July 5, 2008

One percent of foreign jihadis with U.S. criminal records

More than six and a half years after 9/11, the U.S. bureaucracy is starting to get basic tasks done.

Fingerprints from one out of a hundred detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Horn of Africa are matching those in U.S. local police files:

From the Washington Post:

As they analyzed the results, they were surprised to learn that one out of every 100 detainees was already in the FBI's database for arrests. Many arrests were for drunken driving, passing bad checks and traffic violations, FBI officials said.

"Frankly I was surprised that we were getting those kind of hits at all," recalled Townsend, who left government in January. They identified "a potential vulnerability" to national security the government had not fully appreciated, she said.

The people being fingerprinted had come from the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan. They were mostly in their 20s, Shannon recalled. "One of the things we learned is we were dealing with relatively young guys who were very committed and what they would openly tell you is that when they got out they were going back to jihad," he said. "They'd already made this commitment."

One of the first men fingerprinted by the FBI team was a fighter who claimed he was in Afghanistan to learn the ancient art of falconry. But a fingerprint check showed that in August 2001 he had been turned away from Orlando International Airport by an immigration official who thought he might overstay his visa. Mohamed al Kahtani would later be named by the Sept. 11 Commission as someone who allegedly had sought to participate in hijackings. He currently is in custody at Guantanamo Bay.

Similarly, in 2004, an FBI team choppered to a remote desert camp on the Iraq-Iran border, home to the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), whose aim is to overthrow the Iranian government. The MEK lead an austere lifestyle in which men are segregated from women and material goods are renounced. The U.S. State Department considers the organization to be a terrorist group.

The FBI team fingerprinted 3,800 fighters. More than 40, Shannon said, had previous criminal records in the agency's database.

While the FBI was busy collecting fingerprints, the military was setting up its own biometrics database, adding in iris and facial data as well. By October, the two organizations agreed to collaborate, running queries through both systems. The very first match was on the man who claimed to be a poor dirt farmer. Among his many charges were misdemeanors for theft and public drunkenness in Chicago and Utah, a criminal record that ran from 1993 to 2001, said Herb Richardson, who serves as operations manager for the military's Automated Biometric Identification System under a contract with Ideal Innovations of Arlington.

Many of those with U.S. arrest records had come to the United States to study ...

So, one percent is just the fraction of jihadis who got fingerprinted in America when they got caught by the police screwing up. What fraction managed to not get caught when they were in America? Of course, we don't seem to collect fingerprints on foreigners in the U.S., so nobody knows.

Not every young foreign man who attends college in America develops a lifelong love of America. John Updike's 1978 novel "The Coup" explains the psychological mechanics of this in a character very similar to Barack Obama Sr.

So, why did our President go out of his way to start up a new program with the King of Saudi Arabia to bring thousands of Saudi college students to America?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

From Central Asia to Forest Hills

Here's an NYT article, "Questions of Size and Taste for Queens Houses," on the Bukharian Jews from Central Asia who are building vast Oriental palaces in the formerly sedate, tree-lined Queens neighborhood of Forest Hills, paving over all the lawns:

“We like to utilize every single square inch of land, every inch of territory,” explained Rabbi Shlomo Nisanov, head of a Bukharian synagogue and community center in Kew Gardens Hills. “For some reason, people don’t appreciate it.”

The Bukharian construction binge is much to the displeasure of the middle class Ashkenazis who have long lived there (Joey Ramone, for example, grew up in Forest Hills). The neighborhood is best known for the tennis club, with its wonderful grass courts (like playing on a putting green), which hosted the U.S. Open up into the 1970s.

I met Joey Ramone in 1982, when he and his mom were standing on a corner in Greenwich Village, eating ice cream cones. He was quite gracious to a slobbering fan.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Untethered Unleashed

Dennis Dale does America.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

July 4, 2008

Wall∙E

Bits and pieces from my review of "Wall∙E" in the upcoming issue of The American Conservative:

Despite its misanthropy, the superbly crafted dystopian science fiction film "Wall∙E" will be the ninth straight movie from Pixar Animation Studios, going back to 1995's "Toy Story," to earn at least $162 million at the American box office.

