December 8, 2012

NYT: Is Hollywood finally ending its War on Women by sending women to war?

In December of each year, the New York Times film critics, like film critics everywhere, write Deep Think pieces about what patterns in the movies released in the current year tell us about Trends in the Big Issues. The annual answer ought to be: Virtually nothing, because what gets released in a single year is a close to a random sample of projects that had been in the works for years and happened to come to fruition now. But that never stops the critics from pontificating on 2012: The Meaning of It All.

Not surprisingly, they are still using Obama Campaign talking points.

A.O Scott starts out by recounting that some nobody in some nowheresville (Buffalo?) complained about Snow White and the Huntsman being yet another Butt-Kicking Babe movie in which a 105 pound starlet whomps on bad guys in hand-to-hand combat.
The picture’s apparent reversal of gender norms — this Snow White wears armor, wields a sword and leads an army into battle — struck Parlato (who does not seem to have seen it) as emblematic of “a Hollywood agenda of glorifying degenerate power women and promoting as natural the weakling, hyena-like men, cum eunuchs.”

Neither the NYT scribe nor the nobody in Buffalo seem to notice that the main audience for Butt-Kicking Babe movies are nerdier guys who wish women would be interested in the kind of stuff they are interested in: weapons, fighting, quests, and so forth.
A Hollywood agenda of glorifying powerful women — now that is news. Granting that Parlato’s rant seemed to emanate from the same zone of the culture-war id that undid a few Republican Senate candidacies this year, you might still be inclined to wonder if, in sensing a shift in the portrayal of women, he was onto something — or for that matter to hope that he might have been.

In reality, Snow White and the Huntsman was least interesting for its Butt-Kicking Babe aspect -- pothead Kristen Stewart's under-energized Snow White has been dropped from any sequel, with Chris Hemsworth's Huntsman more likely to carry. And it was most interesting for Charlize Theron's Wicked Witch, because evil women characters, such as that Golden Age of Hollywood mainstay, the femme fatale, have largely disappeared due to a combination of feminism and movies being aimed at younger, more innocent males who are more idealistic about girls.
After all, the contrary complaint — that Hollywood is a swamp of testosterone, turning out entertainment that marginalizes or condescends to women when it does not ignore them entirely — has been around much longer, and has, to say the least, a much stronger grounding in reality. Have things really changed that much?

Movies are more masculine than advertising-funded media because they are largely paid for by ticket-buyers, and, on average, males pay for movie tickets more than females. There are plenty of roles for actresses of a certain age solving murder mysteries on TV, because advertisers love the women's market, because women spend more than men, because men turn more of their income over to women than vice-versa.
There is a smattering of evidence to support the impression that they have, because 2012 was, all in all, a pretty good year for movies and also a pretty good year for female heroism. In addition to “Snow White and the Huntsman,” there was “Brave,” whose flame-haired heroine, Merida, combined Disney-princess pluck with Pixar’s visual ingenuity; “The Hunger Games,” which drew on young-adult literature to find, in the resourceful person of Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence), a new archetype of survivalist girl power; ...And we should not forget the culmination of the “Twilight” saga, speaking of Kristen Stewart, whose Bella Swan, grown from a sulky, indecisive teenager into a fiercely protective vampire mother, fought alongside her in-laws against the supernatural forces of evil. Forget about Team Jacob and Team Edward: it was Team Renesmee that triumphed in the end. 
Of course it would be silly to proclaim, on the basis of a handful of movies, that some kind of grand role reversal has taken place, that cultural power has shifted toward women, or even that 2012 is yet another “year of the woman,” a wishful phrase that surfaces periodically in movies as it does in politics.

Let me focus on Twilight, Brave, and The Hunger Games, because those are coming from farther right in the cultural landscape than normally makes it into movies. Twilight is a woozy Mormon fantasy, Brave comes from Pixar (which long ago set itself up in Northern California to stay out of the Hollywood cultural orbit), and The Hunger Games novels were written by a woman trying to channel her military historian father. 

The big innovation in Brave and The Hunger Games in the Butt-Kicking Babe genre is that the heroine does not fight with her fists or feet, a gun, or a sword, but with the more culturally traditional bow. Of course, this is an ancient trope, going back to Diana/Artemis. Archery was extremely fashionable among mid-Victorian maidens because it gave them an excuse to show off their legs in Robin Hood-style tunics and tights. (One contemporary complaint was that because archery was so fashionable, girls wouldn't wear their glasses while shooting, and thus many couldn't even see the target or perhaps even the bale of hay the target was pinned to.)

December 7, 2012

"Asian women are a story of BRAVERY of Love"

Tall white knight appears to want in on the anti-hate / pro-hot Asian babe
diversity action, but the Asian Womyn activists don't look too interested
The Obama Coalition is now widely perceived as an unstoppable juggernaut of unified diversity or, perhaps, diverse unity (I can never remember which) that will inevitably steamroll white male divisiveness into oblivion. But, there are certain cracks in the Obama Coalition. Fortunately, the Obamaites possess an all purpose solution: blame the White Man in order to get more diversity goodies.

From the UCLA Daily Bruin:
Rally responds to incidents of hate speech at UCLA


Editor’s note: We have decided to run in this story the exact wording of the racial and sexist slurs in this incident. Given the nature of these slurs, the editorial staff were faced with the question of whether it was appropriate for the student newspaper to repeat these slurs and potentially perpetuate their use. The editorial decision was made to write them as they occurred in order to report accurately and thoroughly on the incident. 
About a hundred people rallied outside Kerckhoff Hall earlier today, following acts of vandalism involving racial and sexist slurs that were reported to police earlier this week. 
On Tuesday, a student found a piece of paper with the words “asian women R Honkie white-boy worshipping Whores” attached to a Vietnamese Student Union sign in Kerckhoff Hall. Wednesday, a similar phrase was found handwritten on the door of a bathroom stall in Powell Library. University police are currently investigating both incidents. 

Obviously, the phrase "Honkie white-boy" is a slur against white men. But nobody is going to protest that. Equally obviously, this sign was put up either by an Asian guy or a non-Asian gal. (The second sign was found in a women's bathroom.) Or an Asian lesbian.

Technically, this doesn't even qualify as another campus Hate Hoax because the perp isn't even trying to make it look like a white man did it. But nobody in authority seems to notice.
Amid chants of “hey, hey, ho, ho; Racism has got to go” and people holding colorful signs, speakers from various campus groups expressed their disappointment with the occurrences at the rally, which was hosted by the Vietnamese Student Union. 
Anees Hasnain, the student who reported the slurs on the Vietnamese Student Union sign to UCPD, said she felt numb and was shocked when she found the sign. 
She added she is concerned by repeated incidents of hate speech on campus, referring to reports from earlier this year about anti-Mexican and sexist slurs written on an apartment door, and a video posted by former UCLA student Alexandra Wallace that included derogatory comments about Asian students. ...
The Asian Pacific Coalition plans to hold a forum in the basement of the Student Activities Center on Dec. 5 to further discuss campus climate at UCLA.

(By the way, did they really think this name through? What happens when the Census announces there are 19 Million Rising? 20 Million? How many different websites are they paying to reserve?)
Imagine starting your academic day opening a door with this on it:
Now, imagine the very next day, another racial and sexist slur is on the bathroom stall at the library.

These two things actually happened back-to-back on UCLA’s campus in November 2012. And unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. Will you stand with us and demand that UCLA take action against hate?

Vietnamese Student Union (VSU) is urging UCLA’s Academic Senate to implement the “diversity requirement” by next academic school year. This diversity requirement would give students a balanced understanding and appreciation for their own, and other, cultures. The curriculum would address issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and other institutionalized systems of inequality.

Send an email to UCLA's Academic Senate Chair, Dr. Linda Sarna, and demand the diversity requirement for the next academic school year. 
UCLA is the only UC that does not have a diversity requirement.

And here's the email:
Dear Dr. Linda Sarna, UCLA Academic Senate Chair, 
We are writing in response to the recent attacks to the Vietnamese Student Union at UCLA and the greater API community, especially womyn of color. 
We would like for the University of California, Los Angeles to reconsider prioritizing the diversity requirement. This incident has shown that ignorance and insensitivity to other cultures still exists on your campus. This ignorance has aggregated in the form of a deliberate action that threatens the safety of colored communities on campus. Additionally, this is just one of many actions that have been formed to attack people of color, including the Alexandra Wallace video and the vandalism directed toward the latino/a community. 
What happened at the VSU office was not just a singular racially offensive action, but part of a set of actions that has been ongoing for the past couple of years. It will serve as a reminder that these types of incidents will continue to recur until the university takes action against it. It surprises me that a campus that prides itself on diversity does not act as a model in having such a requirement. 
We urge the Academic Senate to do everything in its power to work with students and faculty to get the diversity requirement implemented immediately. 

By the way, Google (I presume) chose to serve up the following ad on the Daily Bruin's article about this event, presumably due to keyword matching. (Can you guess which keywords?) You won't get this ad everytime, but it came up every half dozen times or so I hit Refresh.

PR suggestion

If Bibi Netanyahu had a better ear for American SWPL propaganda, in his U.S. appearances he’d refer to the Palestinians as “anti-immigrant hate groups.” As in, “Today, the Israeli Air Force dropped white phosphorus on a nest of anti-immigrant hate groups.”

Who is interested in elite college admissions? Right: nobody.

As you may have noticed, articles about elite college admissions are a staple of the national press. For example, a parody in The Awl began:
The Most Emailed 'New York Times' Article Ever 
David Parker | January 20th, 2011 
It’s a week before the biggest day of her life, and Anna Williams is multitasking. While waiting to hear back from the Ivy League colleges she’s hoping to attend, the seventeen-year-old senior at one of Manhattan’s most exclusive private schools is doing research for a paper about organic farming in the West Bank, whipping up a batch of vegan brownies, and, like an increasing number of American teenagers, teaching her dog, José Saramago, to use an iPad.

And goes on to touch on other favorite topics of New York Times readers such as Obama's dog, black-Jewish relationships, Mandarin-immersion programs, and neuroscience, but revolves back to conclude with Topic One:
Six months ago, Anna started her own bocce club. It’s already one of the most popular extracurricular activities at her school. 
Will bringing bocce to the Upper East Side be enough to get Anna Williams into Harvard, Yale or Princeton? She’ll find out next week. Until then, she’s got her hands full: José Saramago just learned how to use Twitter.

So, you might think that Ron Unz's "The Myth of American Meritocracy," which is crammed with more info about elite college admissions than anything published in years, would have made quite a splash. And, indeed, when mentioned, it tends to elicit voluminous comments (e.g., 363 on Marginal Revolution). So, since the news media lives for traffic, they must be all over this, right?


At Google News, if I type in 

Unz college

I get:
  1. Elite College Admissions Are Unfair, Sure... We Still Shouldn't Care

    Huffington Post (blog)-Nov 29, 2012
    In fact it might be utterly the wrong thing to worry about. Many argue that the inequity of elite collegeadmissions is really important. As Ron Unz ...
  1. For Third-raters Who Want to Get Into Harvard, It Helps To Have ...

    Forbes-Dec 1, 2012
    Although virtually every paragraph in Unz's long essay is brimming with controversy, if I were 18 again and trying to get into a good college...

And that's it of late December 7: two stories on Google News.

2012: The Sports Fan Gap

Democratic strategist Ruy Teixeira gives his analysis of the Edison Exit poll numbers. Here's an excerpt on the Slippery Six states that slipped through Romney's fingers, especially Ohio:
Change in minority share of
voters, 2008-2012 
Iowa -2
Michigan 5
Minnesota 3
Ohio 4
Pennsylvania 3
Wisconsin 3 
President Obama carried all six of these states. Of the six, the most hotly contested  and the state with the narrowest margin was Ohio, where President Obama eked out a 3-point victory (51 percent to 48 percent) thanks to two key factors. One was the minority vote: People of color increased their share of voters by 4 percentage points in Ohio, which was entirely due to an increase in black voters, who gave the president 96 percent of their vote.  
The other factor was white working-class voters, a weak group for President Obama in the state during the 2008 election. In that election, Sen. McCain carried these voters by 10 points. The Romney campaign anticipated a large expansion of the Republican margin among these voters, but it was not to be. Gov. Romney’s 14-point margin (56 percent to 42 percent) was an improvement over Sen. McCain’s numbers but proved too modest a gain for his purposes. Indeed, Gov. Romney actually improved more among white college graduates, expanding Sen. McCain’s 1-point margin to a very strong 18-point advantage (58 percent to 40 percent). If Gov. Romney had improved that much among white working-class voters, he would have easily taken the state and its 18 electoral votes.

I think it's pretty weird that Obama won the Which One Is the Regular Guy You'd Wanna Have a Beer With popularity contest. I mean if I had a beer with him, I'd probably steer the subject to what he thinks of the latest lit fic he's read. 

Besides not drinking beer, Romney allowed a major Sports Fan Gap to emerge. Romney likes outdoor activities, but he never showed much evidence that he was a passionate spectator sports fan, while Obama's army of paid Tweeters were always churning out the Commander in Chief's views on how to set up a college football national championship playoff and other pressing topics.

Dogs that don't bark

One of the hardest things for intellectuals to be aware of is the absence of evidence. So, it's worth noting some explicit evidence of absence.

For example, I've been pointing out for years that it's imprudent of intellectuals to bet the country on massive Latin American immigration without considering just how intellectual the country is going to wind up being afterward. Here in Los Angeles we're a couple of generations ahead of you in the Northeast.

From the Los Angeles Times "Jacket Copy" column on publishing, May 12, 2012, about a Spanish-language book fair in Los Angeles that is an offshoot of the big annual trade show for Spanish language publishers in Guadalajara:
Finally, LéaLA attempts to help make amends for a bizarre L.A. cultural phenomenon: the city’s near-absence of Spanish-language bookstores. Apart from public libraries, university bookstores (which stock course-related titles) and a handful of small shops like Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in Sylmar and the Libros Schmibros bookstore/lending library in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles -- with the United States’ largest Spanish-speaking population -- has virtually no place to find and buy Spanish-language books.

It's a bit of an exaggeration to say that Los Angeles has virtually no place to find and buy Spanish-language books. For example, there's a shelf in my local Barnes & Noble devoted to Spanish-language books. But, still ....

December 6, 2012

Washington ruling class to rest of America: "What, us worry?"

From WJLA:
Census Bureau: D.C. is becoming whiter, younger, richer

From the perspective of K Street, it's obvious that the real problem facing America is all these trustfunders with advanced degrees making it hard to get a 7:30 PM reservation at a decent restaurant. Something needs to be done about America getting too white, too young, and too rich. I know ... more immigration!

What does it take to be a GOP anti-white racism expert?

From the LA Times:
Carlos Gutierrez, who led Mitt Romney’s outreach to Latinos during the presidential campaign, had harsh words for the former nominee Sunday as he joined the growing number of conservative voices calling for immigration reform.

I don't know, but a mustache, hand gestures, and gold cufflinks apparently can't hurt. From Wikipedia:
Carlos Miguel Gutierrez (originally Gutiérrez) (born November 4, 1953) is an American former CEO and former U.S. Cabinet Member who is currently a Vice Chairman of Citigroup's Institutional Clients Group. He has previously served as the 35th U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 2005 to 2009. Gutierrez is a former Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Kellogg Company.
Gutierrez was born in Havana, Cuba, the son of a pineapple plantation owner. Gutierrez is of Spanish and French descent. As a successful businessman, his father was deemed an enemy of the state by Fidel Castro's regime. ... Gutierrez learned his first words of English from the bellhop at the hotel where they initially stayed ...

Someday, when historians have a better sense of humor, the Amnesty Act of 2013 will be known as Katherine of Aragon's Revenge. If only Henry VIII had been a nicer husband, all this unpleasantness could have been avoided.

P.S., I think I'll grow a mustache so I can be an immigration expert, too. Growing a mustache is cheaper than buying gold cufflinks.

The point of the Latin American mustache is to prove you are not too much of an Indio, right?

Conquistador-Americans advise GOP on how to stop being so racist

What does it take these days for a Republican apparatchik to become a sought-after expert on What Do Mexicans Want?

A Cuban or Puerto Rican surname and maybe a membership at a tanning salon (hair dye and brown contacts optional). That seems to be all that's required to turn K Street into Que Street.

From the Washington Post:
Latino Voice Alfonso Aguilar also conservative voice for immigration reform 
By Krissah Thompson, Published: December 5 
“Que?! Que?!” 
Alfonso Aguilar shouts into the mike, gesticulating wildly to no one in particular on a recent Saturday morning. He is taping his radio show, which is recorded in the District and beamed into nine cities, including Houston, Chicago and Miami. 
News has broken that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney blames his election loss in part on “gifts” President Obama gave Hispanics and other minorities.  
Aguilar — “La Voz de Los Latinos” (the Latino Voice) — is incredulous. 
“He thinks Latinos voted for entitlements,” he tells listeners in Spanish. “Mr. Romney, Latinos didn’t vote for President Obama because they liked Obamacare. No, they voted for Obama because of your stance on immigration. In the primary, you moved to the far right.” 
Not the kind of talk you’d expect from a committed Republican, a guy who stumped for Romney and whose employer ponied up $400,000 in anti-Obama campaign ads that focused on the administration’s record deportation rates. It’s a set of curiosities not lost on a caller from Los Angeles.  
“How could you have supported him at all?” Francisco wants to know. 
“I’m a conservative,” Aguilar responds.  
But not just any conservative. Aguilar is a 43-year-old Puerto Rican-born former official in the George W. Bush administration; an opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage; a supporter of free markets and limited government. But on immigration, he has differed sharply with his party’s orthodoxy, unapologetically embracing comprehensive reform, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. 
With Obama promising to push immigration reform early in his second term, Aguilar is poised to be a driving force in the debate, helping to shape how Republicans respond to an issue of paramount importance to about 12.5 million Latino voters — a growing segment of the electorate that has continued to skew Democratic. In many ways, Aguilar already is a pivotal presence. 
Jorge Ramos [see photo], a Univision anchor and the most influential Spanish-language journalist in the United States, sent a tweet to his 626,400 followers recently that could very well help define the next stage of Aguilar’s career. “Republicans you have to listen to for the immigration debate: Jeb Bush, [former commerce secretary] Carlos Gutierrez and Alfonso Aguilar.” 
On the ego wall of his small K Street office, Aguilar has hung photos of himself with Pope John Paul II, former vice president Richard B. Cheney and a former governor of Puerto Rico, and a group shot of all the Hispanic political appointees in the Bush administration. Aguilar and the other Latino bureaucrats fill multiple rows, stretching along the entire facade of the White House.

To make it from Spanish-language radio to Spanish-language TV, I think he needs a mustache.

(Thanks to the commenter who turned K Street into Que Street.)

NYT v. Daily Mail on lessons of Romney's defeat

The winning Democratic and losing Republican campaign strategists just got together for their quadrennial post-election conference to fix prices discuss the lessons of the election.

