February 25, 2012

Kipling would not have been surprised

From the BBC:
Thousands of enraged Afghans have taken to the streets for a fourth day, after US soldiers inadvertently set fire to copies of the Koran. 
In the deadliest day of unrest so far, at least 12 people died across the country, as mobs charged at US bases and diplomatic missions. 
More than 20 people have been killed since the unrest began, including two US soldiers who died on Thursday.

It didn't end well for Danny and Peachey, either.



For the concluding scene of what all of Daniel Dravot's efforts to civilize the Afghans gets him, see here.

My old articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Not not from The Onion

From The Onion:
"Great Team Chemistry No Match For Great Team Biology"
Despite college basketball analysts' frequent remarks that the team exhibits "great chemistry," the Texas A&M Aggies were edged out Wednesday night 66-58 by the No. 4-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, who apparently have great team biology.

Sports differ markedly in how easy it is to predict professional success, with basketball being the easiest, probably because height is so important and obvious. The NBA used to conduct a seven round draft, but bored teams would purposely fritter away later-round choices on random tall people, celebrities, and women. So, the NBA switched to only two rounds. Even so, the number of undrafted players to achieve stardom is low. The best undrafted player ever is probably defensive specialist Ben Wallace, followed by Brad Miller and John Starks and a surprisingly short list of other star players.

When you think about it, basketball's kind of a stupid sport because it gives such an advantage to height, which is a randomly genetic attribute, not an earned virtue.

Have any new team sports been invented in the last generation? We've got a bunch of new individual sports, most of them X Games stuff, like snowboard cross, that are pretty cool, but are any new team sports emerging? 

In contrast, baseball's draft goes on forever. Mike Piazza was picked in the 62nd round. 

In the NFL, famous undrafted players include Kurt Warner, Wes Welker, Warren Moon, and Jeff Garcia. 

In golf, the creation of the Senior Tour for 50+ players led to a small number of senior stars emerging who had never had any success on the regular Tour. One had lived in his car for years, working on his swing. 

February 24, 2012

Jeremy Lin: "These are the days of miracle and wonder"

Howard Beck reports in the New York Times on late-bloomer Jeremy Lin:
The Evolution of a Point Guard
By HOWARD BECK 
ORLANDO — The most captivating strand of the Jeremy Lin mystique is that he came from nowhere, emerging overnight to become a star, after being underestimated and overlooked, disregarded by college coaches, ignored in the N.B.A. draft and waived twice in two weeks. 
The narrative is well-established, factual in its broadest strokes and altogether flawed, or at least woefully incomplete. 
Jeremy Lin’s rise did not begin, as the world perceived it, with a 25-point explosion at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 4. It began with lonely 9 a.m. workouts in downtown Oakland in the fall of 2010; with shooting drills last summer on a backyard court in Burlingame, Calif.; and with muscle-building sessions at a Menlo Park fitness center. 
It began with a reworked jump shot, a thicker frame, stronger legs, a sharper view of the court — enhancements that came gradually, subtly, through study and practice and hundreds of hours spent with assistant coaches, trainers and shooting instructors over 18 months. 
Quite simply, the Jeremy Lin who revived the Knicks, stunned the N.B.A. and charmed the world — the one who is averaging 22.4 points and 8.8 assists as a starter — is not the Jeremy Lin who went undrafted out of Harvard in June 2010. He is not even the same Jeremy Lin who was cut by the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 9. 
Beyond the mystique and the mania lies a more basic story — of perseverance, hard work and self-belief. 
“He’s in a miracle moment, where everything has come together,” said Keith Smart, the Sacramento Kings coach, who was Lin’s coach with the Warriors last season. 
Smart can hardly recognize his former pupil these days. Nor can Eric Musselman, who coached Lin in the N.B.A. Development League for 20 games. Nor can Lamar Reddicks, a former Harvard assistant coach, who fondly remembers a freshman-year Lin as “the weakest guy on the team.” 
“I look at him on TV now,” Reddicks said, “and I’m like, I can’t imagine that he’s this big!” 
What scouts saw in the spring of 2010 was a smart passer with a flawed jump shot and a thin frame, who might not have the strength and athleticism to defend, create his own shot or finish at the rim in the N.B.A. The evolution began from there. ... 
Yet an outside shot would not be enough. Lin needed to be able to consistently convert shots in the lane. And to do that, he needed to withstand the contact. 
On Scheppler’s advice, Lin sought out Phil Wagner, a physician and trainer who owns Sparta Performance Science in Menlo Park. Wagner saw a player with enviable athleticism, but who lacked the explosiveness of an elite N.B.A. player. 
“Most basketball players can create force very quickly,” Wagner said, referring to a player jumping off the floor. “Jeremy couldn’t.” 
He compared Lin to a stretched-out rubber band — flexible, but lacking that snap-back quality. The goal was to make him “stiffer,” through a training program of heavy weights and low repetition, in conjunction with a high-protein diet. With the added muscle, Lin pushed his weight to 212 pounds from 200, while increasing his vertical leap by 3.5 inches, Wagner said. The result is evident every time Lin barrels into the lane this season. 
“The biggest thing I see is when he gets intro traffic, he’s able to maintain his direction and his balance, because he’s stronger,” Wagner said, adding, “He’s a physical guard. That’s where I see his hard work and the program he did with us paying off.”

