July 14, 2012

"How D.C. Became a District of Corruption"

From the Washington Post:
By Kojo Nnamdi, Published: July 13 
Vincent C. Gray’s election as mayor in 2010 was the result in no small measure of his success in tapping a deep well of resentment in the black community over Adrian M. Fenty’s perceived aloofness. Gray was helped along in this effort by Marion Barry. 
I wrote in this section at the time that if the template for black mayors who connect with black voters is Barry and Newark’s Sharpe James, who have both served prison terms, then “Vincent Gray needs to hurry up and get himself locked up so he can keep it real, too.” 
I now regret those words, as prophetic as they appear. I still think that Gray is a decent and thoughtful man, but he stands at the center of a political culture that is corrupt and broken. 
At a contentious city council meeting this summer, Barry spoke about the council’s credibility problem and voters’ doubts about the D.C. government. “The stain is deep,” he said. He’s right. 
I came to D.C. in 1969, and the future I imagined for it when the Home Rule Act was signed in 1973 was that the city, home to some of the smartest people and most innovative civil rights activists I knew, would provide a shining example of a democratic revolution. Some of that has come to pass. From qualified blacks who have new access to senior positions and contracts, to the revival of downtown and other areas, from new restaurants and theaters to green spaces and bike lanes, the District has indeed improved, often in ways I couldn’t have imagined. 
The political culture, however, has deteriorated. It has what is clearly a pay-to-play political process, with personal corruption and campaign fraud now at the center of the system. 
The latest example of this came on Tuesday, when federal prosecutors said that Gray’s 2010 mayoral run was funded, in part, by a “shadow campaign” of $653,000 from a prominent District contractor. Three Gray campaign consultants have pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges. 
This shadow over the Gray campaign comes after former council member Harry Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty to charges of theft of government money and falsifying tax returns. In May, he was sentenced to three years in prison. And in June, Kwame Brown resigned as D.C. Council chairman after federal prosecutors charged him with bank fraud. 
The question is:How did it come to this? How did we come to this?

You can see a big reason why the Washington-based white press corps worked so hard to contrive Obamamania a half decade ago. For their own sakes, they really, really want to end black rule in Washington, but that's embarrassing to admit even to your own conscience. So, pushing Obama on the whole country served to salve the white national media's consciences about what they want to do with their own city.

Learning from Israel's Example, Part CXXXVII

From the Jerusalem Post:
Israel approved only one asylum application out of 4,603 received in 2011, according to a report recently released by the US State Department.

I'm all in favor of taking in refugees like, say, Einstein, Fermi, or Solzhenitsyn, but, let's be frank, most refugees from Third World conflicts can be accommodated in other Third World countries at vastly less expense. If tribesmen in South Sudan are slaughtering each other, well, places like Kenya or Tanzania would put the losers up for a tiny fraction of what it would cost to accomodate them in some naive close-to-the-Canadian-border American town like Minneapolis, Burlington, or Lewiston, where they'll just suffer miserably from the cold.

Forbes 400 by ethnicity

A couple of years ago, the philanthropy reporter for the Jewish Telegraph Agency tried to divvy up by ancestry the Forbes 400 of America's richest individuals and came up with the headline "At least 139 of Forbes 400 are Jewish."

It was an interesting start, but was also bogged down by obvious errors. (E.g., No, George Lucas isn't Jewish.) 

The blogger n/a of "race / history / evolution notes" then took on the task of improving the Jewish Telegraph Agency's published list, which he did in 2009. His latest version is the 2010 Forbes 400 list

Obviously, this kind of thing isn't easy to do. I'm sure there are mistakes in it, but I haven't noticed any glaring ones. The most likely source of errors is when some obscure rich guy happens to have a name that doesn't align well with his ancestry. But those are hard to catch.

His task is simplified by using a group called "Northwestern Europeans" that makes up 50.75% of the 2010 Forbes list, down from 72% in Nathaniel Weyl's count of the 1987 list. "Northwestern Europeans" lump together English, Scottish, Welsh, Dutch, Irish (Catholic and Protestant), Scandinavians, French, Belgians, Swiss, Germans, and Austrians. It's not much of a bloc.

A more subtle pair of methodological problems are what to do with people of mixed ancestry and with people who were adopted. A dual example is the late Steve Jobs. He's listed as one of the eight (2.0%) who are "Middle Eastern" because his biological father is Syrian. 

I think it would be better to divide up ancestry into fractions when possible. 

And, though trans-ethnic adoptions are fairly rare, when they are known about, I think it makes sense to treat Nature and Nurture as, more or less, equally important. So, ideally (by my lights), Jobs would be classed as 1/4th Middle Eastern (i.e., half nature, no nurture) and 3/4th NW European (half nature, all nurture).

It's not clear how much these refinements would alter the list. It would depend if interethnic marriages tend to be skewed by sex. 

Overall, I doubt if the summary percentages would be changed a whole lot by refinements.  For example, the JTA count was pretty laughable in part, but the overall number of Jews the JTA reporter came up with was almost identical to what n/a's much more careful study arrived at. That's because random errors tend to neutralize each other.

Here are n/a's 2010 percentages:

Northwestern European 50.75%
Jewish 35.75%
Italian 4.25%
East Asian 2.0%
Middle Eastern 2.0%
Greek 1.75%
Eastern European 1.75%
South Asian 1.0%
Hispanic 0.5% (one of the two is actually a Basque)
Black 0.25% (Oprah)

The low Eastern European percentage is interesting. There are a fair number of Slavs in the U.S., but they tend to maintain a low profile. Moreover, they have a fairly high rate of Anglicizing their names to make them easier to spell. For example, I know two Polish-American identical twin millionaires (not Forbes billionaires) from Chicago who, upon setting out to make their fortune agreed to ditch "Wojtyla" (as in the late Pope) for a much easier to pronounce and spell English name. In contrast, while Italian names are recognizably non-English, they are reasonably easy to spell and pronounce, plus have more glamor associated with them due to all the Italian celebrities since the Renaissance. 