"Wall∙E" is stronger on execution than originality. Writer-director Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo") sets loose a squatter version of the cute robot from the 1986 comedy "Short Circuit" in the dysgenic consumerist wasteland of Mike Judge's suppressed 2006 satire "Idiocracy." Indeed, Stanton's vision of a smoggy, trash-strewn Earth resembles a big budget remake of Judge's cult classic. ...

The first half of "Wall∙E" contains almost no dialogue. This is not unprecedented in a kid's movie -- the staggeringly gorgeous 1979 hit "The Black Stallion" was similar. Stanton feels that audiences want to work for their entertainment, so he has high expectations for what they can handle. Restricting verbiage prods him to new levels of inventiveness in conveying emotion visually, in devising what his mentor, the screenwriting guru Robert McKee (played by Brian Cox in "Adaptation") calls "worlds we've never seen but a humanity we all recognize."

Reviewers rave over how Stanton gets us to recognize emotions in a machine. Still, although Pixar is immensely skillful, people naturally perceive personality in anything self-activated. My wife, for instance, fusses maternally over her Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, grooming it lovingly when its sprockets clog, which is often. ...

"Wall∙E" doesn't actually peddle an environmentalist message. The real fear it plays upon is not that we'll run out of room to dump our trash outdoors. After all, Los Angeles County alone has enough cubic miles of uninhabited canyons to hold the world's trash. … Instead, "Wall∙E" embodies a more pressing modern American fear -- that we'll run out of room indoors to store all the crud we keep buying. ...

The movie acts out a classic nerd's fantasy -- to be left alone with cool stuff … except for a sleek girlfriend. (And if she's a Japanese robot, so much the cooler.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

July 3, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

My review from The American Conservative:

The medievalist and popular theologian C.S. Lewis began publishing his seven fantasy novels for children, The Chronicles of Narnia, in 1950, four years before his close friend and Oxford colleague, the philologist J.R.R. Tolkien finally released his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien, who had painstakingly crafted an immense backstory for his older and more obsessive audience, found maddening Lewis's debonair approach to fantasy world concoction, protesting, "It really won't do, you know!" Thus, while sales for both series have reached nine figures, Tolkien's has inspired the larger cult.

The Lewis-Tolkien relationship /rivalry lives on in blockbuster movie adaptations. The success of Peter Jackson's "Rings" movies, which remain this decade's great cinematic achievement, prompted Disney to set another New Zealand filmmaker, Andrew Adamson, co-director of the smirky "Shrek," to work filming "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

The fortuitously named Adamson's 2005 movie about two "Sons of Adam," Peter and Edmund Pevensie, and two "Daughters of Eve," their sisters Susan and Lucy, who stumble into Narnia, a land of "Talking Beasts" out of The Wind in the Willows and centaurs and dwarves from pagan myths, might have been rapturously acclaimed if it had preceded "Rings." "The Lion" was certainly a competent and respectful adaptation that earned a lucrative $292 million domestically.

Admiral J.R. Jellicoe, commander of Britain's Grand Fleet during WWI, had to bear the knowledge that "he was the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon." The directors who launch franchise series, such as Adamson and Chris Columbus, who successfully kicked off the "Harry Potter" movies, labor under the awareness that they can blow a billion dollars in potential profit. Recently, director Chris Weitz helped sink New Line Cinema, maker of "Rings," by earning only $70 million in America with his $180 million "The Golden Compass," the first of a planned trilogy based on Philip Pullman's secularist anti-Narnia series, His Dark Materials.

Adamson's "Narnia" sequel, "Prince Caspian," follows the path blazed by both Jackson's and Columbus's second installments by being more violent, intense, and well-crafted, at some expense in charm. Like "The Two Towers" (the best of the three "Rings"), "Prince Caspian" is a war movie. It doesn't quite measure up to "The Two Towers" as a heroic epic, but, then, what does?

