August 14, 2009

Who gets the "affordable housing?"

For years, I've been reading about deals where the government forces real estate developers to sell a certain percentage of lower priced units. Somewhat similarly, the Obama Administration recently forced Westchester County outside of NYC to buy or build "affordable housing" for minorities:

Westchester County entered into a landmark desegregation agreement on Monday that would compel it to create hundreds of houses and apartments for moderate-income people in overwhelmingly white communities and aggressively market them to nonwhites in Westchester and New York City.

The agreement, if ratified by the county’s Board of Legislators, would settle a lawsuit filed by an antidiscrimination group and could become a template for increased scrutiny of local governments’ housing policies by the Obama administration.

“This is consistent with the president’s desire to see a fully integrated society,” said Ron Sims, the deputy secretary of housing and urban development, which helped broker the settlement along with the Justice Department. “Until now, we tended to lay dormant. This is historic, because we are going to hold people’s feet to the fire.”

The agreement calls for the county to spend more than $50 million of its own money, in addition to other funds, to build or acquire 750 homes or apartments, 630 of which must be provided in towns and villages where black residents constitute 3 percent or less of the population and Hispanic residents make up less than 7 percent. The 120 other spaces must meet different criteria for cost and ethnic concentration.

Here's my question: who gets discount housing?

Clearly, it's supposed to go very heavily to blacks and Hispanics, but to which blacks and Hispanics? Whose friends and relatives get the nod?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Tangled Up in Blue

A commenter points to this AP news story:

Rock legend Bob Dylan was treated like a complete unknown by police in a New Jersey shore community when a resident called to report someone wandering around the neighborhood.

Dylan was in Long Branch, about a two-hour drive south of New York City, on July 23 as part of a tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp that was to play at a baseball stadium in nearby Lakewood.

A 24-year-old police officer apparently was unaware of who Dylan is and asked him for identification, Long Branch business administrator Howard Woolley said Friday.

"I don't think she was familiar with his entire body of work," Woolley said.

The incident began at 5 p.m. when a resident said a man was wandering around a low-income, predominantly minority neighborhood several blocks from the oceanfront looking at houses.

The police officer drove up to Dylan, who was wearing a blue jacket, and asked him his name. According to Woolley, the following exchange ensued:

"What is your name, sir?" the officer asked.

"Bob Dylan," Dylan said.

"OK, what are you doing here?" the officer asked.

"I'm on tour," the singer replied.

A second officer, also in his 20s, responded to assist the first officer. He, too, apparently was unfamiliar with Dylan, Woolley said.

The officers asked Dylan for identification. The singer of such classics as "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Blowin' in the Wind" said that he didn't have any ID with him, that he was just walking around looking at houses to pass some time before that night's show.

The officers asked Dylan, 68, to accompany them back to the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, where the performers were staying. Once there, tour staff vouched for Dylan.

The officers thanked him for his cooperation.

"He couldn't have been any nicer to them," Woolley added.

Well, sure, but he's just Bob Dylan, not somebody really famous like Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Which sex was most responsible for the mortgage meltdown?

Christopher Caldwell, author of Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West has a pretty good essay in Time Magazine called "The Pink Recovery:"

One thing that seems bound to change is the relationship between the sexes. Since the recession began in December 2007, the vast majority of the lost jobs have belonged to men. ...

A lot of people see that as fitting punishment. There weren't any women among the high-profile malefactors in last fall's financial meltdown. Maleness has become a synonym for insufficient attentiveness to risk. ...

In Foreign Policy this summer, journalist Reihan Salam predicted that the "macho men's club called finance capitalism" would not survive the present economic ordeal.... Of course, nobody harped on this research back when housing prices were doubling and people were using their home-equity credit lines to buy third cars. But to paraphrase Richard Nixon's comment about Keynesians, we are all feminists now.

Okay, but, consider that at the base of the financial crash were people, typically couples, taking out home mortgages that they couldn't afford, mostly to either buy homes (generally sold to them by female real estate agents) they couldn't afford or to do home improvements they couldn't afford.

In the typical couple who has defaulted, which sex -- husband or wife -- on average do you think was more ardent for the granite countertop upgrade? Was it husbands or wives who tended to insist most on buying the larger house with the exercise room and enough space for relatives to stay over and the extra big dining room for hosting dinner parties?