As I've mentioned before, Italians make a pretty good apples to apples comparison to Jews: they arrived about the same time in the U.S., they live in about the same parts of the country, they are both non-rural, they are both non-Protestants, and so forth. Italian-Americans strike me as pretty typical white American gentilers in terms of achievements on average. They make up about 8% of the white gentile population and about 6% of the white gentile Forbes 400. That's pretty good considering their late start in America. (For example, there are five Hearsts on the Forbes 400, and their fortune goes back to William Randolph Hearst's dad striking it rich in the Comstock Lode before the Civil War.) But it's also nothing all that special either.

Italians are usually thought to be about three times as numerous as Jews in America (roughly 6% of the total population versus 2%) , but they are almost an order of magnitude less common in absolute terms on the Forbes 400 (17 v. 143), which suggests Jews are about 20 or 25 times more likely to make the Forbes 400 on a per capita basis. That's a big difference. 

Weyl's 1987 count found Jews made up about 23 percent, which suggests that the Jewish proportion of the super-rich has grown by 50% over 23 years (keep in mind that there is a lot of turnover in the Forbes 400 list due to different sectors of the economy going in and out of fashion -- e.g., oil, tech, finance, real estate, etc.) But, there have also been a sizable number of Jews among the very richest for a long time.

David Brooks almost goes there

In "Why Our Elites Stink," David Brooks writes in the NYT:
The corruption that has now crept into the world of finance and the other professions is not endemic to meritocracy but to the specific culture of our meritocracy. The problem is that today’s meritocratic elites cannot admit to themselves that they are elites. 
Everybody thinks they are countercultural rebels, insurgents against the true establishment, which is always somewhere else. This attitude prevails in the Ivy League, in the corporate boardrooms and even at television studios where hosts from Harvard, Stanford and Brown rail against the establishment. 
As a result, today’s elite lacks the self-conscious leadership ethos that the racist, sexist and anti-Semitic old boys’ network did possess. If you went to Groton a century ago, you knew you were privileged. You were taught how morally precarious privilege was and how much responsibility it entailed. You were housed in a spartan 6-foot-by-9-foot cubicle to prepare you for the rigors of leadership. 
The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality, that they were temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations. They cruelly ostracized people who did not live up to their codes of gentlemanly conduct and scrupulosity. They were insular and struggled with intimacy, but they did believe in restraint, reticence and service. 
Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this. 
If you read the e-mails from the Libor scandal you get the same sensation you get from reading the e-mails in so many recent scandals: these people are brats; they have no sense that they are guardians for an institution the world depends on; they have no consciousness of their larger social role.

This is not a new theme for Brooks, who wrote a similar column in 2010 ("The Power Elite.") Brooks tries to walk the fine line between being public-spirited and having a career. Now, you know and I know that what he's trying to do here, under the guise of talking about "meritocrats," is to get through to his fellow American Jews that they need to stop conceptualizing themselves so overwhelmingly as History's Greatest Victims and start developing a sense of noblesse oblige about this country in which they have become predominant, in which they dominate the worldview of the educated classes. In a response to Brooks' "Power Elite" column in VDARE.com two years ago, I wrote:
The theory behind the dusty old concept of noblesse oblige is that a powerful class that thinks of itself as being in the game for the very long run will tend to behave in a more responsible fashion than one that doesn't. As they say, nobody ever washed a rental car. 
In the early 20th Century, for example, leadership caste WASPs played a major role in setting aside National Parks and in limiting immigration. 
Even more fundamentally, they tolerated criticism of themselves by others. Criticism encourages you to behave better. 
Of course, the moribund WASP Establishment's increasing fair-mindedness had its downsides. One problem with letting other people have their say about you is that they may undermine your power. [David] Samuels writes of "my own personal sorrow about the fate of the Harvard-educated Brahmins I admired in my youth, who cherished their belief in liberal openness while licking at the bleached bones of their family romances. Their mansions are threadbare and drafty, and stickers on their salt-eaten Volvos advertise the cause of zero population growth. It's hard to imagine that their ancestors sailed clipper ships to China and wrote great books and built great companies and ran spies behind enemy lines in Europe." 
But, shouldn't new elites be held to the same standards of criticism that helped them displace the old elites? Why is it considered admirable for the new establishment to try to destroy the careers of their critics? 
For noblesse oblige to work, privileged and influential groups have to be publicly acknowledged to be privileged and influential. If, on the other hand, their main sense of collective identity is that of marginal members of society endangered by the might of the current majority, then the system doesn't operate. ...
American Jews should start thinking of themselves less as oppressed outcasts who need to go for whatever they can get while the getting is good, and start more accurately thinking of themselves as belonging to the best-connected inner circle of the contemporary American Establishment. 
Thus, American Jews should realize that, like the Protestant elite of yore, their privileged position as a de facto leadership caste bestows upon themselves corresponding duties to conserve the long-term well-being of the United States—rather than to indulge in personal and ethnic profit and power maximization. 
But that's unlikely to happen until the Jewish elite to begin to tolerate non-Jewish criticism, rather than to continue to try to destroy the careers of critics—or even just honest observers—in what seems to be an instinctive reaction intended to encourage the others. 

Deep down, does Brooks agree with what I said? I would assume: yes. We read each other and we are more or less on the same page.

In career terms, obviously, Brooks' euphemistic approach is better than my plain-spoken one. And it would be easy to argue that my frankness is too abrasive, that Brooks' vague euphemisms are better for getting our mutual message out.

But, here's the rub: What evidence is there that Brooks' readers grasp what he's talking about at all? I've read through a fair fraction of the 527 comments on his column, and I don't see many (if any) examples suggesting that Brooks' readers comprehend his underlying message.

What goes unsaid eventually goes unthought.

July 13, 2012

"Savages:" Whole Lotta Oliver

When "Scarface" came out 29 years ago, it was not all that warmly received. But after about a half hour, I said to myself, "This is a freight train of entertainment. Who wrote this script?" Of course, it was written by Oliver Stone, who already had an Oscar for Midnight Express. He went on to direct a series of extraordinarily energetic (i.e., coked out of his mind) middle-brow 1980s films (Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, and Born on the Fourth of July). (Keep in mind that in these idiosyncratic precincts, "middle-brow" and even "1980s films" are terms of praise.) 