It's a turn-around jump shot
It's everybody jump start
It's every generation throws a hero up the pop charts
Medicine is magical and magical is art
The Boy in the Bubble
And the baby with the baboon heart

And I believe...
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
Paul Simon, 1986

Minority victimhood kicks in at 0.1 percentile

There's a fair amount of national chatter about the U. of Texas affirmative action case, but the far more revealing 5-year-old Vulcan Society v. Fire Department of New York lawsuit remains mostly of interest in the Outer Boroughs. The truth is that "affirmative action" pales in importance to "disparate impact," but practically nobody in the U.S. understands "disparate impact" law. Do you think, say, Matthew Yglesias, Kevin Drum, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, or Maureen Dowd could explain the EEOC's Fourth-Fifth's Rule off the top of their heads?

From the New York Daily News today:
Seven applicants who failed the FDNY written exams that a federal judge tossed out as discriminatory are not entitled to damages because their grade was less than 25. 
The Vulcan Society of black firefighters, the city and U.S. Justice Department lawyers all agree that a score of 25 is too abysmally low to merit compensation. 
“Such a candidate would not have succeeded due to his or her lack of effort and therefore should not be eligible for relief,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliot Schachner wrote in papers filed Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court. 
Only seven black and Hispanic applicants out of 7,100 who took the tests scored less than 25 on the exams, according to court papers. Of nonminority applicants, 20 scored less than 25. 
The U.S. Justice Department filed suit against the city in 2007 alleging the written exams in 1999 and 2002 discriminated against minorities. 
Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis later ruled that minority candidates who were not hired and those whose hiring was delayed as a result of the test scores may be entitled to damages.

Except for the dumbest 0.1% (i.e., 7 out of 7,100) who took the test.

My recollection is that this was a multiple choice test with four answers for each questions. I don't know if 25 means 25%, but if so, that means the only minority applicants not eligible to share in the booty were those who did worse than random guessing.

But, what about firefighting applicants who were unable to finish their exam because they accidentally set their test booklets on fire? Surely, they deserve to share in the loot from the fight against racism, too?

Intellectualizing the Oscar movies

As I mentioned before, late 2011's crop of Ocar-contender movies proved peculiarly hard to come up with anything intelligent to say about how they relate to larger themes in American life (whereas Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Bad Teacher, X-Men: First Class, and so forth from the popcorn season were smart reimaginings of things you aren't supposed to talk about explicitly). For example, the most intelligent thought I came up from thinking about "The Artist" was that maybe instead of speeding up the film 2 frames per second, they should have sped it up 4 frames.

In contrast, in years past it was easy to come up with interpretations of Oscar-nominated films radically different from the conventional wisdom: e.g., "District 9" wasn't so much an "apartheid allegory" as it was a dystopian Malthusian take on illegal immigration from Zimbabwe by a refugee Boer. "Borat" wasn't a documentary exploring prejudice in Red State America, it was a 90 minute Polish joke illustrating traditional Jewish attitudes toward goyishe kop Slavs. But, "The Artist" is a fun silent movie.

That doesn't stop pixel-stained wretches from trying, however. Here, for example, is Frank Bruni in the New York Times painfully drawing analogies between each and every one of the 9 Best Picture nominees and the GOP presidential primaries.

Decreasingly Asymmetric Media

Henry Canaday comments:
Here’s another, related hypothesis: 
1. In the early 1970s, Big Media switched from generally favoring the Democratic Party to essentially defining the liberal agenda, with the Democrats piggy-backing on this agenda to hold onto office. 

For example, AFL-CIO boss George Meany, an elderly ex-plumber, went from being The Man for Democratic-leaning newspapers to being an embarrassing relic in a few years.
2. This happened because: a) Big Media had far more presence in front of voter eyeballs, in both news and entertainment, than a Democratic Party badly fractured by Vietnam and Civil Rights; b) Big Media was far more accustomed to pleasing and persuading readers-viewers-voters, since they make a living at this; c) Big Media was more unified in its view of how things should be than even Democratic politicians, who have to deal with different constituencies and with the consequences of dreamy policies. 
3. For the next 20 or 30 years, Dissident Conservative Media, on radio and TV talk shows and in a few publications, devoted itself to opposing the idiocies of the Big Media-Democratic liberal agenda. This Dissident Conservative Media influenced but did not define the Republican Party’s own program. 
4. During roughly the last ten years, Dissident Conservative Media has grown in presence and power and has begun to play the same role for Republicans as Big Media does for Democrats. And for much the same reasons. As media, it has far more daily contact with readers-viewers-voters than the shreds of the old Party organization and more power than even new grass-roots organizations like the Tea Party. As Media, it pleases for its daily bread and is skilled at persuading.  
5. In its role of now defining the Republican Party and conservative agenda, Dissident Conservative Media is affected by some of the same factors that affect Big Media. Certain subjects are simply too unpleasant and difficult to speak about to a general audience, while retaining this audience and the revenue it brings in. These troublesome subjects include race, ethnicity and the transformation of even American whites into a slob-and-slut society. 
6. So Dissident Conservative Media sticks with safer, less-offensive arguments about political principles on foreign policy, domestic policy and market economics.
I don’t think this is the whole explanation, but I think it is at least part of the explanation.

By the way, why do Republican insiders, media and wonk, really want to reclaim the White House in 2012? A second term for Obama would likely be a halcyon age for Dissident Conservative Big Media, while a first term for Romney would likely put them on the snooze-inducing defensive?

My guess is that the real reason Republican apparatchiks in Washington desperately want to win in 2012 is so that they can put in a couple of years as an assistant deputy undersecretary of this or that, making $147k or whatever, then resign and make approaching 7 figures on K Street because they have White House Experience.

