April 23, 2014

Hairtrigger Dick Martin: Was this guy for real?

Bill Burns thumbing nose, Richard Martin holding reins
I was looking up the history of legislation against cruelty to animals, and I stumbled upon somebody I'd never heard of: Humanity Dick Martin (a.k.a., Hairtrigger Dick Martin), an Irish member of the British Parliament who was popularly credited with pushing through Martin's Act of 1822 against the ill treatment of cattle. 

In the celebrated "Trial of Bill Burns," the first prosecution under the Martin Act, Martin dragged into court the donkey abused by the Cockney costermonger Bill Burns. He sounds like he'd make a good subject for a biopic, although modern audiences might not be able to bear watching the abuses of animals that he campaigned against.

From Wikipedia:
Colonel Richard Martin (15 January 1754 – 6 January 1834), was an Irish politician and campaigner against cruelty to animals. He was commonly known as "Humanity Dick", a nickname bestowed on him by King George IV. He succeeded in getting the pioneering Act of Parliament "Martin's Act" passed. 
Martin was born at Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway, the only son of Robert Martin Fitz Anthony of Birch Hall, County Galway, and the Hon. Bridget Barnwall, a daughter of Robert Barnewall, 12th Baron Trimlestown. ...  
His father's family were Jacobites and one of "The Tribes of Galway", fourteen merchant families who ruled Galway from the 14th to 17th centuries. The Barnwalls were an ennobled family of Norman descent ... Though both of his parents were born to Catholics, Richard Martin was raised a Protestant and educated in England. ... 

Warning: The various kinds of Irish aristocrats over the last 800 years are pretty baffling to outsiders. That said, the Tribes of Galway were largely medieval Normans who stayed Catholic despite the Reformation in England. Families included D'Arcy, Joyce, and ffrenchEdmund Burke was another descendant of Ireland's Old English aristocracy. The Old English in Ireland were distinct from Ireland's New English or Anglo-Irish upper class, such as Swift, Berkeley, Wellington, Yeats, Wilde, Shaw, and Daniel Day-Lewis, whose ancestors typically arrived in Ireland in the 17th Century.

Whether Old or New, many of these aristocrats, while retaining their English high culture and privileges were raised by indigenous Irish Catholic servants, so they tended to strike English English as wild Irishmen. Richard Martin sounds like the wildest Irishman of them all:
He continued to represent County Galway in Westminster [i.e., Parliament] ... In the House of Commons he was known for his interruptions and humorous speeches. He continued his work towards Irish Catholic Emancipation till 1826, when he had to flee to France. Emancipation was finally granted in 1829, much to his delight.
Martin is now best known for his work against animal cruelty, especially against bear baiting and dog fighting. His actions resulted eventually in Martin's Act of 1822, entitled "Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill". He also tried to spread his ideas in the streets of London, becoming the target of jokes and political cartoons that depicted him with ears of a donkey. He also sometimes paid fines of minor offenders. 
On 16 June 1824, Martin was present when the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was founded in a London coffee shop "Old Slaughter's". He denied being the initiator of the society. 
Martin also had a very eventful life. ... He survived two shipwrecks. He fought over a hundred duels with sword and pistol and earned the nickname "Hairtrigger Dick". He travelled extensively in Europe and the Americas during the 1770s and was in New England when the American Revolutionary War began. He initiated Galway's first theatre in 1783. He employed as tutor to his younger half-brothers Theobald Wolfe Tone, who had an affair with Martin's wife. Martin was in Paris when the French Revolution began during 1789. 
Martin was on a first-name basis with many of the famous names of his age, including King George IV (who gave him the nickname "Humanity Dick"), Henry Flood, Henry Grattan, William Pitt, Queen Caroline, and Daniel O'Connell.

After the election of 1826, Martin was deprived of his parliamentary seat because of a petition which accused him of illegal intimidation during the election. He had to flee into hasty exile to Boulogne, France, because he could no longer enjoy a parliamentary immunity to arrest for debt. ... 
Following the revelation of [his wife's] affair with a Mr. Petrie in Paris, Martin sued Petrie for criminal conversation in 1791 and was awarded £10,000. He had this distributed to the poor by throwing it out the windows of his coach on the long journey back from London to Galway.

That seems pretty cinematic. Michael Fassbender, you aren't getting any younger looking - this is the guy you were born to play.

Update: Now that I look it up, I see that the the Martin Act passed when Martin was 68, so quite a few actors could play Martin in a film concentrating on this (likely) manic depressive wild man's last hurrah: Daniel Day-Lewis, Pierce Brosnan, or, as a commenter suggests, Mel Gibson.
        

Schmaltz v. History

My new column in Taki's Magazine reviews the level of schmaltz in the conventional understanding of Jewish history and how that distorts Americans' grasp of 21st Century issues:
The reality is that for most of the last 800 years, the average Jew in Europe and America was relatively affluent, well-connected, and politically conservative. For example, Tory prime minister Benjamin Disraeli was Queen Victoria’s favorite. This began to change only when the prosperity-driven growth in the number of Ashkenazi Jews forced many out of traditional white-collar jobs and into blue-collar jobs they resented as demeaning.

Read the whole thing there.
     

Dueling writing advice books: Pinker v. Murray

Charles Murray is currently out promoting his advice book, much of which is devoted to how to write better. And in early fall, Steven Pinker will publish his own advice book for writers:
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

When I think of people I know who are manifestly superb thinkers, Pinker and Murray are always near the top of the list for clarity, elegance, power, and precision of mind.

Here's a bit from an interview I did with Pinker to promote his book The Blank Slate that shows his command:
Q: Aren't we all better off if people believe that we are not constrained by our biology and so can achieve any future we choose? 
A: People are surely better off with the truth. Oddly enough, everyone agrees with this when it comes to the arts. Sophisticated people sneer at feel-good comedies and saccharine romances in which everyone lives happily ever after. But when it comes to science, these same people say, "Give us schmaltz!" They expect the science of human beings to be a source of emotional uplift and inspirational sermonizing.

Blacks lag adventuresses in shaking down Silicon Valley

As vast amounts of money pour into Silicon Valley, various shakedown artists, not surprisingly, have emerged from the woodwork to get themselves a cut. What's striking is how out-of-the-running the usual suspects -- blacks and Hispanics -- have been relative to attractive young women. Here are three recent bogus brouhahas:




Now that I look back at them, they all were written up in the New York Times by Claire Cain Miller, who seems to have figured out that there is an insatiable appetite for stories, no matter how far-fetched, about perky Programmer Babes standing up to the Alpha Male culture of software engineering. Sex, money, and feminist righteousness make an intoxicating and enstupidating brew in the 2010s.
     

April 22, 2014

NYT: Aunt Zeituni was Barack & Michelle's nanny

A boring article in the NYT about how President Obama isn't in touch (and thus doesn't bear any responsibility) for all his ne'er-do-well Kenyan relatives who keep winding up in America at taxpayer expense suddenly takes a swerve in a previously unknown direction:
As president, Mr. Obama has kept his distance from, and even failed to acknowledge, members of this eclectic clan. In the time-honored tradition of eccentric presidential relatives, the assorted Obamas have faced deportation and drunken-driving charges, started Obama-branded foundations and written memoirs. 
But they also made for a powerful element of the president’s Kansas-meets-Kenya narrative as a candidate who could connect different worlds. ...

But I hadn't known this:
In 2000, Ms. Onyango moved to the United States on a valid visa, and in 2001, when Mr. Obama was an Illinois state senator, she helped take care of his newborn daughter, Sasha, and did household chores for the family in Chicago, according to Obama family members. But she stayed illegally after unsuccessfully seeking asylum. When reporters found her in Boston public housing during the 2008 election, Mr. Obama’s aides said he did not know she was in the United States illegally and returned her $265 in campaign contributions. 
In 2010, she received asylum and celebrated by telling an interviewer: “President Obama, I’m his aunt. If he does a wrong thing, I’m the only person on earth allowed to pinch his ears and smack him.”

Does this suggest that Barack and Michelle imported his Kenyan aunt to work illegally in the U.S. for them and then dumped her on the welfare system when she didn't work out? Did they pay her or was this one of those quasi-slave labor arrangements? How many laws were broken?
         

"Do the Rich Call the Shots?"

The New York Times wonders:
Do the Rich Call the Shots? 
A recent study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page examining 30 years of opinion surveys and policy decisions by the federal government found that, “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.” The average voter has little influence on government, the study found, but the well-to-do hold tremendous sway. 
Has the United States become more of an oligarchy than a democracy? 

Perhaps the NYT should ask its second-largest shareholder, Mexican oligarch Carlos Slim?

Not surprisingly, there's no mention of immigration in these discussions, even though that's the most obvious case of Billionaires United, e.g., Rupert Murdoch, Carlos Slim, Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros, Bill Gates, the Koch Brothers, and Michael Bloomberg using their money and power to demonize opponents of their greed for more immigration to push down Americans' pay -- and, in the case of Slim, to profit exorbitantly off his monopoly power over phone calls between the United States and Mexico.

In other advanced countries, immigration restriction is in the ascendance in the legislatures, but in America we continue to have this bizarre stalemate with the elites pushing amnesty, a pre-2008 policy if there ever was one, against the disorganized, underfunded, demonized, but massive resistance of the public.

Here's an oldie from the Center for Immigration Studies:
Elite vs. Public Opinion: An Examination of Divergent Views on Immigration 
By Steven A. Camarota, Roy Beck December 2002

