January 28, 2012

Was Nixon gay?

Are we talking about Richard M. Nixon or Cynthia Nixon? Or both?

A new book says Dick Nixon was once seen clutching the hand of Presidential Buddy Bebe Rebozo for a minute. Proof!

As for actress Cynthia Nixon, formerly of Sex and the City, she is in the dog house for saying she wasn't born a lesbian, she chose to be one. This is "controversial," even insensitive, since everybody knows that the behavior of all minority groups is controlled wholly by their genes; nobody should be allowed to doubt genetic determinism like Nixon is doing, at least not in public. Think of the children! Is she some sort of hater? (Personally, I pointed out to my wife back in the late 1990s that Nixon and/or the character she played on that show was an obvious angry repressed lesbian, but Nixon didn't seem to notice that herself until several years later.)

Frank Bruni in the NYT punditizes "Genetic or Not, Gay Won't Go Away." Of course, it never seems to dawn on Bruni and most other commentators that there might be significant statistical differences between gay males and lesbians, as I pointed out 18 years ago in Why Lesbians Aren't Gay, one of which is that gay men tend to be more enthusiastic about the born-that-way theory than are lesbians. You just aren't supposed to notice stuff. Noticing things is the cause of all the trouble in the world.

Seriously, what has changed over the last 18 years? The big difference I've noticed is that in the 1990s male homosexuals, qua homosexuals, tended to be more apolitical, with more humor, art, and fashion to occupy themselves, while lesbians tended to be the Shock Workers of the long march through the institutions, the truest true believers in the social conditioning theories dominant in 1990s academia.

Since then, gay men have become more politicized. Back in 1994, few cared about Gay Marriage, but it's one of those issues that can easily be turned into a test of whether or not "You like me! You really like me!" Politicization over Gay Marriage meant that gays' traditional snarky comments about lesbians were bad for the coalition, so the concept that lesbians aren't gay has become much more politically unpopular over the years.

Why are SAT scores rising at the high end?

In recent years, the number of kids scoring 700 or higher on SAT tests has been increasing. For example, the number of students with 700-800 scores on Math has gone up from 75,000 in 2001 to 112,000 in 2011. There are no doubt a lot of reasons for this, such as ambitious students who would have only taken the ACT in the past because it's the default in their region now taking both the ACT and the SAT, and more foreign elite students taking a shot at the SAT.

But here's another one that probably has an effect but I can't say how big: Back in the 1970s, students used to take drugs the night before the SAT. Now, with the spread of prescriptions for Ritalin and Adderall, they are more likely to take drugs the morning of the SAT. 

Here's an opinion piece in the NYT that's skeptical about the rise of concentration drugs:
TO date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve. Until recently, most studies of these drugs had not been properly randomized, and some of them had other methodological flaws. 
But in 2009, findings were published from a well-controlled study that had been going on for more than a decade, and the results were very clear. The study randomly assigned almost 600 children with attention problems to four treatment conditions. Some received medication alone, some cognitive-behavior therapy alone, some medication plus therapy, and some were in a community-care control group that received no systematic treatment. At first this study suggested that medication, or medication plus therapy, produced the best results. However, after three years, these effects had faded, and by eight years there was no evidence that medication produced any academic or behavioral benefits.

Yeah, well, as the man said, in the long run, we're all dead. In the short run, there are a lot of key moments in life that help determine what path you get on. Taking the SAT might be one of them. As Robert Heinlein's narrator Kip says in the juvenile sci-fi classic Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, he made sure to stock his second hand spacesuit with "almost any pill a man can take take to help him past a hump that might kill him." (Of course, if you take too many pills, you can wind up, say, writing the uncut version of Stranger in a Strange Land. I've never read a good account of Heinlein's drug use, but it's pretty obvious he was very interested in them -- e.g., the "tempus fugit" drugs in Puppet Masters that make time appear to be moving more slowly.)

I sometimes wonder what percentage of my competitors in the punditry field are on prescription stimulants. 

There was an okay movie last year, Limitless, with Bradley Cooper as a would-be novelist with writer's block who gets a supply of a black market superdrug that makes him vastly smarter. One of the first things this writer does after his IQ doubles is to stop being a writer. I suspect there may be a lesson in there for me somewhere. I should drink four or five Diet Cokes and try to figure it out.

Does socializing lower women's effective IQs?

That most authoritative source on all things scientific, the London Daily Mail, reports:
Researchers conducted a series of tests on groups of men and women with similar high IQ ratings. In the first set of tasks, the subjects were given basic puzzles to solve.  
Then they were each told how well the others in the group had performed before being given another series of similar tests. 
Once they knew the others were good at the tasks, the performance and IQ of both sexes dropped, but women's more significantly. 
Scans showed the part of the brain dealing with emotion increased in activity while that associated with problem solving decreased. 
The researchers, at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in the U.S., say the results suggest companies should develop strategies to get the most out of staff who may be 'susceptible to social pressures' in small groups.