Okay, I can understand that. But what's in it for the rest of us, other than the thrill of seeing Our Team Win?

Obama v. Romney: Literate v. Numerate

If the 2012 election comes down to Obama v. Romney, it could be an interesting match-up of literacy v. numeracy. (That's assuming that Romney is as numerate as his success making money at Bain Capital suggests. At BYU, he was an English Lit major, and when he graduated in the top 5% at Harvard Business School in the 1970s while graduating with honors at Harvard Law, the curriculum wasn't all that quant. But still ...) Obama is very good with words, but I'm not familiar with a single anecdote about him suggesting one way or another how good he is with numbers. For example, I'm trying to think of Obama citing a sports statistic (he's an ESPN addict, so that's hardly an abstruse test for him). In contrast, Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan said that the biggest problem with President Reagan's rough drafts for his speeches was that he put in all sorts of statistics that the speechwriters had to take out because the public doesn't like numbers.

With politicians and the electorate, I would bet on power of words over numbers.

February 23, 2012

"Asymmetric Political Warfare"

Awhile ago at Your Lying Eyes, Ziel put up a Unified Field Theory of 21st Century politics in "Asymmetric Political Warfare:"
This imbalanced political landscape is not just restricted to the Voting Rights Act. The Republican Party is basically the party of white America, but of course such an entity as "white America" cannot be acknowledged in mainstream outlets (except of course as a source of some evil). A Republican legislator cannot complain that his constituents are being forced to move because their schools are becoming disabled by excessive numbers of non-English speakers or poorly behaved minorities. So instead he must complain about "illegal" immigration in the vaguest of terms and express displeasure with the failure of schools by blaming teacher-unions (bastions of anti-Republican rhetoric). A Democrat, on the other hand, can freely rile up his constituents by denouncing "discrimination" and favoritism, regardless of the facts.  
Similarly, any Democrat politician, black or white, can make unlimited hay over alleged racial profiling among the police or "institutional racism" in the law enforcement. But no Republican politician would dare court white voters by defending the police, pointing out, for example, the disproportionately high levels of criminal behavior in the black community.

To be precise, Republican politicians are free to praise the police in general terms, but not to defend them in specific terms, such as in response to Justice Department racial profiling jihads, as in Maricopa County today. You can't say, "The reason the cops stop more blacks and Hispanics is because blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be criminals."
... The essence of this asymmetry in political combat is that Democrats are free to rabble-rouse and demagogue their positions without penalty - indeed, often with great showers of media attention for doing so - while Republicans must rouse their constituents only obliquely through proxies - religious faith, gun rights, opposition to gay marriage, and of course "No New Taxes". Even then, we often hear pundits denounce the "Three G's" - Gays, Guns and Gods - so even their proxies are derided.  
But this leads to dumb policies - or at least failure to enact sensible policies. We can't have sensible gun laws, because Republicans have to prove that they sympathize with white-Americans' anxiety over the baneful impacts of minorities on their neighborhoods not by addressing that issue directly but by supporting unrestricted gun rights.

Gun control in the later 20th Century was a long war between whites in less dense parts of the country and whites in more dense parts of the country. Rural whites, rationally, considered gun ownership to be a good form of self-defense in areas where police response times were slow, the chance of accidentally plugging a bystander were low, and they had practice with guns for hunting. (In contrast, look at how vulnerable unarmed rural people in gun controlled England are to urban criminals' home invasions.)

Metropolitan whites, rationally, felt that the cops getting guns out of the hands of minorities was a better goal, but they didn't have any acceptable way to express this in public, so their arguments were generally couched in terms of the pressing need to disarm those vicious white Republicans in the hinterlands before they kill us all (see Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine for the classic expression of this ludicrous, but highly respectable, view).

In New York City, capital of both liberalism for American and pragmatism for New Yorkers, gun control actually did work pretty well in the 1990s. Under Giuliani and the smart, effective Bratton, the NYPD put a huge number of young black men in jail for packing heat. There were complaints, but NYC voters haven't elected the Democratic nominee mayor in the five elections since. But who even understands what happened in NYC? It's hard to remember stuff if you aren't allowed a vocabulary and syntax that helps you categorize What Just Happened.
Gay marriage is stupid - but the real problem is the insidious "Diversity" mentality that so offends the white middle class, but instead of fighting that, Republicans must single out Gay marriage (and even that fight is being rapidly lost). And Religion leads to unnecessary constitutional battles, while it is just a proxy of course for the desire of white Americans to keep America the way it is - not a banana republic, not a dysfunctional, balkanized economic zone, as it is on its way to becoming.

Right. 

The problem is that when your enemies control the vocabulary of public discourse, it's hard to maintain a sophisticated private understanding of what is going on. Thus, the GOP lacks a brain trust of realists who determine strategy. It's fun to assume that, like in the Big Reveals at the end of 1984 and Brave New World, that their is an Inner Party of cold-eyed realists who understand all, but there's negligible evidence for this. 

For example, here are a number of high life priorities for vast numbers of Republican-leaning, conservative-minded voters:

-- They want to be able to continue to live in their suburban communities where they've put down roots without being driven by demographic change to the exurbs.

-- They want to be able to send all their children to the local public school, which will be culturally dominated by the children of people like themselves

-- They want their children to be able to get into State U. 

Is this too much to ask?

But, what would happen to a conservative politician who outlined these goals and endorsed policies for achieving them?

Instead, we get "conservative" politicians advocating crackpot radical ideas because they aren't supposed to advocate for what their constituents really want.

Are youth becoming more conservative?

