January 29, 2011

Malthusian Egypt

From my last posting about Egypt, last summer:

The population of Egypt is now approaching 84 million, having doubled in the last third of a century. The latest UN population projection is that Egypt will hit 130 million by 2050.

One way or another, they aren't likely to get to 130 million.

January 28, 2011


I don't have anything to contribute except memories of media coverage in the distant past. In 1970, Nasser died. The general consensus in the American press was: "A titan of world history has died. The official successor, the little-known vice-president Anwar Sadat, is unlikely to last long." Then, in 1981, Sadat was assassinated, and the general consensus in the American press was: "A titan of world history has died. The official successor, the little-known vice-president Hosni Mubarak, is unlikely to last long."

Harpending on NFL Linemen

Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples goes looking for the places that produce the best NFL linemen:
For West Coast programs that can afford the steep airfare, the best bet is to cast their nets even further west into the Pacific. Hawaii produced five NFL linemen, and tiny American Samoa (population: 67,190) produced six. Those who can't afford the flights to paradise may want to check closer to home in Salt Lake City, a metro area that produced five NFL linemen -- including former Oregon great Haloti Ngata. Like Ngata, three of the other future NFL linemen who grew up in Utah are of Polynesian descent. Salt Lake City has a high Polynesian population because the Mormon church does extensive missionary work in the Pacific islands, and many families have relocated from the islands to Salt Lake City, where the church is headquartered.

SI VAULT: How Samoa became Eden for recruiters

Anthropology may help explain why so many good linemen developed in certain areas. Many of the linemen from west of the Rockies are of Polynesian descent. Polynesian cultures tend to produce large men capable of generating massive amounts of force. And with good reason. "Big, fast males sound like what ought to come out of centuries or millennia of social systems where there is direct male-to-male violence, but not where there are standoff weapons used in war like bows and arrows," University of Utah anthropology professor Henry Harpending wrote in an e-mail. "There was certainly this kind of violence on Polynesian islands, which were demographic pressure cookers."

Harpending is one of the authors of The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, which argues that, contrary to popular belief, the advent of advanced societies didn't stop human evolution but actually kicked it into a higher gear. In a phone interview, Harpending called the development of the Polynesian islands "a unique experiment in human history."

"They were fighting for land," Harpending said. "There just wasn't enough arable land in most places. The records and the archaeology both show that there was just a lot of warfare, violence, turnover of chiefs."

Harpending wrote that it might be more difficult to explain the anthropological reasons for the explosion of players in the South without knowing more specifics about their ancestries. Most would be classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as black, and Harpending said most black Americans are descended from ancestors who lived in the tropical regions of central Africa. He wrote that throughout history, most violence in those areas tended to be "hand-to-hand," which would have produced large, fast, muscular males through natural selection. Like the Polynesians, ancient people in central Africa never favored the bow-and-arrow as a hunting or warfare tool. Harpending said archaeological evidence from central Africa shows the ancient residents preferred spears and bludgeoning instruments. In other words, the biggest and strongest would have survived the fighting to reproduce. "Bows and arrows kept the distance between people," Harpending said. "It decreased the premium on being big and strong

Marty Peretz

Martin Peretz, who bought The New Republic in 1974, has today finally been forced out as Editor-in-Chief. His heiress wife divorced him a few years ago, so he doesn't have the kind of money to pour into the magazine as he once did. And, over the last year, during the Ground Zero Mosque brouhaha and the Arizona shooting freakout, Establishment opinion has crystallized around the idea that the Real Threat is not Muslims, but is instead the kind of people who object to Muslims, leaving Marty sounding so 2000s.

Hence, Peretz spends most of his time in Israel now, where he rails at the Black Hats who are taking over Israel demographically. (Marty, who has two kids, has certainly done more than could be personally expected of him for the secular side in the intra-Jewish demographic struggle.)

There have been two long recent profiles of Peretz:
Martin Peretz Is Not Sorry. About Anything. by Stephen Rodrick in the NYT

Peretz in Exile by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in New York

Gawker has an inconvenient question about these articles:
Why Won't Anyone Tell You that Marty Peretz Is Gay?

Well, that would raise questions about a long string of Peretz's bright young men, stretching through Andrew Sullivan all the way back to the 17-year-old Al Gore in 1965.

As I pointed out in VDARE.com in 2008 when Peretz's latest bright young man, Jamie Kirchik, was attacking Ron Paul for being making jokes about the 1992 South Central rioters:
This Peretz-Kirchick fiasco reminds me of one of the stranger stories of the 2000 election: Al Gore's claim that, when he was an undergraduate at Harvard, he and his wife inspired the bestselling 1970 novel Love Story. It was made into a huge hit movie starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw in, according to Gore, the Al and Tipper roles.

In fact Love Story's author, Erich Segal, a Harvard professor of Greek and Latin literature, said that his hero Oliver, "the tough, macho guy who's a poet at heart," was not inspired by Gore, but by Gore's roommate, Tommy Lee Jones, the college football player who went on to win an Oscar in The Fugitive. According to Segal, only a bit of Oliver's character—the family baggage of being intimidated by a famous, domineering father—was drawn from the son of Senator Albert Gore Sr.

Yet, the former Vice President's assumption that Professor Segal must have been fascinated by his undergraduate self is understandable. Because at about the same time, another Harvard professor, Martin Peretz, was beginning a lifelong infatuation with Gore.

It all started in 1965 when Al was a 17-year-old freshman and Marty his 26-year-old political science professor. Bob Zelnick, Gore's biographer, wrote:

"Perhaps the most significant friendship Gore formed at Harvard was with his resident instructor, Martin Peretz …"

Of course, the depths of Peretz's passion can be exaggerated. After all, as late as 1968, Gore didn't make Peretz's all time Top Three list, according to radical muckraker Alexander Cockburn's book Al Gore: A User's Manual:

"By 1968 Peretz was telling the late Blair Clark that 'I have been in love only three times in my life. I was in love with my college roommate. I am in love with the state of Israel and I love Gene McCarthy.'"
Still, Peretz's feelings for Gore have certainly been enduring. In 2006, he endorsed Gore for President (for the third time, after 1988 and 2000), writing:

"Let me tell you a few words about the question as to whether Al Gore has changed. Actually, to me he is essentially the same young man I met in a Harvard freshman seminar 41 years ago…"

The Mystery of Ronald Reagan

What could Ronald Reagan have been thinking about?

Michiko Kakutani writes:
Ronald Reagan as Dad, a Sunny Stranger

Now, on the occasion of what would have been the former president’s 100th birthday, his youngest son, Ron Reagan, has written a deeply felt memoir — a memoir that underscores the bafflement his own children often felt about their father, a man the younger Mr. Reagan describes as an inscrutable, “paradoxical character,” “warm yet remote,” “affable as they come” but with “virtually no close friends besides his wife,” a man who “thrived on public display yet remained intensely private.” 

“His children, if they were being honest,” Mr. Reagan writes in “My Father at 100,” “would agree that he was as strange a fellow as any of us had ever met. Not darkly strange, mind you. In fact, he was so naturally sunny, so utterly without guile, so devoid of cynicism or pettiness as to create for himself a whole new category of strangeness. ... The author says that he never felt that his father didn’t love or care for him but that he often seemed to be “wandering somewhere in his own head.” 

“Occasionally,” Mr. Reagan writes, “he seemed to need reminding about basic aspects of my life — like birthdays, who my friends were or how I was doing in school. I could share an hour of warm camaraderie with Dad, then once I’d walked out the door, get the uncanny feeling I’d disappeared into the wings of his mind’s stage, like a character no longer necessary to the ongoing story line.” 

I've been interested for a long time in the paradoxes of President Reagan's personality, which are well expressed in the above paragraphs. (Ron Jr.'s views sound similar to those of his sisters' Maureen and Patti.) So, let me hazard a guess about what Reagan was often thinking about when he could have instead been thinking about the specific wants and needs of the people around him:

Public affairs.

At the Reagan Library in Simi Valley there are on display a great number of handwritten pages by Reagan about public affairs: a letter to Gorbachev, the first draft of a speech, a 1970s newspaper column, etc. Reagan did not have a particularly fast mind, so he devoted a lot of time to thinking about his calling of matters of state, and not very much time to thinking about individual family and friends. 

Reagan had a rather statistical frame of mind (speechwriter Peggy Noonan said that the President's first drafts for speeches always included far more statistics than the public could put up with). 

One of his more curious, but revealing habits, was that he had his White House staff provide him every Friday, with about 20 letters from citizens. On Monday, he'd give the staffers' his replies to send out. It was an odd system, but he felt that grappling with the idiosyncratic concerns of about 1,000 individual citizens per year provided a sample that kept him connected to the country. 

Of course, Reagan didn't have the time, or interest, in doing much follow up to his first reply -- he had staffers to shield him from the time sink that individuals could turn into. Getting a handwritten letter from the President of the United States responding in some detail to your request for advice could turn a lot of otherwise sane people into Rupert Pupkin. So, a thousand ordinary people per year got a personal letter from the President, but few got more than one. The President wasn't really that interested in you as an individual, he was interested in you as a sample.

January 27, 2011

How not thinking about race cripples philosophy

From the Chronicle of Higher Education's philosophy columnist:
Us v. Them: Good News from the Ancients
By Carlin Romano

"Us against them" seems a staple of human psychology ... Looking through a recent New York Times, you couldn't help thinking that the notion merits a separate daily section to organize stories efficiently: North Korean vs. South Korean, North Ivorian vs. South Ivorian (those hard geographical divisions help), e-book reader vs. traditional book lover, New York Giant vs. Dallas Cowboy, boomer vs. Gen X'er, man vs. woman.
Are we just boringly binary?

As opposed to excitingly unitary? This shouldn't be news to a professor of philosophy, but contrast is the essence of information. You can turn data into a stream of 1s and 0s, but you can't turn it into a stream of all 1s.
And why, as both Rodney King and distinguished science writer David Berreby asked, for different reasons, can't we all get along?

Back in 2005, Berreby tried to open our eyes on the subject with his noncontentiously titled Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind (Little, Brown and Co.). We can't help being tribal thinkers, Berreby explained, because organizing other humans into kinds is "an absolute requirement for being human." It is, he wrote, "the mind's guide for understanding anyone we do not know personally, for seeing our place in the human world, and for judging our actions." There is "apparently no people known to history or anthropology that lacks a distinction between 'us' and 'others,'" and particularly others who don't rise to our level.

Our categories for humans, Berreby elaborated, "serve so many different needs, there is no single recipe for making one." Categories for other people "can't be understood objectively." We fashion them in classic pragmatic style to suit our purposes in solving problems,

The notion that objectivity and pragmatism are obviously at odds is a curious one.
... particularly that of generalizing about people we know by only a feature or two. We make these categories—often out of strong emotional need. We don't discover them. American suburbanites need "soccer moms," Southern kids need "Nascar dads," Yemenites need neither.

Those are obviously silly examples of the horrors of Us v. Them thinking, in part because there was never any Us in them. The categories "soccer moms" and "Nascar dads" weren't dreamed up out of strong emotional needs by soccer moms and Nascar dads, they were cold-bloodedly invented by marketing researchers and political consultants to help their clients succeed focus their marketing better for inchoate groups of indivduals who had certain tendencies in common.
... "The issue," Berreby observed, "is not what human kinds are in the world, but what they are in the mind—not how we tell Tamils and Seventh-day Adventists and fans of Manchester United from their fellow human beings, but why we want to."

Well, uh, if you can tell that person you are talking to is a fan of Manchester United, you might want to compliment Wayne Rooney on his superlative soccer skills. If you can tell that person is a fan of one of Manchester United's rivals, however, you can feel free to mention Wayne's face.

Look, the motto of Faber College in Animal House offers words to live by: Knowledge is good.

Is it too hard to notice that there are differences between people, that these differences ("diversity!") make humanity infinitely more interesting than if we were all a homogeneous mass; and that noticing differences accurately is useful?
True enough. The problem remains that this habit of hostility to the "Other" seems inescapable, even if it's not hard-wired into us. We've been talking like Tarzan since the ancient Greeks. Me Athenian, you barbarian. Me Roman, you Carthaginian loser. Me Greek, you dumb Egyptian animal worshiper. Me better, you worse.

Again, as with Berreby's study, a book can help us if not save us—a small tool to pry the fetishisms of "Us vs. Them" from our minds.

Rethinking the Other in Antiquity, by Erich S. Gruen, out this month from Princeton University Press, like all excellent scholarship massages the mind in useful new directions. Gruen, a Berkeley professor emeritus of history and classics, wields his command of ancient sources to shake a widely shared historical belief—that ancient Greeks and Romans exuded condescension and hostility toward what European intellectuals call the "Other." For those Greeks and Romans, that largely meant peoples such as the Persians, Egyptians, and Jews. Even if Gruen doesn't wholly convince on every ground that Greeks and Romans operated like Obamas in togas, regularly reaching out to potential enemies, his careful readings of Aeschylus, Herodotus, Tacitus, and others introduce us to a kinder, gentler ancient world. His analysis confirms how even back then, tossing people into a category and then hating them en masse was a choice, not an evolutionary necessity.

Gruen doesn't deny the transhistorical phenomenon of "Us vs. Them" itself. "The denigration," he writes at the outset, "even demonization of the 'Other' in order to declare superiority or to construct a contrasting national identity is all too familiar." What bothers him is the degree to which analysis of "such self-fashioning through disparagement of alien societies" has become "a staple of academic analysis for more than three decades" (he respectfully mentions Edward Said's Orientalism and the progeny it sparked), rendering the factual phenomenon under examination too unquestioned.
As a result, Gruen reports, works of classical scholarship such as François Hartog's The Mirror of Herodotus (University of California Press, 1988) and Edith Hall's Inventing the Barbarian (Oxford University Press, 1989) leave us with the firm understanding that "negative images, misrepresentations, and stereotypes permitted ancients to invent the 'Other,' thereby justifying marginalization, subordination, and exclusion." A natural conclusion when it comes to "Us vs. Them," Gruen writes, is that "the ancients are thus to blame."

The concept of Projection suggests that the people who are really filled with Who? Whom? hatefulness are the post-modern academics who are always denouncing it in others.
Far from rejecting evidence for the standard view, Gruen helpfully sums it up: "Jewish writers excoriated Egyptians for zoolatry and shunned admixture with Canaanites, Ammonites, Moabites, and Philistines. ... The Romans scattered their biases widely with negative pronouncements on easterners and westerners alike. They dismissed Greeks as lightweights ...

The Romans conquered the Greeks and ruled them from 500 years, but they continued to take cultural direction from the Greeks. A better case could be made that the Romans were too in awe of the Greek cultural contributions, which slowed them down from coming up with more of their own.
Gruen's mission, however, is to unpack the contrary story, far less told: "that Greeks, Romans, and Jews (who provide us with almost all the relevant extant texts) had far more mixed, nuanced, and complex opinions about other peoples."

His examples span the ancient Mediterranean and beyond. In his opening chapters, he concentrates on four pieces of evidence—Aeschylus's Persae, Herodotus's treatment of the Persians, Xenophon's Cyropaedia, and our knowledge of Alexander's cooperation with the Persians—using them to reject the "prevailing scholarly consensus" that Greeks held a consistently negative image of Persians. ... Gruen says his aim is to show that "the descriptions and conceptualizations, far from establishing simplistic stereotypes, display subtle characterizations that resist reductive placement into negative (or, for that matter, positive) categories."

You could flip through Herodotus's Histories (which are a sort of sprawling travel book that eventually resolves into a history of the Greco-Persian Wars) for 20 minutes and come to the the same conclusion. The Greeks were really proud that they beat the Persians in 490-480 BC because the Persians were the top dogs. Herodotus's Greek audience was very interested in learning more about the rich and powerful Persians.

Perhaps, someday, revisionists scholars might sit down and carefully read, say,The Bell Curve and Human Accomplishment and notice their similar judicious nuance.

On the other hand, it's essential to remember that Herodotus's division between Oriental despotism and Occidental liberty was part of the Greatest Leap Forward in human thought. The confidence the Greeks gained from defeating the Persians at the beginning of the 5th Century, from the notion that they were not just different but better than the superpower of the era and that they should emphasize their differences, helped set off the most concentrated age of human accomplishment ever.
Rather, his point is that the ancients, like us, enjoyed options in how they categorized others, drew upon others, and defined them in the process of shaping their own cultures. They sometimes chose—more often than one realized before reading Gruen's book—to do so in a spirit of admiration and respect. Contrary to much received opinion, we have some classical role models in resisting "Us vs. Them."
A simple line, in Obama's Tucson memorial speech, captured the existentialist antidote to that ugly psychological strain.

"We may not be able to stop all evil in the world," the president said, "but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us."

We also get to decide how we categorize one another. And who we include in "us." If we included everyone, what might follow from that?


This is not a sophisticated point but it eludes philosophers when thinking about human beings -- categorization is essential to knowledge, the solution to bad stereotypes are better stereotypes -- but it's one that gets lost all the time when intellectuals try to think (or, more precisely, to not think) about race.

Soccer stats

Big money soccer clubs have been trying to emulate the success of baseball statistical analysts for a number of years now, but it's hard to tell if they are making any progress, according to Brian Phillips in Slate

Sample sizes for, say, goals and assists are tiny. The game is very complicated. There are relatively few easy-to-measure objective measures, so various for profit consultancies are offering big clubs evaluations of play on a confidential basis, so it's hard to tell if anybody actually has figured out anything yet.

That reminds me of the current emphasis on using test scores to improve education. Yet, it took a quarter of a century for the Bill James Revolution in baseball to have much of an impact. Is education more like baseball or soccer?

Moreover, the prestige names in the Ed School racket, such as Linda Darling-Hammond, tend to be innumerate.

Flat Earthism, Ed School-Style

iSteve readers review books so I don't have to read them!

A reader writes about the latest book by Linda Darling-Hammond, who is probably the second biggest Education School name in the country, after Howard Garner. Her book is about why public schools in Finland, South Korea, and Singapore get so much better test scores than American public schools.
I've been reading a 2010 book on education policy by Linda Darling-Hammond, who holds a named chair in Stanford's education department. The book is The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future.  

A few choice items, from just skipping around:

From page 4:
Meanwhile, knowledge is expanding at a breathtaking pace . . . [I]n the three years from 1999 to 2002, the amount of new information produced nearly equaled the amount produced in the entire history of the world previously.  The amount of new technical information is doubling every 2 years, and it is predicted to double every 72 hours by 2010.

Dig that last sentence!  72 hours .... She has a citation to a 2002 source for that.  Could she mean 720 hours?  
On page 11, there's a bar chart of PISA scores across the four subject areas, with -- just like Peter Brimelow has written -- the white scores represented by a black bar and the black scores (yes, "black," not "African-American") represented by a white bar.  (Hispanics are gray, and there are variously crosshatched patterns for Asians, multiracial, and OECD average.)

From page 25:
The failure of many states to invest adequately in the education of low-income children and new immigrants, to provide them with effective teachers and the necessary curriculum and learning materials, results in growing numbers leaving school without the skills needed to become a part of the economy.  While the highest-achieving nations are making steep, strategically smart investments in education, the United States is squandering much of its human capital.

Better that the last half of that last sentence said "the United States is importing poverty and loading itself down with students who first need to learn English before they can learn anything else."

From page 60:
Thus, tracking persists in the face of growing evidence that it does not substantially benefit high achievers and tends to put low achievers at a serious disadvantage, in part because of these long-standing beliefs about the role of schools in selection, and in part because good teaching is a scarce resource and thus must be allocated.

The first part of that sounds unbelievable to me (at least for the high achievers), and I note that nothing by Charles Murray or Heather Mac Donald appears in either the references or index (and immigration doesn't appear in the index).  But I noticed that among the long list of her own publications in the references is something that appeared in the Huffington Post during the 2008 campaign, a plug for Wonderboy (here).

Judging from her pictures, Professor Dr. Hammond-Darling looks like she might (or might not be) about 1/32nd black, which can't hurt in the Ed School business.

January 26, 2011

The big thing Obama could do

In the NYT:
Gail Collins: Have you noticed that all the recent presidents could only accomplish a political agenda that belonged to the other side? Bill Clinton got welfare reform and George W. Bush got prescription drugs for Medicare. I’ve always expected that in his third year, Obama would wind up pushing for something like controlling pension costs for school janitors, and there he was, talking about capping spending....

David Brooks: That is a first class observation. It’s true that presidents in recent years have only succeeded by coopting the other party’s issues. Their own party goes along for partisan reasons and the other party goes along grudgingly for substantive reasons. Maybe there is some wisdom in this.

I'm going to keep harping on my theme that Obama could ensure himself a second term and do the country a lot of good using his own personal diversityness to push through a thoroughgoing reform of all the diversity policies that have gone bad over the decades (immigration, disparate impact, Fannie and Freddie quotas, etc etc) because you aren't supposed to talk about diversity policies unless you are diverse yourself.

Granted, he's not going to do this, but that should be held against him, because it's eminently politically feasible for him and it's well worth doing from a good government standpoint.. Right now, however, the entire concept is off the radar.

January 25, 2011

"The Way Back"

I review Peter Weir's The Way Back, with Ed Harris and Colin Farrell as escapees from a Soviet Gulag camp in Taki's Magazine:
The truth is that a vast number of survivors walked home from Soviet camps in the 1940s and 1950s, including a distant in-law of mine. He had been an Italian soldier posted to fight General Patton’s invading American army. When Mussolini was overthrown, peace was declared and he deserted. But the occupying Germans rounded him up and sent him to the Eastern Front, where the Soviets captured him. When the war ended, the camp commandant opened the gate and gestured in Italy’s general direction. It took him two years to trudge home. 

Michael Lind v. the Sputnik Moment

Michael Lind pre-responds in Salon to Obama's State of the Union address conventional wisdom. Lind writes:
The claim that America’s K-12 system is inferior to that of other industrial nations is another myth whose purpose is to divert the attention of the American public from the real reasons for the offshoring of U.S. industry. Much has been made of the fact that, according to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the U.S. ranks 12th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in mathematics. But the countries at the top of the list in 2009 -- Korea, Finland, Hong-Kong China, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand and Japan -- tend to be small or homogeneous or both.

The overall PISA scores of American students are lowered by the poor results for blacks and Latinos, who make up 35 percent of America’s K-12 student population. Asian-American students have an average score of 541, similar to those of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. The non-Hispanic white American student average of 525 is comparable to the averages of Canada (524), New Zealand (521), and Australia (515). In contrast, the average PISA readings score of Latino students is 446 and black students is 441.

Unlike Asian immigrants, many of whom are college-educated professionals, Latino immigrants tend to be less educated than the American average. And both Latinos and blacks are disproportionately poor. ... America’s public school system works quite well, for non-poor native students. It is overwhelmed by a disproportionately black poor population, which suffers the legacy of centuries of discrimination, and a disproportionately unskilled and illiterate foreign-born population. Instead of scapegoating America’s K-12 schools, we need to combat family poverty directly, by means of job creation programs and a living wage, while admitting fewer poorly educated immigrants.

... But American CEOs who offshore production have no right to complain that too few Americans are going into science and engineering. Why should young Americans commit career suicide by entering occupations that are going to be offshored?

American multinationals are not shutting factories in the U.S. and transferring production to China because of China’s superior innovation culture or superior educational achievements. Nor are low Chinese wages the major factor.

I'm not sure about that, but let's hear Lind out:
For the most part, multinationals are pressured or bribed by the Chinese dictatorship into producing in China. In some cases, U.S. multinationals are told they must produce inside China in order to have access to China's large and growing consumer market. In other cases, multinationals are bribed to relocate production to China by enormous subsidies from the Chinese government.
... Why has the Obama administration in general, unlike some members of Congress, shown such a lack of urgency in addressing the issue of China’s currency tariff (itself only one of many instruments of Chinese economic nationalism)? One answer is suggested by a recent Financial Times article by Alan Beattie: "While the drive for currency legislation is noisy and conducted by practiced lobbyists in industries in steel and textiles that have canvassed for protection against exports, many US multinationals are far more interested in investing in China than exporting there." (emphasis added).
It’s a sad reflection on America’s corporate leaders that instead of being honest with their fellow Americans about the true reasons for offshoring, they tend to blame America first, peddling the insulting story that we Americans are not innovative or educated enough to compete with a poor, dictatorial nation like China. The blame-America-first story is peddled as well by American politicians who receive corporate campaign donations and, after retirement, lucrative corporate board memberships, pundits who get paid on the corporate speaking circuit and academic economists with big corporate consulting contracts. These co-opted opinion leaders join the executives of U.S.-based multinationals in trying to divert the attention of the American people from the mercantilist industrial policies of countries like China that do not practice America’s version of free-market capitalism and have no intention of doing so.

... Innovation and education are red herrings, tossed out to distract the American public from the real problem. If we were serious about competing with China, we would copy their tactics. ... 

But the U.S. could emulate China by telling corporations that if they want access to America’s consumers they must produce at least a portion of the goods sold in the American market within America's borders and employ American workers.

That's what Reagan did in 1982 with Japanese car imports, although the existence of a vast Japanese car industry within America seems to have disappeared off the radar. It doesn't work in theory, even though it seems to work in practice.

Oscar nominations

The boring truth is that the movies that everybody knew on January 1st were going to get most of the Oscar nominations actually are pretty good. For example, The Kids Are All Right is just a Lifetime Movie that has been inflated by gay marriage culture war solidarity, but it's also, by the standards of Lifetime Movies, well above average.

You can read my reviews at the links:

Best Picture
  • Black Swan Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
  • The Fighter David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
  • “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
  • The Kids Are All Right Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
  • The King's Speech Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
  • 127 Hours Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
  • The Social Network Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
  • Toy Story 3 Darla K. Anderson, Producer
  • True Grit Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
  • “Winter's Bone" Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers 
As for the two I haven't reviewed, I was looking forward to reviewing Inception all summer, but then the magazine went on vacation that week. I can't imagine I have much to say about Inception that hasn't already been said. I've been studying up on Jim Webb books to write my review of Winter's Bone, so that will probably be next week.


    • “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
    • “The Fighter” David O. Russell
    • “The King's Speech” Tom Hooper
    • “The Social Network” David Fincher
    • “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
    The problem with having ten Best Picture nominees to get more people to watch the Oscars show, but still having only five Best Director nominees is that it's pretty obvious that Inception won't win Best Picture because Christopher Nolan didn't get nominated for Best Director. One of these years he'll finally have proven himself ...

    Actor in a Leading Role

    • Javier Bardem in “Biutiful
    • Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
    • Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
    • Colin Firth in “The King's Speech”
    • James Franco in “127 Hours”
    Biutiful is bad but Bardem is good. I usually like Jesse Eisenberg a lot, but I thought his performance in The Social Network wasn't up to par. I would have gone with Ryan Gosling of Blue Valentine for one of these spots.

      Actor in a Supporting Role

      • Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
      • John Hawkes in “Winter's Bone”
      • Jeremy Renner in “The Town
      • Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
      • Geoffrey Rush in “The King's Speech”
      They're all good.

        Actress in a Leading Role

        • Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
        • Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
        • Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone”
        • Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
        • Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine
        Natalie Portman didn't do much for me in Black Swan -- she mostly just look frenzied, and or weirded out -- kind of the female equivalent of Eisenberg's performance. Jennifer Lawrence is pretty great in Winter's Bone, but it was a good role if you can nail the Ozark accent.

            Actress in a Supporting Role

            • Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
            • Helena Bonham Carter in “The King's Speech”
            • Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
            • Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
            • Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”
            I haven't seen Animal Kingdom, but all the rest are definitely good performances.

              Animated Feature Film

              • “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
              • “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
              • “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich

              Art Direction

              • “Alice in Wonderland”
                Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
              • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
                Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
              • “Inception”
                Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
              • “The King's Speech”
                Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
              • “True Grit”
                Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh


              • “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
              • “Inception” Wally Pfister
              • “The King's Speech” Danny Cohen
              • “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
              • “True Grit” Roger Deakins 
              I don't believe a woman has ever been nominated in this category. You apprentice by climbing ladders carrying heavy lights, so upper body strength is a prerequisite.

                Costume Design

                • “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
                • “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
                • “The King's Speech” Jenny Beavan
                • “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
                • “True Grit” Mary Zophres

                Documentary (Feature)

                • “Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
                • “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
                • Inside JobCharles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
                • “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
                • “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley
                Notably, Waiting for "Superman" failed to get a nomination. Good job, Academy members! For some reason, people in LA aren't as hyped up as people in NYC and DC about schools.

                  Documentary (Short Subject)

                  • “Killing in the Name” Nominees to be determined
                  • “Poster Girl” Nominees to be determined
                  • “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
                  • “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
                  • “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

                  Film Editing

                  • “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
                  • “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
                  • “The King's Speech” Tariq Anwar
                  • “127 Hours” Jon Harris
                  • “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter 
                  Even if they expanded the list of Best Director nominations to ten, you could still tell Inception won't win Best Picture because it's not on this list.

                    Foreign Language Film

                    • “Biutiful” Mexico
                    • “Dogtooth” Greece
                    • “In a Better World” Denmark
                    • “Incendies” Canada
                    • “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria


                    • “Barney's Version” Adrien Morot
                    • “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
                    I just finished my review of Peter Weir's movie about escape from the Gulag and it will be up at Taki's tomorrow.
                    • “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

                    Music (Original Score)

                    • “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
                    • “Inception” Hans Zimmer
                    • “The King's Speech” Alexandre Desplat
                    • “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
                    • “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross 
                    No nominations for Christopher Nolan, but one for Hans Zimmer?

                      Music (Original Song)

                      • “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
                      • “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
                      • “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
                      • “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3" Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

                      Short Film (Animated)

                      • “Day & Night” Teddy Newton (from Toy Story 3)
                      • “The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
                      • “Let's Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
                      • “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
                      • “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois

                      Short Film (Live Action)

                      • “The Confession” Tanel Toom
                      • “The Crush” Michael Creagh
                      • “God of Love” Luke Matheny
                      • “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
                      • “Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

                      Sound Editing

                      • “Inception” Richard King
                      • “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
                      • “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
                      • “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
                      • “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger

                      Sound Mixing

                      • “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
                      • “The King's Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
                      • “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
                      • “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
                      • “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

                      Visual Effects

                      • “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
                      • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
                      • HereafterMichael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
                      • “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
                      • Iron Man 2 Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

                      Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

                      • “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
                      • “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
                      • “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
                      • “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
                      • “Winter's Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

                      Writing (Original Screenplay)

                      • “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
                      • “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
                        Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
                      • “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
                      • “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
                      • “The King's Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler 
                      Nolan certainly deserved this nomination for keeping Inception semi-comprehensible.

                        David Brooks' vibrant vision for America

                        David Brooks wants Obama to announce in his State of the Union Address that America is no longer a nation, it's now going to be a cross between the Admirals Club at JFK and Amy Chua's house:

                        ... The country wants a more precise vision of what a thriving America is going to look like in the 21st century... To thrive, America will have to be the crossroads nation where global talent congregates and collaborates. 
                        Parents in middle-class nations around the world should want to send their kids to American colleges.

                        And where will middle-class American parents (assuming there are any left) send their kids to college?
                        ... Entrepreneurs from Israel to Indonesia should be visiting venture-capital firms in San Francisco or capital markets in New York. 

                        Maybe, David, you could talk Israel into testing this big idea of yours out for us first. How many people are there in China with 120+ IQs who would move to Israel if only given the opportunity? Think of how Israel would benefit from 20 million brilliant Chinese immigrants!
                        In this century, economic competition between countries is ... more like the competition between elite universities ...

                        Thanks goodness we imported all those tens of millions of high SAT score illegal immigrants and their descendants.
                        The new sort of competition is all about charisma....

                        Really? That must be why Germany is exporting so much these days. Everybody loves that German personality!
                        The nation with the most diverse creative hot spots will dominate the century. 

                        I think he meant "the most vibrantly diverse creative hot spots," or perhaps "the most diversely vibrant creative hot spots."
                        ... Finally, the government has to work aggressively to reduce the human capital inequalities that open up in an innovation economy. That means early and constant interventions so everybody has a chance to participate. 

                        Aggressive early and constant government interventions ... Perhaps David would have Obama sign over the parental rights of all African-American mothers to Amy Chua?

                        What's the over-under line on when will come the official Stolen Generations apology from a future President for these now fashionable early and constant interventions? I'd put the over-under line at my 100th birthday.
                        President Obama exists because his father was drawn to study in the United States. Obama embodies America’s nascent role as the crossroads nation. Let’s see if he can describe the next phase of American greatness.

                        So, polygamists of the world, come to America, impregnate our 17-year-olds, and then abandon them!

                        State of the Union suggestion

                        Here's the opening of a long, sad article, Obama's Jobs Search, in the New York Times Magazine about how, despite all the economic geniuses in the Obama Administration, nobody can think of anything meaningful to do about unemployment:
                        Three days before Christmas, President Obama gathered his economic team in the West Wing’s Roosevelt Room to review themes for his State of the Union address. The edge-of-the-cliff crisis he inherited had passed, but with more than 14 million Americans still out of work, he was looking for bold ways to bring down unemployment. The ideas presented to him, though, seemed familiar and uninspired. “You know, guys,” he said, according to someone in the room, “I’ve told you before, I want you to come to me with ideas that excite me.” Nothing he was hearing excited him. 

                        Let me repeat an idea of mine from November about how Obama could boldly lower the cost of hiring Americans. It certainly won't excite Obama, but it is one thing he could actually do politically -- and, in fact, is the one thing he has the personal expertise to do in a week -- that would give a jolt to hiring:
                        Obama should declare victory in the half-century old War on Discrimination—which Ed Rubenstein of VDARE.COM recently estimated costs 8 percent of a year’s GDP, or over a trillion dollars. ... Hiring legally unprotected whites is dangerous because that accumulates statistical evidence of disparate impact discrimination. But hiring legally protected minorities is a legal minefield because of the potential costs of discrimination lawsuits if they don’t work out and have to be let go. (A friend who owns a small business explains: “If I can’t afford to fire them, I can’t afford to hire them.”

                        Not surprisingly, firms have been slow to hire American citizens, who can get them in trouble with the Feds. Employers have been using the recession to outsource work to Asia or to hire illegal immigrants off the books. It makes more sense to work a few official employees long and hard than to hire many.

                        To rectify this, Obama could announce that his election as President shows that the civil rights war is over and it’s time to reap the peace dividend: the federal government can dramatically cut back its persecutions of employers for hiring the wrong people.

                        Nothing the President could do with a stroke of his pen would do more to cut unemployment by making it legally safer to hire Americans than Obama announcing that, between now and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in 2014, he will lay off most of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission bureaucrats and other federal racial inquisitors.

                        And the business climate would be immediately improved by Obama abolishing the EEOC’s innumerate “Four Fifths Rule.”

                        Similarly, Obama could order the Justice Department to switch sides in the Bush Administration’s egregious Vulcan Society disparate impact lawsuit.

                        Are you expecting to hear any better ideas from Obama? From the GOP? 

                        January 24, 2011

                        NYT: Obama needs to share more

                        Matt Bai in the New York Times worries that poor President Obama isn't successfully bypassing the traditional media:
                        For Obama, Getting Message Out Online is a Challenge
                        Truly taking the presidency online would not only enable Mr. Obama to get his message to some voters without passing through the traditional news media.

                        Because the establishment media has always been so skeptical and unfriendly toward Obama that he needs to go around them to connect directly with the average voter.
                        Mr. Obama is probably the most talented writer to occupy the office in the television age; his political career was made possible, in large part, by the candid memoir he wrote as a younger man. 

                        "Candid" is about the last word that comes to mind for "Dreams from My Father." The book sold 11,000 copies in the nine years up until he became a superstar at the 2004 Democratic convention. It's sold millions of copies since then, although I doubt that millions of people have finished it. I doubt if his memoir was a net benefit to his political career at all. It didn't hurt much because it was written in such an opaque style as to be unquotable, but it didn't help much other than to reconfirm the "What a fine young gentleman" feelings that many people already felt for him after seeing him on TV.
                        So it is hard to understand why the president hasn’t tried to use that talent the way Mr. Kennedy capitalized on his personal charm. You can easily imagine Mr. Obama sitting in front of a keyboard at the end of a long day, briefly reflecting on the oddity of a personal encounter or on the meaning of some overlooked event, or perhaps describing what it is like to stand in the well of Congress and deliver the State of the Union address. It could be that in order to expand the reach and persuasiveness of the modern presidency, Mr. Obama simply needs to be his online self — not so much a blogger as a memoirist-in-chief, walking us through history in real time. 

                        Yeah, but that would cut into the vital time the President devotes to having a cig, watching ESPN SportsCenter, getting in a quick 18 holes, stepping out for a Lucky Strike, shooting hoops, taking a mental health break for a smoke, daydreaming, etc etc.

                        The idea that Obama wants to share his thoughts unfiltered and unvetted with the American public is ridiculously naive. It took him four years to get Dreams from My Father finished. He, in effect, stole part of a large advance by not delivering it to the original publisher. The manuscript for his second book was vetted by 28 experts before being sent to the publisher. Do you really think he wants to have to have more Beer Summits every time he accidentally reveals his inner feelings?

                        What he is good at is the occasional set piece oration that he's rigorously prepared for, like tonight's speech, where he gets to tap into all the good will in America toward eloquent black men. That, and being tongue-bathed by the press. In contrast, the more we see of him on a mundane basis, the more we notice that there's not all that much there.
                        Nigeria’s leader, Goodluck Jonathan, has been called the “Facebook president” for posting his own frequent meditations for a country of 44 million Internet users. 

                        Yeah, my spambox is already full of emails from Lea Abiba Mangou, Mbebe  John, Thompsons Ngowa, Hassim Uhuru, and Barack Obama, all asking for my help. I think Obama should definitely step up his online efforts. Like the Mineshaft Gap in Dr. Strangelove, Mr. President, you cannot afford to allow a Nigerian Spam Gap to emerge.

                        C'mon, the Real Obama didn't get elected President in 2008, that was the Fake Obama, a collective delusion. The Real Obama has no intention of running in 2012 as the Real Obama, either.

                        The (hopefully) final word on Goldberg, Beck, and Piven

                        In my new VDARE.com column, I come up with two new angles on Jeffrey Goldberg's accusation of anti-Semitism against Glenn Beck at The Atlantic:

                        - Why didn't Goldberg put in a link to wherever Beck named "nine people, eight of them Jews, as enemies of American and humanity"? It's easy to put in a link ... if you have one. On the other hand, it's a good idea not to put in a link if you are badly mischaracterizing what the person you are smearing actually did.

                        - Ironically, leftist sociologist Frances Fox Piven gave an interview four days before Goldberg's smear in which she blamed Beck's campaign against her not on anti-Semites, but on Semites. And named names.

                        Read the whole thing there.