This seems plausible to me. Young women studying alone do fine, as school and college grades show, but in groups, women tend to be more cooperative and less competitive than men, more concerned with everybody feeling comfortable, so they tend to turn down their cognitive levels.

This avoids the kind of problems I used to run into when socializing before the Internet gave me a better outlet for the corrosive side of my intellect. At a party, I'd start out popular because I knew enough about most things to be able to ask other guests intelligent questions about their personal field of interest. But I tended to get really interested in what they told me and kept asking questions, which at first they found flattering. But I'd eventually get carried away thinking about the topic and get to the point where I'd ask some extremely unsettling question that the other guest didn't want to think about at all (e.g., So, if the Efficient Markets Hypothesis that you studied at B-School is correct, how do you people in the stocks and mutual funds business add value?).

Very few women allow themselves to get close to committing these kind of faux pas in a social situations, which makes the world a more pleasant place.

Things you learn from Wikipedia

I just noticed that the Wikipedia article about me says:
In a 2006 National Observer column, Paul Gottfried (who also writes for VDARE.com) reported that Sailer operates a computer business in California, commenting that "given the politically incorrect topic that he addresses and the precariousness of his journalistic career, this advocate of immigration restriction is indeed wise to have other sources of income."[8]

If you happen to find my computer business or my other sources of income, could you return them to me? I suspect they must be hiding in the same place as my gold medal from the 1984 Summer Olympics in the Plunge for Distance. Also, if you stumble upon my wisdom, please bring it back. I could definitely use it. 

The Forgotten

The career of journalism is not one conducive to having your name go down in history. Most journalists are forgotten within a week of their last byline. Your best hope of being remembered might be to write for a periodical that happens to outlive you and thus has an interest in dredging up your name now and then.

Much of what we think we know about controversies of the past is filtered via this "survivorship bias." The current editors of The New Republic or The Nation or National Review or The Atlantic explain that the key intellectual breakthrough of the past age came in some article they happened to have published. But a huge amount of influential journalism was published in periodicals that aren't around anymore.  

Having been an enthusiastic reader of opinion journalism going back to the late 1960s, it strikes me that much of our current pictures of what people thought back then is warped by which publications happened to endure. For example, when I began high school debate in 1972, one of the magazines that was most quoted as "evidence" was the liberal intellectual weekly, The Saturday Review of Literature. It was a huge presence in the national discourse, having something like 600,000 subscribers (trust me, that's a lot). And it had been a big magazine for decades. In fact, it was so big that various financial engineers tried to make a lot of money off it, which eventually led to its demise. 

The Saturday Review's editor, Norman Cousins, ranked not far behind William F. Buckley as the most famous opinion magazine editor of the 1970s. Cousins even became a household name far beyond intellectual spheres when he published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine recounting how, when suffering an illness, he attempted to induce a placebo effect in himself by reading funny books and watching his favorite Marx Bros. movies.

When I had cancer in 1997, I more or less followed Cousins' advice. Many people try to heroically combine doing their jobs with undergoing chemotherapy, but with Cousins' theory in mind, I immediately went on disability and just did whatever I liked. I reread all Robert Heinlein's novels, took long walks along the Chicago lakefront, played golf, and carefully polished perhaps my best article Is Love Colorblind? And I slept 12 hours per day. (Nice work if you can get it.)

Did it work? I dunno, but 15 years later, I'm still here.

You can now find all 2,646 issues of The Saturday Review at Unz.org, along with over 100 other magazines. Ron Unz's trove of opinion journalism and the like is a great resource for historians and the historically-minded. You can search the Unz.org archive in Google just by starting a search with


When reading up on Norman Cousins, I saw this quote in his NYT obituary:
"That made it apparent to me that there was a new breed in America," he said, "people who were business executives, or in science, say, who were interested in ideas but not interested in intellectual cliques or literary gossip. I recognized that this was one of the most exciting intellectual developments of our times -- but its manifestations hadn't been acted upon by those in the world of communications."

I suspect Cousins' had one particular business executive / scientist foremost in mind when he said that: Everette Lee DeGolyer, who owned The Saturday Review and bequeathed it to Cousins when he died in 1956. 

This picture of a young DeGolyer, tired and muddy but rightly happy, is my favorite in Daniel Yergin's monumental history of the oil industry, The Prize. The caption reads, "The geologist Everett Lee DeGolyer, sitting on a porch near Tampico after his discovery in 1910 of what became Mexico's Golden Lane. By 1921, Mexico was the world's largest oil producer." It's a great picture of the Enterprising Young American.

DeGolyer would be high on the list of Most Valuable Americans whom nobody these days has ever heard of. The oil industry is a massive contributor to the wealth of America, and DeGolyer contributed as much to the success of the American oil industry in the first half of the 20th Century as anybody. Yergin writes:
No man more singularly embodied the American oil industry and its far-flung development in the first half of the twentieth century than DeGolyer. Geologist -- the most eminent of his day -- entrepreneur, innovator, scholar, he had touched almost every aspect of significance in the industry. Born in a sod hut in Kansas ... while still an undergraduate, he took time time off to go to Mexico, where in 1910, he discovered the fabulous Portrero del Llano 4 well. ... It was the biggest oil well ever discovered ...  
That was only the beginning. DeGolyer was more responsible than any other single person for the introduction of geophysics into oil exploration. He pioneered the development of the seismograph, one of the most important innovations in the history of the oil industry ... 

He put together one big oil firm, Amerada, then started the premiere oil engineering consulting firm, DeGolyer and McNaughton. He made $2 million per year during the Depression. In 1943, FDR sent him on a top secret mission to Saudi Arabia to figure out how important that hunk of desert was. One of his staffers reported back, "The oil in this region is the greatest single prize in all history."
Eventually he grew bored with making money and gave a lot of it away. ... He was a founder of what became Texas Instruments. He was a considerable historian of chili. He built an extraordinary collection of books. He bailed out the Saturday Review of Literature when it was about to go bust, and became its chairman, though he never did care much for its politics.

Maybe it wasn't all Le Corbu's fault?

Among many other writers on architecture, such as the witty Charles Jencks, Tom Wolfe gleefully celebrated the 1972 demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis as one in the eye for the modernist style of architecture that he disliked. But a New York Times critic notes that, hey, wait a minute, there are a lot of Le Corbusier-style apartment towers still around that aren't vertical hellholes. What gives?
Tower of Dreams: One Ended in Nightmare
Michael Kimmelman 
I went to Penn South this week, having seen “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth,” Chad Freidrichs’s shattering documentary, now at the IFC Center. Pruitt-Igoe was the notorious St. Louis public-housing complex, demolished in 1972. Images of imploded Pruitt-Igoe buildings, broadcast worldwide, came to haunt the American consciousness. Critics of welfare, big government and modern architecture all used the project as a whipping boy. “The day that modern architecture died,” Charles Jencks, the architect and apostle of postmodernism, called the demolition. 
Penn South (started a half century ago by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union) is a cooperative in affluent, 21st-century Manhattan past which chic crowds hustle every day to and from nearby Chelsea’s art galleries, apparently oblivious to it. It thrives within a dense, diverse neighborhood of the sort that makes New York special. Pruitt-Igoe, segregated de facto, isolated and impoverished, collapsed along with the industrial city around it. 
But they’re both classic examples of modern architecture, the kind Mr. Jencks, among countless others, left for dead: superblocks of brick and concrete high rises scattered across grassy plots, so-called towers in the park, descended from Le Corbusier’s “Radiant City.” The words “housing project” instantly conjure them up. 
Alienating, penitential breeding grounds for vandalism and violence: that became the tower in the park’s epitaph. But Penn South, with its stolid redbrick, concrete-slab housing stock, is clearly a safe, successful place. In this case the architecture works. In St. Louis, where the architectural scheme was the same, what killed Pruitt-Igoe was not its bricks and mortar. (Minoru Yamasaki, who designed the World Trade Towers, was the architect.) 
The lesson these two sites share has to do with the limits of architecture, socially and economically, never mind what some architects and planners promise or boast. The two projects, aesthetic cousins, are reminders that no typology of design, no matter how passingly fashionable or reviled, guarantees success or failure: neither West Village-style brownstones nor towers in the park nor titanium-clad confections. This is not to say architecture is helpless, only that it is never destiny and that it is always hostage to larger forces.

iSteve readers won't have too much trouble figuring out why the same architectural style led to different fates in Pruitt-Igoe, which had been the boyhood home of two future heavyweight champs, Leon and Michael Spinks, and Penn South, a private co-op started by a heavily Jewish union for its members. I noticed about 1983 that the modernist high rise I was living in in Chicago was about the same style as the notorious Cabrini Green housing projects. 

Most of the comments sounded pretty clueless, but this one was pretty good:
Thank you for this. Too often, we are force-fed the notion that high-rise buildings for the poor and working class was a failed idea of the past that can never work. We are told the only solution to the nation's housing problems are "mixed-income" low-rise buildings. This has served as a cover for the demolition of thousands of units of affordable housing and subsequent dislocation of the poor (and Federal subsidiziation of middle class in the replacement houses). The replacement low-rise homes in places like Chicago or St. Louis might look better to suburban eyes, but in reality they are a massive waste of taxpayer money - often subsidized to the tune of 2-300k per unit. Properly maintaining the buildings, and making sure services, employment and management of the buildings are there, are much more efficient uses of taxpayer money.