Caldwell gently satirizes the conventional wisdom:

Although clichés about the "vulnerability" of women in the economy have been disproved by hard BLS data, we want to believe them. When women lose jobs, the victims are women. When men lose jobs, the victims are, um, women, because they have to make up for that lost male income.

Then, Caldwell goes on to illustrate one reason why he writes for Time Magazine and I don't:

Should we expect men to cede some control over an economy they have so thoroughly messed up? No. We have no examples of that ever having happened. What we have plenty of examples of--you can see variants of it all over the developing world--is economies in which women do all the arduous work while men sit around smoking and pontificating in coffeehouses and barbershops. For decades, policymakers have been attentive to the flaws of a patriarchal, middle-class, single-earner, nuclear-family-oriented model of family economics--and their attention remains fixed on it. Whether or not that model dominated American society as much as its critics claimed, we are now leaving it behind. Maybe there is a humane model that can replace it. We have not found one yet.

Good point.

Still, the reason Caldwell writes for Time and I don't is that if I were to write:

What we have plenty of examples of--you can see variants of it all over the developing world--is economies in which women do all the arduous work while men sit around smoking and pontificating in coffeehouses and barbershops.

Rather than gesture vaguely at "the developing world," I would actually then give an example. In fact, I would pick the best example: i.e., the largest region of the world where men are most inclined to have their womenfolk do most of what work gets done.

Caldwell's way is dull, not very informative, and potentially misleading to the handful of readers who actually stop and wonder what he means: Is he talking about, say, China? China is definitely developing. So, I guess he's talking about China. Do men not work very hard in China? I didn't know that. I guess men must not work very hard in China or it wouldn't say that in Time Magazine. You learn something new every day!

Now, you know and I know what part of the "developing" world Caldwell is primarily talking about here, and why it's relevant to America. (The reference to "barbershops" is a clue.) He's referring to Henry Harpending 101. But Caldwell has the good sense to keep his point misty and abstract-sounding so that few people will have much of an idea what he's talking about. Nicholas Wade, the NYT's genetics reporter, will get it, but Morris Dees of the $PLC hopefully won't.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

How to make national parks more popular

Do what the Swiss do: make the mountains a little less wildernessy.

President Obama is visiting Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks this month to promote Free Weekends (part of his stimulus package). So far, free admission isn't doing much. The Washington Post reports, "Free Weekends Having Little Effect on National Parks."

Obama's got the economic equation backward. The National Parks need more expensive amenities to make them more accessible to our increasingly diverse (and increasingly sedentary and obese) population. This would require taking on the wilderness ideology that emerged in the 1960s and is becoming increasingly outdated.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the government view was that the most important thing was to protect the high country from the ever-growing hordes of nature-lovers wanting to trample it. But, in the 21st Century, the hordes of wilderness-wanderers aren't growing. To get people back to the National Parks, they don't need cheaper admissions (which max out at $23 per vehicle, which is cheap). They need more luxury.

For example, in the roadless high country of Yosemite National Park, above Tuolumne Meadows at around 10,000 feet in altitude, there has long been a circuit of about five High Sierra Camps, with tent cabins and dining halls, each a day's walk (6 to 8 miles) apart. So, you can take a five night hiking trip without carrying your own food and fuel, you can sleep in a bed, and have a hot shower (at three camps): it's $136 per person per night for food and lodging. This circuit is very popular with aging nature lovers who don't want to put up anymore with the rigors of sheer wilderness backpacking at high altitude. So you have to apply in a lottery each year in the autumn for the next summer. My aunt and uncle applied every year for about a decade, but never got chosen, and finally gave up when they got too old for high altitude hiking.

That's just sad.

Considering how popular this amenity is, you might think the National Park Service would have expanded it, adding more High Sierra Camps in Yosemite, and setting up similar circuits in Kings Canyon and Sequoia to the south. In truth, the more remarkable thing is that the NPS hasn't dismantled the High Sierra Camps. Ever since the 1960s, the dominant ideology in Sierra circles has been that pure wilderness is best and things like wooden floors for permanent tents are probably evil. So, we're lucky the National Park Service didn't burn down the High Sierra Camps.

Similarly, if the Grand Canyon were in Austria, there would be a gondola cable car ride to the bottom (and, more importantly, back up again -- trust me, from my experience at age 12, getting in the Grand Canyon is a lot easier than getting out of it).

My experience with the Palms to Pines aerial tramway that whisks you from Palm Springs to 8,500 feet up on the edge of the Mt. San Jacinto Wilderness is that the crowds at the top are, despite the high price ($23 per adult), much more diverse than the backpackers who clamber up from Idylwild on the other side.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 12, 2009

"The Unbearable Whiteness of Ken Burns"

Over on Taki's Magazine, my Wednesday column is up about the upcoming PBS documentary by Ken Burns, who created the superb The Civil War in 1990:

The publicity machine is now gearing up for documentarian Ken Burns’s twelve-hour extravaganza, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, which will run for six straight nights on PBS starting September 27.

This being a Ken Burns series, the predominant theme of The National Parks will be “diversity.” So, if you go camping in a national park this month, check out the diversity of your fellow visitors. You’ll likely notice tourists from all over the world, including busloads of punctual Germans and amenable Japanese.

But, foreign tourists aren’t the right kind of diversity for Burns.

Although Burns has spent his career explaining stuff, he’s never quite figured himself out. That’s why, judging from his documentary’s preview materials, The National Parks is shaping up, after six years of work, as Ken Burns’ Worst Idea.

Please read it there and comment about it here.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 11, 2009

Request for suggestions

I'm looking for practical suggestions for what the GOP can do to revive itself over both short and long run timeframes (e.g., 2009-2010, 2009-2020, 2009-2050).

Whether the GOP deserves revival is a question for another time.

P.S. Here's an interesting excerpt from a comment:
The only reason to gain political power is to exercise it to reward your supporters and punish your opposition. Someone who runs implicitly or explicitly on the platform that they will not exercise their power to help their supporters will never win an election under unlimited democracy.

It's easy to imagine Barack Obama nodding along to that, but then tsk-tsking over anybody coming right out and saying that lucidly what he believes.

As an exercise, translate the above paragraph into Obamaese, retaining both its meaning but also applying levels of plausible deniability.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 9, 2009

Christopher Caldwell's "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe"

Here's my book review in

Christopher Caldwell's Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West is an important and surprising book.

Granted, readers won't see much that's new. In essence, Caldwell's Reflections is a Brimelovian vindication of Enoch Powell, the brilliant Tory who warned against immigration in a prescient (and thus notorious) 1968 speech that began "The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils".

Caldwell points out in his opening pages (which you can read here):
"Although at the time Powell's demographic projections were much snickered at, they have turned out not just roughly accurate but as close to perfectly accurate as it is possible for any such projections to be: In his Rotary Club speech [on November 16 1968], Powell shocked his audience by stating that the nonwhite population of Britain, barely over a million at the time, would rise to 4.5 million by 2002. (According to the national census, the actual "ethnic minority" population of Britain in 2001 was 4,635,296.)"

Readers who get their views from the MainStream Media, though, will be startled by how gracefully—yet bluntly—Caldwell delivers an intellectually cohesive assault on the conventional wisdom of the diversity dogma.

Reflections is also a model for how a working journalist can transform years of old articles researched on scores of trips to Europe into a stylish book. Caldwell's solution is to enhance his prose style with aphorisms worthy of G.K. Chesterton.

For example, in Caldwell's original February 27, 2006 Weekly Standard article on Nicolas Sarkozy, The Man Who Would Be le Président, he discussed Sarkozy's call for affirmative action in France to appease riotous Muslims:
"It can be argued that France needs such measures desperately, … but, … Sarkozy shows a bit of the naiveté of, say, Hubert Humphrey in 1964 when he implies the program would be only temporary. … How long would the program last, then? Twenty years? 'No, twenty years is too long.'"

In his book, however, Caldwell adds this memorable dictum in reply to Sarkozy's Continental innocence about America's experience:
"One moves swiftly and imperceptibly from a world in which affirmative action can't be ended because its beneficiaries are too weak to a world in which it can't be ended because its beneficiaries are too strong."

(I suspect that when Sen. Lindsey Graham decided to vote for Sonia Sotomayor, he was saying something like this to himself, just less elegantly.)

Read my whole review of Caldwell's book there and comment upon it here.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer