Frankly, if I had my wish, we would be on our way out of Afghanistan not in, we would be letting Pakistan figure out which Taliban they want to conspire with and which ones they want to fight, we would be letting Israelis and Palestinians figure out on their own how to make peace, we would be taking $100 billion out of the Pentagon budget to make us independent of imported oil — nothing would make us more secure — and we would be reducing the reward for killing or capturing Osama bin Laden to exactly what he’s worth: 10 cents and an autographed picture of Dick Cheney.
Am I going isolationist? No, but visiting the greater China region always leaves me envious of the leaders of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, who surely get to spend more of their time focusing on how to build their nations than my president, whose agenda can be derailed at any moment by a jihadist death cult using exploding underpants.
Could we just walk away? No, but we must change our emphasis. The “war on terrorists” has to begin by our challenging the people and leaders over there. If they’re not ready to take the lead, to speak out and fight the madness in their midst, for the future of their own societies, there is no way we can succeed. We’ll exhaust ourselves trying. We’d be better off just building a higher wall.
As the terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman noted in an essay in The Washington Post: “In the wake of the global financial crisis, Al Qaeda has stepped up a strategy of economic warfare. ‘We will bury you,’ Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev promised Americans 50 years ago. Today, Al Qaeda threatens: ‘We will bankrupt you.’ ” And they will.
Our presence, our oil dependence, our endless foreign aid in the Middle East have become huge enablers of bad governance there and massive escapes from responsibility and accountability by people who want to blame all their troubles on us. Let’s get out of the way and let the moderate majorities there, if they really exist, face their own enemies on their own. It is the only way they will move. We can be the wind at their backs, but we can’t be their sails. There is some hope for Iraq and Iran today because their moderates are fighting for themselves.
Has anyone noticed the most important peace breakthrough on the planet in the last two years? It’s right here: the new calm in the Strait of Taiwan. For decades, this was considered the most dangerous place on earth, with Taiwan and China pointing missiles at each other on hair triggers. Well, over the past two years, China and Taiwan have reached a quiet rapprochement — on their own. No special envoys or shuttling secretaries of state. Yes, our Navy was a critical stabilizer. But they worked it out. They realized their own interdependence. The result: a new web of economic ties, direct flights and student exchanges.
A key reason is that Taiwan has no oil, no natural resources. It’s a barren rock with 23 million people who, through hard work, have amassed the fourth-largest foreign currency reserves in the world. They got rich digging inside themselves, unlocking their entrepreneurs, not digging for oil. They took responsibility. They got rich by asking: “How do I improve myself?” Not by declaring: “It’s all somebody else’s fault. Give me a handout.”When I look at America from here, I worry.
January 16, 2010
Over the last 15 years, the most popular theory about racial differences in IQ has been “Stereotype Threat.” The New York Times summarized it in its 2009 Year in Ideas featurette on the purported “Obama Effect”—the widespread assumption that the politician’s success might raise black test scores:“In 1995, two Stanford psychologists, Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson, demonstrated that African-American college students did worse on tests of academic ability when they were exposed beforehand to suggestions that they were being judged according to their race. Steele and Aronson hypothesized that this effect, which they labeled stereotype threat, might explain part of the persistent achievement gap between white and black students. In the years since, this idea has spread throughout the social sciences.”
Stereotype Threat is a beautiful theory for explaining the racial IQ gap. Indeed, I myself have often felt there might even be a little bit of truth to the idea that expectations matter—even though common sense suggests that incentives matter more.
But now, it turns out that the vaunted evidence for this wildly popular concept rests heavily upon another Effect, the File Drawer Effect—defined as “the practice of researchers filing away studies with negative outcomes”. We seem to have another Climate Research Unit scandal on our hands.
A researcher, who doesn’t want his name or any potentially identifying information mentioned, for unfortunately obvious career reasons, recently attended a presentation at a scientific conference. Here is his summary of what he heard:“One talk presented a meta-analysis of stereotype threat. The presenter was able to find a ton of unpublished studies. The overall conclusion is that stereotype threat does not exist. The unpublished and published studies were compared on many indices of quality, including sample size, and the only variable predicting publication was whether a significant effect of stereotype threat was found. …
“This is quite embarrassing for psychology as a science.”
Here’s the abstract of the presentation he heard (see p. 68 of the PDF)“Numerous laboratory experiments have been conducted to show that African Americans’ cognitive test performance suffers under stereotype threat, i.e., the fear of confirming negative stereotypes concerning one’s group. A meta-analysis of 55 published and unpublished studies of this effect shows clear signs of publication bias.”
[Stereotype threat and the cognitive test performance of African Americans, by Jelte M. Wicherts & Cor de Haan, University of Amsterdam]
In other words, if a study doesn’t find the existence of stereotype threat, it’s less likely to see the light of day. Positive results are more appealing to journal editors, and politically correct positive results are loveliest of all. In contrast, how much of a market is there for punching holes in society’s fondest hopes?
The Dutch researchers continue:“The effect varies widely across studies, and is generally small. Although elite university undergraduates may underperform on cognitive tests due to stereotype threat, this effect does not generalize to non-adapted standardized tests, high-stakes settings, and less academically gifted test-takers.”
Note that “Stereotype Threat” mostly seems to exist in settings where test-takers, such as “elite university undergraduates,” are smart enough to pick up on researchers’ hints about what results they hope to publish. In the marketing research industry, it’s well known that survey respondents tend to respond with the answers that they surmise the pollster wants. Human beings like to be cooperative if it doesn’t cost them anything. Similarly, it’s likely not hard for black students at top research universities to gather that they can benefit their professor with a publishable paper just by working less diligently on the meaningless test he's given them.
Moreover, “Stereotype Threat” doesn’t seem to exist where the test is important enough to matter to the students.
January 15, 2010
The weak form is basically true: if Alcoa, say, announces a better than expected quarterly profit, Alcoa's stock price will very rapidly reflect that, as will its bond prices, and so forth. It’s not like the market doesn’t get around to reading the newspapers until the weekend or whatever. There are professional arbitrageurs who make sure that all markets stay in sync.
But that’s pretty trivial.
What has always been missing from discussions of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis is the question of the quality of the interpretation of the publicly available information. In 1999, for instance, the markets interpreted the information available about Pets.com as indicating that it would generate a lot of positive cash flow over the years, and thus its stock was worth a lot of money.
Well, their interpretation was wrong.
In 2006, the markets interpreted the publicly available information to come to the interpretation that those subprime borrowers in the Sand States would, on the whole, pay back their borrowings.
Now, subprimes were less of a pure failure of interpretation of available information than Pets.com, since with subprime there was a lot of fraud and fiduciary negligence all up and down the line, from the borrowers to the investment banks.
But the basic problem for the Efficient Markets Hypothesis was the same: the markets misinterpreted the information available. There was plenty of information available to point out that the people borrowing a half million dollars with zero down payments in California in 2006 were unlikely to ever be able to earn enough money to pay it back, nor were they likely to be able to unload their hot potato to an even Greater Fool, because who wants to pay a huge amount of money to live in a neighborhood full of poor deadbeats?
Race: a social destruction of a biological concept
Received: 11 August 2009 / Accepted: 22 December 2009
Abstract: It is nowadays a dominant opinion in a number of disciplines (anthropology, genetics, psychology, philosophy of science) that the taxonomy of human races does not make much biological sense. My aim is to challenge the arguments that are usually thought to invalidate the biological concept of race. I will try to show that the way ‘‘race’’ was defined by biologists several decades ago (by Dobzhansky and others) is in no way discredited by conceptual criticisms that are now fashionable and widely regarded as cogent. These criticisms often arbitrarily burden the biological category of race with some implausible connotations, which then opens the path for a quick eliminative move. However, when properly understood, the biological notion of race proves remarkably resistant to these deconstructive attempts. Moreover, by analyzing statements of some leading contemporary scholars who support social constructivism about race, I hope to demonstrate that their eliminativist views are actually in conflict with what the best contemporary science tells us about human genetic variation.
Those who subscribe to the opinion that there are no human races are obviously ignorant of modern biology.
Ernst Mayr, 2002
January 14, 2010
In VDARE.com, "Boethius" makes some points I've made before about places like Chicago and California, where working class and middle class whites tend to wind up in government jobs minding NAMs, and thus voting Democratic:
Gross stupidity within the California GOP’s leadership is certainly part of the answer. But California’s rent-seeking public service unions provide another. What is left of California’s white working class is largely employed by the State and dependent on the largesse of the legislature’s Democratic majority.
I do not believe that the rank and file share the radically pro-immigration politics of their union leaders. Nor do I believe that they consciously welcome the growth of the immigrant population because they calculate it increases the demand for their services. (Why worry about such things if you can’t ever be fired?)
But it seems clear that their own natural inclinations on "social issues" like immigration, which should make them trend Republican, are outweighed by the pocketbook issue of keeping the gravy train on track.
Indeed, the success of the Democrats in dominating a state where they routinely act against the interest of the white working class may point the way to the "anti-Sailer Strategy"—a "California Strategy" if you will—in which permanent political domination by liberal Democrats is founded upon an “iron triangle” of special interests comprising
(2) Immigrants who cannot resist the liberal Democratic package of welfare for the working class and affirmative action for the middle class;
(3) Coddled public service unions led by radicals and populated by working class whites who have in effect been bribed into going along with an agenda set by folks who despise them.The main impediment to widespread imitation of the California strategy is, well, the example of California. Sounds good in theory, but who can afford it?
Why not side with the FDNY, who lost 343 men on 9/11?
And yet, it was the Bush Administration that filed the Vulcan discrimination lawsuit against the FDNY!
In the wake of Ricci, I wrote many thousands of words about Vulcan last summer, even finding a poster boy for anybody who wanted to run with the issue, a 23 year old New York fireman who passed the 1999 test and died on 9/11. But I don't see anybody on the right who picked up on this as an issue. Yet, the Vulcan case isn't about some obscure backwater that's easy to overlook, it's about the Fire Department of New York. And the case doesn't even have a forgettable name: it's called Vulcan. But who else is talking about it?
The current GOP strategy is offer the worst of both worlds for white government employees:
- We want to cut your pay.
- We want to give your jobs to less qualified NAMs.
You don't have to say we'll pay you more, but would it kill the GOP to take a stand on principle against racial quotas for firemen instead of trying to impose them like the Bush Administration did? Taking a stand on principle won't get the public service union leaders and it might not even get the union members, but it won't hurt with their relatives, friends, and neighbors.
It's just nuts for the GOP to be for quotas and against firemen. Quotas are a lot less popular than firemen.
Apparently, that's the way the modern GOP thinks: anything that has to do with the racial IQ gap, as in Ricci and Vulcan*, is completely off limits as an issue. Unfortunately, practically everything in public affairs touches in some way on that gap.
* By the way, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis's decision in Vulcan is about nothing but the racial IQ gap and whether you are allowed to take account of it in America. Garaufis granted summary judgment for the Vulcan Society and the Justice Department without holding trial on the fact that there was a "statistically significant" racial gap in the results. Hilariously, he rejected New York City's defense that they had met the EEOC's notoriously stupid Fourth Fifths Rule (by rigging the test so that it was so easy that something like 70% of blacks and 85% of whites had passed).
January 13, 2010
"The worse any designated minority or alien group behaves in a liberal society, the bigger become the lies of Political Correctness in covering up for that group." (source)
From the NYT:
Justice Dept. Fights Bias in Lending
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is beginning a major campaign against banks and mortgage brokers suspected of discriminating against minority applicants in lending, opening a new front in the Obama administration’s response to the foreclosure crisis.
Tom Perez, the assistant attorney general for the department’s Civil Rights Division, is expected to announce Thursday in New York that the administration is creating a new unit that will focus exclusively on unfair lending practices.
“We are looking at any and every practice in the industry,” Mr. Perez said in a recent interview.
As part of an expansion of the Civil Rights Division approved by Congress last year, the Justice Department is hiring at least four lawyers and an economist for the new unit, while about half a dozen current staff members will transfer into it.
Mr. Perez plans to formally announce the new unit at the “Wall Street Project” conference organized by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. He characterized the effort as a major turnaround, and criticized the previous administration as failing to scrutinize lending practices amid the subprime mortgage boom.
While past lending discrimination cases primarily focused on “redlining” — a bank’s refusal to lend to qualified borrowers in minority areas — the new push will instead center on a more recent phenomenon critics have called “reverse redlining.” [Highlights mine]
Hopefully, the Obama Administration will arrest for promotion of "reverse redlining" George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Henry Cisneros, Barney Frank, and Barack Obama.
In reverse redlining, a mortgage brokerage or bank systematically singles out minority neighborhoods for loans with inferior terms like high up-front fees, high interest rates and lax underwriting practices. Because the original lender would typically resell such a loan after collecting its fees, it did not care about the risk of foreclosure.
There's absolutely no question that lenders hired huge numbers of Hispanic and black boiler room workers. I thought the Justice Department was in favor of hiring Hispanics and blacks?
Maybe a better way for the government to prevent "reverse redlining" is stop making it punishable by discrimination lawsuits to mention the much higher risk of default among minorities?
It is a rarely used theory, and it carries political risks. Some critics have contended that government rules pushing banks to lend to minority and low-income borrowers contributed to the financial meltdown. The campaign could rekindle that debate.
Will the New York Times ever print the facts supporting that contention?
“They encourage lenders to make risky loans for reasons such as diversity, and then when lenders have a problem because they made too many risky loans, they condemn them for that,” said Ernest Istook, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma.
Still, Mr. Istook emphasized that he was “not defending anybody who engages in wrongful redlining practices.”
A representative of the Mortgage Bankers Association, the lobbying arm of the real estate finance industry, did not respond to a request for comment.
Under federal civil rights laws, a lending practice is illegal if it has a disparate impact on minority borrowers, and the Obama administration is signaling that it intends to make the enforcing of fair lending laws a signature policy push in 2010.
Subprime lending was relentlessly marketed and endorsed as lessening the disparate impact of traditional credit standards.
"The more egregiously any non-Western or non-white group behaves, the more evil whites are made to appear for noticing and drawing rational conclusions about that group's bad behavior."In the case of today's "intentional discrimination" ruling against the Mayor of New York in Albert Gonzalez's discrimination lawsuit against the Fire Department of New York, we could perhaps offer a Second Corollary:
"The more egregiously any non-Western or non-white group behaves, the more evil whites are made to appear for not noticing that group's bad behavior."From the New York Times:
Judge Cites Discrimination in N.Y. Fire Dept.
By AL BAKER
A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that New York City intentionally discriminated against black applicants to the Fire Department by continuing to use an exam that it had been told put them at a disadvantage.
It was not a “one-time mistake or the product of benign neglect,” wrote the judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn. “It was a part of a pattern, practice and policy of intentional discrimination against black applicants that has deep historical antecedents and uniquely disabling effects.” A remedy will be decided on later.
In his decision, the judge highlighted how “black and other minority firefighters have been severely underrepresented,” characterizing that as a “persistent stain on the Fire Department’s record.”
City officials said that they intended to appeal the decision, but could not do so until the judge had determined what damages the city might face.
Legal experts, as well as lawyers for the plaintiffs and city officials, said the decision was the first in recent memory in which a court had found that the city had intentionally discriminated against a large group of people — racial minorities or women, for instance — in the workplace.
“I can’t recall there ever being a finding of intentional racial discrimination in a pattern-and-practice case against the city,” said Elise C. Boddie, a professor of constitutional law at New York Law School who formerly litigated employment discrimination cases. “I would say this is pretty big.”
In July, Judge Garaufis — acting on a claim being pushed by the United States Justice Department — ruled that the Fire Department used a test in 1999 and 2002 that had a discriminatory effect on black applicants.
In his ruling on Wednesday, the judge found that the city intentionally discriminated against blacks in using those tests and in ignoring calls over the years to change the testing procedure. The suit was brought by three people who took the test and by the Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization of black city firefighters.
At the heart of the case is the Fire Department’s persistent underrepresentation of minorities and the continued use, between 1999 and 2007, of the entrance exams. In 2007, there were 303 black firefighters, accounting for 3.4 percent of the department’s ranks; black residents make up 25.6 percent of the city’s population.
The judge noted that while the city’s other uniformed services “have made rapid progress integrating black members into their ranks, the Fire Department has stagnated and at times retrogressed.”
Judge Garaufis stopped short of finding that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the former fire commissioner, Nicholas Scoppetta, had also intentionally discriminated against black applicants. But the judge wrote that he found strong evidence to suggest that they were made aware numerous times that the Fire Department’s entrance exams were discriminatory, yet failed to take sufficient remedial action.
The mayor testified at a deposition in August that he did not recall receiving a report more than six years ago warning him about sharp differences in the pass rates between white and minority candidates for firefighter jobs, lawyers said.
The judge “let the mayor and the commissioner off the hook on the basis of a doctrine known as qualified immunity,” said Richard A. Levy, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. He said that doctrine exempts public officials from lawsuits that are based on their discretionary decisions. ...
Some city officials said they found the decision unexpected and deeply perplexing, in part because the judge ruled on plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment and the city’s motion to dismiss the case without a trial.
Mr. Levy agreed it was unusual to get a ruling based solely on documentary evidence and depositions, but he said “the evidence of a decades-long pattern of discriminating against black and Latino firefighter applicants was overwhelming.”
Ms. Boddie, the New York Law School professor, said such rulings against government entities were rare around the nation, adding, “To the extent there is a finding of liability, it is usually on disparate-impact grounds, not based on racially discriminatory intent.” ...
1. The discrimination lawsuit against FDNY was brought by the Alberto Gonzalez's Justice Department under the Bush Administration in 2007.
2. The white-black racial gap, as pointed out by La Griffe du Lion, was 1.04 standard deviations in 1999 and 0.96 standard deviations in 2002. In other words, the racial difference on the two test dates averaged exactly the one standard deviation difference that La Griffe calls the Fundamental Constant of Sociology.
3. You can take the tests yourself here.
4. Here's a sample question:
17. Which one of the following portable power saw blades must be put out of service?
A) A carbide tip blade missing nine tips.
B) A carbide tip blade with three broken tips.
C) An aluminum oxide blade measuring 12 inches.
D) A yellow silicon carbide blade measuring nine inches.
You can find the answer on the same page in this excerpt from a 250 word reading selection:
A saw blade must be put out of service (OOS) and sent to the Technical Services Division when the blade becomes worn or damaged. Carbide tip blades must be put OOS when eight or more tips are missing or broken.
4. The NYT should profile some beneficiaries of this bias, such as firefighter Michael Cammarata (1978-2001).
In "Start-Up Nation," Dan Senor and Saul Singer document Israel's economic dynamism—especially in the realm of advanced technology—and try to account for the country's extraordinary success.
Lemme think about this one. What could account for Israel's extraordinary economic dynamism in the realm of advanced technology ... hmmmhmmm ... No, I'm drawing a complete blank ... I guess I'll have to buy the book to find out what the answer could possibly be.One advantage of David Brooks being a covert member of the Steveosphere is that it increases the sophistication of public discourse. Brooks doesn't want to get laughed at by me for being oblivious to the obvious, so, when he writes about Start-Up Nation in the NYT, he immediately goes there: Israel is full of Jews.
Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.
Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.
In his book, “The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement,” Steven L. Pease lists some of the explanations people have given for this record of achievement. The Jewish faith encourages a belief in progress and personal accountability. It is learning-based, not rite-based.
Most Jews gave up or were forced to give up farming in the Middle Ages; their descendants have been living off of their wits ever since. They have often migrated, with a migrant’s ambition and drive. They have congregated around global crossroads and have benefited from the creative tension endemic in such places.
No single explanation can account for the record of Jewish achievement.
Brooks is perfectly aware that he hasn't mentioned the higher average IQ among Ashkenazi Jews or the Cochran-Harpending theory of how it evolved. He's not going to mention that, but then he's not going to deny it either and risk getting roasted by the counter-intelligentsia whose views he respects in private (but not in public). So he puts in that last sentence that can be read as admitting to you and me that he's not giving the full story.
The rest of the article is pretty good except Brooks, as a Zionist and a pro-capitalist, feels compelled to make hazy just how anti-capitalist Zionism was during its heroic age:
The odd thing is that Israel has not traditionally been strongest where the Jews in the Diaspora were strongest. Instead of research and commerce, Israelis were forced to devote their energies to fighting and politics.