In other words, the current orthodoxy that public housing projects for poor people should be low to the ground less reflects some design theory breakthrough than it does the covert realization that if you don't stack poor people up high, then you can't have as many around you. Most of them will have to go somewhere else, far away from you. So, of course, all sensitive, sophisticated Chicagoans now want a handful of handpicked poor people to enjoy lovely lowrise accommodations ... because that means that the rest of them have to go live in Champagne-Urbana or Round Lake Beach or somewhere else far away from Chicago. 

This is not to say that one need not be careful about the interaction of the types of buildings and the types of residents. For example, my experience at Rice U. was that it was a really bad idea to house 250 young men, especially young engineering majors, in the only high rise on campus.The urge to drop stuff from 14 floors up is a powerful one in the 19-year-old's mind, especially when all your rivals live in much lower dormitories over which you, possessing the high ground, can easily exert military dominance. It turns out that you can build a giant slingshot out of rubber surgical tubing and shoot water balloons about 300 yards with fair accuracy. You just have four guys stand on the edge of the balcony holding the ends of the surgical tubing, then have have a couple of pullers draw the slingshot back across the big lobby, then call the elevator and pull the water balloon all the way to the back of the elevator, from whence you let it fly. 

January 27, 2012

Which fields have the highest GRE scores?

Razib at GNXP Discover has a good graph showing grad school specialties by GRE scores. Fields that score exceptionally well in verbal and quite well in math include Classical Language, Classics, History of Science, Philosophy, Russian, Comp Lit, and Linguistics. Physics of course does well in math, but is also strong verbally (i.e., no surprise, physicists tend to be smart). Low in math, low in verbal include PE, Criminal Justice, and Social Work.

January 26, 2012

Do Florida Hispanic voters care much about immigration?

Sun-Sentinel columnist Guillermo Martinez explains:
Since Latinos make up 13.1 percent of Florida's 11.2 million registered voters, national pundits are talking about how their choice in next Tuesday's primary will be an indicator for other Hispanic communities. As if Florida is a good indicator — which it is not. 
Very much on time, the Pew Hispanic Center has provided a primer of the profile of Hispanic voters in Florida. And it will surprise many. For instance: 
... 32 percent of Florida voters are of Cuban origin; 28 percent Puerto Rican, and nine percent Mexican. 

And the Hispanic Republican primary voters are likely to be even more Cuban.
... It will be a swing state where the Hispanic vote is crucial, but not for the same reasons as it is in the Southwest or in the Northeast. Immigration is touchy, but not a decisive factor inasmuch as Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth and can vote for president when they live in the 50 states. And Cuban-Americans have a privileged status that allows those who arrive in this country to become legal residents in one year — and citizens in five.

This reminds me of when Newt Gingrich told House Republicans to vote for statehood for Puerto Rico to win over the Mexican vote. White people in Washington don't really know much about Latinos, so they get worked up over wacky stuff.

January 25, 2012

"Why the long face?"

Libby Copeland writes in Slate on a study suggesting that voters aren't just looking for good-looking candidates, they favor a particular kind of good looks suggesting competence: 
What does competence look like? Working with subjects rating photos of hundreds of faces, Todorov and colleagues have developed computer models of how faces can suggest character traits like trustworthiness and likability. The competent face shape is masculine but approachable, with a square jaw, high cheekbones, and large eyes. When people say Romney just looks presidential, this is the image they’re summoning. 
Todorov and other psychologists believe that otherwise expressionless faces can appear to show emotion based on how they’re formed—the shape of the eyebrows can suggest anger, for instance, while a long distance between the eyes and the mouth can suggest sadness. On Todorov’s computer model of an incompetent face, beady, close-together eyes paired with high eyebrows suggest fearfulness, even through the face is expressionless. Todorov believes our tendency to read expression into neutral faces amounts to an “overgeneralization” of a healthy trait—human beings’ ability to judge others’ intentions from a brief glance.

I added the emphasis on the long distance between eyes and mouth connoting sadness because that's a standard in Byzantine iconography of Jesus Christ going back, oh, 1500 years. Spanish movie star Javier Bardem has a bit of that look to his face.

January 24, 2012

Democracy v. Diversity in the Muslim World

From my new column (link fixed) in Taki's Magazine:
If the Arab Spring is good for democracy, then it has to be good for diversity, right? We know that democracy and diversity are virtually the same thing: Both words begin with a “d,” end with a “y,” and by definition are good. Who isn’t aware that minority protection (indeed, minority promotion) is the essence of majority rule?

Read the whole thing there (link fixed).

Oscar nominations

A reasonable number of pretty good movies came out in 2011, but not too many really good ones. Here are links to my reviews in Taki's Magazine of Oscar nominated films in chronological order.

Rango -- Best Animated Feature. Gore Verbinski's reptilian Western is ugly but amazing. 

Bridesmaids: Best Original Screenplay for Kristen Wiig and Best Supporting Actress for Melissa McCarthy, who is very funny. It's good to see a non-Woody Allen comedy recognized in the overly serious Oscar nomination.

Midnight in Paris: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. For the first time in a long time, Woody Allen deserves his nominations for this slight but delightful comedy. 

The Tree of Life: Best Picture, Best Director (Terrence Malick), Best Cinematographer (Emmanuel Lubezki from Mexico who would be a deserving winner) -- I managed to miss the first 15 minutes due to traffic, so I enjoyed it a lot more than everybody else did. There's a beautiful 90 minute movie about growing up in Waco surrounded by a dull 45 IMAX film about the Big Bang. In my view, the Tree of Life glass is 90/135ths full, but others have been known to differ.

Jane Eyre -- Costume Design. Michael Fassbender, who was good in this as Mr. Rotchester and three other movies (X-Men, A Dangerous Method as Carl Jung, and Shame), didn't get any nominations this year.

Transformers -- Three technical nominations for a better than expected fighting robot movie. I had a good time at this film.

Harry Potter -- Three technical nominations for what was a disappointing end to an admirable franchise.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes -- Just a Visual Effects nomination, with Andy "Gollum" Serkis once again denied a Best Supporting Actor nod. What's the over-under year for when Serkis will get his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy: 2035?

Drive -- Just a sound editing nomination for a kind of cool movie. I think if they'd made the heroine into a femme fatale, it would have kicked it up the last notch, but hardly anybody makes femme fatale movies anymore. The dominant male audience disapproves of them.

Moneyball -- Best Picture (but not Best Director, so it won't win BP), Brad Pitt (I would have picked his performance in Tree of Life), Jonah Hill (who was excellent as the stat nerd), and, of course, a Best Adapted screenplay nomination for Sorkin and Zallian. Ranked on a degree of difficulty scale -- it's a baseball statistics movie -- this might be the most remarkable accomplishment of the year. On the other hand, it's a baseball statistics movie ...

The Ides of March -- An Adapted Screenplay nomination for the Democratic primary campaign movie, but kind of forgettable.

Margin Call -- J.C. Chandor's Wall Street movie got a Best Original Screenplay nomination: "Speak to me as if I were a young child or a Golden Retriever. It weren’t brains that got me here, you know that.” 

The Descendants -- A potential Best Picture winner, although it's not really that good. But it would be a decent placeholder Best Picture winner like last year's The King's Speech. In 2020, everybody will go around saying that the Academy was nuts to give the Oscar to The King's Speech because we all realize now that the most important movie of 2010 turned out to be ... But the problem is that we don't know what movie from 2010 will look like the real landmark in 2020. (And something else will seem better in 2030, and so forth.) In the mean time, though, while we're waiting, The King's Speech was a perfectly okay Best Picture winner. Similarly, Alexander Payne's The Descendants is a very nice movie, and would be a respectable Best Picture winner until everybody figures out what really should have won.

Hugo -- Led the pack with 11 nominations.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- A lot of technical nominations, but no Best Picture or Best Director nod for David Fincher, which seems about right. Maybe it will send Fincher the message not to waste his skills on junk like this.

The Iron Lady -- Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher

The iSteveier movies of 2011 -- Bad Teacher, X-Men: First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and The Guard -- didn't garner much Oscar love. It's clearly some kind of conspiracy.

In other news, the great Gary Oldman finally got himself an Oscar nomination.

"Hugo's" 11 Oscar nominations

I was underwhelmed by Martin Scorsese's 3D kids' (?) movie Hugo (here's my review from Taki's Magazine), but, boy, did sci-fi author Orson Scott Card really do a takedown on Hugo.
So the movie we were promised -- Hugo the orphan repairs a mechanical man to receive a message from his father -- turns into a movie we would never have paid to see: sad old forgotten movie director gets a round of applause. 
Only a movie director would think he could switch us from caring about an orphan whose father was burned to death, to caring about an old man who is depressed because his career collapsed. 
Dead father vs. career loss. Magical machines vs. endless self-pity. What idiot would choose to make the career-loss self-pity movie, when he has all the makings of the dead-father magical-machine movie?


A reader sends me this from NBER:
Importing Corruption Culture from Overseas: Evidence from Corporate Tax Evasion in the United States 
by Jason M. DeBacker, Bradley T. Heim, Anh Tran  
This paper studies how cultural norms and enforcement policies influence illicit corporate activities.  Using confidential IRS audit data, we show that corporations with owners from countries with higher corruption norms engage in higher amounts of tax evasion in the U.S. This effect is strong for small corporations and decreases as the size of the corporation increases.  In the mid-2000s, the United States implemented several enforcement measures which significantly increased tax compliance.  However, we find that these enforcement efforts were less effective in reducing tax evasion by corporations whose owners are from countries with higher corruption norms. This suggests that cultural norms can be a challenge to legal enforcement. 

January 23, 2012

Apple's textbook whiff

For a long time, Apple has been talking about revolutionizing textbooks with the iPad. The firm finally had its dog and pony show, but the whole thing turned out to be bizarrely retro: we can make learning fun by embedding animations in textbooks! 

Look, moving textbooks onto electronic tablet is a good idea in the long run, for two obvious reasons, neither of which Apple did enough to emphasize:

1. A single iPad weighs a lot less than a half-dozen massive modern textbooks. From 7th through 11th grades, I used to ride my bike to school, but my textbooks only weighed a few pounds back then. These days, there is only one kid in my neighborhood who rides a bike to school, and he has these elaborate saddle bags on either side of his rear wheel because that's the only way to keep his bike from being dangerously top-heavy.

2. A tablet also serves as a workbook providing immediate feedback. The program can even make the next problem easier or harder depending upon how you do on this one. Teachers won't have to grade homework because the computer system does it for them. For math an iPad might be even better than a laptop with a keyboard because it's a lot easier to do math problems with pencil and paper than with a keyboard.

At present, tablets are still kind of expensive, but the future for them looks pretty clear, although my guess is that the future will be a clamshell even thinner than a Macbook Air, with a touchscreen and a sophisticated set of hinges that lets you use it in either tablet or laptop mode.

Dog v. Tail

The NYT's top story tonight is:
Backer Pumps $5 Million Into Pro-Gingrich ‘Super PAC’ 
The Gingrich campaign got a significant influx of cash from the wife of Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino owner who contributed $5 million to the campaign earlier this month.

One interesting trend is that that these heavy hitter mega-donors like Dr. Miriam Adelson and Haim Saban, a major Democratic contributor, are often dual-citizens who are also big players in Israeli politics. The Adelsons, for example, started a newspaper in Israel that is given away for free to promote Likud. It's now the biggest newspaper in Israel.

I don't pay much attention to Israeli politics because I am not an Israeli, but it sounds pretty fascinating, more exciting than American politics. I wonder if the Adelsons see supporting Netanyahu as being good for Gingrich or whether, for them, it's more that getting Newt elected President would seem good for Bibi. (Personally, I find Bibi more impressive than Newt, but I don't know how the Adelsons feel.)

Clausewitz said that war is the continuation of politics by other means, but increasingly American politics resembles Israeli politics continued by other means. It would be interesting to ask the Adelsons which country, in their view, is the dog and which is the tail. 

Who knew?

Maureen Dowd writes in the NYT about how the Cool Black President she thought we were electing turned out to be less entertaining than she had expected from all those years watching Cool Black Guys on TV:
FOR eight seconds, we saw the president we had craved for three years: cool, joyous, funny, connected. 
“I, I’m so in love with you,” Barack Obama crooned to a thrilled crowd at a fund-raiser at the Apollo in Harlem on Thursday night, doing a seductive imitation as Al Green himself looked on. ... 
The portrait of the first couple in Jodi Kantor’s new book, “The Obamas,” bristles with aggrievement and the rational president’s disdain for the irrational nature of politics, the press and Republicans. Despite what his rivals say, the president and the first lady do believe in American exceptionalism — their own, and they feel overassaulted and underappreciated. 
We disappointed them. 
As Michelle said to Oprah in an interview she did with the president last May: “I always told the voters, the question isn’t whether Barack Obama is ready to be president. The question is whether we’re ready. And that continues to be the question we have to ask ourselves.” 
They still believed, as their friend Valerie Jarrett once said, that Obama was “just too talented to do what ordinary people do.” 
Who knew, in the exuberance of 2008, that America was electing an introvert? 

Who knew? How could anyone possibly know? I mean, besides the presidential candidate having published at age 33 a 150,000 word autobiography that is introverted, elegant, dull, egotistical, self-pitying, not particularly insightful, and a little depressing: Obama's Presidency in convenient book form? But other than this whopping huge memoir, how could anyone have known anything about the man? And who could expect busy media figures like Maureen Dowd to read a Presidential candidate's well-written autobiography? Or even its subtitle?
Kantor writes that the Obamas, feeling misunderstood, burrowed into “self-imposed exile” — a “bubble within the bubble” — with their small circle of Chicago friends, who reinforced the idea that “the American public just did not appreciate their exceptional leader.” 
She reports that Marty Nesbitt indignantly told his fellow Obama pal Eric Whitaker that the president “could get 70 or 80 percent of the vote anywhere but the U.S.”

