Daniel Larison is now blogging for The American Conservative website here.
February 9, 2008
Something of a milestone occurred today for the iSteve family of webpages -- the ten millionth Page View, as recorded by Site Meter since I installed it just over four years ago. Of course, that's not counting visits to my articles on VDARE.com AmConMag.com, and so forth.
By the way, remember how every McDonald's restaurants used to have a big sign that said "70 Billion Hamburgers Served," and then "80 Billion Hamburgers Served," and then "90 Billion Hamburgers Served"? They were on track to reach 100 billion in the mid-1990s, and I was looking forward to watching President Bill Clinton eat the ceremonial 100 billionth McDonald's hamburger. As an American, having Clinton as head of state was pretty embarrassing most of the time, but here, finally, the man and the moment were about to come together in historic harmony.
And then ... nothing. No McDonald's sign ever read "100 Billion Hamburgers Served." Some of them switched to "Billions and Billions Served," and then the signs disappeared.
What's the story behind the Great American Anticlimax?
It's long been understood theoretically that there must exist a Darwinian fitness trade-off between too much inbreeding and too much outbreeding, but nobody knew where that was. If you marry your first cousin, you are likely to suffer a 30% higher infant mortality rate. But if you marry somebody too genetically dissimilar, you can start running into various reproductive problems as well.
Now, deCODE Genetics of Iceland, who foisted upon the world the most likely fallacious claim that James D. Watson is 25% nonwhite, is claiming that the Darwinian fitness sweetspot is 3rd cousin marriage:
In a paper published today deCODE scientists establish a substantial and consistent positive correlation between the kinship of couples and the number of children and grandchildren they have. The study, which analyzes more than 200 years of deCODE’s comprehensive genalogical data on the population of Iceland, shows that couples related at the level of third cousins have the greatest number of offspring. For example, for women born between 1800 and 1824, those with a mate related at the level of a third cousin had an average of 4.04 children and 9.17 grandchildren, while those related to their mates as eighth cousins or more distantly had 3.34 children and 7.31 grandchildren. For women born in the period 1925-1949 with mates related at the degree of third cousins, the average number of children and grandchildren were 3.27 and 6.64, compared to 2.45 and 4.86 for those with mates who were eighth cousins or more distantly related.
The findings hold for every 25-year interval studied, beginning with those born in the year 1800 up to the present day. Because of the strength and consistency of the association, even between couples with very subtle differences in kinship, the authors conclude that the effect very likely has a biological basis, one which has yet to be elucidated. The paper, ‘An association between the kinship and fertility of human couples,’ is published online in Science magazine at www.sciencemag.org .
deCODE has access to the amazing Icelandic national family tree, in which most Icelanders who ever lived over the last 1000+ years are enrolled. Genealogy is easier in Iceland because there hasn't been much immigration for the last 1000 years, and because of the surname system: for example, the PR lady who wrote this press release is named Berglind Olafsdottir -- i.e., she is "Olaf's daughter."
Icelanders are of Scandinavian and Celtic descent.
The odds of genetic problems due to inheriting two deleterious recessive genes falls off pretty fast as you move from first cousin outward. I believe at the third cousin marriage level, it's only 1/16th as high as at the first cousin marriage level, but don't quote me when proposing marriage to somebody you met at Great Aunt Meg's 90th birthday party. Still, I'm not sure how much faith I should put in these findings.
I could imagine some non-biochemical reasons for this, such as that 3rd cousins might have tended to marry at younger ages -- in early modern England, as Gregory Clark pointed out in A Farewell to Alms, age of marriage is the main determinant of fertility. Or perhaps healthy people tended to quickly find spouses within their social circles, who tended to be related to them, while sickly people had to wander further afield to find somebody who would marry them.
John Hawks notes an even likelier reason: people who are descended from highly fertile people will have more third cousins to marry. That could be biological or cultural or both.
Some of it could be purely mathematical -- the chance of falling in love with your third cousin depends in part on the number of third cousins you have.
And the number of cousins of any type you have is wildly dependent upon typical family size in your family tree. To simplify genealogical calculations, assume that every person in Family Tree A for the last four generations has had only one child, every person in Family Tree B has had exactly two children, and so forth. Here's what you would face in terms of number of relatives of your own generation:
|kids/family||Siblings||1st Cousins||2nd Cousins||3rd Cousins|
Thus, if everybody has had exactly one child for the last four generations, you would have no siblings, no cousins, no 2nd cousins, and no 3rd cousins. At your family reunion, you'd be assured of getting a big slice of the pie, but you'd be pretty lonely.
But if your ancestors had have a nice stable two surviving/breeding children per person, then you would have 1 sibling, 4 cousins, 16 2nd cousins, and 64 3rd cousins.
Yet, if your ancestors averaged five children surviving to reproduce, you'd have 4,000 third cousins!
Of course, humans do not breed in an evolutionarily stable manner. We've taken over this planet by having more than two children each. So, most people are descended, on average, from people who had more surviving children than the average.
It rural Iceland, if you came from "good stock," it might have been hard to avoid marrying your third cousin.
Anyway, I haven't seen the paper yet, so I can't tell if the the deCODE people have been able to deal with these objections. They certainly have a lot of data to work with.