While it has long been suspected that public and elite opinion differ on the issue of immigration, a new poll provides the most compelling evidence yet that there is an enormous gap between the American people and "opinion leaders" on the issue. ...
This Backgrounder is based on the findings of a recent national poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in May through July of this year. The Council is a non-profit policy organization that sponsors polls and events on a host of foreign policy issues. The Council has a long tradition of polling to find differences between the public and opinion leaders. 
The polling of the public was based on 2,800 telephone interviews from across the nation. The council also surveyed nearly 400 opinion leaders, including members of Congress, the administration, and leaders of church groups, business executives, union leaders, journalists, academics, and leaders of major interest groups. 
The results of the survey indicate that the gap between the opinions of the American people on immigration and those of their leaders is enormous. The poll found that 60 percent of the public regards the present level of immigration to be a "critical threat to the vital interests of the United States," compared to only 14 percent of the nation’s leadership – a 46 percentage point gap. 
The current gap is even wider than that found in 1998, when 55 percent of the public viewed immigration as a "critical threat," compared to 18 percent of opinion leaders – a 37 percentage point gap. 
The poll results indicate that there is no other foreign policy-related issue on which the American people and their leaders disagreed more profoundly than immigration. Even on such divisive issues as globalization or strengthening the United Nations, the public and the elite are much closer together than they are on immigration. 
When asked a specific question about whether legal immigration should be reduced, kept the same, or increased, 55 percent of the public said it should be reduced, and 27 percent said it should remain the same. In contrast, only 18 percent of opinion leaders said it should be reduced and 60 percent said it should remain the same. There was no other issue-specific question on which the public and elites differed more widely. 
The enormous difference between elite and public opinion can also be seen on the issue of illegal immigration. The survey found that 70 percent of the public said that reducing illegal immigration should be a "very important" foreign-policy goal of the United States, compared to only 22 percent of elites. 
Also with respect to illegal immigration, when the public was asked to rank the biggest foreign policy problems, the public ranked illegal immigration sixth, while elites ranked it 26th. 
The very large difference between elite and public opinion explains the current political stalemate on immigration. For example, supporters of an amnesty for illegal immigrants have broad elite support ranging from religious to business and union leaders. Normally elite support of this kind would lead to policy changes, but on this issue public opposition is so strong that it creates a political stalemate. 
   

"Why Tiger Mothers Motivate Asian Americans But Not European Americans"

Via Marginal Revolution, here's an abstract from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
My Mother and Me 
Why Tiger Mothers Motivate Asian Americans But Not European Americans 
Alyssa S. Fu 
Hazel Rose Markus 
“Tiger Mother” Amy Chua provoked a culture clash with her claim that controlling parenting in Asian American (AA) contexts produces more successful children than permissive parenting in European American (EA) contexts. At the heart of this controversy is a difference in the normative models of self that guide behavior. Ideas and practices prevalent in AA contexts emphasize that the person is and should be interdependent with one’s close others, especially one’s mother. In contrast, EA contexts emphasize the person as independent, even from one’s mother. We find that AA compared with EA high school students experience more interdependence with their mothers and pressure from them, but that the pressure does not strain their relationship with their mothers. Furthermore, following failure, AAs compared with EAs are more motivated by their mothers, and AAs are particularly motivated by pressure from their mothers when it conveys interdependence.

This topic is really crying out for an adoption study to determine what share is nature and what nurture. My usual guess is fifty-fifty, but it would be fun to know more about it.

In Southern California, you see the Surfer Gene express itself not infrequently among third and fourth generation Asian-Americans with trust funds. On the other hand, they tend not to be screw-ups, either.
    

Piketty and Immigration

Everybody is talking about French economist Thomas Piketty's new book on how the rich get richer Capital in the 21st Century. Piketty argues that the rich dominate the political process, so the masses have a very hard time getting laws passed that would benefit them. 

The most obvious example of this is the debate, such as it is, over immigration policy in America. After more than a half decade of high unemployment, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch, and Mexican oligarch Carlos Slim continue to use their media and political dominance to demonize those who stand up for the American people in opposing the Billionaires United front for cheap labor and expensive phone calls back home to Mexico.

But, if you go to Google and type in 
Piketty immigration

You get:
[cough]
[cricket chirps]

Most of the handful of references are gingerly ones from outer edges of the Steveosphere like Marginal Revolution and Ross Douthat at the NYT. Outside that, the notion that there is any relationship between the rich getting richer and massive immigration simply doesn't register. If we did a brainscan of the typical economic pundit's response to the concept "Piketty and Immigration," you'd just see a flat line on the monitor.
     

Democracy wins one at the Supreme Court

As Genghis Khan might say, nothing is sweeter than to hear the lamentations of the losers ... The New York Times Editorial Board whines:
Racial Equality Loses at the Court 
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD APRIL 22, 2014

A blinkered view of race in America won out in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, when six justices agreed, for various reasons, to allow Michigan voters to ban race-conscious admissions policies in higher education. 
In 2003, the court upheld such a policy at the University of Michigan law school because it furthered a compelling governmental interest in educational diversity. Opponents of affirmative action moved to amend the state’s constitution to ban any consideration of race or sex in public education and employment. In 2006, voters passed the amendment by a wide margin. 
Affirmative action supporters sued to strike down the amendment, arguing that by changing the rules of the game in a way that uniquely burdened racial minorities, the amendment violated the equal protection clause. A closely divided federal appeals court agreed.

You know, all proponents of affirmative action then had to do was what Ward Connerly and Co. had done in Michigan: persuade a simple majority of voters to repeal the amendment to the state constitution. How is that not equal protection?
In Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the Supreme Court reversed that ruling and allowed the amendment to stand. Among other things, the justices disagreed about whose rights were at issue: the minorities who would be affected by the ban or the majority of the state’s voters who passed it.

This is actually a massive issue in 21st Century jurisprudence: when the Constitution says "equal protection," does that really apply to white people? It's nice to see that notion got six votes on the Supreme Court, but it's crazy that it went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a three-member plurality, sided with the voters, who he said had undertaken “a basic exercise of their democratic power” in approving the amendment. He cautioned that the ruling took no position on the constitutionality of race-conscious admissions policies themselves. “This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it.” 
Not so, Justice Sonia Sotomayor responded in a stinging 58-page dissent. “Our Constitution places limits on what a majority of the people may do,” she wrote, such as when they pass laws that oppress minorities. 
That’s what the affirmative action ban does, by altering the political process to single out race and sex as the only factors that may not be considered in university admissions. 
While the Constitution “does not guarantee minority groups victory in the political process,” Justice Sotomayor wrote, “it does guarantee them meaningful and equal access to that process. It guarantees that the majority may not win by stacking the political process against minority groups permanently.”

All that By Any Means Necessary has to do is do what Ward and friends did. But that's not equal enough for the Wise Latina. To her,  all people are equal, but some people should be more equally protected than others.
   

Two women catfight, one man gets fired

As I mentioned earlier, the New York Times splashed an HR brouhaha at a tech startup called Github in which a young creative writing major named Julie Ann Horvath had drawn massive national attention to the problem of alpha-male programmers sexistly discriminating against poor oppressed female software engineers such as herself. Her most tragic example of this was how the co-founder's wife had made her cry over a personal dispute.

In a major advance for feminism, the precedent has now been been established that when two women catfight, the man gets fired.

From a posting by Jane Doe, for whatever it's worth, attempting to explain the real nub of the Github Crisis of Gender Relations:
Around the end of 2012, Julie started dating a close male friend of the cofounder’s wife and didn’t like that they were close. She asked them to stop being friends and when they would not end their relationship, Julie started telling coworkers that the wife had affairs and that the cofounder’s newborn child was not his. She told this to multiple coworkers directly and also to the wife through her boyfriend.

But, no matter, the New York Times ran completely with Julie's positioning of her story as Github having a sexist work environment emblematic of how Silicon Valley must spend more, much more on feminists.

Here are four tweets the NYT chose to pass along to the public. The first, from Github's VC honcho, was added later as a compromise. The latter three, the first to be published by the NYT, make interesting reading about what's fit to print these days.
Marc Andreessen         @pmarcaWe stand firmly behind both Github the company and Tom the person -- we know that both Github and Tom have very bright futures ahead!

Patrick McCulley @panther_modernGitHub is apparently just another corporation that has decided dudebros are worth more than other employees. 
Matthew Dean @matthewdeanersI don't understand how you can't find evidence of sexism when sexism is institutionalized.

Shanley @shanleyTHIS IS WHAT WE MEAN BY HOW THERE ARE NO CONSEQUENCES FOR WHITE MEN IN TECHNOLOGY. NONE. ZIP. NADA.
   

Charles Murray gets spiked at Azusa Pacific U.

From Charles Murray's website at AEI:
Charles Murray: An open letter to the students of Azusa Pacific University
I was scheduled to speak to you tomorrow. I was going to talk about my new book, “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead,” and was looking forward to it. But it has been “postponed.” Why? An email from your president, Jon Wallace, to my employer, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said “Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation.” This, about an appearance that has been planned for months. I also understand from another faculty member that he and the provost were afraid of “hurting our faculty and students of color.” 
You’re at college, right? Being at college is supposed to mean thinking for yourselves, right? Okay, then do it. Don’t be satisfied with links to websites that specialize in libeling people. Lose the secondary sources. Explore for yourself the “full range” of my scholarship and find out what it is that I’ve written or said that would hurt your faculty or students of color. It’s not hard. In fact, you can do it without moving from your chair if you’re in front of your computer. 
You don’t have to buy my books. Instead, go to my web page at AEI. There you will find the full texts of dozens of articles I’ve written for the last quarter-century. Browse through them. Will you find anything that is controversial? That people disagree with? Yes, because (hang on to your hats) scholarship usually means writing about things on which people disagree.

Does this ever happen to Malcolm Gladwell or Tim Wise?

By the way, the name Azusa is short for "Everything from A to Z in the USA." 
       

April 21, 2014

The Descent of Darwin

From Gregory Clark's The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility has a timeline of the Galtonian question of the association between status and fertility, using the famous Darwin family, of which Galton was a member on his mother's side, as an example.
- ... in the preindustrial world, fertility was typically strongly positively associated with status. ...In England before 1780, this effect was so strong that the wealthiest parents had twices as many children as the average family.  
- ... for parents who married between 1780 and 1880, there is no association between fertility and social status. 
- ... there was a strong negative association between social status and fertility ... in England for parents who married between 1890 and 1960.  ... by 1880 in England, upper class-men seem to have produced far fewer children than those of the middle or lower classes. Indeed, from 1880 to 1940, the richest English families seem to have been dying out. 
- .... Currently ... the correlation is relatively weak, with high-status parents having as many children as lower-status parents, or modestly fewer.

This timeline suggests that Galton (who didn't have children himself) was doing what he did best -- systematically noticing -- when he became worried in the later 19th Century about fertility among the most accomplished.

Here's Clark's example of the bearers of the Darwin surname. The Darwins are fascinating because even Charles wasn't exactly a genius. Instead, they are more like the 1960s astronauts: examples of a solid system functioning properly. Neil Armstrong wasn't some unique superhero (and he never claimed to be): he was the product of a healthy culture.
The lineage of Charles Darwin is a nice illustration of how large the families of the middle and upper classes could be in preindustrial England. He descended from a line of successful and prosperous forebears. His great-grandfather Robert Darwin (1682-1754) produced seven children, all of whom survived to adulthood. His grandfather Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) produced fifteen children (born to two wives and two mistresses), twelve of whom survived to adulthood. His father, Robert Waring Darwin (1766 - 1848), produced six children, all of whom survived to adulthood. ... 
Charles Darwin, marrying in 1839, had ten children, though only seven surived childhood.  
These seven children produced only nine grandchildren, an average of only 1.3 per child. (This figure is unusually low for this era, but there was great randomness in individual fertility.) 
The nine grandchildren produced in turn only 20 great-grandchildren, 2.2 per grandchild. This figure was less than the population average for this period. The great-grandchildren, born on average in 1918, produced 28 great-great-grandchildren, 1.4 each. ... The Darwin lineage failed to maintain itself in genetic terms. 
Interestingly, with respect to social mobility rates, the 27 great-great grandchildren of Charles Darwin, born on average nearly 150 years after Darwin, are still a surprisingly distinguished cohort. Eleven are notable enough to have Wikipedia pages, or the like, such as Times obituaries. 

I looked them up for my recent Taki's column on Clark's book and found that 16 of the 28 great-great-grandchildren of Darwin now have Wikipedia pages.
   

NYT: "Alpha-male culture" is "endemic in software engineering"

Warning: Endemic alpha-male culture
From the NYT:
GitHub Founder Resigns After Investigation
By Claire Cain Miller 
Tom Preston-Werner, a co-founder and former chief executive of GitHub, a website for sharing and collaborating on software code, resigned on Monday after an investigation into gender-based harassment. But the company said the investigation found no evidence of illegal practices. 
The accusations surfaced last month, when Julie Ann Horvath, a software designer and developer at GitHub, publicly resigned, saying there was a culture of disrespect and intimidation of women at the company. That included mistreatment by Mr. Preston-Warner and his wife, who was not a GitHub employee.

Wait a minute -- two women have a hormonal feud and a man gets fired?

Tom Preston-Werner is married to Dr. Theresa Preston-Werner, who wrote her Cultural Anthropology dissertation on "Gender, Age, and Direct Sales in Costa Rica." The wife was "Director of Evaluations at Guatemalan-focused non-profit Women Work Together."

Here's a trend: If you are having a personal rivalry with somebody of your own sex, whoever plays the Identity Politics card first wins. Remember the Harvard Law School woman who got ratted out by her romantic rival who leaked her personal email about The Bell Curve to the Black Students Union? Or how about that middle-aged professor who was flirting with a young woman whose jealous boyfriend got him fired for sexual harassment?

Here's a wonderful sentence from the NYT:
Ms. Horvath’s resignation attracted much attention in the tech community, as an example of the sexism and alpha-male culture that are endemic in software engineering.

Really?

Claire Cain Miller is the reporter who got pranked a few weeks ago by sexting start-up Glimpse into publishing a giant thumb-sucker about sexism in the sexting business featuring the two self-promoters Elissa Shevinsky and Pax Dickinson. (At least they both have a sense of humor.)

Some people never learn.
   

April 20, 2014

Close reading: "Resegregation in the American South"

Here's a long, serious article from The Atlantic that, when read closely, self-destructs. 

Several observations from reading the story:

- Middle class blacks in Tuscaloosa made a deal with whites to get their black children away from underclass blacks.

- The country is slowly running out of white children to use as buffers to absorb black dysfunction.

It focuses on three generations of the black Dent family in Tuscaloosa.
Resegregation in the American South 
Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, the schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, show how separate and unequal education is coming back. 
Nikole Hannah-Jones/ProPublic 
Though James Dent could watch Central High School’s homecoming parade from the porch of his faded-white bungalow, it had been years since he’d bothered. But last fall, Dent’s oldest granddaughter, D’Leisha, was vying for homecoming queen, and he knew she’d be poking up through the sunroof of her mother’s car, hand cupped in a beauty-pageant wave, looking for him. 
So, at about 4:30 in the afternoon on October 18, Dent, age 64, made his way off the porch and to the curb along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the West End of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  
Central was not just a renowned local high school. It was one of the South’s signature integration success stories. In 1979, a federal judge had ordered the merger of the city’s two largely segregated high schools into one. ...
But on that sunlit day last October, as Dent searched for Melissa’s daughter in the procession coming into view, he saw little to remind him of that era. More caravan than parade, Central’s homecoming pageant consisted of a wobbly group of about 30 band members, some marching children from the nearby elementary schools, and a dozen or so cars with handwritten signs attached to their sides. ... 
The reason for the decline of Central’s homecoming parade is no secret. In 2000, another federal judge released Tuscaloosa City Schools from the court-ordered desegregation mandate that had governed it for a single generation. Central had successfully achieved integration, the district had argued—it could be trusted to manage that success going forward. 
Freed from court oversight, Tuscaloosa’s schools have seemed to move backwards in time. The citywide integrated high school is gone, replaced by three smaller schools. Central retains the name of the old powerhouse, but nothing more. A struggling school serving the city’s poorest part of town, it is 99 percent black. D’Leisha, an honors student since middle school, has only marginal college prospects. 

Is it all that awful for 90 IQ black students to get to grow up feeling superior to 80 IQ black classmates rather than feeling inferior to 100 IQ white classmates?
Tuscaloosa’s schools today are not as starkly segregated as they were in 1954, the year the Supreme Court declared an end to separate and unequal education in America. No all-white schools exist anymore—the city’s white students generally attend schools with significant numbers of black students. But while segregation as it is practiced today may be different than it was 60 years ago, it is no less pernicious: in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, it involves the removal and isolation of poor black and Latino students, in particular, from everyone else.

I.e., from non-poor black students.
In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened. 
Tuscaloosa’s school resegregation—among the most extensive in the country—is a story of city financial interests, secret meetings, and angry public votes. It is a story shaped by racial politics and a consuming fear of white flight. It was facilitated, to some extent, by the city’s black elites.

This is the real story that almost nobody has noticed in reading this long article: Tuscaloosa's black middle class leadership sold out its black underclass in return for its own interests.
... In recent years, a new term, apartheid schools—meaning schools whose white population is 1 percent or less, schools like Central—has entered the scholarly lexicon. While most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest, some 12 percent of black students in the South now attend such schools ....

In other words, the North was traditionally segregated spatially, while the South was segregated socially.

For example, as a Catholic school kid in the San Fernando Valley, which is isolated spatially by the Hollywood Hills, I noticed that Jewish kids at the park, who all went to public schools, looked down upon Catholic schools as alien and un-American But when busing from Watts into the San Fernando Valley was ordered in the late 1970s, local Jewish politicians led the fight against integration, and Jews started an impressive number of private schools.
In the fall of 1979, Central High School opened to serve all public-high-school students in the district—no matter their race, no matter whether they lived in the city’s public-housing projects or in one of the mansions along the meandering Black Warrior River. The mega-school, a creative solution to a complex problem, resulted from many hours of argument and negotiation in McFadden’s chambers. ...
Now 45 and a single mother of four, [Melissa Dent] works on the assembly line at the Mercedes-Benz plant just outside of town.
A few minutes before first period on a Wednesday last October, D’Leisha Dent, a 17-year-old senior, waded through Central High’s halls, toes with chipped blue polish peeking out from her sandals, orange jeans hugging solid legs that had helped make her the three-time state indoor shot-put champion. 
She eventually broke free from a tangle of girls to enter Tyrone Jones’s Advanced Placement English class and take her seat at the front. She dropped two black bags taut with notebooks and binders beside her desk. 
Jones didn’t waste time setting the boisterous class to task. The AP exam was approaching. Students who didn’t score high enough wouldn’t get college credit for the class. Even though the 17 girls and boys gathered in front of him made up Central’s brightest, their practice essay about a poem hadn’t gone so well. 
D’Leisha raised her hand, her brow furrowed. How many kids had made the cutoff last year? she asked. Only two students had, but the teacher dodged the question. “I really do believe all of you can make those scores,” he said. 
He passed out an essay question about D. H. Lawrence’s novel The Rainbow. As the students began to write, a girl sitting to his left scrunched up her nose and raised her hand. She couldn’t spell a word she wanted to use in her essay. Jones told her to look it up in one of the heavy red dictionaries in the baskets below their desks. 
“You know what I don’t understand?” the girl said, a pen poised at her lips. “You always tell us to look up the word. How are we supposed to look a word up if we don’t know to spell it?” 

Ouch.

... After Melissa Dent graduated, in 1988, Central continued as one of the state’s standout high schools. But over time, local leaders grew more concerned about the students who didn’t attend the school than those who did. 

Running out of white kids ...
... White students once accounted for a majority of the Tuscaloosa school district’s students. But by the mid-1990s, they made up less than a third. Total enrollment had dropped from 13,500 in 1969 to 10,300 in 1995. Many white parents had decided to send their children to nearly all-white private schools or to move across the city line to access the heavily white Tuscaloosa County Schools. 
Tuscaloosa’s business leaders and elected officials had witnessed the transformation of other southern cities after their school districts had reached a tipping point—the point at which white parents become unsettled by the rising share of black students in a school, and pull their children from the school en masse. School districts in cities such as Birmingham and Richmond had seen their integration efforts largely mooted: just about all the white students had left. ...
In some ways, all-black schools today are worse than Druid High was back in the 1950s, when poor black students mixed with affluent and middle-class ones.

The fundamental issue is that there is always a large black underclass that everybody treats as a hot potato. Controlling the boundaries of Appropriate Discourse is helpful in dumping this hot potato into somebody else's lap without them having a vocabulary for explaining what you are up to.
Tuscaloosa’s residential population stagnated during the ’90s, and the school situation took on special urgency in 1993: Tuscaloosa was vying for the Mercedes-Benz plant where Melissa Dent now works, which officials hoped would draw people to the city. Just a few years earlier, Tuscaloosa had lost out on a bid for a Saturn plant. In an interview early this year, Johnnie Aycock, who at the time headed the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, suggested the schools had scared Saturn away. “We learned that lesson. We learned that lesson completely.” 

In other words, engineers and executives from Stuttgart aren't going to send their kids to majority black schools. And let's not even think about Hyundai executives ...
Publicly, the city’s movers and shakers said the lack of neighborhood schools made the district unattractive and that schools languished in disrepair because the district had to await court approval for every little decision. Behind closed doors, they argued that if they did not create some schools where white students made up the majority—or near it—they’d lose the white parents still remaining. ...

The roster of witnesses lined up behind the school board shocked many in the black community. It included some of the city’s most influential black leaders, including a city councilman, a state senator, and Judge John England Jr., whose credentials carried force. England had been a member of the first integrated class at the University of Alabama Law School, and he’d fought discrimination his whole career as a litigator, before taking on roles as a city-council member and then as a county judge. 
England testified as to how the city’s racial views had changed over the years. Building a school “across the river,” England told the court, was “the best thing for the community as a whole.” 
Rumors spread within the community that England’s and others’ support had been part of a secret arrangement with white leaders. Dennis Parker, an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, asked England during his testimony whether he’d said at a public meeting that a deal had been struck to improve a West End school in exchange for support for a new school in the whitest part of town. ...
In an interview last fall in his chambers at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse, Judge England said on the record for the first time that he had privately agreed to support the Rock Quarry [elementary] school during the trial—which would ultimately lead to the district’s release from federal oversight—only with the assurance of investment in West End schools, though he denied having made a quid pro quo deal. (Several others confirmed that white business, school, and city officials met privately with select black leaders to gain support for the district’s efforts to end the court order and free it to return to neighborhood schools, in exchange for new black schools and development in the West End.)

In other words, democracy: whites provided tax money to middle class blacks, and middle class blacks dumped poor blacks into their own high school.
What happened was rapid and continual resegregation, in particular the sequestration of poor black students in nearly hopeless schools.

Why are the schools hopeless? Because they are full of poor black students.
It is no small irony that efforts to woo the very plant that allows Melissa Dent to earn enough to support her family also played a part in ensuring that her children would attend nearly all-black schools. 
In 1999, less than a year after Blackburn’s public hearing, the school board voted to abandon its three single-grade, citywide middle schools in favor of more-traditional middle schools.

So, under the old desegregation order, all the sixth graders in the city went to a single school devoted only to sixth grade. The next year they moved to a single school devoted only to seventh grade, and the same for eighth grade. And The Atlantic wonders why parents complained?
It carved out two integrated schools to serve sixth-through-eighth-graders in the northern, central, and eastern parts of the city, and returned Westlawn Middle, in the West End, to its familiar historic state: virtually all black. 
The school board commissioned a biracial committee to figure out what to do about the high school. White parents, the commission suggested in its May 2000 report, would not want their children to attend schools once they turned 70 percent black. By its reasoning, the district had already reached the tipping point. The only way to create the necessary school ratios in a district where black students outnumbered white students almost three to one

You know, that is kind of a problem ...
was to cluster a large number of black children in schools without white students. ...
After the commission issued its report, the district created a plan for two large integrated high schools—Northridge, in the whitest and most affluent part of town, and Paul W. Bryant, along the city’s eastern edge—as well as a much smaller high school that would retain the name Central. School officials drew Central’s proposed attendance zone compactly around the West End, saying that an all-black high school couldn’t be avoided, because the district couldn’t help where people lived.

Today, Northridge HS "in the whitest and most affluent part of town" is 61% black and 35% white. Paul W. Bryant HS is 75% black and 19% white. Central H.S. is 100% black.
... Nonetheless, in August 2000, the seven-member board ordered Central’s dismantling, 21 years after its creation. One black member joined the board’s four white ones in voting in favor.  
And so the district built its new high schools—but white parents did not flock to them. By 2007, white enrollment had fallen to 22 percent

Running out of white children ...
But some parents were unhappy with the plan for a different set of reasons. The historic district around the University of Alabama, a predominantly white and middle-class area that’s home to college professors and other professionals, lies south of the river. The district’s plan would reassign children in this neighborhood to their closest schools, which were heavily black.

College professors, no matter what they might say in the lecture hall, don't want their kids being sent to highly black schools.
The day before the school board voted, the president of the historic district association sent an e‑mail to his fellow association members assuring them that after “lengthy negotiations with the school board attorney” and “discussions with school board members and the superintendent,” students in the district would be able to continue to attend the north-of-the-river schools....
A 2012 Stanford study examined school districts with at least 2,000 students that had been released from court order since 1990, finding that, typically, these districts grew steadily more segregated after their release.

As opposed to other schools? From 1990 to 2012, the whole country has been running out of white children to buffer minority dysfunction.
... Indeed, in some ways all-black schools today are worse than Druid High was back in the 1950s, when poor black students mixed with affluent and middle-class ones, and when many of the most talented black residents of Tuscaloosa taught there.

Feature, not a bug, to middle class black leaders -- they're rescued their kids from the black underclass.
D’Leisha Dent has retaken the ACT three times to try to raise her score. At a practice session with students from other high schools, she observed, “They knew things we didn’t know. They had done things we hadn’t done.”...

Though its students may arrive bearing more burdens, in many ways Central is like any other high school. It’s got its jocks, its nerds, its mean girls and band geeks. D’Leisha herself is the all-American girl—the homecoming queen dating a football player. ... The school is housed in a lovely modern brick building outside of the West End, within view of the towering University of Alabama football stadium. ...
Standing one day last fall outside the counselor’s office at Central, D’Leisha looked up at the college bulletin board. It was dominated by National Guard and Army flyers, with some brochures for small Alabama colleges tucked among them. Students with D’Leisha’s grades and tough honors coursework often come home to mailboxes stuffed with glossy college brochures. But most days, nothing showed up in the mail for her, and no colleges had come calling. She had taken the ACT college-entrance exam twice already. The first time she scored a 16

21st percentile among ACT takers. Of course a lot of students who have already dropped out or who know they aren't college material don't take the ACT or SAT. For whatever it's worth, here is somebody's ACT / AFQT (military entrance test) concordance, which puts 16 on the ACT at equivalent to scoring at about the 45th percentile among all young people. The black average on the ACT is 17.0 (28th percentile), while the white average is 22.4 (65th percentile).
, the second time a 17

28th percentile among ACT test takers.
Her mother’s alma mater, the University of Alabama, expects a 21

55th percentile.
, the national average. Many four-year colleges will not even consider students who score below an 18.

34th percentile

“My biggest fear right now is the ACT,” D’Leisha said. “I don’t have a good score. It’s been on my mind a lot.” She described an ACT study session she’d attended last summer at a community college. “We were with kids from Northridge, and they knew things we didn’t know,” she said. “They had done things we hadn’t done.” 
Because D’Leisha excels in school and everything else she’s involved in, her teachers and counselors don’t worry about whether she’s on the right track. They’re stretched thin trying to keep in class the seniors—roughly 35 percent of them—who fail to graduate each year. But in December, at home texting with her boyfriend, D’Leisha admitted that she’d filled out only one college application. Lately, she said, she’d been looking more closely at those military brochures, just as her grandfather had, something that angers her mother. “I am kind of clueless how to get stuff done for college,” D’Leisha told me, looking down and fidgeting with her phone. “They are supposed to be helping us, but they think because I am the class president I know what to do. Sometimes I don’t speak up, because I know people have expectations of me.” 
For black students like D’Leisha—the grandchildren of the historic Brown decision—having to play catch-up with their white counterparts is supposed to be a thing of the past. The promise was that students of all colors would be educated side by side, and would advance together into a more integrated, equitable American society. Polls show Americans embracing this promise in the abstract, but that rarely translates into on-the-ground support for integration efforts. 
Late last year, D’Leisha took the ACT for the third time, but her score dropped back to 16.

21st percentile
So early on a Saturday in February, she got up quietly, forced a few bites of a muffin into her nervous stomach, and drove once again to the community college where the test is administered. A few weeks later, she got her score: 16 again.

21st percentile.
She contemplated a fifth attempt, but could see little point. 

Is it really all that terrible that a nice girl like D'Leisha got to enjoy four years of being a big fish -- class president, honor student, homecoming queen -- in a small pond? I suspect that this situation seems far more tragic to the Atlantic writer than it does to D'Leisha, who will likely wind up getting a job, like her mother, at the big Mercedes-Benz factory outside of Tuscaloosa.

Half the people in the country are going to be below average in general intelligence. Traditionally, working at an auto plant was seen as a working class Good Job.

I think public policy (e.g., the Reagan Administration's quotas on imported cars) is more likely to influence whether or not there are car factories for people with below average IQs to work at than whether or not there are people with below average IQs.
      

Hurricane Carter's long hunt for the real killers is over

Happy Easter

Google goes all out to celebrate the holiday:

Here's last Easter's particularly reverent-looking Google doodle celebrating Easter Cesar Chavez's Birthday:
   

Moynihan's Law of Civic Funniness

Two U. of Colorado professors have attempted to quantitatively rank America's 50 biggest cities on funniness:
His findings were drawn from surveys of residents (on the prevalence of humor in their daily lives) and of comedians, number of visits to comedy websites, tweets, radio stations, comedy clubs per square mile and native-born comedians per capita.

This seems like a hopeless effort. Yet, the topline finding -- Chicago is the funniest city in America -- seems not unreasonable. Off the top of my head, I probably would have picked Chicago #1 (although I might guess Toronto if North America was the category). I'm not exactly sure how I would have arrived at Chicago as my guess, but it's certainly reasonable. Los Angeles, of course, has a gigantic abundance of comedy professionals from all over the country, and there is more goofy stuff in Los Angeles than anywhere else. But I'm not sure if Angelenos on average as aggressively get the joke as Chicagoans.

Interestingly, this map with red dots for the ten funniest cities and black dots for the bottom ten looks a lot like the usual Moynihan's Law of the Canadian Border, such as lists of America's most well-read cities (Atlanta does well there, too).
  

April 19, 2014

"A dead body with a hole in it demands attention," but not necessarily in Chicago

One of the verities of crime statistics analysis is that homicide stats are more trustworthy than other kinds of statistics. But if the cops are under a lot of political pressure, as Chicago cops were after their recent murder spree, well, a bunch of homicides can turn into just plain dead bodies. 

Chicago Magazine looks into ten recent cases of massaging the homicide stats.

It's still harder to make homicides disappear than burglaries, but it is eye-opening.