Redmond v. Palo Alto over Yale v. Jail

The lifestyles of the rich and famous of Silicon Valley span the dimensions from Larry Ellison-style Living Large to those who like a quiet upper middle class suburban existence (private jets not necessarily excluded). For example, Steve Jobs was too persnickety to get around to ever building the Japanese minimalist dream house he had planned, so his wife just moved him and the kids into the old part of Palo Alto, which is mostly a lot of nice two story houses on fairly small lots. Others in the neighborhood include Larry Page of Google and venture capitalist John Doerr. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook recently traded up from a 3k square foot to a 4k sf house around the corner.

All this is just an intro to say that people in Palo Alto tend to be a little less clueless than elsewhere.

On the other hand, Bill Gates lives in a 66,000 square foot house in the Seattle area. And one of the Gates Foundations' obsessions has been to get all the public high schools in California to require that all students to graduate must pass all the courses (known as the "A-G Requirements") necessary for admission to a University of California college, even though, by law, UC schools are for the top 1/8th of California's high school graduates. This is classic "Yale or Jail" thinking by the Gates Foundation: We'll force every student in California to be eligible for the elite UC system by threatening them that if they don't pass all the A-G requirements, they'll go through life as high school dropouts! What could possibly go wrong?

Most places, the educational bureaucracy is made up of people who are better with words than numbers, so if the Gates Foundation tells them to do it, they think it must be a great idea and announce that all the new 9th graders can't get a diploma without passing Algebra II. Later on, the high school math teachers quietly convince the administrations to postpone implementing this until next year. In a lot of places, it's been quietly postponed for many years in a row. The LA school board, for instance, passed an Algebra II requirement in 2005 at Gates' behest, but has yet to enforce it. But Come the Revolution, comrades, we'll all eat strawberries and like them.

Palo Alto, in contrast, is one of the few places where the math teachers have the confidence to say that the Gates Foundation plan is stupid.

So, this Redmond v. Palo Alto angle makes this Achievement Gap story from Palo Alto High School interesting. From the San Jose Mercury-News:
Palo Alto math teachers oppose higher math graduation requirements
By Sharon Noguchi snoguchi@mercurynews.com 
Against the resolute push for higher academic standards geared toward preparing students for college, the Palo Alto High School math department has drawn a line in the sand. 
Don't prepare all students for University of California entrance, the math faculty argues, because not all students can master quadratic equations and logarithmic functions. 
Their counterpush against raising graduation standards to include Algebra II has angered educators and parents who believe schools, including districts like Palo Alto with strong college-going cultures, are failing poor and minority students by expecting too little of them. 
The parents point to startling statistics: In the Palo Alto and Gunn high schools' 2011 class of seniors, only 15 percent of African-Americans and 40 percent of Latinos completed the prerequisites for the University of California and California State University with a C or better. That compares with 79.5 percent districtwide meeting those so-called A-G requirements. 

The A-G requirements includes two years of a foreign language (increasingly only Spanish is on offer in California), which is hard on African-American youths because foreign language courses are hard in general, and blacks have so little interest in Spanish. And it demands Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II, which is a great idea for Lake Wobegon H.S., but Algebra II is a big hurdle for the 49.99% of young people who are below average in intelligence.
"It is disgraceful," said Kim Bomar, a parent of two Palo Alto elementary children, "in this district where some kids are doing so extremely well and the resources are so extremely rich." 
Other districts, including San Jose Unified, East Side Union and San Francisco Unified, set A-G as the default curriculum, and in Palo Alto the administration had recommended the district follow suit. The school board is set to take up the issue in the spring. But Palo Alto High's math teachers oppose the recommendation. Yes, bump up the graduation requirement to three years of math, they argue, but don't require students to master Algebra II -- because they say not everyone can. ... 
Palo Alto High math department chair Radu Toma said critics confuse standards with achievement. "They make the assumption just by setting the bar up there, the bar will be reached," he said. "I'm not saying it's impossible; it's a big gamble."
The risk, he said, is that courses will be devaluated. 