"Forced" is not exactly the right word: the early Zionists chose to make their children farmers and soldiers out of a desire for Israel to be "a normal country," rather than one that lives on wits and chutzpah.
Brooks is putting forward a much more toned down version of his 2002 Weekly Standard article arguing that European don't like Ariel Sharon's Israel because the Jewish State is "bourgeois" and Europeans suffer from "bourgeoisophobia."
I responded at the time:
I think, though, David is just using the word "bourgeois" here to mean "good," rather than what it actually means. Sharon, himself, would be offended by being called bourgeois. He sees himself as the embodiment of more ancient virtues: he entitled his autobiography Warrior, not Businessman. The entire Zionist project was distinctly antibourgeois. It was heroic, romantic, anti-capitalist, socialist, collectivist, risky, nationalist, militarist, agriculturalist, trade unionist, anti-individualist, ethnocentrist, feminist, myth-driven, and on and on. If the Zionists had wanted to be bourgeois, they could have made a lot more money by moving virtually anywhere else in the world, or even by buying Baja California from Mexico. The Zionists tried to de-bourgeoisify Jews by creating a national economy in which Jews would hold all the jobs, including farmer and soldier, rather than just the bourgeois middle-man-minority jobs at which they made much money, but also elicited dangerous resentment from other peoples.
From an ideological standpoint, it's more than a little strange that the mouthpieces of the American big business Right in America are so attached to this offshoot of the 19th Century European romantic nationalist Left. The neoconservatives should be complimented for rising above narrow doctrinaire prejudices to warmly embrace a country founded on principles they oppose. Ideological purity isn't everything.
I suspect Brooks doesn't want to get hammered like that again, so he's calmed down his argument a lot:
Milton Friedman used to joke that Israel disproved every Jewish stereotype. People used to think Jews were good cooks, good economic managers and bad soldiers; Israel proved them wrong.
But that has changed. Benjamin Netanyahu's economic reforms, the arrival of a million Russian immigrants and the stagnation of the peace process have produced a historic shift. The most resourceful Israelis are going into technology and commerce, not politics. This has had a desultory effect on the nation’s public life, but an invigorating one on its economy.... As Dan Senor and Saul Singer write in “Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle,” Israel now has a classic innovation cluster, a place where tech obsessives work in close proximity and feed off each other’s ideas....
But then he goes off track briefly into his old Zionist Capitalist dreamworld:
Israel’s technological success is the fruition of the Zionist dream. The country was not founded so stray settlers could sit among thousands of angry Palestinians in Hebron. It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world.
Uh, I strongly doubt that the Zionists founders had a pro-free trade globalist economic ideology. My understanding was that Israel was founded so that Jews could have their own nation-state and provide for themselves.
..But it’s more likely that Israel’s economic leap forward will widen the gap between it and its neighbors. All the countries in the region talk about encouraging innovation. Some oil-rich states spend billions trying to build science centers. But places like Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv are created by a confluence of cultural forces, not money. The surrounding nations do not have the tradition of free intellectual exchange and technical creativity.
For example, between 1980 and 2000, Egyptians registered 77 patents in the U.S. Saudis registered 171. Israelis registered 7,652.
The tech boom also creates a new vulnerability. As Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic has argued, these innovators are the most mobile people on earth. To destroy Israel’s economy, Iran doesn't actually have to lob a nuclear weapon into the country. It just has to foment enough instability so the entrepreneurs decide they had better move to Palo Alto, where many of them already have contacts and homes. American Jews used to keep a foothold in Israel in case things got bad here. Now Israelis keep a foothold in the U.S.
During a decade of grim foreboding, Israel has become an astonishing success story, but also a highly mobile one.
An awareness of Zionist history raises a warning flag that Brooks doesn't notice: the anti-capitalist Zionist project of converting merchants and financiers into farmers was undertaken in part because of the belief that Jews were hated by peasants for being so good at capitalism. Therefore, we Jews will stop being capitalists and be farmers ourselves. Who doesn't like a farmer?
Unfortunately, this just got Jewish farmers (and Jewish soldiers) involved in an endless Malthusian struggle in the West Bank with Palestinian farmers over land. So, opinion among Jews has now turned 180 degrees: Everybody hates us because we're farmers and soldiers. Let's be capitalists instead. Who doesn't like a capitalist?
January 12, 2010
Actually, Europe’s economic success should be obvious even without statistics. For those Americans who have visited Paris: did it look poor and backward? What about Frankfurt or London?
I don't have a strong opinion on this Europe vs. U.S. income question: I've seen London and I've seen France, and the parts I saw looked spiffy, but for some reason I skipped sightseeing in the parts where the youths hold car-be-ques, so I can't say I've seen a representative sample of Europe. I'm sure Dr. Krugman typically stays in banlieues when he's in Europe, but I try not to.
Super-Economy argues that Europeans make more money in America than in Europe.
For example, the per capita GDP of Sweden is $36,603. But the Census says the per-capita income of Swedish-Americans is such that you can estimate a per capita GDP for Swedish-Americans of $56,865, a 55% advantage for Swedes in America over Swedes in Sweden. You should adjust Sweden's figure for the non-Swedish population, but that's still a big gap.
Overall, Supereconomy finds a 56% GDP advantage for Americans who identify themselves as being from the original 15 countries of the European Union over those EU-15 countries. He notes:
For one country, Sweden, I have calculated the figures when excluding immigrants to Sweden. This reduced the American advantage from 55.4% to 50.5%. If we believe that this is representative of Europe (Sweden has a higher share of foreign born than most other European nations) the American advantage should be around 53%.
What's interesting to me is the rank order among Western Europeans in America.
How do the Western European ancestries rank within the US? Here's a summary of Super-Economy's most novel table:
1. Austrian-American $80k
2. Luxembourger 73
3. Swiss 63
4. Generic European 62
5. Belgian 61
6. British w/o American 60
7. Danish 58
8. Greek 57
9. Swedish 57
10. Generic Scandinavian 56
11. Icelandic 56
12. Norwegian 54
13. British/American 54
14. Italian 53
15. German 52
16. Irish 52
17. Finnish 52
18. Dutch 51
19. French 51
20. Portuguese 48
Plain "American" isn't in the table, but presumably it would be below $50k, judging by the gap between British ($60k) and British + American ($54k).
Keep in mind that these are self-identified ancestral nationalities, and many Americans have several to choose among, so arbitrary whim and fashion influence which ones mixed-nationality people choose. For example, compared to earlier Censuses, German seemed to be in fashion in 2000 and British out of fashion. In reality, a lot of Protestant Americans with German ancestors also have British ancestors, and vice-versa, so there is a fair degree of arbitrariness about what people whose ancestors have been in the country for over 100 years choose. Similarly, a lot of Catholic Americans are some combination of Irish, Italian, German, and French. Not all siblings will choose the same nationality.
The biggest advantages for Americans over their respective European cousins are for Austrians, Portuguese, and Italians. The smallest advantages are Luxembourg (-8%, tax haven), Norway (+1% - oil), Ireland (+15% -- the Irish GDP is somewhat inflated by low corporate taxes so multinationals go out of their way to assign profits to their Irish operations), and Netherlands (perhaps Dutch merchants tended to stay home while Dutch farmers emigrated?).
The anomalously high Austrian figure is probably mostly due to selective immigration (e.g., Arnold Schwarzenegger -- i.e., a man with a plan) rather than mass immigration of hungry peasants. I don't recall ever passing through an Austrian-American rural community in the U.S. Less than a million Americans self-identify as Austrian.
(A commenter points out that many of the Austrians are probably Jewish. Viennese Jews were famously well-educated, so that sounds like a good explanation. The Census Bureau doesn't want you to answer "Jewish" to the ancestral nationality question, so most Jewish-Americans pick an Eastern European territorial state such as Russia to answer this question. Austria is the most eastern of the EU-15 countries in this table.)
The Swiss are a little above average probably for similar reasons of selective technical immigration. I've driven through a Swiss-American farming community in Wisconsin, but other Swiss immigrants came because they were already technically skilled (e.g., my paternal grandfather was Roentgen's deliveryboy for the lens company when the great German physicist was inventing the X-ray machine; lacking a college degree, but with better high tech lens skills than were common in America at the time, a decade later my grandfather came to the U.S. and wound up a successful X-ray machine salesman).
Overall, the various nationalities of Western European-Americans seem pretty similar in per capita GDP. I doubt if anybody is too surprised by Portuguese ending up last, but even they aren't that far down.
If you adjusted for cost-of-living differences, there would probably be a different rank order. The more urbanized groups (Greeks? Irish?) would probably drop a little and the less urban (British? Germans? Swedes?) would tend to do better in terms of cost of living. But I'm just guessing here.
Harry Reid's comments were crudely put, yet true
Skin color among African Americans is not to be discussed in polite company, so Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's newly disclosed remark about President Obama -- that voters are more comfortable with him because he's light-skinned -- offended decorum. But it was surely true.
Color bias has always existed in this country. We don't talk about it because we think of color as subordinate to racial identification.
Some distinctions should be drawn: African-Americans talk about skin color amongst themselves a lot, while American whites mentally subscribe to a sort of one-drop rule of thumb that everybody who is part black is considered black unless the skin color, hair, and facial features suggest that the person is more than 50% white, such as Jason Kidd, Derek Jeter, and Mariah Carey. To be more than 50% white suggests that one of your parents might identify as white, which is an interesting thing to know about a celebrity. It's a very interesting thing to know about a Presidential candidate.
At the other end, whites don't particularly notice distinctions in dark skin color until it becomes so dark it takes on blue or purple highlights, such as Avatar-like basketball player Manute Bol and the fat girl in Precious. White people (and African-Americans as well) tend to be a little weirded out by blue, a color you don't see much of among mammals. But blueishness is very rare among African Americans, and not even that common among Africans -- you might see it in Senegal or Sudan but seldom in Nigeria.
... Advertising is a reliable window into the American psyche, so look at the images we're presented on television and in glossy magazines. The black models tend to be caramel-skinned or lighter, with hair that's not really kinky -- which is how I'd describe mine -- but wavy, even flowing. A few models whose skin is chocolate-hued or darker have reached superstar status, such as Alek Wek and Tyson Beckford, but they are rare exceptions.
The other obvious distinction Robinson skips ovver is that skin color and hair length matters far more to the success of African American female celebrities than to African American male celebrities. If you want to be a dancer in a rap video, you'd better be fairer-skinned than the rapper.
On the other hand, it's hard to remember exactly how dark or fair African American male celebrities are. It's just not a big issue for men. Looking at pictures of them together, I'd say that Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are a little darker than average for African-Americans, while Will Smith is average to a little lighter than average. A lot of black athletes tend to be a little darker than normal because success in sports tends to correlate with having more West African genes. On the other hand, black intellectuals tend to be fairer than average.
Robinson goes on to make some good points about the Latin American way of defining races:
Skin color could hardly be a more conspicuous attribute, but we don't talk about it in this country. That's been a good thing.
I became interested in perceptions of color and race when I was The Post's correspondent in South America. On reporting trips to Brazil, a country with a history of slavery much like ours, I kept running across people with skin as dark as mine, or a bit darker, who didn't consider themselves "black." I learned that at the time -- roughly 20 years ago -- fewer than 10 percent of Brazilians self-identified as black. Yet at least half the population, I estimated, would have been considered black in the United States.
This was because American society enforced the "one-drop" rule: If you had any African blood at all, you were black. In Brazil, by contrast, you could be mulatto, you could be light-skinned, you could be "Moorish" brown, all the way to "blue-black" -- more than a dozen informal classifications in all. Color superseded racial identification. In Salvador da Bahia, I met a couple who considered themselves black but whose children were lighter-skinned. The children's birth certificates classified them as branco, or white.
The Brazilian system minimized racial friction on an interpersonal level.
Well, I would think the Brazilian system would causes huge amounts of sibling rivalry and resentment among sisters of different hues. Imagine if your sister is much fairer than you, and your parents invest (rationally) in dresses and dance lessons for your sister to enable her to marry up in society, while skimping on you as a hopeless case. That happens less under the American one-drop rule, although it still happens.
The American system fostered such friction, through formal and informal codes that enforced racial segregation. But our "one-drop" paradigm also created great racial solidarity among African Americans, while maximizing our numbers. We fought, marched, sat in, struggled and eventually made tremendous strides toward equality. The most recent, of course, was Obama's election, which is difficult to imagine happening in Brazil -- or, for that matter, in any other country where there is a large, historically oppressed minority group.
Brazil has now begun addressing long-standing racial disparities through affirmative action initiatives. But the upper reaches of that society -- the financial district in Sao Paulo, say, or the government ministries in Brasilia -- are still so exclusively white that they look like bits and pieces of Portugal that somehow ended up on the wrong side of the ocean.
American society's focus on race instead of color explains why what Harry Reid said was so rude. But I don't think it can be a coincidence that so many pioneers -- Edward Brooke, the first black senator since Reconstruction; Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice; Colin Powell, the first black secretary of state -- have been lighter-skinned. Reid's analysis was probably good sociology, even if it was bad politics.
There's a simpler explanation for why successful black athletes are blacker on average than successful black academics.
Anyway, I'm interested in whether anybody has studied how well the upper ranks of African Americans have managed to preserve their social systems for marrying their daughters off to young men who could pass the paper bag test? The Black Is Beautiful revolution of the 1960s drove them underground. Yet, the recent interracial dating movie Something New showed that the light-skinned elite still have debutante's balls, but how well do the upscale African-American elders succeed in keeping their fair daughters out of the manly arms of blacker men?
January 11, 2010
For example, here's a wonderful video of Obama giving a 2007 speech to a conference of black clergy, where he has a much different accent and body language: languid, cocky, florid, and Southern. Here, Obama sounds and looks like the preacher who has the biggest church and the biggest Cadillac in Tupelo, Mississippi. (He does a shout-out to Rev. Wright between 1:00 and 2:00 of the 36:00 video).
I like this alternate persona of Obama's better than the one he usually does on TV. I hope he does his 220 pound Baptist minister who loves his BBQ ribs number for visitors to the White House just to freak them out.
(I wonder what other impressions Obama does? Maybe that's the secret part of Obama's diplomatic strategy of personally meeting with rogue foreign leaders. He'll invite Ahmadinejad to a summit conference, then do Borat the whole time they're negotiating. Or invite the Castro Brothers and do Ricky Ricardo: "Fidel, you got some 'splainin' to do!")
Reid's an older guy, and he got punched in the head a lot when he was a young boxer, so it's hardly surprising that he's not at all times as facile with the latest jargon as the PC Age demands. More fundamentally, Reid's in trouble because he's getting a little too close to the fact that is too embarrassing to say publicly: we elected this lightweight President because people got (briefly) enthused by the idea that he's black by nature but white by nurture.
Look, we make up stupid nature-nurture fantasies about politicians all the time. We elected another lightweight President in 2000 because by nature he comes from the New England Puritan/WASP leadership caste who have been more or less running things since the 1630s but by nurture he's a regular guy. George W. Bush: the best of both!
Fortunately, we're at least allowed to talk about WASPs.