Here's a 2010 article by Aviel Magnezi from YNet News of Israel about how "Israeli youth" are moving right. Although much of this is driven by the huge, subsidized fertility of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel, I suspect it reflects global trends, which in other countries tend to be masked by growing demographic diversity. (You'll notice that this Israeli article simply doesn't bother to define Arab youth in Israel as Israeli, which would be a massive faux pas in other countries.)
Recent studies show that the Israeli youth is no less patriotic than the adult population, is significantly more right-wing, and is highly motivated to enlist to the IDF's combat units. ...

March 2009 saw a record in the number of recruits eligible for combat service requesting to enlist to combat units, which stood at 73%. This record was broken in November, and stood at 73.7%. March 2010 saw a new record: 76% of recruits with high medical profiles asked to serve in combat units. "This trend of attraction to the combat units is well felt in the field, and reflects a significant decline in the dropout rate during training," a senior officer told Ynet. 
Along with this increase in combat motivation comes a rise in nationalism. For example, a recent poll showed that 46% of Jewish high school students in Israel object to granting equal rights to Arabs.

... Sagy believes that the mandatory military recruitment indoctrinates the youth to "see the justness in our side alone. This leads the youth to become more patriotic later on and to identify with the Israeli side." As a result, Sagy says, the Israeli youth does not see the other side, and holds extreme views, "under the patronage of the education system, the schoolbooks, the media and the social atmosphere. This is why youths here are different from their counterparts, who, in western countries, can allow themselves to hold more pluralistic views." 
... Several weeks ago a poll conducted by the Smith Institute for Ynet showed that the dominant right-wing bloc in the Israeli society remains strong. According to the survey, while 35% of Israelis over the age of 30 said they would vote for right-wing parties, this number almost doubled for youths up to the age of 29, and stood at 61%.

Support for the Likud party rose from 18% to 25%, while support of the religious and ultra-Orthodox parties among the youth was also significantly high. "This is the Israeli existence… the public is moving Right," the survey said.

Professor Almog explains: "The Israeli youth is not more right-wing than its counterparts around the globe, but is simply more realistic." He said this is due to the fact that it is more involved and has a deeper political understanding than youth in other Western countries. "In Israel it is hard to avoid the news, and involvement is forced on you. The youth looks at the leadership in the Arab world and sees no moderation. It sees the incitement, and opposes it. The Israeli youth is simply more skeptical and holds a more angry perception of the other side."

Professor Ephraim Yaar a sociology and social psychology expert at Tel Aviv University who specializes in the Israeli society said, "The election results show that the youth is becoming more nationalistic, this is the spirit of the times. It is expressed in the voting booths – but not just there. Signs of nationalism can bee seen in various different fields among the youth here. This trend has been in existence for a long time, and has gained steam in the past decade."

The change, he said, stems among other things from the consistent growth of the religious and ultra-Orthodox population, but "is also part of another trend – the Israeli youth is very conformist, so when the public moves to the Right, the Israeli youth moves with it."

Perhaps the most unexpected social change in my lifetime has been the decline of the generation gap that dominated the 1960s. In retrospect, the generation gap of the 1960s looks like it was caused in large part by a lack of diversity, especially by the assimilation of the huge Catholic population, 40 years after the immigration cutoff, into the American mainstream as permanently symbolized by the election and martyrdom of John F. Kennedy. 

To get organized, people need to be in opposition to somebody, so at the peak of American homogeneity and put-a-man-on-the-moon triumph, the generations divided up into opposing camps.

Judging by what's been a hit movie in recent years, I suspect that youth in America are becoming more conformist and authoritarian, too. It's okay to be against evil corporations, like in Avatar, but the U.S. military and even cops are usually portrayed much more positively than in the 1970s. And in Avatar, the 10-foot tall blue people are good because they are traditional and live according to the ways passed down by their elders. Traditionalism = Diversitism. 

Eric Alterman and Sheldon Adelson: "A shande far di goyim"

Not long ago, Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon Adelson's $5 million apiece donations to Newt Gingrich's Presidential campaign were trumpeted in the press as world-historical events, but perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of that flurry was this column in The Nation:
Sheldon Adelson and the End of American Anti-Semitism 
Eric Alterman February 8, 2012

If a Jew-hater somewhere, inspired perhaps by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, sought to invent an individual who symbolizes almost all the anti-Semitic clich├ęs that have dogged the Jewish people throughout history, he could hardly come up with a character more perfect than Sheldon Adelson.

Think about it. Adelson, who likes to brag, “You know, I am the richest Jew in the world,” is a gambling magnate who is reported to be under criminal investigation for official bribery and has been accused of having widespread ties to organized crime, including the use of prostitution for his business interests. He is openly deploying his $22 billion fortune to pervert our democracy on behalf of what he believes to be the best interests of Israel, which he defines as an endless war by the Jewish state against its adversaries, with America offering its unquestioning support. ... 
It’s not as if the Adelson/Gingrich relationship has escaped scrutiny in the media or even editorial condemnation. But virtually all the attention has focused on the ability of any wealthy individual to exploit the post–Citizens United landscape for his own agenda. Nobody has noted—at least not in public—that the agenda in question happens to be the one to which Jews accused of “dual loyalty” or of being “Israel-firsters” are alleged to have dedicated themselves. How can it be that the self-proclaimed “richest Jew in the world” can buy the foreign policy of a major party’s potential presidential candidate on behalf of a vision of endless Israeli aggression—up to and including US support for yet another potentially disastrous pre-emptive attack—and the historically abused entity of “the Jews” has somehow escaped the blame? 
Don’t get me wrong. While I lack sympathy for pretty much everything Adelson and Gingrich seek to accomplish, I am unabashedly thrilled that the bugaboo of anti-Semitic accusation is almost nowhere to be found. But given the near-complete disappearance of this once wholly respectable American prejudice, one must ask why so many organizations in the American Jewish community—along with their neoconservative allies in the media and policy world—remain so intently focused on this problem. Is it that the past has left them so psychologically invested in a now-discredited discourse that they lack the ability to see reality for what it is and devote themselves to more worthy causes? Or do at least some of them, as I implied in my last column, find the accusation so politically useful against Israel’s critics that they prefer to level this nefarious accusation rather than argue the merits of their position? 
Yes.

Obviously, Alterman is being unfairly partisan. I don't see similar criticism of Haim Saban, Adelson's Democratic counterpart, in Alterman's 2004 Atlantic article on big Hollywood donors.

To add to Alterman's picture of Adelson, Michael Isikoff of NBC reports that Adelson orated:
“I am not Israeli. The uniform that I wore in the military, unfortunately, was not an Israeli uniform.  It was an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF and one of my daughters was in the IDF ... our two little boys, one of whom will be bar mitzvahed tomorrow, hopefully he’ll come back-- his hobby is shooting -- and he’ll come back and be a sniper for the IDF ...”

So, you'd better not accuse Sheldon of dual loyalty!

More generally, I have this assumption about human nature that criticism, on the whole, makes you behave better than being exempt from criticism, as does worrying about being criticized. Medieval rabbis advised against "A shande far di goyim" -- Don't do something shameful in front of the gentiles. For an Adelson or Saban, that concept would have put their ethnocentrism in conflict with their ethnocentrism: Is it good for the Jews for me to act in a manner flagrantly interested only in being good for the Jews? That's a good kind of question for powerful people to ask themselves. 

But, as Alterman implies, that concept of being wary of committing a shande far di goyim seems to have faded out over the last couple of decades. Apparently, we now know that those Yiddish-speaking rabbis were anti-Semitic.

Personally, I like Sheldon. He's an old coot having a blast making his younger wife happy by getting wrapped up in her country's doings. It wouldn't be much of a problem if we could greet his machinations with a chuckle and an amused roll of the eyes. But that's now allowed anymore. It's the gentiles who are to be ashamed for noticing.

February 22, 2012

The Iranian War Machine and other golden oldies

Back in the summer of 2006, war with Iran fever swept Washington when Israel got into a dustup with Lebanese Shi'ites dug into Southern Lebanon. I did a lot of research back then and discovered that ... well, fewer and fewer people outside Washington are really all that obsessed with war anymore. So, here are my half-dozen year old postings. We now have over a half-decade of history to test who was right and who was wrong in 2006: responsible foreign policy experts or me. So, who was it?





Will Texas Affirmative Action case be all about blacks again?

Earlier this year, David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy pointed out that the Fisher anti-affirmative action case from Texas, which is now going to the Supreme Court:
So, unlike every race/ethnic affirmative action case to reach the Supreme Court, where the underlying conflict has been primarily black-white, Fisher represents the affirmative action of the future, where Hispanic Americans, the largest government-defined minority group in the country, are the primary beneficiaries, and another large and growing group, Asian Americans, suffer the most harm.

This is an interesting point, but I wonder whether this will matter at all. My next Taki's Magazine column looks at the Academy Award nominations by race/ethnicity. We're all familiar with controversies over whether blacks get enough Oscar props, but I was struck by how long it has been since a person of Mexican descent who got his or her start in movies/TV in America (as opposed to being a fully formed product of the Mexico City entertainment industry) earned an Oscar nomination.

On the other hand, the concept of the Hispanic Tidal Wave is hugely popular. The Diversity Industry sees 129,000,000 Latinos in 2050 (as the Census Bureau has projected) as their meal ticket.

Supreme Court to take up affirmative action again

The Roberts Court intends to take up the case of white girl in Texas who was denied admission to U.T. in favor of legally preferred races. 

An Amherst college official responds:
“Nine years, when you’re talking about a decision of this magnitude, it really took me aback,” said Tom Parker, the dean of admissions at Amherst College. “What happens with the next president, the next Supreme Court appointee? Do we revisit it again, so that higher education is zigging and zagging? If the court says that any consideration of race whatsoever is prohibited, then we’re in a real pickle. Bright kids have no interest in homogeneity. They find it creepy.”

Obviously, Amherst could have lots and lots of Asians if it wanted them, so "homogeneity," creepy or not, is hardly a threat. But this gets at a subtle point of what is part of the package of what luxury colleges like Amherst are selling, which is that smart, studious blacks are the ultimate luxury good. Everybody has grown up being told how great blacks are, but most white people's real life experiences have tended to be a little disappointing compared to what we hear about in school and on PBS. But everybody knows that somewhere out there there must be the right kind of blacks. It's your own fault you aren't classy enough to be admitted to the right circles. But, maybe your kids can be!

So that's one of the things that elite colleges offer: carefully vetted blacks. They're very expensive, which is why the richest, most hard-to-get-into colleges (e.g., Stanford) have more of them than the not so rich, not quite as hard to get into colleges.

The man in the White House is, in this sense, a democratic luxury good. We can't all go to the Ivy League, but we can have the honor of voting for an Ivy League black as President, and thus earn some indirect classiness.  

February 21, 2012

Is Love Still Not Colorblind?