In "Prince Caspian," the four Pevensie children are called back to restore Narnia after an invading race of humans, the Telmarines, have ethnically cleansed it of its talking animals. Like Hamlet, the young Telmarine Prince Caspian has lost his rightful throne to his usurping regicide uncle. He must now fight for his life by allying with the surviving creatures and the Pevensies. Adamson gives the Telmarines Spanish accents, which leaves the prince sounding rather like the Spanish swordsman in "The Princess Bride" who repeatedly challenged: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Lewis would have liked the accents because the Spanish were so ardent in their quixotic chivalry, and Lewis, who was wounded on the Western Front in 1917, loved chivalry. As he wrote in Mere Christianity, "the idea of the knight - the Christian in arms for the defence of a good cause - is one of the great Christian ideas."

While lacking the Rings' nerdish grandeur, The Chronicles of Narnia are, despite Tolkien's complaints, far from simplistic. Every critic notes that Narnia's liberator, the majestic lion Aslan, is a Christ-figure who gives his life in the first film to save sulky little Edmund, and then comes back from the dead. (This left many reviewers of "The Lion" nervous about being exposed to subversive Christian indoctrination.)

Yet, few have observed that Lewis played a more complicated allegorical game, blending in pagan myth, as Dante had. For example, the kingly Aslan, whose voice is aptly furnished by the formidable Liam Neeson (who sounds more like Jehovah than Jesus), makes for a peculiarly imposing savior in contrast to the crucified Christ familiar from Michelangelo's Pieta or Grunewald's Isenheim Altarpiece.

Planet Narnia, a new book by the Lewis scholar Michael Ward, the chaplain at Peterhouse College at Cambridge, advances the plausible theory that the immensely learned Lewis modeled each of his seven Narnia novels on the temperament of one of the seven planets of Greek astronomy, calling them "spiritual symbols of permanent value." The Lion, which introduces the jovial Aslan, is dedicated to Jupiter, while the martial Prince Caspian belongs to Mars.

Rated PG for epic battle action and violence.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

United States of Lamerica

Excuse me, but what's the date today?

July 3rd.

Okay. Uh, what year is it?

2008.

So, 9/11 was like six years and eight, almost nine months ago, right?

So, why are we reading articles like the following today, rather than, say, six and a half years ago? Was Homeland Security too busy hassling octogenarian retired Marine Corps generals on their way to give a speech at West Point when their Congressional Medals of Honor set off the metal detector?

The AP reports:

Proposed Justice Dept. rules would allow FBI profiling

By Lara Jakes Jordan The Associated press

WASHINGTON (AP)- The Justice Department is considering letting the FBI investigate Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead on a terrorist profile that could single out Muslims, Arabs or other racial and ethnic groups.

Law enforcement officials say the proposed policy would help them do exactly what Congress demanded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: root out terrorists before they strike.

Although President Bush has disavowed targeting suspects based on their race or ethnicity, the new rules would allow the FBI to consider those factors among a number of traits that could trigger a national security investigation.

Currently, FBI agents need specific reasons - like evidence or allegations that a law probably has been violated - to investigate U.S. citizens and legal residents. The new policy, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press, would let agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious.

Among the factors that could make someone subject of an investigation is travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity, access to weapons or military training, along with the person's race or ethnicity.

More than a half-dozen senior FBI, Justice Department and other U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the new policy agreed to discuss it only on condition of anonymity, either because they were not allowed to speak publicly or because the change is not yet final.

The change, which is expected later this summer, is part of an update of Justice Department policies known as the attorney general guidelines. They are being overhauled amid the FBI's transition from a traditional crime-fighting agency to one whose top mission is to protect America from terrorist attacks.

"We don't know what we don't know. And the object is to cut down on that," said one FBI official who defended the plans.

Another official, while also defending the proposed guidelines, raised concerns about criticism during the presidential election year over what he called "the P word" - profiling. ...

The changes would allow FBI agents to ask open-ended questions about activities of Muslim- or Arab-Americans, or investigate them if their jobs and backgrounds match trends that analysts deem suspect. ...

Racial profiling generally is considered a civil rights violation, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft condemned it in March 2001 as an "unconstitutional deprivation of equal protection under our Constitution."

President Bush also has condemned racial profiling as "wrong in America" and in a December 2001 interview had harsh words for an airline that refused to let one of his Secret Service agents board a commercial flight. The agent was Arab-American.

Of course, on 9/11/2001, the Bush Administration was actively working to loosen security on Arab airplane passengers, such as, Mohammed Atta, by cracking down on airport profiling. But, that's disappeared down the memory hole.

Is America just terminally lame? It's been 80 months and the government is now kicking around the idea of profiling? The Ottoman bureaucracy was more on the ball in the 1880s.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The younger generation's motto: Always trust anyone over 30!

When I was a kid back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, rebellion was in fashion. The idea that your elders were lying to you was pervasive. "Never trust anyone over 30" was a popular motto.

Social change was remarkably rapid -- you can date women's lib to 1969, not 1968. And gay lib can be dated precisely to the evening following Judy Garland's funeral in July 1969.

Today, though, I'm fascinated by the credulity of younger, well-educated people toward their elders, and the endurance of their bad old ideas. Stephen Jay Gould, for example, has been dead and gone for years, but the mellifluous old blowhard is still constantly cited by the relatively young as a great thinker whose golden ideas must remain unchallenged by we lesser mortals doomed to live in this age of brass.

By way of analogy, I'm reminded of a passage from Michael Blowhard's amazing review of last year's movie hit "300."

The film is another example of the way we've caved in culturally to adolescent values. Here's how the story goes. Boomers were the first sizable generation of adolescents ever to have their adolescent tastes and pleasures catered to. This is really-truly true, by the way. Nothing like it had ever occurred on the face of the planet before. And -- since anything that occurs to you in the teen years has a big effect -- that's playing with fire.

So the Boomers became experts in being adolescents, and in adolescent pleasures. When they got older and the time came to attend to the business of catering to the entertainment needs of the new crop of adolescents, Boomers proved much much better at it than their own elders had been. What they created for the new adolescent audience wasn't just memorably exciting and full of promise, as post-WWII pop culture had been. The pop culture the Boomers created proved so exciting and satisfying for adolescents that for ensuing generations nothing beyond adolescence and adolescent values and pleasures exists any longer.

I think much the same holds true in the educational and intellectual realm. The 1960s ideas promoted by Boomers were essentially adolescent and thus when they gained control of the education system, change ground to a halt. They serve up puerile bilge to puerile young people, so everybody is satisfied. It's a perpetual anti-motion machine.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

McCain in Colombia

Why is John McCain in Colombia? The most reassuring theory I can come up with is that McCain intends to bring back a couple of sixty pound suitcases that the Secret Service will hustle for him through Customs. And soon Obama's big lead in campaign finance will have vanished. And there won't be anymore questions about McCain being too old to have the energy for the job as he starts campaigning 96 hours straight.

On the other hand, there are more alarming interpretations, such as that McCain is taking a serious interest in the geopolitical situation in Northern South America -- i.e., he wants to get us involved in a war there.

July 2, 2008

Higher priced movies?

Not many Americans care about classical music anymore, but there is still plenty of work for symphony orchestras and opera tenors because the fans who do care are willing to pay a lot per ticket.

High ticket prices were introduced to America at the 1984 LA Olympics. Back then, the $200 prices for the opening and closing ceremonies and $95 for the gymnastics finals seemed like misprints. But, the Olympics were a financial success even though the people you'd think would be less price sensitive -- the out of town vacationers for whom ticket prices are just a fraction of the total costs -- didn't show up in large numbers, and most of the crowds were composed of locals.

In contrast, movie tickets are more or less fixed in price. So, every filmmaker is competing in the same game. Julian Schnabel and Wong Kar-Wai are going head to head against Michael Bay, and they're all being measured by tickets sold. (To be precise, that's not quite true -- films that do more matinee business, more senior business, more kids business, and run in cheaper towns, make less box office revenue per ticket sold on average, but it's not that big a difference.)

Is the single priced movie ticket eroding slowly? When I started writing this post, I figured there would be evidence that we are headed toward more stratified pricing. Yet, the more I think about it, the less evidence I see for it.

For example, for about five years now, the weekend evening movies at the Arclight on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood (the old Cinerama Dome location) have been $14. It sells reserved seats, which is a pretty stupid idea because you can stand in line to buy tickets for a half hour while the couples ahead of you debate over whether they'd prefer to sit on the left or right sides. Yet, the films shown at the Arclight are only vaguely more upscale than average. The movies it plays make it seem like more of a mass market Date Night destination than a place where the elite meet to seat themselves.

And, in general, "arthouse" tends to be a synonym for worn-down theatre on its last legs before it becomes a revivalist church for an ambitious preacher. The Laemmle arthouse chain in LA charges between $8.50 and $10 per ticket for prime times, which isn't above average for their expensive neighborhoods.

Nor is there all that much differentiation in DVD prices: the elite hit "The Lives of Others" is selling on Amazon for $14.99, while the mass market hit "300" is $13.99.

Anyway, it's kind of neat that movies remain a democratic institution with a simple-minded pricing scheme in an otherwise increasingly tiered and marketing-modeled America.

By the way, another reason live classical music survives is because it's prestigious to donate money to it. Woody Allen has somewhat adopted this model, as well. If you invest $10 million in a Woody Allen movie, you probably won't get a profit out of it. But you probably won't lose more than a few million because he never goes over budget and he has a loyal fan base. In the meantime, you get to tell all your dinner party guests that you and Woody are making a movie together. Then, when his accountant announces you're only getting, say, an $8 million payback, you write off $2 million as a business loss, although you were expecting it, so it's more like a charitable donation to the Foundation for the Making of Woody Allen Movies. It's a dignified way for an elderly auteur to get financing.

Update: In response, Ross Douthat points out that arthouses tend to carry more expensive gourmet concessions. In reply, various commenters object to my existence.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Spam fraud names

I can't avoid looking at the names that third world spamsters come up with trying to sound honest to rich stupid Americans:

My Dear Trusted Friend,

I am Mr Carl Marx, Head of Files/Records Department in the African Development Bank, Cotonou, Benin Republic in West Africa. Going through the files and records in my department I observed an abandoned sum of 12.500.000.00 (Twelve million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) belonging to a German business magnate and property consultant, Late Andreas Schranner.

Carl Marx? Where have I heard that name before? Sure, you can have my credit card number. With a name like that, what could possibly go wrong economically?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

July 1, 2008

Two books from the Steveosphere officially published today

Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions by Christian Lander

Fifty percent new material, 224 pages, $11.20 paperback from Amazon.

War Nerd by Gary Brecher

No new material, but, hey, you can give it to somebody as a present. 328 pages, $10.85.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Drawing distinctions

A reader writes:

I was talking to a friend about [George W.] Bush vs. [Bill] Clinton, and we hit a bit of an impasse as to what would constitute the more impressive liar; would it be the skillful evasion and wielding of reality or Bush's total contempt for it? The artist of deceit or the man who constantly bludgeons obvious facts and says whatever the Hell he wants regardless of how ludicrously impossible or absurd?

Perhaps it is the case that Clinton is better at fooling all the people some of the time and Bush is better at fooling some of the people all the time. (He seems to have been put on this earth to prove that portion of the old adage to be undeniably true.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Can McCain look less old the Hillary way?

Hillary Clinton's campaign wasn't very interesting, but one question I haven't seen discussed is a detailed look at the regimen of plastic surgery, hormone supplements, Botox, make-up and/or whatever it was that had her looking quite presentable at age 60. She came pretty close to hitting the ideal midpoint between authentic and Desperate Housewifey.

I notice that John McCain has spent some time recently with the man who is perhaps his most valuable supporter, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. What do you think they talked about? Global warming? Health care finance reform? Perhaps, but, I dunno, I just have this sneaking suspicion that Arnold had some tips for his man on some amenable doctors in Brentwood who would write John prescriptions for human growth hormone and testosterone that would have him looking years younger in no time.

Personally, I don't think McCain needs any more testosterone than he already has.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Obama's Patriotism Oration

Obama gave a big speech on patriotism in Independence, Missouri, the equivalent of his then-much celebrated race speech in Philadelphia.

On a spring morning in April of 1775, a simple band of colonists ... They did so not on behalf of a particular tribe or lineage, but on behalf of a larger idea. The idea of liberty. ...

Throughout my life, I have always taken my deep and abiding love for this country as a given.

I guess this is how he would explain that there is absolutely no mention of his deep and abiding love for his country in his 442-page autobiographical "Story of Race and Inheritance:" It's "a given." He didn't have any room to mention it.