Eventually, the press turned on him over JFK (that's the moment when the term "conspiracy theory" became a conclusive putdown of any unwanted idea), but I started to like him more as his flaws became obvious.  

"Savages" is Stone's new crime movie about cool young white pot growers battling a luridly evil Mexican cartel that's attempting to move into their Laguna Beach turf. Think "Scarface" crossed with "Point Break," the 1991 movie about surfing bank robbers supposedly written and directed by Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), but in which I sense the crowd-pleasing fingerprints of her ex-husband James Cameron. 

"Savages" is, despite Stone's often embarrassing dialogue -- he's 65, as old as George W. Bush (in fact he was in Bush's class at Yale before dropping out for Vietnam), and is still trying to sound groovy -- a whole lotta movie.

For one thing, it looks great. The outdoor scenes are shot in a style common in the early 1980s before the fashion caught on in the later 1980s that a psychologically "dark" movie had to be visually "dark," with a typically muted blue-gray palette. Instead, Stone films Laguna Beach like a photographer for National Geographic, in bright sunshine with the sun low in the sky to provide warmth. The idea is simple but effective: exactly how far would you go to be able to afford to live in a place that looks this great?

The two American dope dealers share a blonde girlfriend without jealousy. That's not exactly realistic male psychology, but the two men don't seem like actual individuals, but instead embody the two sides of Stone's personality: the dope is grown by the Jewish hippie who is good with money and the muscle is provided by the gentile hard-ass combat veteran.

Stone's male characters are, as usual, romanticized, while the female characters are satirized. The funniest character in "Savages" is Salma Hayek's turn as the "red queen" head of the Baja Cartel. I suspect the origin of this character is in Stone's 2010 documentary "South of the Border" where he goes around Latin America interviewing leftist Presidentes. As I wrote in 2010:
The best part is when Stone interviews the one female Presidente, the wife of Kirchner of Argentina, who ran his wife in his place when he got term-limited out of office. I can't recall Stone ever creating an interesting female character, and he seems peeved that Mrs. Kirchner has gotten into the Leftist Leader Boys Club of his dreams on a technicality. So, he asks this rich and spoiled looking political wife, "How many pairs of shoes do you own?" She immediately recognizes this reference to Imelda Marcos and chews an abashed Stone out for several minutes for his sexist impertinence.

The Salma Hayek character appears to be Stone saying, "Well, okay, Mrs. Kirchner, I couldn't think of any comebacks when we did our interview ... but the auteur laughs last!"

A lot of people don't like the ending, but if you've been as fascinated as long as I have by the question of which federal laws apply on reservations of American Indian nations and which don't, then John Travolta's last line in the movie is perfect.

July 12, 2012

Cue Dr. Evil: "175 Mmmmmmillion Dollars!"

For the longest time we've been hearing about how racism caused the subprime mortgage meltdown by causing financial companies to charge blacks and Hispanics more fees and interest. And that's why they couldn't pay back their loans: not because they didn't have enough money but because they were being charged too much for their loans. This is in contrast to the more realistic view [i.e., mine] that the main cause was imprudent financiers like Angelo Mozilo using the War on Redlining as an excuse to get out from under traditional regulations on mortgages, like requiring documentation of income.

But when the Obama Administration settles on these discrimination charges, it's always for a pittance compared to the hundreds of billions involved.

From the New York Times:
Wells Fargo, the nation’s largest home mortgage lender, has agreed to pay at least $175 million to settle accusations that its independent brokers discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers during the housing boom, the Justice Department announced on Thursday. If approved by a federal judge, it would be the second largest residential fair-lending settlement in the department’s history.
An investigation by the department’s civil rights division found that mortgage brokers working with Wells Fargo had charged higher fees and rates to more than 30,000 minority borrowers across the country than they had to white borrowers who posed the same credit risk, according to a complaint filed on Thursday along with the proposed settlement.
Wells Fargo brokers also steered more than 4,000 minority borrowers into costlier subprime mortgages when white borrowers with similar credit risk profiles had received regular loans, a Justice Department complaint found. The deal covers the subprime bubble years of 2004 to 2009. ...
Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, said the practices amounted to a “racial surtax,” adding: “All too frequently, Wells Fargo’s African-American and Latino borrowers had no idea they could have gotten a better deal — no idea that white borrowers with similar credit would pay less.”

I don't see any mention of the race of the mortgage brokers who were getting bad deals for minorities. The financial industry had, in cooperation with the government, made a huge effort to bring in more minority brokers and salesmen. This giant Minority Outreach wasn't just to please the politicians, of course. As with buying cars, where salesmen notoriously exploit the insecurities and lack of financial acumen of black and Latino customers, NAMs tend to be easy meat for mortgage brokers of their own race. The problem is that they are also less likely to pay off their loans.
... The Justice Department estimated that the minority borrowers who had been steered into costly subprime loans would receive an average of $15,000, while the victims who had been charged more costly fees would receive $1,000 to $3,500. In addition, the bank has agreed to give $50 million to a program that assists people in making down payments or improving their homes in eight metropolitan areas: Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, an area east of Los Angeles, New York, Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia and Washington. 
Lending data showed, for example, that in 2007 customers in the Chicago area who borrowed $300,000 from Wells Fargo through an independent broker had paid an average of $2,937 more in broker fees if African-American, and $2,187 more if Hispanic, compared with white borrowers with a similar credit risk, the complaint said. 
Similarly, it said, the data showed that nationwide, an African-American borrower who had qualified for a regular loan was 2.9 times more likely to be steered into a subprime loan, and a Hispanic borrower was 1.8 times more likely, than were similarly creditworthy white borrowers. Subprime loans, which are intended for riskier borrowers, carry higher interest rates.

Of course, the article doesn't mention the default rates by race.
Wells Fargo was also facing lawsuits by several entities beyond the Justice Department, including the city of Baltimore, the state of Illinois and the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission. It settled with all of them as part of the deal, putting to rest its fair-lending cases from the bubble years. 
The focus of the settlement is Wells Fargo’s failure to police the behavior of its independent loan brokers. The complaint said that the bank had set basic credit guidelines but then had allowed the brokers discretion to charge higher rates or steer people into less attractive loans without ensuring there was no discrimination based on race or national origin 
Wells Fargo and the Justice Department were unable to agree on whether the data had showed any evidence of discrimination in the lending practices of the bank’s in-house “retail” mortgage agents. Instead, they agreed to a methodology to evaluate that data further. If it finds evidence of discrimination, the victims would receive similar compensation on top of the $175 million Wells Fargo has already agreed to pay. 
Under federal civil rights laws, a lending practice is illegal if it has a disparate impact on minority borrowers, even without evidence of discriminatory intent.