My new column at Taki's Magazine reviews the 2010 Census Bureau data on the gender gaps in interracial weddings. How have they changed since the 1990 Census data I used in Is Love Colorblind? Are there still 2.5 times as many black husband / white wife marriages than white husband / black wife ones. Are there still 2.5 times as many white husband / Asian wife couples than Asian husband / white wife ones?

One MILLION Dollars!

The top story in the New York Times tonight is that uppity rich guys are trying to undermine the media's rightful control over who gets elected President by giving super colossal amounts of money:
In Republican Race, a New Breed of Superdonor 
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, MICHAEL LUO and MIKE McINTIRE 22 minutes ago 
An exclusive club in presidential politics includes individuals, couples or corporations that have given $1 million or more to super PACs

Vibrancy Alert!

Adam Nagourney reports in the New York Times:
Los Angeles Mayor Sets Sights on a Bigger Stage 
... None of which is to say that Mr. Villaraigosa has recaptured the electric popularity that he enjoyed in the flush of his initial election, as a mayor of Mexican descent in a city with a vibrant and expanding population of Mexican-Americans.

Bookburning in Berlin

From the files of "Who? Whom?"

The official blog of the Berlin Biennale art exhibit explains, in effect, that the festival's planned bookburning of Thilo Sarrazin's bestseller Germany Does Away With Itself is Good because the would-be bookburners are Good (they're artists!) and Sarrazin and anybody objecting to bookburning is Bad, and that's really all you need to know, so why don't all you Bad People just shut up like you are supposed to?

Will Fox hire Pat Buchanan?

That the liberal news network MSNBC fired Pat Buchanan is hardly surprising, but what is interesting and characteristic of our age is how they justified it. 

The usual way to do these things is to say something like, "We appreciate Pat's contributions to MSNBC, and we've been proud that by hosting Pat for all these years, we've increased the diversity of debate in America. But, of course, he doesn't really fit in with our audience strategy, so we've decided to go in a different direction. We wish Pat well in his future endeavors, and look forward to seeing him regularly on one of the other networks where he'd be a more natural fit, such as, say, Fox."

In other words, pat yourself on the back for your tolerance and open-mindedness and lay a booby-trap for your archrival Fox.

Instead, MSNBC announced that not only were Buchanan's ideas not appropriate for discussing on MSNBC, which is their prerogative to decide, but that they aren't "appropriate" for anybody to discuss anywhere here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave:
In January Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, said he would be meeting with Mr. Buchanan soon to discuss the commentator’s role on the channel. Referring to the book “Suicide of a Superpower,” Mr. Griffin said, “The ideas he put forth aren’t really appropriate for national dialogue, much less the dialogue on MSNBC.” …

When Juan Williams got fired from NPR for political incorrectness, he was immediately hired by Fox. So, what are the odds that Fox will triumphantly announce they are hiring Pat to stick one in the eye of the left? Here's a pundit, for example, explaining why Pat would be a natural at Fox.

How little they know ... There are wheels within wheels making this seemingly natural event unlikely.

As Elliott Abrams recently bragged in the Fox-founded Weekly Standard, while denouncing Tom Friedman and Joe Klein for their anti-Semitism, that policing "the bounds of public discourse" is far more important than arguing with your putative rivals. Why debate when you can silence?
"Let us not descend into such analyses when what matters is not abnormal psychology but the bounds of public discourse. Once upon a time, William F. Buckley banned Pat Buchanan from the pages of National Review and in essence drummed him out of the conservative movement for such accusations."

February 20, 2012

"The Artist"

This is a nice little comedy, a pseudo-silent film about a silent movie star (imagine Gene Kelly playing Douglas Fairbanks Sr.), that has been saddled with being a frontrunner for the Best Picture since before it ever hit the theaters. 

It would have been a fun picture to discover for yourself. If you saw "Crash" in May 2005, for example, you walked out saying, "The first hour was hilarious, and of course the second hour was eat-your-vegetables time to make up for the first half, but, overall, that was a clever low-budget movie, a lot better than I expected." But ever since it won the Best Picture Oscar, "Crash" has had this millstone around its neck of being an obvious example whenever anybody wants to disparage Best Picture choices. (I've alway had the sinking feeling that it won the Oscar for the Important Statement about Our Times of the second half, rather than for the irresponsible pleasure of the first half. But that doesn't mean that the first half wasn't amusing or that the non-fatal shooting in the second half wasn't bravura cornball screenwriting.) 

Other nagging problems with "The Artist" are that the title seems like an inept translation from the French. "The Star" would have been much better, since the hero loves being a movie star and pays no attention to whether he's an artist or not. But the title "The Artist," combined with being silent and in black and white and made by a Frenchman, makes it sound like some good-for-you ordeal, which it mostly isn't. 

Also, more slapstick, please. Slapstick is funny, but most people worry that it's beneath them, except when they are watching a Buster Keaton silent film classic, and then it's part of the Grand Tradition of the Cinema, etc. So why not exploit the cultural sanctity of silent film tradition by putting in more pratfalls?

The film has been slightly sped up: it runs 24/22nd faster than real time, while authentic old silents are typically shown running 24/16th faster than they were originally filmed. (Apparently, the advent of sound forced the industry to move up from 16 frames per second to 24 frames, which has done Buster Keaton's long term reputation a lot of good, but made it hard to take serious silents seriously.) 

But, "The Artist" still drags a little. Abstaining from spoken dialogue puts a lot of pressure on the filmmakers to come up with interesting visuals or music to fill up its 100 minutes. They come up with about 90 minutes worth of good stuff, which is impressive, but that leaves about 10 minutes where you are saying, "Yeah, okay, we get it already." Running it at 24/20th would have made it quicker and sillier. 

Or they could have played around more with the film projection speed. The early 1980s South African slapstick comedy "The Gods Must Be Crazy" about the Bushman and the Coke bottle changed speeds whenever it felt like. Fortunately, that didn't get a Best Picture nomination, so you could have the pleasure of seeing it because it was funny, not because it was good for you.

Finally, "The Artist" has hanging over its head another movie on the transition from silent to sound movies, "Singing in the Rain," which is so gigantically entertaining on the subject that little more needs to be done. For example, "The Artist" barely scratches the question of why its hero refuses to try sound movies. The film could have shown the technical restrictions that made the first few years of sound movies really stilted. But, "Singing in the Rain" did those scenes so well that how could "The Artist" compete?

Anyway, "The Artist" is enjoyable.

One general point I'd add is that this year's Oscar frontrunners are just about the worst crop to intellectualize about it in many a year. I feel sorry for the pixel-stained wretches trying to come up with their annual assignment on What This Year's Oscar Movies Say About the World Today. This isn't to say that they are bad movies, just that the late-season prestige releases aren't very intellectually stimulating. Consider, say, Michelle Williams' Best Actress nominated turn as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn." Here's what I have to say about that film: A. Not bad. B. Holy cow, what have their been, like 800 books on Marilyn Monroe? Is there anything left to say?

In contrast, there were a number of popcorn summer movies that were much more interesting to think about. 

What does Mitt Romney really feel about foreign policy?

Foreign policy has never appeared to have been of much active interest to Mitt Romney, unlike to, say, Rick Santorum, who can wax eloquent on the Ecuadorian Threat. Romney's large list of national security advisers is mostly the same cast of idiots who helped get us into these messes distinguished senior statesmen with years of experience with whom Republican primary voters can rest easy knowing that Romney isn't planning any major changes in the foreign policy mindset that has been such a winner for the GOP in the past.

But how does he really feel? Let's psychoanalyze Mitt using a minimal set of datapoints (or datapoint). The most memorable political event of his young manhood was when he was on Mormon missionary duty in France in 1967 and his Presidential candidate father announced his newfound opposition to the Vietnam War. When asked why he had changed his mind after announcing his support following a four-day visit to South Vietnam in 1965, George Romney replied:
"I just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get when you go over to Vietnam. Not only by the generals but also by the diplomatic corps over there, and they do a very thorough job." 
Romney said that sinbce then he had delved into Vietnamese history and "I have changed my mind inb that particularly I no longer believe that it was necessary for us to get involved in South Vietnam to stop Communist aggression in Southeast Asia and to prevent Chinese Communist domination of Southeast Asia."

Romney Sr. was roasted for various reasons for this comment, but, really, it seems like a pretty good two-fold lesson for a loyal son: watch how you say things, but don't trust the foreign policy establishment. 

But, does anybody have any idea if he drew the second conclusion?

Cochran on Diamond's domestication argument

Jared Diamond's early 1990s book The Third Chimpanzee was a collection of smart magazine-writing at an admirably high level. Thus, the disappointment among his earliest fans over his long, tedious, tendentious and not terribly unpersuasive 1997 follow-up Guns, Germs, and Steel. Not surprisingly, GG&S was a huge hit. Undigested parts of GG&S became globs of the conventional wisdom. For example, one of the book's most popular ideas is that non-Europeans fell behind in global competition because they lacked native animals suitable for exploitation other than as meat. 

At West Hunter, Greg Cochran scratches his head over this: 
He claims that since Africans and Amerindians were happy to adopt Eurasian domesticated animals when they became available, it must be that that suitable local animals just didn’t exist. But that’s a non sequitur: making use of an already-domesticated species is not at all the same thing as the original act of domestication. That’s like equating using a cell phone with inventing one. He also says that people have had only mixed success in recent domestication attempts – but the big problem there is that a newly domesticated species doesn’t just have to be good, it has to be better than already-existing domestic animals. 
Indian elephants, although not truly domesticated, are routinely tamed and used for work in Southern Asia. The locals in Sub-Saharan Africa seem never to have done this with African elephants – but it is possible. The Belgians, in the Congo, hired Indian mahouts to tame African elephants, with success. It’s still done in the Congo, on a very limited scale, and elephants have recently been tamed in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, such as the Okavango delta. Elephants have long generations, which makes true domestication difficult, but people have made domestication attempts with eland, African buffalo, and oryx.  They’re all tameable, and eland have actually been domesticated to some extent.  ... 

It's not exactly a secret that Africa invaded Europe on the backs of elephants in 218 BC under Hannibal of Carthage. Of course, those weren't unusable African elephants, those were useful North African elephants, which, conveniently enough, are said to be extinct. But, obviously, Hannibal's elephants must have been fundamentally genetically different from current African elephants, which proved so useless to sub-Saharan Africans. If only elephants with the right kind of genes had existed in sub-Saharan Africa, then sub-Saharans might have conquered Europe, instead of the other way around.
In fact, in my mind the real question is not why various peoples didn’t domesticate animals that we know were domesticable, but rather how anyone ever managed to domesticate the aurochs. At least twice. Imagine a longhorn on roids: they were big and aggressive, favorites in the Roman arena.

More fundamentally, Diamond is arguing for absolute genetic determinism operating within closely related kinds of animals to deny any relative genetic influence among humans. 

A less extremist view is that nature and nurture both play a role among both animals and humans. But intellectual moderation only gets you in trouble these days.