Here's the opening of my review in Taki's Magazine of Up in the Air:
Until the Underpants Bomber tried to blow up Flight 253 over Detroit, the frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar was widely assumed to be Up in the Air. Indeed, before the Christmas Day incident reminded everybody of how much they hate business travel, the dramedy—in which George Clooney plays a travel-addicted corporate consultant who gleefully flies first-class around the country to fire people—let Hollywood feel, for once, relevant: The Motion Picture Industry Responds to the Unemployment Crisis!
Why would Academy Awards exist if not for self-congratulation?
Up in the Air has been widely celebrated for being the first movie to refer, tangentially, to the economic downturn in the mere 29 months since subprimes crashed in August 2007. The film doesn’t actually have much of interest to say about losing your job (other than it helps to have family), but at least the movie mentions it.Modern Hollywood requires so many lunch meetings before a deal can be put together that it can only attain economic topicality by procrastinating through an entire business cycle. This adaptation of Walter Kirn’s 2001 novel (which is set in the booming 1990s) wound up being worked over, on and off, by writer-director Jason Reitman (2006’s Thank You for Smoking) throughout the last decade.
January 10, 2010
All those boring end-of-year / end-of-decade articles that journalists phone in so that they can take the last week of the year off are finally over.
But here’s something that was missing from all of those summaries: a hidden key to understanding the two seminal events of the last decade—9/11 and the economic collapse.
The factor linking the two big stories of the 2000s: George W. Bush’s sizable degree of culpability in both disasters:
* Bush had Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta eradicate the airport security ethnic profiling system before 9/11. (Then he reappointed Mineta, a Democrat, for his second term!).
* Bush repeatedly signaled the mortgage industry in 2002-2004 that zero down payment home purchases would be A-OK with his federal regulators.
Of course, those are by no means the only causes of the subsequent disasters. But shouldn’t we at least talk about them?
And what links Bush’s two blunders?
George W. Bush’s Commitment to Diversity.
Bush explicitly articulated that he was fighting airline security and traditional credit standards in the sacred cause of battling racial inequality.
Was he lying? I’ve never seen any evidence that Bush wasn’t the truest true believer in Diversity. His immigration bills, No Child Left Behind—it all testifies to his naiveté. Compared to Bush, Obama is practically Lee Kwan Yew for worldliness.
Republicans don’t want to talk about Bush’s blunders because Bush was a Republican. Democrats don’t want to talk about Bush blunders because they want to make more blunders like them.
Yet how are we supposed to learn from mistakes if nobody will mention them?
A couple of methodological biases to note: Netflix rentals by mail are driven by grown-ups, not by teenagers who like going to movies at the mall. Also, Netflix is usually seen as more upscale in its customer base than renting by mail from Blockbuster. (Stuff White People Like has a chapter on Netflix.) And, in general, renting by mail, with its inherent demand of planning ahead, is more upscale than the immediate gratification of renting at a store or buying a video.
So, these maps don't really compare, say, movie tastes in Beverly Hills to Compton, they compare the tastes of Netflix subscribers in Beverly Hills to those of Netflix subscribers in Compton. That tends to make the chasms in taste look smaller than they really are -- although they look pretty big on the maps, anyway.
Thus, The Dark Knight doesn't do particularly well on Netflix because most of the people who wanted to see it went out and saw it in the theatres. And then, if they really liked it, they bought the DVD rather than rented it. The type of movies that do well on these Netflix maps tend to be Oscar-bait movies that were only moderate hits in theatres, such as Brad Pitt's Benjamin Button and Angelina Jolie and Clint Eastwood's Changeling. You get the feeling of dutifulness looking through the maps -- you see a lot of people ordering Important Movies that they feel guilty that they weren't enthused enough to see in first release.
Mad Men, unsurprisingly, is only popular on DVD in the entertainment industry zip codes of LA.
One interesting thing is that you can frequently see the black neighborhoods in west south central LA -- check out the Tyler Perry movies for the map of black LA. The black neighborhoods tend to either love small movies (if they have black stars) or ignore small movies (if they don't have black stars).
The huge Hispanic neighborhoods to the east, however, aren't as distinctive in their tastes. Blacks and Hispanics share a taste for big budget action thrill rides like Eagle Eye. But, Hispanics like romantic comedies with white actresses, which blacks don't really like.
There are almost no movies in Netflix's top 100 that have Latin American stars, so they mostly seem to take whatever popcorn movie Hollywood is handing out (while avoiding indie stuff like Rachel Getting Married, with its SWPL multiculti obsessions.) Most Latin American stars who make prestigious Netflix-type Hollywood movies, such as Selma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, and Gael Garcia Bernal appeal more to high-end SWPL tastes than to Latino immigrant tastes. Heck, Hollywood regularly employs a New Zealand Maori, Cliff Curtis, to impersonate Latin Americans! The only Hollywood filmmaker who seems to have any creative insight into what Mexicans would be interested in is Mel Gibson.
The impact of 50 million Hispanics on American popular culture remains remarkably small.
The maps can be oddly centered -- the LA map, for example, includes places like Placentia, but not Malibu and Santa Monica. You can click on a map and drag it to see more suburbs.