Racism is something worse than controversial

Even Racist Dobby the House Elf can get a Cambridge appointment

Nathan Cofnas is another of those guys who has made an academic career out of racism, and it has paid off! He just got a three year appointment to Cambridge University!

An American academic who has expressed controversial views about racial differences in intelligence has been made an early career fellow in the University’s Philosophy faculty.

In 2019 Nathan Cofnas became embroiled in controversy over an article he wrote, in which he argued that genetic differences in IQ could exist between racial and ethnic groups. In the article Cofnas also said that since “truth is intrinsically valuable”, it is scientists’ duty to uncover it even when controversial.

“Controversial”. “Controversial” is not an adequate criterion for legitimate science. Here, Cofnas is using “controversial” as a substitute for “contradicted by the evidence”. Here’s a much better article that rebuts Cofnas’s nonsense.

With that in mind, we would like to respectfully point out that when racial realism is described only as being “provocative” or “controversial,” that comes disconcertingly close to saying that creationism, anti-vaccination, or climate change skepticism are just scientifically controversial ideas. Like these fringe ideas, racial realism belongs to a group of ideas that insist on their legitimacy in spite of (and not in the absence of) disproving empirical evidence – the quintessential definition of being unscientific. Hence, where the claims made by anti-vaxxers, creationists, climate denialists, and racial realists are, by many, seen as provocative, scientists find it lamentable when these ideas seep into academic journals, where they certainly do not belong.

Unfortunately, some people at Cambridge decided this “controversial” guy deserved a philosophy appointment. I hope they enjoy the controversy that follows!

But then, was the money really real?

Kanye West’s poisonous anti-semitism seems to have come home to roost.

Kanye West has responded to being dropped by several major partnerships, including Adidas, CAA, MRC and Balenciaga.

Ari Emanuel. I lost 2 billion dollars in one day. And I’m still alive. This is love speech. I still love you. God still loves you. The money is not who I am. The people is who I am, West wrote on Instagram. The post comes days after Emanuel, CEO of Endeavor, urged companies to stop doing business with West.

He was “worth” $2.5 billion last week, now he’s “worth” half a billion dollars. Was he actually worth that much? Is he worth that much now? Is anyone? This tells me that all those wealthy people are actually much more fragile than they’d like you to think.

Also, a ‘death-to-Jews’ speech is not love speech.

You’re probably as tired of hearing about Sviggum as I am

At least this article focuses on the perspective of the students — they’re pissed off. But hey, I recognized a bunch of the students they highlighted!

I also think one student made a particularly good point. Paradoxically, with great diversity comes great isolation.

Mercedese Young Man said she often feels alone on the campus and in the western Minnesota town.

“I feel isolated,” said Young Man, who is in her first semester at Morris. “Before (Sviggum) said all of that I was going to my counselors and telling them I was having a hard time adjusting to being here.”

Young Man, who sat for nearly an hour by herself in the school café seating area, said she transferred to Morris because of its supposed diversity, but she said that’s not the case. Officially Morris can boast of a robustly diverse population – 41% students of color, of that 32% Native American of a total student population of 1,068 – but Young Man disputed those numbers.

“There are just a handful of Native students here and all from separate tribes,” said Young Man, who is from Oglala, South Dakota. “In several of my classes I’m the only person … maybe one other … person of color.”

The raw statistics tends to lump all these students into one mass — “students of color” and “Native American” — but they all see themselves as something far more specific. I’ve known students who are Navajo and Delaware, as well as the regional Lakota and Dakota peoples. There are also Hmong and Somali and Nigerian and Latino and Filipino students here, and just sweeping them into a pile and calling them our diverse brown students is insulting and inadequate.

Bugger Sviggum, we should just listen to the students and follow their suggestions.

To the point of UMN Morris’ declining enrollment, Strukel and Kadlec may have unintentionally offered up a marketing campaign for the university.
“We’re unique here because we’re so separated from the fast-paced world. Here it’s who’s around you; that’s who you got,” said Kadlec. “There’s no Target or Walmart here to take my money so I’m forced to be here on campus with my friends; and that’s not bad at all.”

We got a letter from the Board of Regents

This is actually the kind of letter I like to see.

Dear Chancellor Ericksen and the University of Minnesota Morris community:

Today, I want to extend my sincere apology on behalf of the Board of Regents following Regent Sviggum’s apology yesterday. As you know, last Thursday Regent Sviggum asked a question regarding Morris enrollment. We all bear responsibility for speaking up and condemning the question, whether on Thursday or in our Friday meeting. As the leader of our board, I should have done better and I am not proud of my inaction.