Of course, nobody will ever ask him about it.

It was how I was raised;

"They are not my people." -- Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro, on why she wouldn't attend her second husband's business dinners with Americans.

it is what propelled me into public service;

You're in Missouri, so show me. Show me which page of your autobiography says your entry into "public service" was motivated by patriotism rather than racialism.

it is why I am running for President. And yet, at certain times over the last sixteen months, I have found, for the first time, my patriotism challenged - at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears about who I am and what I stand for.

So let me say at this at outset of my remarks. I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.

Isn't that big of Obama? He won't question the Hanoi Hilton survivor's patriotism if nobody will question his. What could be fairer than that?

Your Lying Eyes points out:

Funny, it seems as though on every issue where one of the candidates is unpatriotic [e.g., immigration], the other doesn't fare much better. It kind of makes the no-questioning-patriotism pledge seem less like a high-minded clean-campaign pact than a cease-fire agreement.

You mean, Kodos and Kang Obama and McCain are going to set up a keep-the-public-ignorant cartel an anti-negative campaigning concord?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

June 30, 2008

Cheap gasoline was a social lubricant

In 1968, when my late father-in-law, a classical musician, had to sell his two-flat on the West Side of Chicago because his children were suddenly getting mugged on the sidewalk, getting only a fraction of what it had been worth two years before. He moved 63 miles out of town, but commuted daily to the Lyric Opera House downtown. Why not? Gas was $0.29 per gallon.

Inexpensive oil was a social lubricant in America.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

June 29, 2008

I'm not making this up

Here's an editorial from the Dallas Morning News that I swear I'm not making up:

Editorial: So much vibrancy to build on

The trick is getting diverse groups to building [sic] a community together

The beauty of the neighborhoods that run from Jefferson Boulevard toward Wynnewood Village is how they mirror Texas' future – and capture the state's biggest challenge. Plurality will become the new reality, creating an ethnic vibrancy but making it hard to build a community out of so many different kinds of people.

You see this reality writ large in this stretch of Oak Cliff, where middle- to upper-middle-income, mostly Anglo folks live alongside poor, working, mostly Latino families. You find tree-lined, prosperous neighborhoods like Elmwood and Wynnewood, along with blocks of proud working-class neighborhoods. The hodgepodge of backgrounds and incomes coalesces into a vibrancy that North Texas neighborhoods often miss.

Vibrancy is what happens when longtime Cliff dwellers bump up against the surge of gay couples fixing up their Wynnewood homes not so far from Latino families imbuing Jefferson Boulevard with a gritty mercado atmosphere.

Vibrancy is what happens when white-collar professionals and blue-collar laborers sit shoulder-to-shoulder at restaurants like the Charco Broiler, Tops Cafe and El Ranchito.

Bridging Dallas' North-South Gap: A campaign by The Dallas Morning News editorial board to lift the southern part of Dallas.

And vibrancy is what happens when agencies like Casa Guanajuato serve immigrant families a few blocks from historic, big-steeple churches like Cliff Temple Baptist.

The trick is building a community so everyone wins – rather than turning it over only to the poor or the affluent. Striking a balance will require smart economic strategies, improved schools and an attentive City Hall.

Consider Jefferson Boulevard, which many consider the spine of Oak Cliff. There are about 160 shops along its 11 blocks between Zang Boulevard and Edgefield Avenue. But 18 of those shops pawn merchandise, offer ready cash or loan money. Another 20 sell outfits for brides, quinceaƱeras or parties. And 15 stores provide styling for hair or nails – or, if you're in the mood, a tattoo.

Undoubtedly, a market exists for dresses for that big occasion, ready cash or looking nice. But a thriving boulevard needs a broad range of stores to attract a broader range of shoppers. Retail feeds off other retail. And Jefferson lacks that element. Along this stretch, for example, there's only one diversified department store.

In other words, the gays actually find Jefferson Blvd. to be not vibrant, but tacky.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

How to Improve the Schools

From my new VDARE.com column:

Sailer’s Four-Point Plan for Improving Schools

By Steve Sailer

How can we improve America's K-12 schools? While we're waiting for Charles Murray to unveil his plan in his upcoming book, Real Education (due in August), here are some ideas I've had.


#1: educators need to stop falling for this year's Solution of the Century every year.

A huge amount of time is wasted reorganizing schools and retraining teachers for the latest fad, which, typically, was tried and discarded so long ago that nobody can remember anymore. (So don't take these ideas I'm tossing out all that seriously!)

Many teachers and administrators don't mind all the reorganizations because sitting around playing office politics versus each other is more fun than trying to get students to memorize the Times Tables.

The dogma of racial equality helps explain much of the educartel's susceptibility to the latest cult craze. Nobody has ever been able to get blacks and Hispanics to consistently perform as well as Asians and whites on a large scale. And, since the obvious implication of this reality is unthinkable (in many minds, quite literally), then it must be the schools' fault. What else could it be?

This logic is then used by cranks reformers to justify implementing their pet obsessions. If the schools are small, for instance, that could be the reason for the racial gap. So, make them bigger. If they are big, then make them smaller. Just do something!

For example, the insanely rich Gates Foundation has been pressuring public schools to deconstruct themselves into "small learning communities"—which was what Americans were trying to get away from back when they built big learning communities.

One way to gain a wiser perspective on K-12 fads is to think about how you chose which college to attend. For some reason, ideology tends to get in the way less in individuals’ college choices than in debates about public policy.

Did you pick a small college or a big college?

And did you make the right choice?

You may have a strong opinion on the subject of the optimal college size. But, whatever it is, you have to admit that other people disagree with you. After all, both Caltech (864 undergraduates) and University of Texas at Austin (36,878 undergraduates) seem to have done pretty well for themselves over the years. Different sizes come with objective advantages and disadvantages. For example, when I attended huge UCLA, there were professors on campus expert on practically every topic under the sun, but my parking lot was a half-hour walk away. Moreover, different people flourish best in different size schools.

Education fads are seldom motivated by statistical research, since it's hard to move the needle noticeably for a large number of schools. As we've known since the Coleman Report during LBJ's Great Society, the students are more important than the school.

Instead, education vogues are launched by statistical outliers.

Small schools are particularly likely to be outliers, because they are small. There are so many of them, and unusual things can happen more easily when fewer people are involved.

These flukes aren't necessarily false results. When the right principal, right teachers, and, especially, right students come together, good things can happen.

Not surprisingly, though, outliers are hard to replicate on a large scale.

Lots of new educational fads are launched by charismatic individuals who can personally make them work. Charisma can accomplish amazing things. Rasputin apparently could stop the Crown Prince of All the Russias' internal bleeding just by talking to him. Nevertheless, "Hire lots of Rasputins!" is not a reliable strategic plan for hemophilia clinics.

More

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Why there's no market for oil price conspiracy theories

Back in the 1970s, it was popular to believe that oil company manipulations were behind the rises in the price of oil. I remember a fellow I played golf with when I was 14 explaining that there was a flotilla of oil tankers lurking beyond San Clemente Island, just waiting for the price to hit $14 per barrel. You heard that kind of thing all the time.

Even though oil prices are an order of magnitude higher, conspiracy theories aren't popular these days. There's no market for conspiracies theories. The left wants high oil prices to prevent global warming, and, more importantly, to punish SUV drivers, while leading voices on the right have all been bought off by The Conspiracy.

No, just kidding! Nobody believes in conspiracies anymore. Not even when there is a 48-year-old international oil conspiracy that has its own website.

Nobody has ever tried to drive up the price of a natural resource. (Well, except for the Hunt Brothers cornering the silver market in 1979-1980. And Jay Gould cornering the gold market in 1869. And, of course, as commenters point out, DeBeers and diamonds.) Nobody has ever used an environmentalist theory to drive up prices. (Well, except for the media panic in the 1990s over how America was about to run out of places to dump trash, which never made any sense -- if there's one thing America isn't in danger of running out of, it's holes in the ground. The frenzy turned out to be a hoax engineered by the PR department of Waste Management Inc. to get higher dumping rates from municipalities.) So, just forget about it!

Seriously, I don't know anything about the oil market. I'm just saying that an era when nobody wants to believe in conspiracies would be the best time to try one.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer