrants were apprehended entering the country at a spot where existing fencing stops. This happened about six and a half miles from where the president spoke.

I agree with the president’s critics that violent crime here was never anywhere near as terrible as we’ve seen in places like Chicago and Detroit and that the reduction in in our crime rate started well before the current fencing was installed along the border. But statistics don’t tell a complete story here. I can vividly remember a time when “border bandits” used to enter the country at night and rob motorists on a road that runs along the border between the suburb of Sunland Park, NM and downtown El Paso. The prevailing wisdom was to never use Paisano Drive after dark. Bandits would block the road with old couches or other obstructions, conduct their robberies, and then slip back into Mexico before U.S. authorities could arrive.

In the late 1990s, the wall/fence went up in this area, and the robberies ceased. I couldn’t immediately find local news reports about this little crime wave, but here is an AP wire story from 1995. I now freely travel on Paisano Drive at night without concern for my family’s safety.

I’m attaching a two photographic overviews for clarity’s sake. The wider view shows West El Paso, Sunland Park, New Mexico, and the Ciudad Juarez shanty suburb of Anapra, Mexico. I live two miles from Mexico, just north of the prominent oval shape – a water feature at the Sunland Park (horse) Racetrack. Paisano Drive is the road marked US 85, just west of Interstate 10.

The tighter view shows where current fencing that runs between New Mexico and Chihuahua, Mexico stops at the base of a small mountain, Mt. Cristo Rey, which rises up about 1,000 feet from the desert floor.

In recent years, the conventional wisdom has been never to climb Mt. Cristo Rey alone, because bandits have been known to rob hikers there. Here’s one relatively recent account.

El Paso is a fairly large city of about 700,000 people. The overall citywide “statistics” drown out and provide cover for a false narrative. It’s obvious to anyone willing to make sense of what their own lying eyes are telling them. Fence/wall = No crime. No fence/wall = crime.

I Told You So!

A couple days ago in my post on “The Laffer Curve of the Left,” I predicted:

MMT is getting some backup from mainstream economists. The incoming president of the American Economics Association, Olivier Blanchard, argued in his presidential address that the costs of public debt might have lower welfare costs than previously thought, which you can bet will be cited by the Krugmanites of the world on behalf of a massive spending spree. . .

Behold today:

Okay, this wasn’t exactly the hardest prediction to make, so don’t go asking me for Super Lotto numbers.