Our Board is committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and it is a central anchor of the president’s MPact 2025 strategic plan, which the Board has fully endorsed. We are inspired every day by the diversity of thought, of inquiry, of vision, and of presence that drives our institution forward.

In March of 2023, we will hold the Board of Regents meeting on the Morris campus. With the full Board on campus, we will focus on engaging with the Morris community, including students, faculty, staff, and the broader Morris region.

In addition, I am committing today to provide DEI training to the entire Board of Regents that will help us more fully understand and reaffirm the power that different perspectives bring to our shared success. Diversity is not a challenge, it is a strength that makes our institution—and Morris—one of the most highly regarded universities in the country.

Consistent with the educational mission of our great University, the Board of Regents recognizes that we must acknowledge our failings and learn from them. Hopefully, our sincere efforts to do so will serve as an acknowledgement of our responsibility and commitment as Regents to advance the University’s land grant mission of teaching and service for the benefit of all Minnesotans.

Our mission is your mission. We look forward to meeting with you in March to further discuss the importance of diversity and how we, as a Board, can support you in your efforts, as well as to listen to your stories of the many ways that the Morris campus embraces the University mission and inspires us all.

With thanks,

Ken Powell, Chair
Board of Regents

I think maybe Sviggum was chastised by the board — I don’t think he is well liked.

Although…they’re all coming out to Morris in March? We’ll still be frozen and under the snow, and we don’t have a star chamber quite as intimidating as the one they’ve got in the Twin Cities. Maybe they can meet in my lab, surrounded by spider cages instead.

The wrath of the pandemic is falling on Republicans now?

An interesting/sad fact about COVID death rates: there’s been a demographic reversal. Where before black communities suffered most, now white people are dying off faster.

The Post analysis revealed the changing pattern in covid deaths. At the start of the pandemic, Black people were more than three times as likely to die of covid as their White peers. But as 2020 progressed, the death rates narrowed — but not because fewer Black people were dying. White people began dying at increasingly unimaginable numbers, too, the Post analysis found.

In summer 2021, the nation saw some of the pandemic’s lowest death rates, as vaccines, shoring up the body’s immune response, became widely available.

Then came the delta variant. The virus mutated, able to spread among the vaccinated. As it did, an erosion of trust in government and in medicine — in any institution, really — slowed vaccination rates, stymieing the protection afforded by vaccines against severe illness and death.

After delta’s peak in September 2021, the racial differences in covid deaths started eroding. The Post analysis found that Black deaths declined, while White deaths never eased, increasing slowly but steadily, until the mortality gap flipped. From the end of October through the end of December, White people died at a higher rate than Black people did, The Post found.

Maybe now Republicans will start caring? Nope.

The nature of the virus makes the elderly and people with underlying health conditions — including hypertension, diabetes and obesity, all of which beset Black people at higher rates and earlier in life than White people — particularly vulnerable to severe illness and death.

The virus also attacks unvaccinated adults — who polls show are more likely to be Republicans — with a ferocity that puts them at a much higher risk of infection and death.

Of course, the problem is more complicated than that Republicanism is a mark of doom — although I think you could make a case that Republican policies are at the root of wrecking the pandemic response for everyone. There’s a whole array of factors that are killing conservative Americans.

Resilience gave way to fatigue. Holes left by rural hospital closures deepened. Medical mistrust and misinformation raged. Skeptics touted debunked alternatives over proven treatments and prevention. Mask use became a victim of social stigma.

Many Republicans decided they would rather roll the dice with their health than follow public health guidance — even when provided by President Donald Trump, who was booed after saying he had been vaccinated and boosted.

It’s also racism. Deep down, ugly, visceral racism.

Researchers at the University of Georgia found that White people who assumed the pandemic had a disparate effect on communities of color — or were told that it did — had less fear of being infected with the coronavirus, were less likely to express empathy toward vulnerable populations and were less supportive of safety measures, according to an article in Social Science & Medicine.

A growing body of research, outlined in the book “Caste,” by Isabel Wilkerson, shows that even the most anodyne of social exchanges with people of different races, such as glancing at faded yearbook photos, can raise White people’s blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Not all white people, I hope. I’m at a too diverse university, remember.

For some white people, though, it’s all too much, and it’s going to kill them.

As Metzl conducted research for his book in 2016, a 41-year-old uninsured Tennessean named Trevor who was jaundiced and in liver failure told him “I would rather die” than sign up for the ACA. When asked why, Trevor, who was identified by first name only, said: “We don’t need any more government in our lives. And in any case, no way I want my tax dollars paying for Mexicans or welfare queens.”

Oh, Ronald Reagan, you were truly a curse on this country.