February 8, 2008
"Remind me again, what is the evidence--in terms of policies, not affect or attitude or negotiating strategy--that Obama is not an unreconstructed lefty (on the American spectrum--a paleoliberal or a bit further left)? For example, would he roll back welfare reform if he could?"Well, his voting record in the Senate is not extremely far left -- in 2007 he was the most liberal Senator, but the two previous years he was only a little more liberal than Hillary.
His record in the Illinois legislature was fairly technocratic, with him picking and choosing issues on which he could make a consensus with technocratic Republicans.
But, what do we know about what he'll do when he finally gets the top job? For example, who will he nominate to the Supreme Court?
As of the writing of his 1995 book, Obama appears to have been further to the left than about 95% of the public. For example, his concerns in the late 1980s (and repeated with a straight face in his autobiography) about the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.'s church was whether it was not radical enough. Similarly, in Obama's book, there's virtually no criticism of welfare. Indeed, Obama's mission in life when he was a racial activist and then when he became a discrimination lawyer was to get more money out of whites for blacks.
Many people assume that because Obama likes to show that he understands their arguments by paraphrasing them back to them, often better than they made them themselves, that he therefore must agree with them. But it's just conservative egomania to assume that the problem with people who disagree with you is that they don't understand your arguments, and therefore anybody who is smart enough to understand you, like Obama is, must agree with you and have your best interests at heart.
Sorry, it doesn't work that way.
For example, when Charles De Gaulle visited embattled French Algeria in 1958, the first thing he told a vast crowd of worried pied noirs was, "I have understood you." The French-speakers cried in relief because, finally, France had a leader who understood their plight. De Gaulle then proceeded to give their country to their mortal enemies. He understood the French Algerians just fine, as well as they understood themselves. He just didn't care about them as much as they cared about themselves.
Sen. Obama has written a 442 page autobiography in which he took great pains to indicate that A. He cares about his own feelings a vast amount. B. He cares about one segment of the population far more than he cares about the rest.
I could well believe that Obama moderated his feelings at some point since 1995 (perhaps when black voters rejected him for Bobby Rush in 2000). But I would feel a lot more confident about my guess if the media would stop pretending that Dreams from My Father doesn't exist and somebody would sit down with him on camera and say: "According to your autobiography, you were way, way out in left field as recently as 1995. (And if you try to deny that, I'll quote your memoirs page by page.) Have you changed since then? How so? When? Why? How can you prove it?"
February 7, 2008
The most disinterested and careful attempt to measure the scholarly consensus regarding the most important individuals in history in the arts and sciences is Charles Murray's 2003 book Human Accomplishment. His methodology is described in my review in The American Conservative and in my interview with Murray, but basically he's measuring how much attention is paid each name in the leading scholarly reference works in each field.
There's an obvious high culture / academic orientation to the lists, but what scholars are basically interested in is how much somebody influenced subsequent major figures in his field.
To be eligible, you have to have been born by 1910 or died by 1950. Everybody is ranked relative to the immortal who ranks highest in his field. Murray stays away from ranking political and religious figures.
Murray kindly sent me a copy of his database. (And, no, I won't post it on the web without his permission.) I'll put up the most important Americans in science, math, and technology another day. (Briefly, the most impressive American figures in the lists are Thomas Edison, who ties with James Watt for the top ranking in Technology, and Benjamin Franklin, who is the only American on three lists: he's a major figure in Physics and Technology, and a minor eminence in Western Literature.)
I will start with the softer side and come back later to the sciences. Here are the top American names in each category:
Western Literature (Shakespeare = 100)
|Twain, Mark (Clemens)||1835||12|
|Dos Passos, John||1896||8|
Americans account for 58 of the 835 writers who made the grade in Western Literature, or 7%.
Poe seems to be that rarity who reads better in translation (especially in French). Auden is classed as an American because he spent the majority of his career in America, while T.S. Eliot is grouped with the Brits.
Western Painting and Sculpture (Michelangelo = 100)
|De Kooning, Willem||1904||10|
Overall, Americans account for 29 of the 479 Western Artists, or 6%.
This list does not include architecture, so Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright are not eligible, nor decorative arts, so Louis Comfort Tiffany isn't either.
I suspect, in the long run, that Eakins will emerge at the top of American painters.
Western Classical Composers: (Mozart and Beethoven tied at 100)
Americans account for 21 of 522 Western Music composers, or 4%. I would imagine Americans do better in Murray's lists of writers than composers because there's not as much of a classical-pop division among writers, so Edgar Allan Poe could do very well in Murray's system, but Cole Porter can't.
Gershwin would no doubt rank in the top 10 popular composers as well.
Western Philosophers (Aristotle = 100)
Americans account for 6 out of 155 Western philosophers, or 4%.
Americans aren't terribly philosophically inclined, but that's not a bad little bunch.
Overall, of the 115 Americans in these four categories, seven are women, with Emily Dickinson highest ranked. There are two blacks, Richard Wright and Duke Ellington.
In 2006, Fredo Arias-King pointed out to me that Castaneda's Soviet mother was an employee of Stalin's government when his father, Mexico's UN ambassador, met her in New York City in the early 1950s, where she was a translator for Stalin's delegation. Castaneda's chief advisor while he was Foreign Minister (2001-2003) was his older half-brother, Ambassador-at-Large Andres Rozental Gutman, who is his mother's son by a previous marriage. Rozental personally advised Mexico's immigration negotiators with the Bush administration.
On Monday, the Mexico City newspaper El Universal has accused Castaneda of spying for Castro's intelligence service on his father, who was Mexico's foreign minister in the late 1970s and early 1980s: "Castañeda espió a México y a su padre."
Even though Castaneda is a frequent commentator in the American press, the American media, according to a Google News search, ignored the story -- after all, it's only a story about America's next-door neighbor -- except for the LA Times on Wednesday, which headlined Castaneda's denial of a story that nobody in America had been told about.
Still, certain patterns are evident. The list tells us, for instance, that though we may be a nation of immigrants, it’s the native-born who are likely to shake things up the most: just seven of the final 100 were born outside the continental United States. It tells us that the East Coast states have made the most of their head start: sixty-three of the 100 were born in the original thirteen colonies, and twenty-six in New England alone. It tells would-be influentials not to be afraid of family commitments: ninety-one of the 100 were married at least once, and two—Joseph Smith and Brigham Young—had more than fifty wives between them. The list also suggests that contemporaries are sometimes good judges of whose influence will last: nine of Time magazine’s “People of the Year” show up on the historians’ list.
A political career (or a legal one) is the surest ticket to a historical legacy (twenty-six of the 100 held a judgeship or high political office). Aspiring influentials might also consider trying to invent something (like the lightbulb, or the airplane, or the atomic bomb), or discover something (the polio vaccine, the double helix)—though Gordon S. Wood remarked, after the list was finished, “We put too much emphasis on inventors. Someone sooner or later would have come up with the cotton gin … the lure of profits was too great. The same was true with the airplane and the telephone.”
Founding a religion landed Joseph Smith and Brigham Young on the list, as well as Christian Science’s Mary Baker Eddy (86). Fomenting a revolution also leaves an impression, whether you succeed, as the Founders did, or fail, but with long-lasting repercussions, as Nat Turner and John Brown (78) did. And we at The Atlantic were pleased to see that twenty-one of the figures in the Top 100 are especially famous for their writing, from Walt Whitman (22) to Margaret Mead (81)—and that more than thirty (!) of the figures on the list have been published in this magazine.
The final 100 also suggests that men still rule, at least in many historians’ eyes—oh, and make that white men. Ten women are on the list (the highest-ranked is the feminist pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, at No. 30), and eight African Americans, but the Top 100 is heavily WASPish. Martin Luther King Jr. (8) was among the top vote getters, but there isn’t another African American on the list until Jackie Robinson (35). And there are no Hispanics, Asian Americans, or Native Americans.
“It’s fun and challenging,” Ellen Fitzpatrick said of the exercise, but she called the rank order “an exercise in absurdity.” Noting that Walt Disney (26) finished ahead of Stanton in the balloting, she wondered: “Does a cartoonist deserve a place above someone who most powerfully advanced the case that half the people deserved equality before the law?” [Yes.] Or again, “Are we to conclude that not a single Native American Indian influenced our past?”
By the way, James D. Watson was #68 on the list, which didn't keep him from getting Watsoned for heresy.
Greg Cochran points out a profound change in American culture: from celebrating and promoting heroes of accomplishment to doing the same for heroes of suffering. Consider two war heroes-turned politicians. Dwight Eisenhower got the 1952 GOP nomination because of his accomplishments even though he didn't suffer much for them -- he was never in combat in his life. But organizing D-Day and managing the Anglo-American coalition suggested he had what it takes to perform well the day-to-day work of the Presidency during a particularly scary part of the Cold War. In contrast, John McCain is likely to get the 2008 GOP nomination in large measure because of his tremendous suffering during the Vietnam War, although he never accomplished all that much in the military.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are granted Honorary Heroes of Suffering status because of their being non-white males. Moreover, Hillary attained Presidential Timberhood by suffering through her husband's public infidelity.
Similarly, Obama's autobiography is pure emo rock: Yes, I know, sitting on the beach in Hawaii smoking dope may sound like a pretty soft life to you, but it was hell to me because of my"story of race and inheritance." The drugs were just “something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind . . .”
So, he had to go Suffer with His People on the South Side of Chicago for four years. Sure, he didn't accomplish anything in those four years, other than once helping Mau-Mau the all-black Chicago Housing Authority into removing some asbestos from a housing project, but that's not the point. The point is that he suffered.
In contrast, Mitt Romney, who, among other accomplishments (none of them D-Day scale, of course), saved the 2002 Winter Olympics (which by the way, were much better run than the embarrassing 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta), proved so unpopular that he dropped out today.
A reader writes in regards to Obama's performance:
The late Alan Baron used to have the "15 and 50% rule" for cities. If a city was at least 50% black, it would almost certainly have a black mayor (Detroit, DC, Atlanta, etc.). If a city was less than 15% black, it MIGHT have a black mayor because a small minority wouldn't create all that much tension. (LA [where Tom Bradley won five elections from 1973 onward] and Seattle fit this mold).
On the other hand, if a city was between 16 and 49% black, they probably would NOT have a black mayor. The reasons were simple: at say, 30% black, the community was big to stir up a backlash, but not strong enough to win a majority. New York is the classic example of this at 30% black. David Dinkins has been their first and only black mayor. [Similarly, Harold Washington, who died 20 years ago, was Chicago's first and last black mayor.]
Obama is winning the white voters in states where no one is scared of blacks (North Dakota!). He's also winning the Deep South states where black Democrats outnumber white Democrats. But in the big states where blacks are mixed in competition with Catholic labor voters, Asians and Hispanics, he's struggling.
Alan Baron would have predicted this!
From The Smoking Gun:
One of the "Jena Six" defendants was arrested yesterday for allegedly assaulting a fellow student at a Texas high school. Bryant Purvis, 19, was busted on the misdemeanor charge following an 8:30 AM altercation at Hebron High School in Carrollton, where his family relocated from Louisiana. According to the below arrest warrant affidavit, Purvis assaulted a male student he apparently suspected of vandalizing his auto. Along with choking the 18-year-old victim, the 6' 6" Purvis allegedly slammed the teenager's head on a table.
I pointed out earlier that, according to the LA Times, Obama's pandering to the illegal alien vote flopped in California because ... illegal aliens can't vote.
A reader demurs:
As regards the notion that Obama's direct advocacy of driver's licenses for illegal aliens 'flopped', you are right in every detail, but missed the big picture.
Obama was not aiming at 'hispanics'. Obama was aiming at the elites who lust after cheap labor over all other things. And it paid off big time. Money and favorable corporate press coverage is raining down on Obama, and Hilary is starting to run out of resources...
Why do you think the big money fell over itself to bring McCain back from the dead? Because McAmnesty will keep labor cheap.
Follow the money. The balance of supply and demand for labor is the dominant factor in setting wages and profits. I think Obama just outsmarted Hilary.
Here's a quiz: Get a pencil and paper and jot down the 10 most famous Americans in history. No presidents or first ladies allowed.
Who tops your list?
Ask teenagers, and they overwhelmingly choose African-Americans and women, a study shows. It suggests that the "cultural curriculum" that most kids — and by extension, their parents — experience in school increasingly emphasizes the stories of Americans who are not necessarily dead, white or male.
Researchers gave blank paper and pencils to a diverse group of 2,000 high school juniors and seniors in all 50 states and told them: "Starting from Columbus to the present day, jot down the names of the most famous Americans in history."
Topping the list: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. Three of the top five — and six of the top 10 — are women.
Sam Wineburg, the Stanford University education and history professor who led the study along with Chauncey Monte-Sano of the University of Maryland, says the prominence of black Americans signals "a profound change" in how we see history.
"Over the course of about 44 years, we've had a revolution in the people who we come to think about to represent the American story," Wineburg says.
"There's a kind of shift going on, from the narrative of the founders, which is the national mythic narrative, to the narrative of expanding rights," he says.
Yes, but how does he explain No. 7: Oprah Winfrey?
She has "a kind of symbolic status similar to Benjamin Franklin," Wineburg says. "These are people who have a kind of popularity and recognition because they're distinguished in so many venues."
Indeed. After all, both Ben Franklin and Oprah Winfrey were the world's leading physicists for a decade or so in the middle of their careers. And while Oprah hasn't yet carried out the most important diplomatic mission in America's history, maybe President Obama will appoint her Secretary of State.
Here's the list chosen by 2000 juniors and seniors, no Presidents allowed:
1. Martin Luther King Jr.: 67%
2. Rosa Parks: 60%
3. Harriet Tubman: 44%
4. Susan B. Anthony: 34%
5.Benjamin Franklin: 29%
6. Amelia Earhart: 25%
7. Oprah Winfrey: 22%
8. Marilyn Monroe: 19%
9. Thomas Edison: 18%
10. Albert Einstein: 16%
All I have to say is that Sojourner Truth must be feeling pretty ripped off not to make the list.
Seriously, the absence of Jackie Robinson on this list shows how feminized schools have gotten, which explains a lot about the much higher dropout rate among boys.
This list also might explain a bit about why Hispanics and Asians aren't getting excited over Obama's candidacy. They must be asking, "Black this and black that. Why aren't we getting our fair share of our own pseudo-heroes pounded into the brains of children?"
About 20 years ago, E.D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy survey revealed that more high school students could identify Harriet Tubman than Stalin or Churchill. I recall William F. Buckley wondering who in the world Harriet Tubman could be. If she was more important than Stalin, how could he have gone his whole life without ever hearing of her? And if she wasn't important, why was she famous?
How naive we all were back then!
I first heard about Harriet Tubman in my elementary school reader around 1969 or 1970. I was fascinated by the concept of her Underground Railroad and couldn't wait for the part where the slaves tunnel their way from the South to Canada, although, as I recall, the story turned out to be disappointingly lacking in detail about how they built the locomotives and laid the track.
In contrast, here's The Atlantic Monthly's recent list of "100 Most Influential Americans," as chosen by various experts in a survey overseen, I believe, by Ross Douthat. The top Americans who weren't Presidents on The Atlantic's list were:
5 Alexander HamiltonSo, three overlaps (Ben, MLK, and Thomas Alva) in the top 10 but only 2 more (Einstein and Susan B. Dollar) of the students' list showed up anywhere on The Atlantic's top 100.
6 Benjamin Franklin
7 John Marshall
8 Martin Luther King Jr.
9 Thomas Edison
11 John D. Rockefeller
14 Henry Ford
16 Mark Twain
19 Thomas Paine
20 Andrew Carnegie
On The Atlantic's list, there were 8 blacks and 10 women, but no black women, in contrast to the 3 in the high school students' top 10. White males fill 82 of the top 100 slots, and 28 of the top 29.
The Obama campaign, by contrast, aired Spanish-language radio ads promoting his support for issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. That was a "classic Northeastern assumption" that licenses were the primary concern of Latinos, according to Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at USC.
"It's not. I think he would have had much more traction on issues like education, or the loss of jobs . . . issues that resonate with Latino homeowners," Pachon said.
Yes, Obama is from the Midwest not the Northeast, but in California, everything beyond Las Vegas is considered "back East."
The thing that people back East like Obama are always forgetting is that illegal immigrants aren't supposed to vote. Granted, a few do vote illegally, but most wouldn't vote even if it was legal. They have more than enough drama in their private lives.
Hispanics who can vote mostly don't really care much about illegal immigrants. They might want legal immigration expanded so they can sponsor more close relatives, but illegals are a pain in the neck -- some third cousin shows up and wants to sleep on your couch for a year until he gets settled.
But most politicians and journalists don't know that because the "experts" they talk to about Hispanics -- such as Hispanic political consultants -- all want more illegal immigrants because it makes them seem more important. They want to be the "voice" of not 45 million people but, of 90 million or 180 million. Think how much business they would get then!
On the other hand, maybe all this dissection of the California voting is premature. Do we even really know who won the California primaries? I noticed this rather disturbing paragraph in the Thursday morning LA Times article:
"Stephen Weir, head of the state association of elections officials, estimated Wednesday that up to 2 million ballots remained uncounted. An additional 450,000 provisional ballots, filed when there is a dispute at a polling place, were also uncounted, according to Weir, the clerk-recorder of Contra Costa County. Elections officials have until March 4 to complete their tally, on which rests the division of party delegates."
Last fall, I received a half-dozen invitations to screenings of a "quirky" comedy about a "whip-smart" pregnant teen hipsterette who plans to give her baby up for adoption by an affluent couple. With my finger planted firmly nowhere near the pulse of popular opinion, I tossed each one out, thinking: "To listen to teens with attitude, for this I need to leave the house?"
So, in the wake of "Juno's" Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Director (Jason Reitman of "Thank You for Smoking"), Actress (petite 20-year-old Ellen Page), and Original Screenwriter ("Diablo Cody," which is the pole name of 29-year-old self-promoter Brook Busey, whose confessional blog became popular when she started working as a stripper), I ended up paying to see it.
Juno, a cute tomboy who dresses in flannel shirts like Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and has a snarky reference ready for every situation, turned out to be just as insufferable as I had expected. If she's so whip-smart, why'd she get so pregnant after one evening with a bright but baffled cross-country runner (the subversively blond and bland Michael Cera from "Superbad") with whom she says she's just friends?
Fortunately, my wife, who admired "Juno" greatly, patiently explained to me the film's considerable subtleties until even my clueless male brain could begin to grasp them.
First, though, let's dispose of the controversy over the purported politics of "Juno." Is Juno betraying feminism by choosing adoption over abortion? Sure. Yet, there's no mystery why Hollywood heroines (as in the recent "Knocked Up" and "Waitress") almost never have abortions: because babies are adorable and abortions are hideous. Nobody -- including, and perhaps especially, pro-choice ideologues -- wants to think visually about abortion.
February 6, 2008
|Obama's|| Share ||of Vote|| % of Dem. Voters |
|State||White||Black||Hisp.|| ||Black %||Hisp. %|
The "Simple Average" is the mean not weighted by size of state.
A reader points out that Obama's California exit poll numbers are inflated:
Unless I made a mistake with my calculator, these exit polling numbers for Obama aren't correct, i.e. they don't match his actual vote count, being a few points too high.Perhaps the other states are too?
Normally, they'd be "adjusted" to tie-out with the final results (that included a huge number of mailed ballots), but I'd half suspect that the media was reluctant to lower the initial (inflated) non-black numbers which they'd shown.
Since his Hispanic and Asian numbers are already pretty low, I'll bet his white numbers are the inflated ones. They should probably be about 7 points lower.
Also, keep in mind that exit polls' figures for a demographic group's share of the vote are, by necessity, largely rigged. The polling company guesses ahead of time that Hispanics will cast X % of the vote, so they decide to hire Y Spanish-speaking pollsters and conduct interviews in Z Hispanic-dominant precincts.
For example, I doubt that Hispanic voters outnumber black voters 29% to 6% among Democrats in California. Perhaps Hispanics were less likely to use absentee ballots, which have become hugely popular, and more likely to show up at the polls and thus be exit poll-interviewed?
From the Washington Post blog The Fix:
President Bush: In the nine states for which The Post purchased exit polling data (Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Tennessee), the president's disapproval rating was above 40 percent in five. That includes a 52 percent disapproval score in New York, a 49 percent disapproval rating in New Jersey and a 42 percent disapproval in California. Did we mention these include Republican primary voters? The other bit of bad news for Bush is that among those who disapproved of the job he has done, McCain won overwhelmingly -- meaning that the likely 2008 nominee will, in the minds of many GOP-leaning voters, be a repudiation of the current president.
Okay, except that McCain is just like Bush 43, only more so -- more invade the world, more invite the world, more in hoc to the world. And they have very similar nasty frat boy personalities.
Yesterday, I suggested that John McCain, with his cocky shoot-from-the-hip lack of preparation and thoroughness, is the the kind of man George W. Bush always wanted for a father. (The convoluted psychodynamics of the Bush family, I've long argued, are a key to understanding why we are in Iraq.)
It now occurs to me that Mitt Romney is the kind of son George H.W. Bush would have always wanted to have follow him in the White House. But the public tends to like the McCain / W types more than the Romney - H.W. types.
Of course, Bush 41 has a competent son, Jeb. And the dynastic plan was for him to get elected governor of Florida in 1994, re-elected in 1998, and elected President in 2000 and 2004. Instead, Jeb narrowly lost in 1994 while George W. pulled off an upset election in Texas, screwing everything up royally. Is George W. Bush the only President who would have lost an election unanimously if the candidates had been restricted to his own siblings and the electorate to his own parents?
So, what we've seen are blacks, after a long period of initial apathy, flocking to their tribal standard-bearer in large numbers; and whites voting for Obama as their "imaginary hip black friend." Obama thus does well in states with lots of blacks and in states with few blacks, like Idaho, (where he won 79% of the small number of Democrats), Alaska (75%), Kansas (74%), and Colorado (67%), but not so hot in-between. Audacious Epigone reports:
Blacks overwhelmingly backed Obama, Hispanics favored Clinton (with the anomaly of Connecticut, where, comprising 6% of the total, they apparently preferred Obama by a narrow margin [I presume that Obama looks like more like the typical Hispanic in Connecticut than the typical Hispanic in California), and the larger the black share of a state's voting population, the more likely whites in that state were to flock to Clinton. Looking at all the contests that have taken place so far, there has been an inverse correlation of .35 (confidence just a hair outside 90%) between the percentage of a state's voters who are black and the amount of support Obama garners among whites in that state.Among Democrats, Hispanics and Asians appear so far to be resistant to Obama's mythos:
That's quite rigorous actually, given that obliterations like Illinois are outliers that attenuate the statistical relationship. Further, the real relationship is likely stronger than that, as I computed the results of all contests thus far (including those before Super Tuesday) as though only Hillary and Obama were running--in reality, most of Edwards' (overwhelmingly white) supporters in the southern states would have gone to Hillary if it had been a two horse race at that point. And I gave all the white undecideds in Michigan to Obama (neither he nor Edwards was on the ballot there), so he looked better among whites in that 23% black state that he would've in reality.
In the eyes of whites, Obama is only the Black Candidate when there are lots of blacks rallying behind him.
In California, the only state in either party with a sizable enough number of Asian voters to adequately report exit polling data on, Hillary outdid Obama by almost 3-to-1 (71%-25%). In New Jersey, extrapolating from the other racial categories, the best estimate for the Asian vote (which comprised 4% of the Democratic total) suggests 59%-41%, in Hillary's favor.
Heck, among the 33% of voters who identified the economy as the most important issue (a not surprising choice on a day when the Dow dropped 370 points), McCain beat Romney 48%-27%, even though Yosemite Sam has seldom paid any attention to the economy. Overall, Romney beat McCain 35%-32% among voters who think "Issues" are most important in deciding their vote, while getting clobbered by McCain 49%-26% among those voting on "Personal Qualities."
|Most Important Issue||Share of Voters||McCain||Romney||Huckabee||Paul||Giuliani|
|More Important to Your Vote||McCain||Romney||Huckabee||Paul||Giuliani|
The LA Times reports:
The Bush administration today plans to announce the most significant overhaul in two decades of the nation's agricultural guest worker program, in a bid to dramatically increase the number of legal foreign laborers available to harvest crops.
The revised regulations, many months in the works, would make it easier for growers to bring foreign workers to the United States and could alleviate the critical farmworker shortage largely caused by the U.S. crackdown on illegal border crossings. ...
The greatest effect would be in California, the nation's largest agricultural state. Some farmers have had to plow rotting crops back into their fields for lack of workers at harvest time. But lawmakers and growers said Tuesday that more than an administrative fix was needed to solve the state's chronic farm labor shortages.
Don't you love that phrase "chronic farm labor shortage"? It's like golf course owners complaining about the chronic daylight shortage that keeps golf courses closed an average of 12 hours per day and demanding that therefore the government must build them giant floodlights so they can stay open 24 hours per day. There is no farm labor shortage, chronic or otherwise, there's just a higher market wage than the wage the growers would prefer to pay (which, by the way, is $0.00 per hour).
And as for crops rotting in the fields, it's the nature of the agriculture business that each year a few of the many scores of different crops will grow in such abundance or at an inconvenient time or both that it's not worth harvesting some of them. In 2006, for example, it was pears. So, each fall, the growers' lobbyists issue press releases about how pears or brussels sprouts or avocados or whatever it is this year are "rotting in the fields" due to the horrible burden of having to pay stoop laborers in expensive California $8.50 an hour (or whatever it is) for seasonal work.
The more long-range appeal to growers of guest-worker plans is that it lets them bring in Asian peasants who are less able to sneak into the country than Mexican peasants, while allowing the Mexicans to continue to sneak in. (Did you know the population of Indonesia, for instance, is 235 million?) From the employers' standpoint, it's a double your pleasure, double your fun approach to the supply and demand determination of laborers' wages. And then once the flow of guest workers from, say, Indonesia gets started, their will be more illegal immigration from Indonesia too, since the guest workers' relatives will now have connections in America.
One reason cell phones are so popular around the world is because, unlike old-fashioned land line technology, they don't require the kind of disinterested organizational ability that Northwest Europeans and Northeast Asians have but that almost nobody else displays. Land-lines tend toward being a natural monopoly -- it's silly to string multiple phone lines into your house to choose among competitors -- so phone companies used to be either government agencies or regulated monopolies. And that meant that most of the world had bad phone service. It wasn't just the Third World -- Italy was notorious for the years you had to wait to get hooked up. Italians are terrific at small scale businesses that react instantly to the latest fashions, but their big bureaucracies are disastrous.
In contrast, cell phones aren't natural monopolies, so they thrive in less civic-minded cultures. The most extreme example was Somalia during the recent decade and a half when it didn't have any central government at all, but it had lots of prospering cell phone providers. (There are costs to anarchy, though -- one Somalian cell phone company I read about had 800 employees, 500 to do the work, 300 to carry guns to protect them.)
The point is that most of the world is a little closer to Somalia than to Sweden when it comes to the civic virtues, so products that don't require large scale cooperation and disinterested diligence will thrive more than those that do.
February 5, 2008
Do you ever get the impression that John McCain, who for some reason seems to be perceived as the anti-Bush candidate in the GOP race, is the cool, cocky dad George W. Bush wished he'd had instead of that wimpy, diplomatic, prudent father he has spent his life being annoyed that he got stuck with?
The classic problem with dynasticism is regression toward the mean: the formidable father has a less impressive son. Having already gone down that route with the Bushes, we're now embarking on a bizarre exercise in pseudo-dynasticism. Having witnessed the failure of the son, we're now enthroning the man who could be the failed son's crazy old coot of a favorite uncle.
But ... both were caucus states rather than primaries. And I'm starting to get suspicious.
That seems to be a pattern -- Romney does well in caucuses and loses in primaries. Before today, he won caucuses in Wyoming, Nevada, and Maine, and a primary in his "home" state of Michigan. Perhaps that's just because the more dedicated, public affairs-oriented individuals who show up at caucuses have carefully assessed each candidate's positions and resumes and made a responsible choice for Romney.
Or maybe ... it's because Mormons keep packing the caucuses.
Unfortunately, I can't find exit polls for Colorado and Minnesota, but we do know that Romney's victory in the Nevada caucus was boosted by Mormons making up 25% of the GOP caucusers and going close to 100% for Romney. So, I have my suspicions about his other caucus victories. If anybody has any evidence one way or another, let me know.
Oh, wait, Romney did do really, really well in one primary today, where he got 90% of the vote, so maybe my suspicions are paranoid.
Except ... that state was Utah.
Mormons -- they'd take over the world in a couple more generations ... if only they were allowed to drink caffeinated beverages!
This is not to say that Mormons can't be dedicated, public affairs-oriented individuals. In fact, I would expect that they are a little above average in this regard. It's just that the discreet charm of Mitt Romney just seems to be a little too discreet to win many elections where Mormons don't make up a sizable fraction of the voters.
In other states today, Romney won in caucuses in Alaska (44%) and in primaries in Montana (38%), North Dakota (36%), and in his "home" state of Massachusetts with 51%. That's a little better than McCain's 47% in his home state of Arizona, but not as good as Huckabee's 61% in Arkansas. In contrast, Obama won 64% in Illinois and Clinton 57% in New York. So, to know McCain and Romney is apparently not to love them.
Longtime reader Ben Franklin (since 1706) comments:
On Super Tuesday, McCain won almost exclusively in states that Republicans have almost no chance of winning in November. The only clear exceptions to that are Oklahoma and Missouri, the later where McCain has won with just 33 percent of the vote and with 3 or 4 percent separating McCain, Huckabee and Romney. In Oklahoma, McCain won in a state that has as its law one of the most stringent anti-illegal immigrant laws in the country. So, both of those wins are incongruous.
In the rest of the states McCain won, there is pretty much Zero chance for the Republican nominee to win in the general election in the fall.
As for Huckabee, he won in Southern states that just about ANY Republican candidate will win come November.
So however you look at the results, they mean less then they appear to mean. This also applies to Obama, who won in many states that the Democrat nominee has next to no chance to win, except for Illinois, which is in the bag for the Democrats (and is Obama's "home state"). So, Obama’s big delegate count on Super Tuesday is vastly overstated, what with his winning North Dakota, Utah, Idaho, etc.
I’d say that Hillary comes out of Super Tuesday looking like by far the strongest candidate in the field of either party.
The electoral college means that purple states are what matters: the Great Lakes Blue Collar States of Ohio, Pennyslvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the Clean Green States of Oregon, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and New Mexico (okay, NM isn't green and it isn't clean in its politics, but I had to put it somewhere), and then there's Florida, which wasn't that close in 2004 but we all remember 2000.
Surprisingly few purple states participated in Super Tuesday. In Minnesota, Obama won big with 67% of the caucuses, while Romney beat McCain and Huckabee 42-22-20. Hillary won New Mexico 51-42, while the Republicans in that state didn't hold an election. (Getting off the topic here, don't you find it annoying when the parties in a state hold their primaries on different days?)
One place to find exit poll data is to go here:http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/
Then Control-F for "exit" then click on the state you want on the map. Then look for the link to "Full ... Exit Poll."
This is all part of my ongoing effort to get my readers to do my work for me.
Here, for example, are the race demographics of Democratic voters in California:
|Vote by Race||% of voters||Clinton||Obama|
|Race of Candidate Was...||Clinton||Obama|
|One of Several||11%||56%||43%|
|Was Race of Candidate Important to You||Clinton||Obama|
Hillary won 80% of California's Democratic high school dropouts and 61% of the no-college high school grads. So, if Hillary wins California, it looks like it will be on the strength of the "Son of Aladdin" vote. In contrast, Obama did very well in California among the bloc of white voters who want an "imaginary hip black friend," in the immortal words of an anonymous Clinton advisor.
Clearly, the Presidential nominating process is broken. Here it is February 5, a ridiculous 9 months before the election, and we're about to have 23 states vote at once.
I understand the rush to the front by states who were disenfranchised in 2004 by the absurd amount of momentum John Kerry developed by winning Iowa and New Hampshire, but there's got to be a better way.
The Comments section is open for your proposals.
February 4, 2008
To call an observation a "conspiracy theory" is widely treated as an argument-winning move. Yet, which of the major historical events of the 20th Century did not have at least some aspect of conspiracy about them?Start with the event that set in motion the main currents of the century, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. This was the result of a conspiracy right out of an Oliver Stone movie: Elements high up in the Serbian government and military, organized in a secret paramilitary society with the comic book name Black Hand, infiltrated nine assassins and their weapons into Sarajevo and had them sit around for a month waiting for the Archduke to show up so they could ambush him. (They proved incompetent and all missed, but then the Austrians proved incompetent too and made a wrong turn and then stalled the Archduke's car right in front of the despondent Princip.)
Next, the Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and the rest of the Bolshie boys were classic cafe conspirators who got lucky. Lenin's deal with the German high command to be transported from Switzerland to the Finland Station in order to undermine Germany's Russian enemy is straight out of the conspiracy nut's textbook.
The Depression, however, is the most striking exception to this tendency of major 20th Century events to in some way partake of the conspiratorial. It just sort of happened.
What about the rise of Hitler? You might call the political maneuverings by the conservative Weimar powerbrokers who gave Hitler the Chancellorship in January 1933 a conspiracy, although that's stretching the term. Hitler's manner of government -- midnight meetings to plan great crimes with a few henchmen where no notes were taken (a particularly un-German way of running a government) -- was that of a conspirator rather than a national leader.
Japan's path to Pearl Harbor was laid down in the 1920s and 1930s by conspiracies of Army officers who assassinated all the moderates in the Japanese government.
On a strategic level, the Cold War was not particularly conspiratorial -- it naturally grew out of the radically different interests of the two major victors of WWII. But -- probably fortunately -- both sides preferred to wage it largely by conspiratorial means rather than by tank battle in the Fulda Gap.
According to Paul Johnson's Modern Times,
"Eisenhower's chief fear, in the tense atmosphere engendered by the Cold War, was that the government would fall into the grip of a combination of bellicose senators, over-eager brass-hats and greedy arms-suppliers -- what he termed the 'military-industrial complex.'" [p. 464]
Eisenhower preferred to fight the Cold War using cheaper means -- building a nuclear deterrent and using CIA covert operations, as in Guatemala and Iran.
Finally, the fall of the Soviet Empire doesn't seem terribly conspiratorial at this point, but the history hasn't all been written. I'd be particularly interested in what promises, if any, were made by the American government to Saudi Arabia in 1985 to persuade the Saudis to pump so much oil that the world price plummeted and the Soviet Union, a major oil exporter, went broke.
Of course, this doesn't mean that most (or any) of the popular conspiracy theories are true. Most are obviously pretty stupid.
What it does show is that, like with predictions, people are easily bored and depressed by true conspiracy theories. For example, the fact that WWI, the catastrophe of catastrophes, was set in motion by a classic large-scale conspiracy is of almost no interest to anybody -- I was only vaguely aware of that fact myself until I looked up the history tonight.