November 4, 2011

Your ancestors more likely to be pioneers than stay-at-homes

In the classic book series, Little House on the Prairie, Pa's wanderlust repeatedly drives the Ingalls family westward past the edges of civilization. That craving for open space is probably what drove Homo sapiens to leave Africa in the first place and spread across the globe. According to new research, the desire to expand into new territory may have provided an evolutionary advantage to those who had it over those who lacked it. 
The study, published November 4 in Science, analyzed the genealogies of settlers in Canada's Charlevoix Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean region, northeast of Quebec City. Since the colony's initiation in 1608, it underwent several waves of geographic expansion. The researchers, led by population geneticist Laurent Excoffier of the University of Montreal, looked at the colony's marriage and birth records between 1686 and 1960. The analysis found that families living on the edges of the expansions had 20 percent more children than families living at the settlement's core. They also married one year earlier, on average, and contributed up to four times more genes to the region's current population. 
"This is a lovely paper," said Henry Harpending, an anthropologist at University of Utah, who did not participate in the study. Although the researchers could only include births registered in church records, which most likely excluded illegitimate births, Harpending said the researchers "did a thorough job, and analyzed lots of data."

Of course, these lands weren't unpopulated when the French Canadians settled them. They just overwhelmed the Indians.

Benjamin Franklin more or less pointed this out in 1754 in calling for immigration restriction in Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind. (By the way, somebody should post a more readable version with modern spelling and without Franklin's surfeit of capitalization -- this is one of the key documents in intellectual history, Franklin->Malthus->Darwin, but it's hard for 21st Century people to read in the original.)

After the outbreak of the French & Indian War in 1756, Franklin progressively lost interest in immigration restriction as the opportunity for his people to break out of their narrow coastal strip and violently conquer the great Mississippi watershed increased. (Now, in the Pinkerian imagination, immigration restrictionism is equated with war, while the Enlightenment is equated with peace and immigration, but in the mind of Franklin, one of the great geopolitical strategists of the Enlightenment, immigration restriction and war were alternatives. War against the French and Indians would obviate the need for immigration restriction by allowing the English to conquer vast new lands.After the war, the British government thought to give Canada back to the French in return for a sugar island, but Franklin managed to convince them not to do that: he recognized that the St. Lawrence watershed was key to controlling the Mississippi watershed, which he lusted after for his people.

Then, when the British government tried to restrict the colonists from expanding over the Appalachians, Franklin slowly turned toward war with Mother England to free up the center of the continent for Anglo-American settlement.

In the 21st Century, we witness the same kind of fertility explosions among illegal immigrants to the U.S.

You'll notice that there aren't a lot of Amerindians around these days.

November 3, 2011

Did Shakespeare write Shakespeare?

A perennial controversy is over who really wrote Shakespeare's plays. Rather than get into the endless details, I got to wondering whether there are any other controversies over who really wrote something. For example, 1984 was actually written by a man named Eric Blair, but we know that. 

What I'm wondering is whether there are any other controversies over who wrote famous works of literature. If they were fairly common, then that would seem to make the anti-Stratfordian case seem more plausible. It these controversies are very rare, then the likelihood that there just happens to be a controversy over the most famous of all writers would seem lower.

By way of analogy, when I was a kid, there was a controversy over whether Paul McCartney was dead. If there had been other raging controversies over which musicians were dead, such as whether ? of ? and the Mysterians (96 Tears) was dead, then the Paul Is Dead brouhaha would have seemed more plausible: "Oh, rock stars are always dying and not telling anybody, so it's perfectly likely that Paul is dead." On the other hand, if the only controversy involved the most famous band of all time, then it would seem more likely to be just some stupid idea that obsessive potheads made up.

Similarly, lots of people believed that Elvis, Jim Morison, and Tupac Shakur weren't dead. But that seemed like wishful thinking. If lots of people were going around saying stuff like, "You know, The Big Bopper? Chantilly Lace? I never really liked him, but I thought this was interesting: he didn't really die in that plane crash with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. He was actually on the bus with Waylon Jennings and just used the plane crash to skip out on some IRS trouble and a statuatory rape rap *. I don't really care about the Big Bopper, but I thought that was interesting," well, that would make it seem a little more plausible that fanatical fans of Presley, Morison, and Shakur were denying their heroes' deaths: Rock stars are always disappearing. That's what they do.  

Of course, there are a lot of questions about whether bestsellers written by celebrities were ghostwritten. For example, Michael Jordan is said to have written more books than he has read. Jack Cashil argues that Bill Ayers wrote Barack Obama's autobiography for him. Nobody doubts that Karen Hughes wrote George W. Bush's 1999 campaign autobiography for him. 

But what about real books? The only recent such controversy I can think of involves the 1965 Nobel Laureate in literature, Mikhail Sholokhov. In the 1960s, Soviet dissidents, Alexander Solzhenitsyn on the right and Roy Medvedev on the left, argued that the Stalin Prize winner had plagiarized the manuscript for And Quiet Flows the Don from a dead Cossack officer. Looking at Wikipedia, it appears that most of the more recent evidence points toward Sholokhov as being the actual author, although who knows who cares enough about this dusty controversy to edit Wikipedia.

If you go farther back in time, there may be more such controversies. One that I'm aware of involves the epistles of Ivan the Terrible, first Czar of all the Russias. Wikipedia writes:
D.S. Mirsky called Ivan "a pamphleteer of genius". The epistles attributed to him are the masterpieces of old Russian (perhaps all Russian) political journalism. They may be too full of texts from the Scriptures and the Fathers, and their Church Slavonic is not always correct. But they are full of cruel irony, expressed in pointedly forcible terms.

Stalin apparently liked Ivan the Terrible's style.
The shameless bully and the great polemicist are seen together in a flash when he taunts the runaway prince Kurbsky with the question: "If you are so sure of your righteousness, why did you run away and not prefer martyrdom at my hands?" Such strokes were well calculated to drive his correspondent into a rage. "The part of the cruel tyrant elaborately upbraiding an escaped victim while he continues torturing those in his reach may be detestable, but Ivan plays it with truly Shakespearian breadth of imagination".[37] These letters are often the only existing source on Ivan's personality and provide crucial information on his reign, but Harvard professor Edward Keenan has argued that these letters are 17th century forgeries. This contention, however, has not been widely accepted, and other scholars, such as John Fennell and Ruslan Skrynnikov continued to argue for their authenticity. Recent archival discoveries of 16th century copies of the letters strengthen the argument for their authenticity.

On the other hand, note that this is the opposite of the Shakespeare controversy. With Ivan the Terrible's letters, the question is whether this important and famous man wrote these works, or whether somebody's lower ranking's work is attributed to the Czar. With the Shakespearean controversy, the standard view is that the plays were written by an obscure hustler from Stratford, while the heretics argue that they were written by somebody more important and high-ranking, such as the Earl of Oxford, Francis Bacon, or King James (the candidate of Malcolm X).
* Warning: Don't believe anything you read here about ? or The Big Bopper.

Is Silicon Valley racist? CNN wants to know!

There's been a kerfuffle going on for a week now over an upcoming documentary for CNN by Soledad O'Brien on racism in Silicon Valley. Ms. O'Brien is, apparently, CNN's minority expert on minorityism because she's a nice looking white woman who claims to be a black and Hispanic twofer. Prominent tech blogger Michael Arrington got himself in a lot of trouble for noting that not many blacks found successful tech startups and implying that he didn't think that this was the Biggest Problem in the World. 

Telling people what they want to hear

In general, the field of psychology is doing relatively well, especially compared to former contenders such as cultural anthropology. One reason is that psychologists have developed a number of quantitative tools that actually have predictive validity, such as IQ tests. 

On the other hand, there isn't a lot of press and public demand for studies gleaning wisdom from IQ tests. Instead, there's much demand for studies uncovering white racism, male sexism, and so forth. Not surprisingly, demand generates supply. From the New York Times: 
Fraud Case Seen as a Red Flag for Psychology ResearchBy BENEDICT CAREY

A well-known psychologist in the Netherlands whose work has been published widely in professional journals falsified data and made up entire experiments, an investigating committee has found. Experts say the case exposes deep flaws in the way science is done in a field, psychology, that has only recently earned a fragile respectability. 
The psychologist, Diederik Stapel, of Tilburg University, committed academic fraud in “several dozen” published papers, many accepted in respected journals and reported in the news media, according to a report released on Monday by the three Dutch institutions where he has worked ... 
In recent years, psychologists have reported a raft of findings on race biases, brain imaging and even extrasensory perception that have not stood up to scrutiny. Outright fraud may be rare, these experts say, but they contend that Dr. Stapel took advantage of a system that allows researchers to operate in near secrecy and massage data to find what they want to find, without much fear of being challenged. ... 
In a prolific career, Dr. Stapel published papers on the effect of power on hypocrisy, on racial stereotyping and on how advertisements affect how people view themselves. Many of his findings appeared in newspapers around the world, including The New York Times, which reported in December on his study about advertising and identity. 
In a statement posted Monday on Tilburg University’s Web site, Dr. Stapel apologized to his colleagues. “I have failed as a scientist and researcher,” it read, in part. “I feel ashamed for it and have great regret.” ... 
Dr. Stapel has published about 150 papers, many of which, like the advertising study, seem devised to make a splash in the media. The study published in Science this year claimed that white people became more likely to “stereotype and discriminate” against black people when they were in a messy environment, versus an organized one. Another study, published in 2009, claimed that people judged job applicants as more competent if they had a male voice. The investigating committee did not post a list of papers that it had found fraudulent. 

November 2, 2011

What are other examples of Morrissey-in-East-L.A. Syndrome?

In Chicago in the 1990s on lowly public access TV there was a sketch comedy show starring Dale Chapman called "We're Geniuses in France," the joke being that they were nobodies at home. 

Everybody knows that Jerry Lewis is more popular/respected in France than in America. Another example of this phenomenon is the popularity of Morrissey, formerly lead singer of the English 1980s art mope band The Smiths, among East L.A. Chicanos. 

Morrissey is #3 on Stuff Chicanos Like, ahead of the Dodgers and Pretending to Hate Thanksgiving, and behind only the Virgin Mary and Art Laboe. Art is an octogenarian Armenian disk jockey who may have invented the phrase "oldies but goodies." Chicanos traditionally love pre-British Invasion r&b and rock 'n' roll, especially doo-wop. 
They cannot, and I repeat, cannot, get enough of their “Oldies but Goodies”, or their “Memories of El Monte”. Art Laboe, a syndicated radio personality, gets to the core of Chicano culture with his dedication show where you can hear a plethora of Chicano callers from all over the United States call in and say things like “I’d like to dedicate ‘Angel Baby’ to my baby Angel who is locked up, baby, I love you” or “Yeah, I’d like to dedicate ‘These Arms of Mine’ to my hyna Rosie, hope you visit this weekend” or Art Laboe himself will send the dedications, “Little Puppet from Cypress sends his love to Babygirl, says he misses you and can’t wait to be home”.

I think the last time I listened to Art Laboe's dedication show was driving back from Mt. Whitney in 1977 when nothing else was coming in on the AM radio in my dad's Buick. "Angel Baby" was one of the songs dedicated (or maybe it was "Earth Angel," or, now that I think about it, probably both). So, some things never change. 

Doo-wop started out as an African-American vocal harmonizing style, and then spread to Puerto Ricans and Italians in Eastern cities. There were black L.A. doo-wop groups like The Penguins. On the charts, it peaked around 1961, but Mexican-Americans in East L.A. kept the faith. So, loving doo-wop in the 1970s in East L.A. was kind of like loving Morrissey in the 2000s in East L.A.

Anyway, what are some other examples of this phenomenon of individuals being more popular in some other culture than in their own, like Jerry Lewis in France or Morrissey in East. L.A.? Which blacks are more popular with whites than with other blacks? Which whites are more popular with blacks than with whites?

November 1, 2011

Johnny Depp in Hunter S. Thompson's "The Rum Diary"

From my movie review in Taki's Magazine:
Writers traditionally bemoan how the movie industry fails to appreciate them. Yet, there are more films about writers than there is demand from the paying public for motion pictures about individuals whose jobs involve sitting still and, every so often, scratching themselves. For instance, this week brought Anonymous, in which we learn that Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare, and next week imports Young Goethe in Love
Hunter S. Thompson isn’t in quite the same league as Shakespeare and Goethe, but he did write one epochally hilarious book. The Rum Diary—a quasi-autobiographical novel about Thompson’s 1960 misadventures as the astrology and bowling correspondent for an English-language newspaper in Puerto Rico—isn’t, unfortunately, it. 
Johnny Depp, who stars as the 23-year-old Thompson, claims to have discovered The Rum Diary‘s moldering manuscript at Thompson’s fortified compound outside Aspen while prepping for the 1998 adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and then talked the reluctant author into allowing publication. Depp’s implication that Thompson—who loved spending money on firearms, drugs, motorcycles, room service, explosives, knives, valet parking, and vicious animals—had passed up getting paid for his juvenilia out of aesthetic modesty doesn’t jibe well with his long decline in which he sold every thought that flitted across his short-circuited brain. Among major American writers, Thompson was rivaled only by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, and Tom Wolfe as a flaming materialist.

Read the whole thing there.

Richard Lynn's "The Chosen People"

In, I review Richard Lynn's new book The Chosen People: A Study of Jewish Intelligence and Achievement.
It has long been predicted that Jewish achievement in science will slow down, as affluent younger Jews turn to more lucrative or fun careers, such as Wall Street and Hollywood. But we don't yet see that in the Nobel Prize data. In the 21st century so far, Jews have won 24 of the 91 hard science Nobels, or 26 percent, which is even higher than their 20th Century rate.

Read the whole thing there.

"The Last Taboo"

From Mother Jones:
The Last Taboo 
As of October 31 there will be 7 billion humans on earth,. So why can't we talk about population? 
—By Julia Whitty

A decent article, but she makes a complete hash of the Sierra Club story, evidently trusting Morris Dees (!) to be a disinterested observer.

Sweden v. Switzerland

In Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Sweden (and other Scandinavian countries) are frequently cited as models for all humanity. In contrast, the other Sw European country, Switzerland, is mentioned only in passing, and no attention is devoted to Switzerland's avoidance of war, even though much of the book is devoted to international warfare. 

That the Swiss managed to remain at peace during WWI and WWII is far more of an accomplishment than that the Swedes managed it. Sweden is not strategically located. It's not on the way to anywhere other than Norway. Switzerland, in contrast, is on the way to the Rhine, Rhone, Po, and Danube river valleys. And still, the Swedes were basically the Nazis' patsies during WWII, Thus, Hitler mounted plans to invade Switzerland but called them off as too costly.

And while Sweden was an ethnically homogeneous society in the 1940s, Switzerland has four national languages. 

There are various reasons for why we hear more about Sweden than Switzerland. For one thing, the Swedes tend to loudly evangelize their culture as a model for the world, while the Swiss tend to keep their mouths shut. More fundamentally, the Swiss example is bad for Pinker's overall thesis that there has been a general trend toward Swedishness, which reduces both international warfare, hunting, militarism, guns, isolation, cosmopolitanism, spanking children, and so forth and so on. 

The Swiss example raises doubts about Pinker's overall argument: To stay at peace, the Swiss in the 20th Century had a highly militarized society, with constant weekend drilling of civilian reserves, and a national obsession with rifle shooting. To maintain internal peace, the Swiss devolved domestic government down to the cantonal level, which are overwhelmingly monocultural. The Swiss stayed out of most international organizations, not joining the UN until 2002. The Swiss stayed out of the European Union, which is why the Swiss franc has gone through the roof recently as the Euro has teetered. Culturally, the Swiss tend to be somewhat more conservative than the Swedes, although this is all by European standards.

In case you are interested in more, here's a 2000 piece I wrote for VDARE on Switzerland.

Breaking news: Diversity <> equality

There have been a couple of think pieces lately noticing that Diversity and Equality are not the same thing. Here's Jim Sleeper on Why Diversity At Elite Schools Deepens Inequality

And Alexander Stille writes in the NYT:
IT’S a puzzle: one dispossessed group after another — blacks, women, Hispanics and gays — has been gradually accepted in the United States, granted equal rights and brought into the mainstream. 
At the same time, in economic terms, the United States has gone from being a comparatively egalitarian society to one of the most unequal democracies in the world. 
The two shifts are each huge and hugely important: one shows a steady march toward democratic inclusion, the other toward a tolerance of economic stratification that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. 
The United States prides itself on the belief that “anyone can be president,” and what better example than Barack Obama, son of a black Kenyan immigrant and a white American mother — neither of them rich. 
And yet more than half the presidents over the past 110 years attended Harvard, Yale or Princeton and graduates of Harvard and Yale have had a lock on the White House for the last 23 years, across four presidencies. Thus we have become both more inclusive and more elitist. 
It’s a surprising contradiction. Is the confluence of these two movements a mere historical accident? Or are the two trends related?

Back in 2005, I wrote in The American Conservative about the fundamental reason then-Harvard president Larry Summers had got himself in so much trouble at Harvard for mentioning a few facts about intelligence out loud:
Summers' job is partly to enhance, but mostly to protect, one of the world's most valuable brand names. "Harvard" stands for "intelligence," extreme far right edge of the IQ Bell Curve smarts. America is increasingly stratified by IQ, and the resulting class war that the clever are waging upon the clueless means that having Harvard's endorsement of your brainpower is ever more desirable. Thus, applications and SAT scores have skyrocketed over the last half century. 
Yet, Harvard's IQ elitism sharply contradicts its professed egalitarianism. The typical Harvard professor or student considers himself superior to ordinary folks for two conflicting reasons: first, he constantly proclaims his belief in human equality, but they don't; and second, he has a high IQ, but they don't. 
Further, he believes his brains weren't the luck of his genes. No, he earned them. Which in turn means he feels that dumb people deserve to be dumb. 
Ivy League presidents aren't much worried that the left half of the Bell Curve will get themselves well enough organized to challenge the hegemony of the IQ overclass. No, what they fear is opposition to their use of IQ sorting mechanisms, such as the politically incorrect but crucial SAT, from those identity politics pressure groups who perform below average in a pure meritocracy, such as women, blacks, and Hispanics. But, they each boast enough high IQ activists, like Nancy Hopkins, to make trouble for prestige universities. 
So, Harvard, like virtually all famous universities, buys off females and minorities with "a commitment to diversity" -- in other words, quotas. By boosting less competent women, blacks and Hispanics at the expense of the more marginal men, whites, and Asians, Harvard preserves most of its freedom to continue to discriminate ruthlessly on IQ. 
What is obviously in the best interest of Harvard, and of the IQ aristocracy in general, is for everybody just to shut up about group differences in intelligence. Stifling arguments allows the IQ upper class to quietly push its interests at the expense of everyone else.

The Protestant View (according to Monty Python)

The NYT reports:
Breaking a Long Silence on Population Control 
Major American environmental groups have dodged the subject of population control for decades, wary of getting caught up in the bruising politics of reproductive health.

The first part of that sentence is on the money, while the second part is misleading. Back when the Catholic Church was vastly stronger politically, population control was a favorite topic of the media (e.g., Paul Ehrlich appearing on the Johnny Carson Show dozens of times). 

I've been thinking about this for awhile, and I've come to the conclusion that population control was a very big deal in the press back when Protestants were worried that Irish Catholics were going to swamp them. As soon as that threat disappeared, Protestants lost interest in the whole question, and we rapidly moved to today's situation where only crimethinkers publicly suggest that maybe some of those 10,000 NGOs in Haiti should provide Depo Provera shots.

For the old time Protestant view, watch this clip from Monthy Python's The Meaning of Life from 1983.

October 31, 2011

The Riots in England

One major theme of Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature is that They Do It Better in Northern Europe, which makes the August riots in England kind of embarrassing. A reader sends in some numbers:
Hey, Steve.  I'm a longtime reader and I'd thought I'd throw out some interesting data.  The government has estimated that 46 percent of the arrested rioters were black, 42 percent were white, and 7 percent were "Asian" (ie Indian/Pakistani/Muslim).

Using the census data on the ethnic makeup of the impacted riot areas and weighting those areas by the number arrested, blacks seem to have been arrested at 6-6.5x the white rate.  Asians were arrested at about 0.85x the white rate.  One downside to using the government data, with respect to Asians, is that it doesn't differentiate between Middle Easterners (Arabs, Persians, Afghans, Turks) and South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankan Tamils).

I found a separate list of the names of the arrested rioters.

Looking through the names,  I found that slightly under half of the Asian rioters were of Middle Easterners of non-South Asian origin (Morrocan, Egyptian, Arab, Persian, Turk).  That's quite an overrepresentation when you consider that their numbers aren't especially large in the UK.  Adjusting for their representation in the local population and making some reasonable estimates, it seems they were arrested at about 6x the white rate.  This is a conservative estimate and the actual representation could be even higher.    
For South Asians, I calculated estimates for three groups - Indian Hindus, Indian Sikhs, and South Asian Muslims (mainly Pakistani, some Bangladeshi, few Indian).  Indian Hindus were arrested at 1/7th the white rate, Indian Sikhs were arrested at 1/2 the white rate, and South Asian Muslims were arrested at 0.8x the white rate.

Another source claims that the top nationalities of arrested rioters were Jamaicans, Somalis, and Poles.

None of these numbers are adjusted for age.  The average rioter was 22 years of age and ethnic minorities tend to be younger than white British, so factor that in when looking at arrest rates.

So, historian David Starkey seems to have been more or less right: a black vanguard started the riots and white lumpenproles and Ali G-like immigrants from some countries (but not others) finished them off.

Embrace the homeless?

From the front page of the New York Times:
Homeless Stake a Claim at Occupy Protests 
By ADAM NAGOURNEY 32 minutes ago 
From Los Angeles to Wall Street, divisions have arisen about how much, if at all, to embrace homeless men and women joining the protesting ranks in large numbers.

Lemme guess: the homeless guys are all for their being embraced, but the hippie chicks ... not so much.

Should small children be allowed to vote?

Jonathan Last is puzzled by Matthew Yglesias's call for letting small children, such as seven-year-olds, vote.

Yglesias’s goal is just to hasten the demographic transition to Chicago-style one party Democratic rule by giving Hispanics more votes now. He's impatient that the Democrats have to wait until the anchor babies grow up. 

Personally, instead of the Democrats fostering mass immigration by fertile but uneducated illegal immigrants so they can win elections, I think it would be better all-around just to let the Democrats copy names off tombstones and register them to vote, like in Chicago. Why go through all the needless trouble of electing a new people (as Brecht said) when you can just have a democracy of the dead (as Chesterton might have said if he were a Chicago alderman)?

Herman Cain accused of sexual harassment

In 1991, a black conservative, Clarence Thomas, was accused of flirting with a black woman. This was the biggest news in the history of the world for about a week. (If you are too young to remember this, it's hard to explain just how big a deal this was supposed to be.) In response, Presidential candidate Bill Clinton announced that in The Year of the Woman, he would scourge sexism. This struck me as a little imprudent of him, since I was traveling down to Wal-Mart at the time on business and was hearing from Arkansawyers that their governor was a man like any man, only more so. In 1992, I wrote an article predicting that Bill Clinton would eventually get in trouble under the current definition of sexual harassment (making an unwanted sexual advance), which he did in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, in which he perjured himself (losing his law license) over Monica Lewinsky. But I couldn't find anybody to publish it. You can read it here.

This is another one of those connections that disappeared down the memory hole: that Clinton's impeachment was an outgrowth of the Anita Hill brouhaha, which Clinton had initially benefited from.

By the way, has Anita Hill ever gotten married? It probably would have been simpler for all concerned if Clarence had just married Anita instead of that blonde. A woman scorned, and all that ...

"The Better Angels of Our Nature" by Steven Pinker

My long review of Pinker's important book on "Why Violence Has Declined" is now up at The American Conservative website.

An excerpt:
Encouraging as all this is, Better Angels can be a frustrating read, in part because of the limitations of Pinker’s numbers-driven methodology, his Blue State Triumphalist biases, and his sprawling subject. It would have been helpful for him to have distinguished between, at one pole, disorganized violence committed by, say, your local mugger and, at the other, organized violence committed by, say, the Manhattan Project. Ironically, the Los Alamos physicists exemplified the virtues to which Pinker admiringly attributes the decline in violence, such as rationality, cosmopolitanism, and Enlightenment humanism. Yet those traits helped make those men horrifyingly lethal. 
Sure, many examples of violence fall into the gray area between a carjacker and Niels Bohr. Yet drawing this distinction points out that the opposite extremes of violence might not trend in the same direction at the same time. That crime has been falling for the last few years in the U.S. at the same time as war is becoming less common around the world is hardly proof that the two tendencies are, as Pinker argues, causally connected. 
Why should disorganized violence fall in the long run? Because the disorganized are largely losers. As the Big Lebowski tells Jeff Bridges’s long-haired The Dude, “Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost. … The bums will always lose.” 
Not always. But they usually lose. 
So what happened in the mid-1960s that we had to start locking our cars and houses? Why did Watts and then so many other inner cities explode into rape and pillage? 
This is a dangerous issue for Pinker, one he handles creatively. He praises the “Rights Revolutions” of the 1960s for reducing domestic death and destruction, but his graphs don’t actually show much evidence for that. His basic marker, the homicide rate, hit bottom in America in 1957 and started shooting up again about the time the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed. A few years later, women’s lib legalized the abortion of tens of millions of fetuses. ... 
(Impressively, Pinker acknowledges this objection to his paean to the pacific powers of feminism. He argues in response that, in the long view, abortion replaced infanticide. Okay, but when I was conceived in 1958, I was in far less danger of being exposed on a mountainside than anyone conceived in the 1970s was of being aborted. A better argument is Pinker’s last one: abortion has been in modest decline for the last two decades.) 
Black and feminist leaders object forcefully to mention of any side effects of their ascents to power. Brilliantly, Pinker, who still wears his hair like Roger Daltrey of The Who, sidesteps these landmines by blaming the high crime rate of 1965-1995 on his own kind: the damn, dirty hippies.

Read the whole thing there
If you think I'm kidding about Pinker's maneuver, here's the cover of The Who Sell Out, to which Pinker, a big Who fan, gives the caption "Fig. 3-17. Flouting conventions of cleanliness and propriety in the 1960s" to argue that the 1960s represented a temporary blip in the Civilizing Process. He explains:
"Throwing away your wristwatch or bathing in baked beans is, of course, a far cry from committing actual violence. The 1960s were supposed to be the era of peace and love, and so they were in some respects. But the glorification of dissoluteness shaded into an indulgence of violence and then into violence itself. At the end of every concert, The Who famously smashed their instruments to smithereens, which could be dismissed as harmless theater were it not for the fact that drummer Keith Moon also destroyed dozens of hotel rooms; partly deafened Pete Townshend by detonating his drums on stage; beat up his wife, girlfriend, and daughter; threatened to injure the hands of a keyboardist of the Faces for dating his ex-wife; and accidentally killed his bodyguard by running over him with his car before dying himself in 1978 of the customary drug overdose. ... When rock music burst onto the scene i the 1950s, politicians and clergymen villified it for corrupting morals and encouraging lawlessness ... Do we now have to -- gulp -- admit that they were right? ... there are plausible causal arrows from the decivilizing mindset to the facilitation of actual violence."

No doubt to some extent, and I've probably made the same argument myself, but did the damn, dirty hippies really commit all that much violence, especially relative to, say, African-Americans? Were The Who all that big in Watts? The elephant in the room is Pinker's sainted Rights Revolution, specifically the Civil Rights Revolution, which triumphed in 1964, yet was immediately followed by black rioting from the fall of 1964 through 1968 and a long rise in urban crime.

What was the driving force?

We have the testimony of countless leaders of Rights Revolutions that they were inspired by the Civil Rights Revolution. That was the rhetoric of Gay Lib following the Stonewall riot of 1969. Gay Lib then led to hundreds of thousands of deaths from AIDS -- not exactly violence, but certainly disorder and death.

In summary, read my whole review there. I'll be revisiting Pinker's book on my blog in the future because I have an enormous number of notes that I couldn't fit into my 3,000 word review (is there any bigger topic than violence?), but to hold a good discussion, I need readers to get up to the baseline.

Making the world safe for polygamy, one Predator drone at a time

By Adam Nossiter in the NYT:
TRIPOLI, Libya — It was just a passing reference to marriage in a leader’s soberly delivered speech, but all week it has unsettled women here as well as allies abroad. 
In announcing the success of the Libyan revolution and calling for a new, more pious nation, the head of the interim government, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, also seemed to clear the way for unrestricted polygamy in a Muslim country where it has been limited and rare for decades. 
It looked like a sizable step backward for women at a moment when much here — institutions, laws, social relations — is still in play after the end of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s 42 years of authoritarian rule. 
In his speech, Mr. Abdel-Jalil declared that a Qaddafi-era law that placed restrictions on multiple marriages, which is a tenet of Islamic law, or Shariah, would be done away with. The law, which stated that a first wife had to give permission before others were added, for instance, had kept polygamy rare here. 
“This law is contrary to Shariah and must be stopped,” Mr. Abdel-Jalil told the crowd, vowing that the new government would adhere more faithfully to Shariah. The next day he reiterated the point to reporters at a news conference: “Shariah allows polygamy,” he said. Mr. Abdel-Jalil is known for his piety. 
He also remarked cryptically, “We will not abolish any law.” 
Still, some women here saw the collective remarks of the chairman of the Transitional National Council as a menacing sign that the new Libya would mean new repression. Human-rights lawyers also viewed the comments as a clearly aimed swipe at the Qaddafi law on marriage, as did a scholar of Islamic law at the University of Tripoli. 
Libya experts abroad saw the leader’s foray as a political effort aimed at placating newly influential Islamists. “He and the other leaders are not quite certain which way this is going to turn,” said Dirk J. Vandewalle, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College. “They are hedging their bets. The worrisome thing is he mentioned these things, which take him outside the mainstream.” 
Abroad, the reaction was one of dismay among allies whose military firepower ensured Colonel Qaddafi’s fall. ... 
There was disquiet that Mr. Abdel-Jalil had zeroed in on the marriage issue in a relatively brief speech. Unprompted, the young women circulating in a university courtyard angrily brought up his comments.
... Unlike in its African Muslim neighbors to the south, where multiple-wife family compounds are frequently seen, polygamy has hardly been part of the essential fabric of daily life here. Under Colonel Qaddafi, there was a notion that polygamous marriages were the exception, said Azza Kamel Maghur, a lawyer here. Apart from the wife’s consent — delivered in front of a judge — a man had to give reasons for taking another wife. 
Like other women here, Ms. Maghur, whose father was briefly foreign minister under Colonel Qaddafi, was sharply critical of the country’s temporary leader for proposing fundamental changes during a period of transition. “Women gained rights in the 1970s,” she said. “We don’t want to lose them.” ... 
In Benghazi on Friday, several hundred men staged a demonstration in support of Mr. Abdel-Jalil and demanded that his prescriptions be carried out. ...

You notice how no guy ever says in one of these articles: "Hey, under polygamy, I'd probably wind up a lonely bachelor, so I'm against polygamy!"? Are guys really that dumb that they don't get the basic math? I'm sure that Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and his male relatives will do very well for themselves in the marriage market as long as he's head of government, but what about men as a whole? How do more men wind up better off if some men get to have four wives?

This sort of speech might almost make you skeptical about the motivations of elites. But if average Libyan guys start being cynical about the motivations of Mustafa Abdel-Jalils call for more polygamy, then average Americans might someday stop believing that the reason Bill Gates is always calling for more immigration is not because he's in favor of more equality, and start wondering if its because he's in favor of more inequality. If this kind of bad attitude is allowed, Southerners might start to imagine Jefferson Davis had ulterior motives in favoring slavery and secession.

Anyway, making the law more favorable to polygamy probably won't have much impact statistically because the truth is that outside of tropical hoe agriculture economies where the women do most of the work, large numbers of men can't afford to have a lot of wives. The irony is that this is especially true in Islamist cultures where the women have to be kept out of sight. Wives can't very easily be bringing home the bacon if they can't drive and have to be escorted everywhere by male relatives and have to wear awkward tent-like clothes that they have to grasp with one hand at all times.

October 30, 2011

Breaking News: Tyler Perry Fans Don't Like Yosemite

From the L.A. Times:
Yosemite seeks a more diverse visitor base 
Only about 1% of the nearly 4 million people who visit the national park each year are black, and the park system remains largely the province of whites. So officials were elated earlier this month when two groups of African Americans were touring Yosemite the same day. 
By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times 
October 30, 2011 
Reporting from Yosemite National Park— Their Yosemite Valley tour was nearing its end, and the church ladies and gents from South Los Angeles had heard enough. Almost. 
"He's been telling us stories he thinks we want to hear for two hours," said Ann Hale, 70, heaving a sigh of frustration from the back of the tram. 
In fact, guide William Fontana had been regaling his listeners — most of them white — with stories about John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt, about fur trappers and rock climbers. 
"We're still waiting for at least a few words about Yosemite's African American Buffalo Soldiers," Hale grumbled to a fellow passenger. 
After filing off the tram, some women from Grace United Methodist Church surrounded Fontana on the sidewalk outside the Yosemite Lodge. 
"Questions, ladies?" he asked. 
"Yes," Hale said. "We want to know why you left out Yosemite's African American story."
Fontana seemed puzzled. "I don't have enough time to talk about Buffalo Soldiers in a two-hour tour," he explained. 
Hale nodded politely and walked away. 
For more than 60 years, the National Park Service has been trying to reach out to African Americans and Latinos. But its 395 parks, monuments, waterways, historic places and recreational areas remain largely the province of white Americans and tourists from around the world. 

A few weeks ago, a 300-foot Giant Sequoia fell in the Sierras. Not surprisingly, the only people who saw it fall (and videocammed the last few seconds) were a middle-aged German chemist and his wife. German tourists really like the Sierras. (And yes, a tree falling in the forest does make a sound.)
In an interview, Park Service Director Jon Jarvis reiterated an old lament: Parks must attract a more diverse slice of the American public or eventually risk losing taxpayer support. Yet only about 1% of the nearly 4 million people who visit Yosemite each year are African Americans. 
So officials were elated earlier this month when they learned that two groups of African Americans, the one from Grace United Methodist and one from the Inglewood Senior Center, were touring the park on the same day. 
That meant there were more than 65 black Americans on the valley floor on the same day, an event so rare that ranger Shelton Johnson — who is of African American and Native American descent and has worked in Yosemite for 18 years — called it "possibly unprecedented."

Leaving aside the more obvious things that can be said, I like to do compare and contrasts, so I want to compare the positive aversion many blacks feel toward visiting Yosemite, which is the crown jewel of what I might call Northern Californianess, with black attitudes toward playing golf. Over the years, there has been vastly more bias and exclusion in golf than in Yosemite, yet a not insubstantial fraction of black men with the money to play golf are highly enthusiastic about playing the sport. Going back to the early 1970s, I have frequently been grouped in foursomes with black male golfers, most of whom were pretty good at the game, knew the rules, and the etiquette, and were a pleasure to play with. 

About Yosemite, eh, not so much.  

So, what is it about Yosemite that repels blacks? Do they see it as a locus of white hippie-dippie environmentalists? 

Or, maybe blacks tend to be more scared of heights than whites? This fear is not at all unreasonable in Yosemite, with its colossal cliffs. Something like a dozen and a half visitors have fallen to their deaths this year in Yosemite Valley alone. I vaguely recall black comedians joking about blacks being especially afraid of heights.

Or do blacks just not like camping?