Everyone: get vaccinated. Even if you’re a Republican.

Sviggumated

Sviggum rhymes with Wiggum, you know.

The row continues. There is now an open letter from UMM faculty and staff laying out the flaws in Sviggum’s assertions.


We’ve also made the pages of the Washington Post. I think this is great PR for us — I like being known as the campus that is so open and diverse that a Republican criticized us for having a student body that wasn’t white enough. Please consider attending this university if you value new perspectives!

Just Asking Questions

The regent, Steve Sviggum, who who wondered if Morris was too diverse to attend, is feeling a little bit of heat, I guess. He called in to a Minneapolis radio show to defend himself (or double-down on his comments, more accurately). Here’s a sampling of quotes from the radio show. See if you can find a theme.

I don’t see asking a question is being offensive or wrong, it certainly, certainly not racist, Sviggum told Vineeta Sawkar on the WCCO Morning News.

I don’t understand how asking a comment or question to someone makes them defensive.

I just simply asked the question. We should not be above asking questions.

I was just asking a question. I’m sorry some found it offensive.

Why are you such an insensitive, bigoted lout, Steve Sviggum? I don’t understand how that would make you defensive, and I’m sorry if you find it offensive. He constantly states that he’s just stating facts, but he isn’t.

Here are the facts: enrollment at the University of Minnesota Morris is down significantly, by about 40%. A larger proportion of our students are students of color right now. That’s a fact. It’s a problem that enrollments are down, but it is a strength that our student body is diverse. Sviggum wants to address the problem by attacking our strength, because he’s a racist idiot. The numbers are worrisome, I would agree.

Like colleges and universities across the country, the University of Minnesota-Morris has been grappling with declining enrollments for the past decade. Of the University of Minnesota’s five campuses, enrollment has declined the greatest at Morris, which has seen a 45% drop in the number of students attending from 10 years ago. In the 2011 academic year, Morris had 1,932 students compared to 1,068 today.

The greatest enrollment decline has been among white students. Nearly 70% of the student body was white a decade ago compared to 54% of the student body in the current academic year. The share of Native students has increased significantly from 13% a decade ago to 31% today.

Notice that white students are still the majority; also be aware that the demographics tell us that white America is approaching a majority-minority condition, and that’s going to become the norm everywhere. It’s nothing to fear. When we had a major educational grant from HHMI, that was one of the points they drilled into us, that we needed to address those changing demographics and be welcoming to diverse students if we wanted to retain a strong science community in this country.

If you want to address our declining enrollments, you have to look at the factual causes. We’re in a pandemic, which has hit colleges hard. We’re remote from major population centers, which made it rough for students; I have had so many students who have asked for excused absences because they had to go home to help their families, or attend funerals, or deal with their own quarantine. We lost a huge chunk of international students, thanks to the political situation and the pandemic, dropping from 11% of our student body to 2%. You won’t see many Chinese students on campus anymore. That is not a good thing.

Sviggum’s comments have become national news. Most of what I’ve seen has been supportive of UMM, such as these words from John Hodgman.

Come on back, John, that was a great show. Unfortunately, instead what we’re getting is a visit from Sviggum, who will no doubt try to defend himself by saying he was just JAQing off. I don’t think he’ll get a friendly reception, except maybe by the College Republicans, who will demonstrate by their ugly existence that maybe we are a little bit too diverse in one way.

Our acting chancellor, Janet Schrunk Ericksen, has made a public comment on the matter.

Last Thursday, October 13, I gave a presentation to the Board of Regents about our enrollment and how it relates to the U of M System strategic plan, MPact 2025. The question and answer part of the presentation included conversation regarding the diversity of our campus and has resulted in media attention. I want to reiterate that our strength is in our diversity.

The University of Minnesota Morris is a student-centered public university.Our students are curious, hungry to learn, and open-minded. They come from rural communities, Tribal nations, metropolitan centers, and cities abroad. Indeed, multiple perspectives and experiences of people who have different backgrounds are absolutely core to education and particularly liberal arts education.

Our campus strategic vision and plan includes our commitment to enhance the liberal arts education opportunity for students from all backgrounds, especially those from diverse, first-generation, and low-income populations. I am proud of the Morris campus community and its inclusive voices, and I will continue to support our efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion as integral parts of our liberal arts mission.

I’ll just add that maybe one of the reasons we are at all successful in the current adverse conditions is that UMM is actually an excellent place for academic and demographic diversity, and we’re not going to change that, despite Sviggum’s pointed comments in that radio show about how maybe Minnesota needs to shut down a few universities.

Morris is too diverse, according to a Republican regent

WHAT THE FUCK? It’s hard to believe that a regent of the University of Minnesota asked this fucking stupid question, but then you notice that it’s a former speaker of the Minnesota house of representatives, a Republican, and it becomes a little less surprising.

Steve Sviggum asks if my university has become too diverse, from a marketing standpoint. Jesus.

His concern, or rather his excuse for his concern, is that two people, two bigots, wrote to him to say that the diversity on the University of Minnesota Morris campus made them uncomfortable and they wouldn’t send their kids here.

Seriously. This is one of the people who controls the pursestrings of my university. He got two letters that he should have instantly shredded, and instead he decided to confront our chancellor with the fact that the Republican bigots of Minnesota have his ear.

Fortunately, Chancellor Ericksen responded calmly and appropriately to such an outrageous assertion.

It’s a good thing she has the job, and not me (not that there’s ever a chance I’d end up in such a position), because I’d have just yelled, “Fuck you, asshole” and scrabbled for something on the desk I could throw at Sviggum.

Some people finally noticed Bryan Pesta

Bryan Pesta no longer has a job. This is good news; Pesta was a professor at Cleveland State who was notorious for publishing racist ideas and promoting the work of his fellow racists. I wish that were enough to have gotten him fired, but it wasn’t — it took a lot of effort to expose him and discredit his work.

Publications like Pesta’s may fly under the academic radar, but can seep into popular misperceptions of race and lend them a scholarly veneer. Pesta was heavily involved, for example, in editing a 2010 version of Wikipedia’s article on race and intelligence, according to the site’s discussion-forum archives. At the time, the article cited both Pesta’s work and that of other “racial hereditarians.” The racist manifesto of Peyton Gendron, the man accused of murdering 10 Black people at a Buffalo grocery store this year, cited some of Pesta’s racial-hereditarian colleagues and predecessors.

Despite nearly a dozen publications over more than a decade arguing for the intellectual inferiority of Black people, Pesta earned merit pay for research and eventually promotion and tenure at Cleveland State. Finally, this year, after researchers at other institutions filed complaints, the university fired him.

But those complaints weren’t about the legitimacy of his research.

I knew about Pesta. RationalWiki had a short article on him (which needs to be updated, it still reports he is a professor). Is there just a tiny and frequently ignored minority of people who are aware of the hereditarian infection in popular science? It’s not as if he was subtle and hiding in the shadows.

Many of his papers about race ran in Intelligence, a peer-reviewed journal that has drawn fire for publishing other racial-hereditarian arguments. Three of his articles appeared in Mankind Quarterly, which a writer in The New York Review of Books once called “a notorious journal of ‘racial history’ founded, and funded, by men who believe in the genetic superiority of the white race.” Two were published in the Journal of Intelligence, an international, open-access periodical that advertises its quick review and publication process.

Many racial hereditarians present their claims as widely accepted but deliberately suppressed facts in the scientific community. They blame the political correctness of academe for their difficulty publishing in well-respected journals.

Publishing in Mankind Quarterly ought to be regarded as a great blaring klaxon alerting you that there is a huge fucking problem here.

Also concerning: Pesta has legitimate academic qualifications, “with bachelor’s, an M.A., and a master’s in labor relations and human services,” and also has a doctorate in psychology. Do you notice what’s missing? He has no background in biology or genetics, but he’s pushing radical distortions of genetics and using poor genetics methodology. From the description of his research, I’m unimpressed.

Pesta’s papers also consistently maintain that racial gaps in test scores can’t be explained by factors like discrimination or economic status. In 2008, for example, he published an article in Intelligence arguing that the gap between Black and white students’ IQ scores could be explained entirely by Black students’ lower intelligence rather than any bias in intelligence measures.

The article relied on a study of 179 students in Cleveland State’s introductory accounting courses categorized as either Black or white. Pesta’s co-author was a CSU accounting professor, Peter J. Poznanski, who has since retired. The university did not appear to be bothered by the article, even linking to it on its “EngagedScholarship@CSU” page. (After The Chronicle inquired about the paper, the university left up the abstract but removed the link.)

Wait, what? He makes sweeping conclusions that black people are intrinsically less intelligent than white people on the basis of a tiny study of his own students, categorizing them as black and white, and then…what? Assessing their intelligence on the basis of their performance in an introductory accounting course? That’s nuts. I wonder if the students knew they were being measured up as exemplars of particular races. Cleveland State seems to have had no problem with this kind of biased and inappropriate analysis.

Even if his methodology wasn’t weak and flawed, his ability to interpret the data ought to be called into question.

A 2014 paper Pesta published in Intelligence, “Only in America: Cold Winters Theory, Race, IQ, and Well-Being,” takes up the historically baseless theory that people who evolved in cold climates — Europeans and Asians — became smarter because cold winters made survival more difficult. Pesta’s paper finds that IQ and average temperature are correlated in U.S. states even though nearly all their residents are descended from people who came to America within the last 400 years, meaning the supposed difference couldn’t have been caused by evolution in place.

Instead, he proposes another hypothesis, the “founder effect,” arguing that certain types of people, genetically and culturally, were drawn to certain communities and areas — ignoring America’s long history of forced migration for people of color. He does add, though, that it’s “possible that significant historical events” — he mentions the Civil War but not slavery or segregation — could have also created regional differences in well-being and education. He also writes that his study doesn’t disprove the Cold Winters Theory, but shows only that phenomena other than evolution can drive geographic differences in IQ scores.

Wow. The reviewers were lying down on the job with that one — it should have been instantly rejected, unless the journal Intelligence just has appallingly low standards.

That didn’t get Pesta fired, though. What did get him axed was the discovery that he’d violated the terms of service in using (well, misusing and abusing) a confidential NIH database. Crossing NIH, from whom all blessings and large grants flow, is a really bad idea, not just for the individual researcher but for his institution.

Independently, Kent Taylor had a similar reaction to Pesta’s new work. Taylor, a molecular biologist and genomics researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles, wasn’t familiar with Pesta but found the article methodologically shoddy.

More important, he couldn’t see how such a paper could have passed ethical muster with the NIH.

Taylor fired off emails to the NIH, Cleveland State, and the University of Minnesota* alerting them to the article.

Taylor’s letter to Harlan M. Sands, who until this past April was CSU’s president, was short and to the point. It called Pesta’s article “both a violation of the data-use agreement and unethical.”

That was the last straw. He’s outta there.

Cleveland State declared that Pesta had been incompetent or dishonest in teaching or scholarship; neglected his duty, and engaged in personal conduct that substantially impaired the fulfillment of his institutional responsibilities; and interfered with the normal operations of the university. The letter declared Bloomberg’s decision to fire Pesta.

Pesta was officially fired on March 4, 2022, two and a half years after his article was published.

Unfortunately, the lingering stench of his published papers remains, still being cited, still being trotted out in every pseudoscientific argument by a Nazi on Twitter.


* Unfortunately, one of Pesta’s co-authors, Jordan Lasker claims to be affiliated with UM’s school of economics. He is not listed anywhere in my university’s directories, and seems instead to be at Texas Tech University? All these guys seem dodgy to me.

Racists are still upset about the Little Mermaid

You want to see some raging, flaming, over-the-top, old-school racism? No, you don’t, but I’m gonna show it to you anyway.

OK, I hear you wondering…who the heck is Jared Taylor? Here’s what Amazon has to say.

Jared Taylor has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Yale University and a master’s degree in international economics from l’Institut d’ Etudes Politiques de Paris.

He has worked as an international lending office for a major New York bank and as a consultant to companies doing business in Japan. For three years he was the West Coast Editor of PC (Personal Computing) Magazine, and has published articles and essays in the following publications:

Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Washington Star, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, National Review, Chronicles.

Since 1994, Jared Taylor has been the president of New Century Foundation, which publishes the American Renaissance website (AmRen.com).

Amazon used to sell all of his books, but in March, 2019, it banned the following titles written or edited by Jared Taylor:

A Race Against Time: Racial Heresies for the 21st Century, 2003, New Century Books, 331 pp.

White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century, 2011, New Century Books, 344 pp.

Face to Face With Race, 2014, New Century Books, 211 pp.

If We Do Nothing: Essays and Reviews from 25 Years of White Advocacy, 2017, New Century Books, 254 pp.

Jared Taylor lives with his family in northern Virginia near Washington, DC.

It starts off fairly normally (I had no idea he was an editor for PC Magazine), and then gets around to mentioning the New Century Foundation — a prominent funding source for all kinds of hate — and the American Renaissance, where Michelle Malkin and Pat Buchanan are still welcome contributors.

I know — I didn’t know Pat Buchanan was still alive. He is.

And then we get around to his racist books, which Amazon has banned. Cancel culture! But they really are terrible, stupid books as the video above shows.

Jared Taylor still gets invited to give talks. The latest was at ASU, where he was invited by the College Republicans. Republicans don’t mind associating with notorious racists, I guess.

He’s comically racist. He thinks the white race is going to miscegenate ourselves into extinction because…

There are just too darned many mixed-race couples in TV ads! Yeah, he seems like the kind of guy who sits up late watching Fox News and getting mad at all the pharmaceutical commercials because they’re just not white enough.

These people actually exist. It shocks me every time.