Mr. Toma grew up in Communist Romania, so he's heard enough Grand Plans for one lifetime.
He said other districts' A-G standards aren't examples to follow. In San Jose Unified, which has had required A-G courses for 10 years, only 42 percent of seniors -- compared with Palo Alto's 80 percent -- last year completed them with a C or better, as UC requires. Students who aren't on track to complete the requirement may take different courses, spokeswoman Karen Fuqua said. 
Toma said that while students elsewhere may pass Algebra II, 45 percent of CSU and UC students must take remedial math. That doesn't happen with Palo Alto graduates, he said. "When our kids finish with Algebra II, we are not pretending they completed Algebra II." Teachers, he said, are doing everything possible to support students in achieving their personal best in math. 
The brouhaha escalated last fall, with the circulation of a letter signed by all but one of the math department's teachers, arguing against adoption of the A-G standards. "Diluting the standards in our regular lane to basic benchmarks, which might allow every student to pass Algebra II, would end up hurting the district's reputation and, implicitly, all of our students." 
The letter also took a swipe at students who fail: "Most of our students are fortunate to come from families where education matters and parents have the means and will to support and guide their children in tandem with us, their teachers. Not all of them." 
On Sunday, Toma said, "I am sorry that a couple of paragraphs in our letter that were quoted out of context led some community members who do not know our department, our program and our results, to doubt our commitment to all our students," Toma said. 
Toma said last week that he did not mean to insult families, and said he believes all parents care about their children's success. 
The letter provoked outrage. "It was unacceptable. It was racially insensitive," said Tremaine Kirkman, president of the Student Equity Action Network at Palo Alto High. His group provides tutoring and helps with college applications. In Palo Alto, he said, "no matter how well you understand math, it's such a fast pace you need a tutor to survive." 
On the first day of calculus, he said his teacher told the class: "There's no way to switch down a lane; if you can't keep up, you have to get a tutor." Palo Alto high schools have five lanes of math. 
In light of the math department's opposition, the Palo Alto school board postponed a decision on A-G. Emmett D. Carson, president of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, called the delay "disheartening" and suggested the board risks damaging students' chances in life. 
The larger problem, Kirkman said, is that Palo Alto schools track some students early on toward failure, including placing a disproportionate number of black and Latino children into special education. 
Toma said the department would support adding another year of math -- geometry -- to Palo Alto's graduation requirement. In the San Mateo Union High School District, which requires three years of math, 68 percent completed it last year, Curriculum Director Cynthia Clark said. 
That is doable, Toma said; adding Algebra II isn't. "The educational system in our country is littered with grandiose initiatives or policies that failed because the bar was set unrealistically high," he said. "Making this huge jump is not going to better our kids' math education."

Lazy HBDers

Chuck at Occidentalist has been blogging up a storm lately of statistical analyses on various interesting questions. He vents:
What really frustrates me is Lazy HBD. There are dozens of public use data sets waiting to be explored from a HBD perspective. Statistical packages can be downloaded for free. All sorts of HBDish questions can be addressed: Do 2nd generation Blacks do worse on cognitive tests than 3rd+ generation Blacks? Do mixed White and Asians outperform Whites? What is the standardized difference between first, second, and third generation Hispanics controlling for SES? Does color correlate with IQ in the Hispanic population? Does color correlate with crime in the Black population? But it seems that few are interested. I don’t get it.

I'd get right on it, but I have to take a nap first. 

Seriously, there truly is a huge amount of data out there. Various longitudinal studies have been going on for decades that follow thousands of individuals throughout their lives. The 1979 National Longitudinal Study of Youth is the most famous because Herrnstein and Murray made it the centerpiece of The Bell Curve. But there are many other ones. 

Of course, it's a lot of work to do it right, as Chuck's wrestle through multiple blog posts with the old question of whether light-skinned blacks score higher on IQ tests than do dark-skinned blacks. Richard E. Nisbett argued that the lack of a correlation falsifies the theory that racial gaps in IQ are partly genetic. But the answer Chuck came up with appears to be ultimately yes there is a correlation, although it's not enormous. But as Chuck's work showed, there are a fair number of wrinkles that must be dealt with. 

Meanwhile, Inductivist looks at the Add Health questionnaire data to see if respondents overrate their own intelligence versus their scores on the survey's vocabulary tests:
First, people do have a tendency to rate their intelligence correctly--self-described intelligence is positively correlated with measured IQ--but the tendency is only moderate. Next, males are not more likely than females to inflate their smarts. By contrast, blacks are significantly more likely to--compared to whites. The other racial/ethnics groups do not differ from whites. 

January 22, 2012

To which GOP candidates does the Smart Money lean?

Audacious Epigone looks through the federal campaign contribution database to find out whom individuals identifying their occupations as "lobbyist" have donated to:

Presidential candidateLobbyist $
1. Rick Perry$25,500
2. Tim Pawlenty$11,770
3. Newt Gingrich$11,500
4. Mitt Romney$8,000
5. Rick Santorum$3,000
6. Herman Cain$2,500
7. Barack Obama$1,150
8. Jon Hunstman$500
9. Michelle Bachmann$250
10. Charles "Buddy" Roemer$100

So, the smart money, the professional insiders whose stock in trade is knowing which way the political winds are blowing, have invested most heavily in Rick Perry and longtime iSteve favorite T-Paw. Heckuva job, lobbyists!

By the way, is it too late for Mitch Daniels to jump in? I've got another anecdote about the famously sensible Indiana governor's lifelong love affair with drugs that I haven't used yet, and it would be a shame to have to wait until the next Presidential Timber rounds in 2015.