Allow me to make a prediction. Financial firms will cut back on their Minority Outreach for awhile, until such point as the Good Times are rolling again, at which point politicians will demand it and we'll go through the whole cycle all over again.
... In December, the division settled a similar lawsuit with Bank of America for $335 million over loan discrimination by its Countrywide Financial unit. In May, SunTrust Mortgage agreed to pay $21 million in a similar case.

Countrywide was the biggest mortgage lender in the country, so that puts some perspective on the Discrimination Caused the Meltdown theory.

George Zimmerman, Wrecker

From the Chicago Tribune:
New records released by prosecutors in the George Zimmerman murder case show federal civil rights investigators interviewed dozens of his friends, neighbors and coworkers, but found no one who said Zimmerman was a racist.

And if they had?

This whole brouhaha is basically the equivalent of a 1930s Stalinist show trial of "wreckers." The Five Year Plan not going as planned? Find some engineers to be blamed for throwing wrenches in their turbines out of spite. Blacks still shooting each other in large numbers? Find a Great White Defendant to play the symbolic role of Racist Wrecker. Of course, the whole thing rapidly turned into a fiasco with the GWD turning out to look like a cross between Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez, and the victim of profiling turning out to have a history of burglary.
FBI agents interviewed an array of people involved in Zimmerman's life, including several coworkers. None said they had ever known him to show racial bias. One who saw him the day after the shooting said Zimmerman was "beat up physically and emotionally." 
Agents also interviewed Chris Serino, the Sanford police department's lead investigator in the case. He told agents he believed Zimmerman had pursued Trayvon Martin "based on his attire," and not "skin color." Zimmerman, he said, has a "little hero complex" but is not a racist. ...
 Zimmerman's ex-fiancee', who filed a domestic violence injunction against him in 2005, also had kind things to say about his behavior around blacks, the FBI reported.
He socialized and played basketball with white, black and Hispanic men and "never exhibited any biases or prejudices against anyone and did not use racial epithets of any kind", an agent quoted her as saying. 
The woman told the FBI Zimmerman "began to exhibit overly protective and territorial behavior" after their engagement. Once they moved in together, the relationship "deteriorated," she told agents. She also talked about incidents of violence between them, culminating when they filed domestic-violence injunctions against each other in 2005. 
Zimmerman "often talked about wanting to be a police officer," the ex-fiancée said.

George Zimmerman is the pardo Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

To step back: I've got to figure that, in contrast, the next time the gay lobby decides to go all in on some killing of a gay, they'll make sure to get their ducks in a row better than the black lobby did on Trayvon. And if the story still turns out to be a fiasco, the gays will be able to use their media power to massage The Narrative. Blacks still have a ton of symbolic clout, but they don't have a lot of competent people in positions of power to suavely manage the storyline, so things tend to unravel on them like this. No wonder nice white people are slowly switching from blacks to gays as their Most Favored Oppressed Minority. We live in an era that values skillful marketing above just about anything else, and blacks, while they have moments of genius, generally don't execute as well as gays.

Diversity before Diversity: Dadabhai Naoroji, 19th Century MP

Skipping over to Britain, an Indian-born Parsi named Dadabhai Naoroji was elected to the British House of Commons in 1892 in the Liberal interest, serving until 1895. As a Zoroastrian priest, he took the oath of office on his copy of the Kordeh Avesta.

When the Tories swept in in 1895, another Parsi, Sir Mancherjee Merwanjee Bhownagree, won a seat representing Bethnal Green, and served in the House of Commons until the Liberal triumph of 1906. (For more on Parsis, see my 2002 article.)

We shouldn't generalize from the British experience to the American, though. I doubt if a South Asian Zoroastrian could have gotten elected in 1890s America. The two Parsis' success in British electoral politics came at the high tide of imperialist ideology in Britain, which is usually denounced for racism; but imperialism also tends to lead to cosmopolitanism, as in ancient Rome. The American equivalent might have been the Cold War. The 1965 immigration act was pushed in the name of fighting the Cold War by treating nicer all those people from strategically crucial developing countries. 

The first South Asian to be elected to Congress was California Democrat Dalip Singh Saund, a Sikh, in 1956, who went on to serve three terms.

Sports viewership: Man Smart, Woman Smarter

From Science Codex, a summary of focus groups with 19 women in prime shopping years of 26-43:
Forty years into the Title IX era, female athletes have risen to prominence and populate the sports landscape. Female viewership, however, has not witnessed the same rise. What sports are women watching (or not), and why? Of the many events in this summer's Olympics, which will be favored by women viewers? 
A recent study conducted by Erin Whiteside (University of Tennessee) and Marie Hardin (Pennsylvania State University) explores these questions. The results, published in Communication, Culture & Critique, show that women prefer condensed sporting events like the Olympics to sports with longer seasons, and that in selecting which particular Olympic sport to watch, women often select events that are seen as traditionally "feminine," like gymnastics and figure skating. 
"Our research provides some insight into why the Olympics remain popular with women," said Hardin. "It's not just about the types of sports that are featured, although that is certainly a big part of it. It's also about the way in which the Olympics is delivered: in bite-sized chunks that may require just a 10-minute commitment to see an exciting sporting event, during a time of day when women feel they can make that commitment." 
The study looked at conversations from female focus groups to determine how women consume sports media. The findings show that female spectatorship is often tied to gender roles and related domestic work. 
Nearly all women surveyed expressed preference for the Olympics, for patriotic reasons as well as for the fast pace. "Women preferred the condensed style of coverage, something they described as easy to follow," Whiteside explains. The frequency of events during the Olympics, as well as the omnipresent discussion around it —from television to radio to the news—made it preferable for women who otherwise did not identify as avid sports viewers or didn't regularly have the time to devote to watching sports. 
Women in the study favored sports that were more traditionally feminine rather than masculine. Participants generally saw little value in following women's sports and were especially uninterested in watching or following women in sports such as basketball, which showcase athletic displays that challenge traditional gender roles. Rather, they expressed a passing interest in sports such as gymnastics, tennis, and figure skating."

You have to admit that this is a more sensible way to consume sports fandom than, say, enrolling in a fantasy league. I certainly feel this way about the Winter Olympics. Every four years, there will be short track speed skating, which always starts out as two minutes of elegance and winds up with 15 seconds of Keystone Kops Kaos, with Apolo Anton Ohno inevitably winning some kind of medal, and the South Koreans fuming over Ohno's perfidious Nippo-American good fortune and threatening to expel the U.S. Army. I look forward to each Winter Olympics for this tradition, but I can't say I follow short track speed skating any other time.

All I know is what I read in the papers

We heard over and over again that Obama's Administrative Amnesty was a political masterstroke, but now the polls are finally in and the Washington Post reports "No Immigration Bounce for Obama." It turns out that -- What do you know? -- immigration is a bad issue for Obama, especially in swing states (in red above -- and, no, I don't know what the right half of the graph means.)

What does make a difference is the sheer racial change created by immigration. If the U.S. still had the demographics of 1980, Obama would likely lose as badly as Carter. As brilliant GOP strategic thinkers like Rove, Bush, and McCain argued, therefore the Republicans should speed up demographic change.

July 11, 2012

Genetics of Amerindians

From the New York Times:
Earliest Americans Arrived in Waves, DNA Study Finds 
North and South America were first populated by three waves of migrants from Siberia rather than just a single migration, say researchers who have studied the whole genomes of Native Americans in South America and Canada. 
Some scientists assert that the Americas were peopled in one large migration from Siberia that happened about 15,000 years ago, but the new genetic research shows that this central episode was followed by at least two smaller migrations from Siberia, one by people who became the ancestors of today’s Eskimos and Aleutians and another by people speaking Na-Dene, whose descendants are confined to North America. The research was published online Wednesday in the journal Nature. 

The Na-Dene speakers include the Navajo and Apache of the American Southwest, although no U.S. tribes were included in the study because of political opposition to genetic research. It's my vague impression that Na-Dene speaking Indians tend to look more Siberian than other American Indians, which wouldn't be surprising since they had ancestors in Siberia more recently.
The finding vindicates a proposal first made on linguistic grounds by Joseph Greenberg, the great classifier of the world’s languages. He asserted in 1987 that most languages spoken in North and South America were derived from the single mother tongue of the first settlers from Siberia, which he called Amerind. Two later waves, he surmised, brought speakers of Eskimo-Aleut and of Na-Dene, the language family spoken by the Apache and Navajo. 
But many linguists who specialize in American languages derided Dr. Greenberg’s proposal, saying they saw no evidence for any single ancestral language like Amerind. “American linguists made up their minds 25 year ago that they wouldn’t support Greenberg, and they haven’t changed their mind one whit,” said Merritt Ruhlen, a colleague of Dr. Greenberg, who died in 2001.

Reductionism is popular in physics, but not in the social sciences since the 1960s, or maybe not since the stock market crash of 1929. Anthropologist Robin Fox jokes that his field suffers from "ethnographic dazzle" or stamp collectoritis.
The new DNA study is based on gene chips that sample the entire genome and presents a fuller picture than earlier studies, which were based on small regions of the genome like the Y chromosome or mitochondrial DNA. Several of the mitochondrial DNA studies had pointed to a single migration. 
A team headed by David Reich of the Harvard Medical School and Dr. Andres Ruiz-Linares of University College London report that there was a main migration that populated the entire Americas. They cannot date the migration from their genomic data but accept the estimate by others that the migration occurred around 15,000 years ago. This was in the window of time that occurred after the melting of great glaciers that blocked passage from Siberia to Alaska, and before the rising waters at the end of the last ice age submerged Beringia, the land bridge between them. 
They also find evidence for two further waves of migration, one among Na-Dene speakers and the other among Eskimo-Aleut, again as Dr. Greenberg predicted. But whereas Dr. Greenberg’s proposal suggested that three discrete groups of people were packed into the Americas, the new genome study finds that the second and third waves mixed in with the first. Eskimos inherit about half of their DNA from the people of the first migration and half from a second migration. The Chipewyans of Canada, who speak a Na-Dene language, have 90 percent of their genes from the first migration and some 10 percent from a third. 
It is not clear why the Chipewyans and others speak a Na-Dene language if most of their DNA is from Amerind speakers. Dr. Ruiz-Linares said a minority language can often dominate others in the case of conquest; an example of this is the ubiquity of Spanish in Latin America.

July 10, 2012

Father of Silicon Valley: Shockley or Terman?

My new column in Taki's Magazine:
With Silicon Valley back on top of the world, it’s time to point out a bit of unwelcome history.  
There are two competing narratives about the technology hub’s origins: 
• The famous tale of how William Shockley’s obnoxious management style spun off start-up silicon chipmakers such as Intel; 
• The less-familiar version centering on Stanford professor Frederick Terman and Hewlett-Packard.  
What has almost never been pointed out, however, is that the two rivals for the title of Father of Silicon Valley, Shockley and Terman, had common roots in early 20th century Palo Alto’s scientific and ideological consensus, a now extremely unfashionable worldview that has been driven underground but remains fundamental to how Silicon Valley actually succeeds in the 21st century.

Isn't the name "Terman" familiar for something else?

Read the whole thing there.

Sibling rivalry: Ed Hall and Ted Hall

While researching my new Taki's column, I read Steve Blank's blog series "The Secret History of Silicon Valley" about the region's debt to the Cold War military-industrial complex. (Here's an hour-long lecture by Blank.) This digression doesn't have too much to do with Silicon Valley, but it is another good Cold War story:
One of the most interesting (declassified) stories of cryptography is the deciphering of Soviet communications to their diplomatic missions in the U.S during World War II. ... 
I had dinner last week with someone involved in the VENONA project (now retired.) We talked about one of the spies unearthed in the decoded messages; Ted Hall, a 19-year-old scientist at Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project.  For lots of complicated reasons Hall was never arrested nor charged with a crime. Hall’s interest in Communism came from literature his older brother Ed brought home from college. 
When Ted Hall went to work on the Atomic Bomb during World War II his older brother Ed joined the Air Force. 
During the Cold War, when Ted Hall was under suspicion of being a Soviet spy, his brother Ed Hall, stayed in the Air Force and worked on every U.S. military missile program in the 1950′s (Atlas, Thor, etc.) 
Ed Hall eventually became the father of the Minuteman missile project, our land-based ICBM carrying nuclear weapons to destroy the Soviet Union. 
Surely the KGB, who ran Ted Hall as a spy, knew about his brother?  Perhaps even first…? 
My dinner companion, (who had a hand in his agency's counterintelligence group,) “acted” surprised about the connection between the two… 
Oh, what a wilderness of mirrors we live in.

Online higher education v. the accounting profession

Accounting would seem to be an ideal major for online higher education. There aren't any labs and it has right and wrong answers so tests can be graded by computers. To be an accountant you have to pass the CPA exam, so why hang around college for four years taking random humanities courses when you could just study accounting really intensely at home for a couple of years and then pass the CPA exam?


Well, the accounting professional societies have been well aware of these arguments since the days of correspondence courses. And they don't favor making it cheaper and faster for you to become an accountant like them. In their minds, they have quite enough competition as it is. Plus, it's more pleasant to associate with fellow accountants who have also taken Art History rather just drudge away at accounting.

So, they've responded with a long state-by-state campaign for "The 150 Hour Requirement." Over 40 states now require that anybody sitting the CPA exam must have 150 credit hours of higher education. That's not four years of college, but five.

The American Institute of CPAs helpfully explains how to get your 150 hours:
Combine an undergraduate accounting degree with a master's degree at the same school or at a different one; 
Combine an undergraduate degree in some other discipline with a master's in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting; 
Enroll in an integrated five-year professional accounting school or program leading to a master's degree in accounting.

In this world, there are a lot of organized Powers that Be, such as the accounting professional organizations. And most of them don't have much incentive to make college cheaper for those who aren't part of organized Powers that Be.

Germans doing German stuff

The New York Times is baffled by the existence of a nude beach on a riverbank in rural Wisconsin:
MAZOMANIE, Wis. — America’s Dairyland seems an odd setting for a nude beach. Its short summers and swarms of mosquitoes are hardly in keeping with the palm-tree paradise that “free” bathing brings to mind. ... 
And yet for decades, nudists have basked on Mazo Beach, a secluded sandbank on the lower Wisconsin River about 30 miles northwest of Madison. With estimates as high as 70,000 visitors a year, the spot, which is owned by the state, has become one of the largest nude beaches in the country that is not on a coastline, weathering angry protesters, conservative politicians and wary neighbors along the way.

It shouldn't be surprising. Wisconsin is the most German state in America, and nudism was one of many Life Reform movements that popped up in Germany in the late 19th Century. 

Sci-fi writer Robert A. Heinlein, for example, was a classic German-American dualist: an engineer and military officer who was also into nudism and a lot of other such stuff that briefly made him a hippie icon in the late 1960s. His 1951 novel The Puppet Masters can be read both as a classic alien invasion thriller and as a huge plot contrivance to force the U.S. Government order all the women in America to walk around without any clothes on (Operation Sun Tan).

July 9, 2012

A. Who won the Big One?

A reader asks:
"What I don't get is how pretty much no Continental universities really have that super brand name status. It's basically only Oxford, Cambridge, and American universities."

I touched upon this in VDARE.com in 2008:
American colleges weren't always the top dogs. The modern university was largely invented in Germany. At the beginning of the last century, the world's leading universities were mostly German, such as the University of Göttingen, which had hosted such professors and students as Gauss, Schopenhauer, Metternich, Riemann, Bismarck, Heine, and both Humboldts. Today, though, the highest-ranking German college on The Times [of London] Higher Education Top 100 list is Heidelberg way down at 60th. 
... Why are German colleges now so weak? They have yet to recover from expelling their Jews in 1933, and from the post-WWII emasculation of their traditional elitism in the name of egalitarianism. Entrance standards and tuition are kept low, and students frequently hang around aimlessly for a decade. 
The once-great universities of France, such as the ancient University of Paris (Sorbonne), were similarly wrecked by adopting leftist admissions policies in response to the May 1968 student protests. The AP reported on Nicolas Sarkozy's hopes of Americanizing French higher education: 
"The Sorbonne, France's most renowned university, has no cafeteria, no student newspaper, no varsity sports and no desk-side plugs for laptop users. It also costs next-to-nothing to attend, and admission is open to everyone who has finished high school." 
Today, no French college makes the world top 25 and only the tiny École Normale Supérieure and the small École Polytechnique, from which the French ruling class are recruited, are in the top 100. 
In contrast to the dismal damage done to European higher education by post-WWII leftism, perhaps the only great American college ruined in the name of egalitarianism was City College of New York, where the neoconservatives of the 1970s had been the Trotskyites of the 1930s. Nine future Nobel Laureates graduated from CCNY between 1933 and 1950. Sadly, as Wikipedia reports: 
"During a 1969 takeover of South campus, under threat of a race riot, African American and Puerto Rican activists and their white allies demanded, among other policy changes, that City College implement an aggressive affirmative action program … The administration of CCNY at first balked at the demands, but instead, came up with an open admissions or open-access program … Beginning in 1970, the program opened doors to college to many who would not otherwise have been able to attend college, but came at the cost of City College's academic standing and New York City's fiscal health." 
But, despite the leftism endemic in American higher education, practically every other famous college, such as Berkeley, home to the most notorious protests of the 1960s, had the good sense not to practice what they preached. 
Rather than follow CCNY's disastrous route, they made the cheaper choice of paying off minorities with affirmative action. Simultaneously, and paradoxically, they became even more IQ elitist in choosing mainstream applicants. Today, Berkeley gets ten applications for every spot in its freshman class. The typical Berkeley freshman has a high school GPA of 4.25 on a 0 to 4 scale (an A in an Advanced Placement course counts as a 5), with an SAT score at the 94th percentile among test takers.

Since then, I've come up with an even more reductionist answer:

Q. Why are Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge today so much more prestigious than Gottingen, Sorbonne, Padua, and Salamanca?

A. Who won the Big One?

That, by the way, is the answer to a lot of questions about 21st Century phenomenon. 

Keep in mind that it wasn't just that Germany and Italy lost in 1945, France lost in 1940, and Spain sympathized with the losers. 

Universities are, deep down, rightist institutions: elitist and conservative. Because the Continentals lost in the name of Fascism, there wasn't much resistance to the old-fashioned Marxist Left proletarianizing the grand old universities on the Continent in the post-War era. 

In contrast, the Anglo-Americans won in the name of Democracy, so they kept their elitist and conservative universities pretty much unchanged. In fact, as I'll discuss in Taki's Magazine Tuesday night, the American government poured vast riches into the elite colleges to fight the Cold War. 

Are races racist?

From the L.A. Times:
Is talking about slave eugenics a fireable offense? It depends.
By Dan Turner 
When Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder opined about slavery, eugenics and black American athletes, it ended his career as a sports commentator on CBS. When American Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson made similar comments to a British newspaper, it left some wondering whether he'd face the same fate -- Johnson, too, works as a sports commentator, for the BBC. 
The answer is, probably not. That's because Johnson, unlike Snyder, is African American and thus can say things about African Americans that whites can't ...

And so forth and so on.

Americans aren't very censorious about sex anymore, so what we get titillated and censorious about now is talking about race. But, that keeps us from actually thinking much about race. Nobody has much investigated the Snyder-Johnson hypothesis.

How much evidence is there for genetic selection of blacks in the New World? Let's look at the simplest relevant database for evaluating the Snyder-Johnson theory: Wikipedia's list of the 83 men who have run 100m in faster than 10 seconds. Of those 83, 81 are of at least partial black African descent, and most top New World sprinters are very African looking (i.e., not very admixed with other races -- e.g, Carl Lewis. So is Michael Johnson, for that matter, although he wasn't a 100m man.) All that's pretty good evidence that black African genes help. 

Out of those 81, I count 14 runners born and raised in Africa. That 14 includes 12 running for African countries and two who grew up in West Africa but run as adults for Norway or Qatar.

My basic assumption is that in most complex situations nature and nurture are of roughly similar importance. North America and the West Indies have better nurture than Africa, so it's hardly surprising that a majority of black nine second men are from the Diaspora rather than from Africa. (Of course, in the short run, drugs matter: Jamaica's rise relative to the U.S. from 2004 to 2008 stemmed largely from America finally cracking down on drugs -- e.g., Marion Jones going to prison -- but Jamaica not. But, in the long run, this tends to work out.)

The West African figures aren't as impressive as the 38 from the U.S., 11 from Jamaica, and five from Trinidad. Yet, excluding American and West Indian blacks, Nigeria leads the world with eight men under 10 seconds. In other words, Nigeria has four times as many sub 10 second men as the entire 6 billion people who aren't black African by ancestry.

So, from this data I can't reject my null hypothesis that blacks in the English-speaking New World are pretty much the same genetically as their distant cousins in West Africa, but just benefit from an environment more conducive to super-fast sprinting. But I can't confirm it either: the data fall right about where either notion is plausible but not persuasive.

Einstein said that explanations should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. The 100m dash data is congruent with a model with two, possibly three major factors:

- Nature -- On average, blacks tend to be faster runners for , especially men of West African descent in the sprints, the shorter the better.

- Nurture -- On average, the environment (defined broadly to include health, wealth, coaching, shoes, organization, drug test evasion sophistication, etc.) is better for sprinters in North America and the West Indies than in Africa.

What I can't tell is whether we need a third factor, which is differences in nature (genes) between West Africans and their distant cousins in the northern part of the New World. Because I don't see an obvious mechanism for selecting for faster sprinters, and because it's not obvious we need to find one, I'm not enthusiastic about this hypothesized third factor. But I can't totally reject it either.

Bill & Melinda rebranding 3rd World population control as feminist

I've long figured that Bill Gates is, under all the politically correct enthusiasms he espoused after getting sued for anti-trust by the Clinton Administration, an old line Progressive WASP robber baron, like the Rockefellers and Walker-Bushes, whose views on population control were summed up cogently here.

From the NYT:
Fulfilling Contraception Needs Could Lower Maternal Mortality Drastically, Study Says

A new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University shows that fulfilling unmet contraception demand by women in developing countries could reduce global maternal mortality by nearly a third, a potentially great improvement for one of the world’s most vulnerable populations.
The study, published on Tuesday in The Lancet, a British science journal, comes ahead of a major family planning conference in London organized by the British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that is an attempt to refocus attention on the issue. It has faded from the international agenda in recent years, overshadowed by efforts to combat AIDS and other infectious diseases, as well as by ideological battles. 

In other words, if, by providing more and better contraceptives to Third Worlders, you can reduce maternity by 1/3rd that ought, all else being equal, to reduce maternal mortality by 1/3rd. So, this push by Bill and Melinda Gates to boost population control isn't about keeping nonwhite Third World babies from being born, it's about keeping nonwhite Third World women from dying! Are you in favor of nonwhite Third World women dying? Hunh? Hunh? Are ya? So, Melinda and I aren't racists, we are feminists, and anybody who says we're racist just wants nonwhite Third World women to die in childbirth.
The proportion of international population assistance funds that went to family planning fell to just 6 percent in 2008, down from 55 percent in 1995, while spending on H.I.V./AIDS represented 74 percent of the total in 2008, up from just 9 percent in 1995, according to Rachel Nugent, a professor of global health at the University of Washington, who cited figures from the United Nations Population Fund. 
But population growth has continued to surge, with the United Nations estimating last year that the world’s population, long expected to stabilize, will instead keep growing. Population experts warn that developing countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, where fertility continues to be high and shortages of food and water are worsening, will face deteriorating conditions if family sizes do not shrink. 
“Family planning kind of faded from the radar screen, and now it is coming back,” said John May, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development and author of a book, “World Population Policies: Their Origin, Evolution, and Impact.” 
“There is a realization from many different places that population issues are not going away,” he said. 
The issue of family planning is fraught in the United States, where government assistance often gets caught up in political battles. Contraception has again become controversial this political season, though the United States remains a major donor. 
The Gates Foundation and the British government are pressing the issue. About $4 billion is expected to be pledged at the London conference to provide family planning services to 120 million women from the world’s poorest countries over the next eight years. ...
Birth control reduces health risks, the researchers said, by delaying first pregnancies, which carry higher risks in very young women; cutting down on unsafe abortions, which account for 13 percent of all maternal deaths in developing countries; and controlling dangers associated with pregnancies that are too closely spaced.