According to the New York Times, the headline news was the snooze-inducing:
Romney Campaign Manager Says He Regrets Immigration Stance

According the Daily Mail, the headline news was:
Romney's defeat caused by 'extraordinary' drop in white male support as autopsy of failed Republican campaign gets underway

Unsurprisingly, the Daily Mail manages to, apparently, botch up one of the details, but this quote from the end of the New York Times piece is worth noting:
Neil Newhouse, the chief pollster for Mr. Romney, said the campaign was taken aback by the composition of the electorate. He said that the “real hidden story from our side” came from the number of white men who did not vote in the election in some key states like Ohio. 
“When you lose, you nitpick the numbers as you go through this stuff,” Mr. Newhouse said. “The number of white men who didn’t vote in this election compared to white women compared to four years ago was extraordinary.”

But not extraordinary enough to be worthy of a headline.

All voters are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Lincoln favored self-deportation of ex-slaves his entire life

In 1862, Abraham Lincoln invited a couple of dozen affluent black freedmen to meet with him so he could tell them they ought to leave the country.

They were unenthusiastic.

In recent decades, historians have typically alleged that Lincoln then grew in racial sensitivity and dropped his long-nurtured plan to persuade black ex-slaves to move to colonies in warmer climes, whether Liberia, Hispaniola, or Central America.

An article in the NYT by historian Sebastian Page documents that this is just statue-polishing by historians. Despite a lack of enthusiasm among his political allies, Lincoln continued to work on his plans for facilitating self-deportation of ex-slaves up through his death in April 1865. For example, the same morning he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863, Lincoln signed a contract establishing a colony for 5,000 American ex-slaves in Haiti.

Of course, today, the idea of helping African-Americans move to a black ruled state like Haiti or Liberia sounds utterly inhumane.

Yet, Zionism has worked out reasonably well for Mormons in Utah and for European Jews in the Middle East, so why was it racist of Lincoln to think that African-Americans could do a decent job of ruling themselves too?

Indeed, isn't our assumption that they couldn't kind of racist of us?

How was Lincoln supposed to know 150 years ago that Haiti would today be a byword for bad government? We think of black-colonized Liberia as a failed state where the natives massacred their African-American elite on the beach in 1980, but how was Lincoln supposed to know that "Can't we all get along?" wouldn't work among blacks in Liberia?

December 5, 2012

NYT: Latinos don't read, whites to blame

Here's the fourth most emailed article on the New York Times:
For Young Latino Readers, an Image Is Missing 

I'm guessing that Motoko Rich isn't Latino. (But, "Motoko Rich" would make a great name for a videogame character or the Bad Girl in a James Bond movie).
PHILADELPHIA — Like many of his third-grade classmates, Mario Cortez-Pacheco likes reading the “Magic Tree House” series, about a brother and a sister who take adventurous trips back in time. He also loves the popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” graphic novels. 
But Mario, 8, has noticed something about these and many of the other books he encounters in his classroom at Bayard Taylor Elementary here: most of the main characters are white. “I see a lot of people that don’t have a lot of color,” he said. 
Hispanic students now make up nearly a quarter of the nation’s public school enrollment, according to an analysis of census data by the Pew Hispanic Center, and are the fastest-growing segment of the school population. Yet nonwhite Latino children seldom see themselves in books written for young readers. (Dora the Explorer, who began as a cartoon character, is an outlier.) 
Education experts and teachers who work with large Latino populations say that the lack of familiar images could be an obstacle as young readers work to build stamina and deepen their understanding of story elements like character motivation. 
While there are exceptions, including books by Julia Alvarez, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Alma Flor Ada and Gary Soto, what is available is “not finding its way into classrooms,” said Patricia Enciso, an associate professor at Ohio State University.

I suspect the pay is more regular for being a Latino activist than for being an author who is Latino.
Books commonly read by elementary school children — those with human characters rather than talking animals or wizards — include the Junie B. Jones, Cam Jansen, Judy Moody, Stink and Big Nate series, all of which feature a white protagonist. An occasional African-American, Asian or Hispanic character may pop up in a supporting role, but these books depict a predominantly white, suburban milieu. 
“Kids do have a different kind of connection when they see a character that looks like them or they experience a plot or a theme that relates to something they’ve experienced in their lives,” said Jane Fleming, an assistant professor at the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in early childhood development in Chicago.

There aren't many faces that look like the typical Mexican-American on Spanish-language Univision either (starting with blue-eyed news anchorman Jorge Ramos, who looks like Anderson Cooper's cousin, the Tyrolean count), except for maybe the fat guy in the sombrero who falls down a lot on Sabado Gigante.

And, yet, Mexican-Americans watch the heck out of Univision.
She and Sandy Ruvalcaba Carrillo, an elementary school teacher in Chicago who works with students who speak languages other than English at home, reviewed 250 book series aimed at second to fourth graders and found just two that featured a Latino main character. 
The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education, which compiles statistics about the race of authors and characters in children’s books published each year, found that in 2011, just over 3 percent of the 3,400 books reviewed were written by or about Latinos, a proportion that has not changed much in a decade. 
As schools across the country implement the Common Core — national standards for what students should learn in English and math — many teachers are questioning whether nonwhite students are seeing themselves reflected in their reading. 
For the early elementary grades, lists of suggested books contain some written by African-American authors about black characters, but few by Latino writers or featuring Hispanic characters. Now, in response to concerns registered by the Southern Poverty Law Center

Hey, at least the SPLC is doing something with its quarter of a billion bucks ... Maybe the SPLC can declare the Magic Treehouse a hate group.
and others, the architects of the Common Core are developing a more diverse supplemental list. “We have really taken a careful look, and really think there is a problem,” said Susan Pimentel, one of the lead writers of the standards for English language and literacy. “We are determined to make this right.” 
Black, Asian and American Indian children similarly must dig deep into bookshelves to find characters who look like them.

So, that explains why Asians never do well enough on the PSAT to become National Merit Scholars.
Latino children who speak Spanish at home and arrive at school with little exposure to books in English face particular challenges. A new study being released next week by pediatricians and sociologists at the University of California shows that Latino children start school seven months behind their white peers, on average, in oral language and preliteracy skills. 
“Their oral language use is going to be quite different from what they encounter in their books,” said Catherine E. Snow, a professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. “So what might seem like simple and accessible text for a standard English speaker might be puzzling for such kids.” 
Hispanic children have historically underperformed non-Hispanic whites in American schools. According to 2011 data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a set of exams administered by the Department of Education, 18 percent of Hispanic fourth graders were proficient in reading, compared with 44 percent of white fourth graders. 
Research on a direct link between cultural relevance in books and reading achievement at young ages is so far scant.

And it's only been obsessively studied for the last 45 or 50 years, but Real Soon Now somebody will discover something.
And few academics or classroom teachers would argue that Latino children should read books only about Hispanic characters or families. But their relative absence troubles some education advocates. 
“If all they read is Judy Blume or characters in the “Magic Treehouse” series who are white and go on adventures,” said Mariana Souto-Manning, an associate professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, “they start thinking of their language or practices or familiar places and values as not belonging in school.” 

On the other hand, if you do put Latino characters into your books, you are likely guilty of stereotyping:
At Bayard Taylor Elementary in Philadelphia, a school where three-quarters of the students are Latino, Kimberly Blake, a third-grade bilingual teacher, said she struggles to find books about Latino children that are “about normal, everyday people.” The few that are available tend to focus on stereotypes of migrant workers or on special holidays. “Our students look the way they look every single day of the year,” Ms. Blake said, “not just on Cinco de Mayo or Puerto Rican Day.” 
On a recent morning, Ms. Blake read from “Amelia’s Road” by Linda Jacobs Altman, about a daughter of migrant workers. Of all the children sitting cross-legged on the rug, only Mario said that his mother had worked on farms. 
Publishers say they want to find more works by Hispanic authors, and in some cases they insert Latino characters in new titles. When Simon & Schuster commissioned writers to develop a new series, “The Cupcake Diaries,” it cast one character, Mia, as a Latino girl. “We were conscious of making one of the characters Hispanic,” said Valerie Garfield, a vice president in the children’s division, “and doing it in a way that girls could identify with, but not in a way that calls it out.” 
In some respects, textbook publishers like Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are ahead of trade publishers. Houghton Mifflin, which publishes reading textbooks, allocates exactly 18.6 percent of its content to works featuring Latino characters. The company says that percentage reflects student demographics. 

There was this book that used to be assigned in middle schools and high schools with Hispanic characters and even boys liked it: The Old Man and the Sea.

Which big ethnic group went MIA during the Sixties?

I'm thinking of this in a highly stylized sense, but I've always had the impression that the big ethnic group that played a major role in American popular culture in the 1950s (especially music) and then again in the 1970s (especially movies), but mostly sat out on The Sixties was Italian-Americans.

Another theory of the Sixties: Vatican II

One frustration of historical analysis is that one's confident proclamation that "Y inevitably caused Z" often leads to rejoinders that "X just as inevitably caused Y, so, really, X caused Z. And, while we're at it, what about W?"

Therefore, it's attractive to look for non-inevitable events as causes. A reader writes:
I enjoyed your post on Takimag today, as I have appreciated so much of your writing online over the years. What prompts me to write just now is that I too have pondered “the Sixties” for quite some time. I do not have an answer to the mystery of why the 1960s happened as they did, but one thing I do know is that the mystery is larger than your column indicates. 
As you know, in France “the Sixties” are “’68,” and their “‘68ers” are our “Boomers,” more or less. Since so much of what we associate with “the Sixties” in the U.S. really refers to the period of 1968-74, I more often contemplate the question of why “1968” happened. And the big problem, or mystery, is that 1968 happened most everywhere. There was a ’68 in France, in Germany, in the U.S., in Mexico City, in Japan, and even---one could say---in Prague. There were smaller eruptions in England, in Canada, in Italy, etc. In each of these countries, the political narrative focuses on pretty much local concerns: In the U.S., it is a matter of racial justice and the Vietnam War. In Germany, it is a matter of the sons coming to realize the sins of the fathers during WWII. In France, it is a combination of Algerian decolonization and sexual freedom for students. And so on. The problem is that there are so many discreetly local “causes,” and yet there is a single, global “effect”---revolution by the young. For there to be so global an effect, there must be a global cause, I should think. What can it be? It cannot be racial justice, surely, for that had next to nothing to do with France or Germany, or hardly anywhere else than the U.S. 
For some in Europe, the global narrative concerns a generational coming to terms with the sins of the fathers during WWII. That makes some sense ---after all, the World War was a global experience, and no one on the continent was spared a great deal of sordidness in 1939-45. But in the U.S., WWII remains the Good War, so it cannot possibly be the case that 1968 represents our coming-to-terms with the sins of the fathers. Some American writers suggest that it is oral contraceptives, a technological development, that did it. But could that really explain Mexico City? And how could that revolution in the intimate sphere be related to the quite political nature of the agitation we associate with 1968/the Sixties anyway? 
The only original speculation I could offer is that it might have had something to do with Vatican II. The thought would be that, ever since 1789, the West, broadly, had sought a happy medium between the poles of Revolution and Reaction, and the Catholic Church represented the latter pole. In Vatican II, the Church seemed suddenly to leave the field, or indeed, seemed to throw itself on to the other pole. This created a disorientation of the entire political spectrum---for where is the golden mean between the French Revolution and a no-less Revolutionary Church? I am drawn to this sort of speculation because it is a cause no less extensive than its effect---though of course Japan represents the hard case even there. 
In any event, it remains a great mystery---much more mysterious than 1848, for example. I’m glad to find someone else who finds it all equally puzzling, rather than something to be taken for granted.

This has the advantage of putting the Sixties into a long historical-ideological framework that would have made sense to Voltaire, Napoleon, Zola, and many others. The recent triumph of the English language as the global lingua franca has helped Americans forget how central France, with its triangle of Revolution-State-Church, was to how educated people all over the world thought. But you can still see some of the power of this way of thinking in the seemingly bizarre global popularity of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which, in its lowbrow way, tapped into the power of centuries of anti-Vatican cultural energy.

Political trends in Western Europe in the 1950s were not bad for the Church. Christian Democrats were doing well in many countries, and the strong new De Gaulle government in France represented about as much as the Church could reasonably hope for out of that crucial country.

In January 1959, Pope John XXIII called for a Second Vatican Council. This was a pretty evitable decision. Wikipedia says:
This sudden announcement, which caught the Curia by surprise, caused little initial official comment from Church insiders. Reaction to the announcement was widespread and largely positive from both religious and secular leaders outside the Catholic Church,[7] and the council was formally summoned by the apostolic constitutionHumanae Salutis on 25 December 1961.[8][9] In various discussions before the Council actually convened, Pope John often said that it was time to open the windows of the Church to let in some fresh air.[10]

Between early 1959 and when Vatican II opened in 1962, there were important events in rich and fast-growing North America. In Quebec, French secularists took power in July 1960 away from French clericalists. That same year, John F. Kennedy's declaration to Protestant ministers that the Vatican would have no control over him, followed by his subsequent election, was a huge event, but whether JFK's election marked an opportunity or a setback for the Church was unclear.

So, the notion that Vatican II may have played the role of an "unforced error" (as they say in tennis) might make sense. 

Presidential shootings and mythos

My current Taki's column doesn't attempt to provide an all-around theory of the causes of the Sixties, it just offer a couple of ideas to help explain why there's a consensus that the Sixties didn't start until after JFK's assassination. For example, Charles Murray's Coming Apart starts with a description of what life was like in America in the third week of November 1963. In various statistical measures, you can see inflection points in 1964-65. 

This is important for assessing gradualist theories, such as Kevin Drum's not implausible idea that the long buildup of lead in the environment slowly undermined inhibition control. But we also saw a distinct hinge of a history in the mid-1960s that happened fast enough to raise doubts about purely gradualist theories being sufficient. 

By the way, my instant reaction when hearing that President Reagan had been shot in March 1981 was, "Oh, no, hear we go again." Disorder was winning over order again. But then, the President didn't die. 

I have this unprovable theory that the series of reassuring and humorously defiant jokes Reagan told between getting shot and going under on the operating table played some kind of weirdly powerful role in the national mood, even in why the Eighties turned out differently than the Sixties.

What caused the Sixties?

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
The great mystery of my lifetime has been the 1960s. It’s worth returning to this vast subject periodically as new perspectives unveil themselves. 
The closest thing to a successful prophecy of that era was made by science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein in his 1941 Future History chart, in which he foresaw the coming “Crazy Years” when there would be a “gradual deterioration of mores, orientation and social institutions, terminating in mass psychoses….” (By the late 60s, hippies were so drug-addled that they made Heinlein’s self-indulgent 1961 book Stranger in a Strange Land into a cult novel.)

Read the whole thing there.

December 4, 2012

Douthat: "Don't Mention the Decadence"

Ross Douthat got a lot of backtalk from NYT commenters who didn't like his suggestion that below-replacement fertility in America is a sign of "decadence." The consensus was that America has too many people already so what we need is more immigration. 

Now, Ross responds in "Don't Mention the Decadence."

Let me point out an example of a country with a culture that's not decadent, at least as measured by Total Fertility Rate.

Many have suggested that low fertility is an automatic accompaniment of an advanced economy, high technology, limited land, and/or high real estate prices. That's close to being always true. Yet ... there's one high tech economy with famously limited land and soaring real estate prices where fertility among the majority was high and is going higher. Meanwhile, fertility among minorities is dropping. 

This happens to be the one wealthy white country where the majority believe they deserve to outbreed minorities and feel no compunction about talking and writing about how to make that happen, even in public, from the lowest to the highest strata of society.

From Wikipedia on Demographics of Israel:
Fertility Rates, by Age and Religion[40]
Jewish TFR increased by 10.2% during 1998–2009, and was recorded at 2.90 during 2009. During the same time period, Arab TFR decreased by 20.5%. Muslim TFR was measured at 3.73 for 2009. During 2000, the Arab TFR in Jerusalem (4.43) was higher than that of the Jews residing there (3.79). But as of 2009, Jewish TFR in Jerusalem was measured higher than the Arab TFR (2010: 4.26 vs 3.85, 2009: 4.16 vs 3.87). TFR for Arab residents in the West Bank was measured at 3.05 in 2010,[41] while that for the Jewish residents was reported at 5.10 children per woman.[42]

Is Swedish political correctness really Swedish ethnocentrism in disguise?

Open Borders writes up that World Values Survey on the attitudes of people in 48 countries toward immigration policy:
Several countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America also seem to have more open borders supporters than any of the rich countries, except Sweden, which appears to be an outlier, with a far more pro-open borders populace of any rich country included in the survey.

My hunch is that over time, the Swedes have become ethnocentric about their political correctness. Being true believers in stupid stuff is how they show that Swedes are superior to the other Nordics, those virtually subhuman vermin. "We're Swedes, we're not like those horrible racist Danes, who have been so insensitive as to try to crack down on arranged cousin marriages of young Pakistani girls for the purposes of immigration fraud!"

Thank goodness at least one GOP Great Hispanic Hope isn't just another Cuban white guy, but is instead a genuine Mexican mestizo who is succeeding despite his lack of White Privilege and the virulent hate directed at his ancestors

George P. Bush

He's baaaack

I was starting to feel sorry for George W. Bush because he'd been so sad after he apologized in his memoir for his Ownership Society wrecking the economy. But, he's got family business to take care of, preparing the ascent of Jeb's kids:
Bush to host conference on immigration  
DALLAS (AP) — Former President George W. Bush is set to give opening remarks at a conference on the benefits of immigrants to the U.S. economy. 
The Tuesday conference is hosted by the George W. Bush Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. It is part of a Bush Institute initiative on finding ways to achieve a 4 percent gross domestic product growth. 

No mention of 4 percent gross domestic growth per capita.
A book the institute released over the summer notes immigrants help grow the economy by increasing the labor force

and filling niche jobs.

Mass immigration to fill niche jobs -- what could make more sense?

George, I can't start to miss you if you don't stay away.

I wonder if this is some kind of explicit deal George and Jeb worked out around 1998: George would get to run for President in return for letting in lots of illegal Mexican aliens, whose kids would vote for Jeb's kids?

Or maybe George H.W. wrote that stuff into NAFTA about ruining the poor Mexican corn farmers to pave the way for Jeb's election?

Okay, okay, I admit it's conspiracy theorizing to imagine that George H.W., George W., and Jeb might ever get together and talk about what's best for the Bushes and how to make it happen, so forget I ever said it. That was just crazy talk.

The popularity of Open Borders in Burkina Faso: Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose

The results of international surveys typically aren't usually terribly plausible, but a World Values Survey on immigration ideologies in 48 countries seems likely.

A glance at the table shows there’s a moderately high correlation between holding theoretical open borders views and living in the kind of country that nobody in their right minds wants to immigrate into.

Here’s your top ten most pro-Open Borders countries: Vietnam, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mali, Morocco, Romania, Uruguay, Peru, and India.

Yup, those are some real high desirability destinations.

(In case you are wondering, Israel, whose government uses the term "illegal infiltrator" to describe "undocumented workers," was apparently not surveyed.)

In contrast, the ten most anti-open borders countries are ones that have a lot to lose and are in more danger of losing it.

South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are rich, competent, nationalist NE Asian countries. Norway and Australia are rich whitopias. Trinidad is the richest country in its region due to oil, and it already has a lot of ethnic tensions that don't need augmenting. Thailand and Malaysia are among the richer countries in their regions, with poor, heavily populated neighbors such as Burma, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

Egypt and Jordan are interesting. I suspect their attitudes are similar to Israel’s, and for the same reasons.

1) None of those three countries wants the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza. They all remember what happened when Jordan kicked out the Palestinians in 1970 and they moved to Lebanon: that upset Lebanon’s delicate balance of power and 15 years of civil war ensued.

2) Egypt, Jordan, and Israel are all on the land route from sub-Saharan Africa to the rich North. They would all be overrun with sub-Saharans. Middle Easterners notice how Col. Qaddafi’s policy of inviting in large numbers of sub-Saharans did not improve his popularity with native Libyans.

December 3, 2012

Sailer's Law of Neologisms

I kind of like the phrase "The Endimenment" to describe contemporary times, especially because it's one of those phrases, like "dumb and dumber," that's hard to pronounce without sounding like an idiot: The Endimememenment ...

So, will this neologism sweep the Anglosphere?

Of course not. The basic rule is that clever, self-explanatory new terms virtually never catch on. For years, the Atlantic Monthly had a back page contest asking readers to invent new words to meet unfilled needs in the language. They published hundreds of brilliant neologisms, not one of which I ever noticed anywhere else again.

Instead, what mostly catches on are  phrases like "jump the shark" (2,150,000 page hits on Google) that just make us dumberer.

Economist: Where to be born in 2013

The Economist's forecast of where the best places to be born in 2013 will eventually turn out to be is extremely Sailerian (i.e., tediously sensible): Switzerland is at the top, Nigeria at the bottom.

Does this represent a new trend toward acceptance of my philosophy of forecasting?

I predict that boring forecasts will sweep the media! (Odds that I turn out to be triumphantly correct: 0.01%; odds that my forecast is too boring to be remembered: 99.99%. Ergo: I can't lose.)

John Derbyshire's reader's guide to keeping up with the "Dark Enlightenment"

At, the Derb reviews his Google Reader list.

I'm of two minds about this spreading phrase "Dark Enlightenment."

Personally, I've increasingly found over the years that I most identify with the thinking of that cheerful, optimistic symbol of the Light Enlightenment, Ben Franklin. Perhaps it's just The Endimenment I object to?

By the way, "The Endimenment" has never appeared online before in the history of Google.

The boring route to GOP Electoral College triumph in 2016

A friend of mine who is a Democratic operative points out that Romney could have won in the Electoral College with various combinations of 3 of these 4 states: Florida (29 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), and Michigan (16). Romney needed 64 more votes, so FL, PA, and OH would have worked or FL, PA, and MI (but FL, OH, MI would have come up 1 short).

He argues that the GOP would be best off adopting strategies aimed at Northern suburbs. I haven't been to Florida in 20 years, so I don't know what to make of this claim, but he says that, for all its exoticism, Florida also has much in common with Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan due to retirement patterns and the like. There are a lot of voters in Florida who are pretty much Northern suburbanites by background.
I'm writing my chapter on the Industrial States (many of which are your Big 10 states) and found out that your Big 10 idea can work.  Romney essentially lost the election in 3 or four states: Florida, Penn. Ohio or Michigan.  ...

What do all four states have in common?  Lots of suburbanites and/or retired blue collar workers.  Florida nows swings with the rest of Northern suburbia.  Tipping the Sunshine State to Romney would have given him 235 votes.  Adding Penn (20 votes & Michigan (16) would have given him 271, despite the loss in the national popular vote (due to huge Obama margins in New York, Chicago, LA and San Francisco).

Here's the stat that will have Republicans tearing their hair out: if Romney had just matched Jerry Ford's 1976 performance in the suburbs of Philly and Detroit, he would have carried those two key states and (assuming Florida also swung) won the Electoral College ala Bush in 2000. ...

Rove has talents; he is an expert on getting white Southern Democrats to defect.  But he never learned how to appeal to Northern suburbanites....and the GOP already has the South in their hip pocket, so Rove is no longer needed....But somehow I imagine Jeb will call him in 2016...

The weirdness of it all

I've added a couple of more faces to my gallery of Latinos frequently called upon by the media as natural interlocutors on the subject of immigration amnesty. 

A commenter points out:
Now, anywhere else in the world if a distinct population group (white hispanics) were in power and an oppressed group (hispanic hispanics) were fleeing en masse, the US would lead the way at the UN in calling that 'ethnic cleansing' and we'd promptly establish embargoes, no-fly zones and call for NATO forces to be sent in. Remember what happened when all those Albanians fled Kosovo? 
Yet, with the current situation not only do we not call it ethnic cleansing, which I think would not be too hard a case to make, but the white hispanics actually get to negotiate on behalf of the oppressed hispanic hispanics in this country. 

This widespread assumption that Sen. Marco Rubio, a tanned Cubano, should negotiate a deal with the Democrats over amnesty for Mexicans is pretty weird when you stop and think about.

So don't.

Then again, the media was totally on board in the summer of 2001 with George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell negotiating an immigration foreign policy deal with Vicente Fox and Foreign Secretary Jorge G. Castaneda. (House Republicans quietly sank it a few days before 9/11.) By the way, did you ever get a gander at those guys? Mexican politicians try to stay tanned (which isn't hard to do at 7,000 feet altitude and 19 degrees of latitude), but still ...

Fox looked like the actor Televisa would choose to play Don Draper's role in the Mexico City-set telenovela remake of Mad Men. And Castaneda, whose mom was a Soviet translator at the UN, was known in Mexico as El Guero. Castaneda, on the other hand,  has this whole Miami Vice thing going:

My commenter continues:
If the US were the least bit consistent with its foreign policy, they'd train and arm the hispanic hispanics and send them back to Mexico to overthrow the white hispanics and maybe help create a nation where the masses might actually be able to own property and make a living. In fact, many on the right might actually suppport this type of intervention if it could help spread the wealth in Mexico.

Well, let's not do that. 

Yet ... can we at least remind ourselves that Mexico is home to the world's richest man? Granted, Carlos Slim (nee Salim)  bailed out the New York Times, so that's not really considered an appropriate topic for discussion in the national news, but the notion that all these people have to move to America because there's no money in Mexico seem to be overlooking a few folks.

Here's what Castaneda had to say about modern Mexico in 1997:
A government undersecretary (one level down from the top echelon of public service) earned in 1994 (prior to devaluation) approximately $180,000 after taxes … -- almost twice what his U.S. counterpart earned before taxes. His chauffeur (provided by the government, of course) made about $7,500 a year. The official addresses the employee with the familiar "tu," while the latter must speak to the former with the respectful "usted." The official and his peers in the business and intellectual elites of the nation tend to be white (there are exceptions, but they are becoming scarcer), well educated, and well traveled abroad. They send their two children to private schools, removed from the world of the employee. The employee and his peers tend to be mestizo, many are barely literate, and they have four or five children, most of whom will be able to attend school only through the fifth grade."

Castaneda went on to argue that America better not try to tighten the border, because without that safety valve, the poor of Mexico would rise up and slit the throats of the rich, and by the time the rich got done getting their revenge (and, trust me, they would get their revenge), their'd be 10 million refugees over the border.

December 2, 2012

My review of Tom Wolfe's "Back to Blood"

In, I review Tom Wolfe's new novel Back to Blood:
Back To Blood reminds me that the conservative Brain Trust has long assumed that immigrants will become more Republican as they assimilate. Yet, in Miami, where the immigrants started out as fanatical Republicans for foreign policy reasons, the American-born Cubans have been trending Democratic. ... 
Wolfe’s novel sheds some light on this pattern. Although the Miami Cubans in Back To Blood are all white conservatives, they see Anglo whites as The Other: “Americanos.” They use this term even when, as in policeman Nestor Camacho's case, they can’t actually speak much Spanish themselves. ... 
On the other hand, Wolfe emphasizes, the younger Cubans like Nestor and Magdalena are constantly reminded when they speak to Americanos that their vocabularies in English tend to be smaller, which leaves them embarrassed and unhappy.

Read the whole thing there.

Medical marijuana smokers unsurprisingly unclear on concept

From the Los Angeles Daily News:
Survey: One in 7 of state's nighttime drivers under the influence of drugs 
By Susan Abram, Staff Writer

Sometimes, they come through DUI checkpoints smoking a joint. 
"They'll say, I've got a medical card," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy Sgt. Philip Brooks, of the drivers who get stopped. 
"And we'll say, that doesn't matter. Smoke that at home and don't drive." 
While they don't all come through checkpoints smoking marijuana, an increased number of motorists are getting caught driving drugged. It's happening at DUI checkpoints on curved roads through Malibu's canyons and it's happening across the state. 
"Half of those caught are impaired due to drugs," said Brooks of the Malibu/Lost Hills Station. 
"It's hard to say, but the biggest problem right now is medical marijuana," he added. "People seem to think it's a legal substance."

A teacher in the Inland Empire emailed me that quite a few of his failing students tell him that smoking dope is good for them, because: "It's medicine."

In general, sophisticated libertarian concepts (such as, oh, "Just because the government legalizes it doesn't mean you should do it") don't work that well for minors with 2 digit IQs and heads full of THC.

Two cheers for the Obama Era fertility crisis

Ross Douthat writes in the NYT:
More Babies, Please

IN the eternally recurring debates about whether some rival great power will knock the United States off its global perch, there has always been one excellent reason to bet on a second American century: We have more babies than the competition. 
It’s a near-universal law that modernity reduces fertility. But compared with the swiftly aging nations of East Asia and Western Europe, the American birthrate has proved consistently resilient, hovering around the level required to keep a population stable or growing over the long run. ...
If, that is, our dynamism persists. But that’s no longer a sure thing. American fertility plunged with the stock market in 2008, and it hasn’t recovered. Last week, the Pew Research Center reported that U.S. birthrates hit the lowest rate ever recorded in 2011, with just 63 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. (The rate was 71 per 1,000 in 1990.) For the first time in recent memory, Americans are having fewer babies than the French or British. 

The biggest plunge in fertility since the Subprime Bubble was among unmarried illegal immigrant women. Fertility among married white American-born citizens has been more stable.

Is that so awful?

Conversely, at the peak of the Bush Housing Bubble, births to unmarried Hispanic women grew 9.6% from 2005 to 2006, while births to married white women fell.

Was that so healthy?
But deeper forces than the financial crisis may keep American fertility rates depressed. Foreign-born birthrates will probably gradually recover from their current nadir, but with fertility in decline across Mexico and Latin America, it isn’t clear that the United States can continue to rely heavily on immigrant birthrates to help drive population growth.

The tragedy of declining fertility in Mexico and how it dooms America to defeat in World War III for lack of cannon fodder or whatever seems overstated. After all, total fertility rates plunged in Mexico throughout recent decades, while they were higher among Mexicans in America in 2006 than in 1986 (before the last amnesty set off a massive baby boom among ex-illegals).

Why? A big reason is that because those who can't afford to have as many children as they want in their own countries come here to have them.

The 2012 Spam Juggernaut

My inbox used to be stuffed with unwanted emails, all promising me prosperity in return for a small amount of cash upfront, from people with names like Ngowa Mbube, Prince Goodluck Obasanjo, and Barack Obama. 

But then my spam filters started to delete these automatically, so, I completely missed out on the Great Presidential Email Offensive of 2012. From Bloomberg News on the Science behind it:
The appeals were the product of rigorous experimentation by a large team of analysts. “We did extensive A-B testing not just on the subject lines and the amount of money we would ask people for,” says Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics, “but on the messages themselves and even the formatting.” 
The campaign would test multiple drafts and subject lines—often as many as 18 variations—before picking a winner to blast out to tens of millions of subscribers.  
It quickly became clear that a casual tone was usually most effective. “The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your in-box from other people,” Fallsgraff says. “ ‘Hey’ was probably the best one we had over the duration.” Another blockbuster in June simply read, “I will be outspent.” According to testing data shared with Bloomberg Businessweek, that outperformed 17 other variants and raised more than $2.6 million. 
Writers, analysts, and managers routinely bet on which lines would perform best and worst. “We were so bad at predicting what would win that it only reinforced the need to constantly keep testing,” says Showalter. “Every time something really ugly won, it would shock me: giant-size fonts for links, plain-text links vs. pretty ‘Donate’ buttons. Eventually we got to thinking, ‘How could we make things even less attractive?’ That’s how we arrived at the ugly yellow highlighting on the sections we wanted to draw people’s eye to.” 
Another unexpected hit: profanity. Dropping in mild curse words such as “Hell yeah, I like Obamacare” got big clicks. But these triumphs were fleeting. There was no such thing as the perfect e-mail; every breakthrough had a shelf life. “Eventually the novelty wore off, and we had to go back and retest,” says Showalter. 
Fortunately for Obama and all political campaigns that will follow, the tests did yield one major counterintuitive insight: Most people have a nearly limitless capacity for e-mail and won’t unsubscribe no matter how many they’re sent. “At the end, we had 18 or 20 writers going at this stuff for as many hours a day as they could stay awake,” says Fallsgraff. “The data didn’t show any negative consequences to sending more.”