Uh, and by cutting down on the number of births.
The authors of the Lancet study, researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, found that the number of maternal deaths in those countries in 2008 would have nearly doubled without contraception.
... The lack of birth control in poor countries has become an important issue for Melinda Gates, who argued in highly personal remarks in April that birth control should not be controversial, because it improves women’s lives. 
“Somewhere along the way we got confused by our own conversation and we stopped trying to save these lives,” she said. She added: : “We’re not talking about abortion. We’re not talking about population control. What I’m talking about is giving women the power to save their lives.”

Indeed, I suspect that much of the Gates Foundations' often disastrous interventions in American education are, at some level, intended as a triple bankshot plan to reduce NAM fertility by keeping NAMs in school longer.

Academic Inertia

With all the predictions buzzing about how higher education will be radically remade by the Internet Real Soon Now, please allow me to tell a little story.

In 1975, I visited Stanford's campus. At that point in history, the hierarchy of prestige in American higher education went:

1. Harvard
2. Yale
3. Uncertain, but probably either Princeton, Stanford, MIT, or Cal Tech.

My impression of Stanford 37 years ago was highly favorable: Why would anybody go anywhere else if he could get in here? The climate, the campus, and the career opportunities in the surrounding Silicon Valley ...

In the 3/8ths of a century since then, Stanford has triumphed in just about every conceivable way, as Silicon Valley has grown vastly.

And yet, it's by no means certain that Stanford has managed to move up at all in the prestige rankings, weighted down by its Mark of Cain: having only been founded in the 19th Century, not the 17th or 18th Century. That's how much stasis there is in this industry.

July 8, 2012

"Why 'illegal immigrant' is a slur"

Charles Garcia, CEO of
Garcia Trujillo
From CNN:
Why 'illegal immigrant' is a slur 
By Charles Garcia, Special to CNN 
Editor's note: Charles Garcia, who has served in the administrations of four presidents, of both parties, is the CEO of Garcia Trujillo, a business focused on the Hispanic market. He was named in the book "Hispanics in the USA: Making History" as one of 14 Hispanic role models for the nation. Follow him on Twitter: @charlespgarcia. Lea este artículo en español/Read this article in Spanish 
(CNN) -- Last month's Supreme Court decision in the landmark Arizona immigration case was groundbreaking for what it omitted: the words "illegal immigrants" and "illegal aliens," except when quoting other sources. The court's nonjudgmental language established a humanistic approach to our current restructuring of immigration policy.

In my orthogonal way, what caught my eye about this article was the striking "Editor's note" insisting that you'd better pay respectful attention to this guy's political opinion because he is a ... marketing consultant.

Now, you may have a tendency to treat marketing consultants' opinions as self-serving spin, but, you don't understand, this guy is a Hispanic Marketing Consultant, so you'd better listen to him. After all, we newspaper editors get almost all our opinions about immigration from Hispanic Marketing Consultants. They're the Gold Standard when you need a quote in a hurry about immigration. They always return phone calls and always tell our reporters exactly what they want to hear. So, listen up, buddy.

Look, the leadership class of America bet the country based on what Hispanic marketing consultants told us. Now, we could go around all day on whether or not that was a prudent move, but, seriously, do you expect us to to tell you, oops, we shouldn't have believed Hispanic marketing consultants without doublechecking? Of course not. We're just going to keep force-feeding you the views of Hispanic marketing consultants until nobody can remember that there's any other way to think.

New: Online Learning. Old: Correspondence Courses

The media furor over how Online Learning will make college irrelevant because everybody will go to MIT or Stanford from their bedroom reminds me that when I was a kid, you heard a lot about "correspondence courses." Strivers took advanced courses by mail back then.

In Evelyn Waugh stories, a sure clue that a character is a lower middle class dweeb doomed to never rise in a society run by Oxbridge grads and Old Etonians is that he boasts of having signed up for some correspondence courses. 

How much has the effectiveness of distance learning improved due to technology? I'm sure it's a little better now, but it seemed like the most motivated correspondence course students could learn a fair amount, although most just gave up. Or, is the current hubbub reflective not of a revolutionary improvement in technique, but that Stanford and MIT are putting their glamorous bricks and mortar brand names on some distance learning products, with the implication that some of their elite institution magic pixie dust will somehow rub off on guys living in their moms' basement?

Diversity before Diversity: James Jesus Angleton

One of the most glamorous and castigated characters of 20th Century American history was the CIA's head of counter-intelligence from 1954-1975, James Jesus Angleton

He was, as his famous middle name suggests, half-Mexican. His father was an officer in Pershing's army that invaded Mexico in 1916, his mother was a young Mexican society beauty.

There have long been connections between espionage and literature, with several famous writers having served in intelligence agencies (e.g., Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, William F. Buckley, John Le Carre). Angleton has fascinated writers because he was a man of letters who became a major intelligence operative.

A poet and literary critic, editor of the poetry journal Furioso, he borrowed his friend T.S. Eliot's image in Gerontion of "a wilderness of mirrors" to describe the problems he confronted in trying to figure out which purported Soviet defectors were credible and which were plants when they arrived bearing tales of traitors in British and American intelligence. 

When Angleton's life was finally depicted in a big budget movie, 2006's The Good Shepherd, director Robert de Niro and screenwriter Eric Roth chose to make Matt Damon's fictionalized version of Angleton not more fascinating than even the real man was (in the reasonable tradition of biopics), but vastly duller in order, apparently, to make the point that WASPs are boring. 

The whole Mexican mother thing was dropped, of course, as too interesting and too confusing for modern audiences.