Welcome to the Post-Obamamania Era

Sports columnist William C. Rhoden complains in the New York Times:
Between the Tebow phenomenon in the fall and the recent Lin explosion, I had been asking myself a variation of Lobo’s question: When was the last time a young, untested professional African-American athlete had been on the receiving end of this type of adulation? Specifically, adulation that had more to do with positive, universal characteristics — faith, humility, selflessness — than with athletic acumen. 
The intensity and suddenness of Lin and Tebow’s acceptance has led to a flotilla of half-baked ideas about sports and religion and ill-conceived, even insulting notions about race and ethnicity. 
Examples involving African-American athletes were difficult to come by, especially adhering to the criterion of athletes who had come from out of the blue, because very few athletes do these days.

LeBron James was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was a 6'-8" 240 pound high school junior.

(Tim Tebow didn't exactly come out of nowhere: he was one of the most famous college football players ever. But he has the worst throwing motion in the NFL since roughly Doak Walker's era, so it was very interesting watching him try to make it in the NFL. He is a white quarterback with a typical black QB's skill set (good runner, not so good passer), so that was intriguing. Plus the super-sophisticated passing game of white NFL QBs these days is a little intimidating, so it was interesting watching him try -- and often succeed -- at winning games through old fashioned heart, guts, and sheer dumb luck, like a high school quarterback in a Chip Hilton boy's novel.)
The point of bringing up Robinson and the Williamses in the context of Tebow and Lin is that African-American athletes faced and continue to confront negative stereotypes that militate against being invested with the type of universal character traits that are at the root of the Tebow and Lin phenomena. 
Asian-Americans often complain about being stereotyped as smart, authors of perfect College Board scores. The Asian-American is stereotyped as unathletic. 
African-Americans fight the stereotype of lazy, undereducated products of dysfunctional homes. The African-American is stereotyped as ultra-athletic.

You know, there's something blacks could do about that: stop being so often lazy, undereducated products of dysfunctional homes. C'mon, just do it to spite us.
The panel at the Connecticut Forum never did satisfactorily answer Rebecca Lobo’s question about black equivalents to the Tebow-Lin phenomenon. Lobo’s inquiry is actually an important question for the 21st century. As we in the United States continue to dance around issues of ethnicity, using diversity as a diversion, we will continue to struggle with the pick-and-roll of race.

From CNBC in 2010:
In fact, LeBron is now the sixth most disliked sports personality, according to The Q Score Company, behind Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and Kobe Bryant. ...
Perhaps equally as interesting is the fact that James has apparently dragged down the general population’s opinion of his new teammates. 
Dwyane Wade’s positive Q score went from 21 in January to 15 today. 
His negative Q score rose from 18 in January to 25 today. Chris Bosh – whose move to Miami was part of what sealed the deal for LeBron – saw even a worse drop.

Personally, I think the public's negative reaction to LeBron James' decision to team with two other stars in Miami to try to win an NBA title was unfair. I think he just got caught in an ongoing unspoken reaction to the long series of events that culminated in the craziness of Obamamania in 2008. Talk about a guy coming out of nowhere for no particular reason other than his race. But, that's history now, and, though we're not supposed to articulate it, attitudes have been changing since 2008.

Blacks aren't the underdogs anymore, so people are looking for new underdogs. As I mentioned before, linebacker Dat Nguyen could have been a great story back in the 1990s, but that was the Michael Jordan era and people weren't interested. By now, however, blacks have been top dogs in sports and popular culture for so long, and lots of people are tired of that and less naive, so they are open to alternatives.

P.S. If you want to group Tebow and Lin, the real connection is that neither one is cut out to be a humble, team-first role player. Both need the ball in their hands all the time to do their thing. John Elway would have been very happy if Tebow had volunteered to help out at, say, tight end or linebacker. But Tebow has been dead set on being an NFL quarterback, so that's out. Similarly, no NBA team figured out a subordinate role in which Lin could contribute. Only when the Knicks, having lost their three biggest stars for one game, simply turned the entire offense over to Lin did a role for him in the NBA emerge: star.

Which half-Asian athlete was a 1960s MVP?

When reading about Jeremy Lin, I often get the impression that sportswriters' memories of history look like this: "Uh, cavemen, pyramids, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali," and then a game-by-game recollection of everything from the 2001-2002 season onwards. 

The reality is that a lot has been forgotten because it didn't particularly lead anywhere the way Jackie Robinson did.

Here is a picture of a player who won the Most Valuable Player award of a major American professional sports league during the 1960s. His father was Asian. And he had a Spanish surname. 

He even had a minor league movie and TV career for a few years. He made his TV debut on Gilligan's Island as "a native." This movie still is from the 1969 John Wayne Western The Undefeated, in which he was fourth-billed as Wayne's American Indian right hand man.

His father was Filipino, his mother Irish. He seemed to get his size genes from his mom's side of the family, because he was famous for being perhaps the first huge quarterback, listed at 6'5" and 220 pounds, which was enormous for a quarterback at the time. (His archrival Fran Tarkenton, for instance, was 6-0 and 200.) He threw very hard, with a tight burning spiral. By the standards of his day, he was seldom intercepted, but his receivers had difficulty hanging onto his passes as well.

After starring at North Carolina St., he was the #2 overall draft choice in the 1962 NFL draft. He went on to be the NFL's 1969 MVP as quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams. He was a Pro Bowler coach George Allen's Rams in 1967, 1968, 1969, and for Philadelphia in 1973. In other words, he was real good -- not a Hall of Famer, but a big time NFL quarterback in his day.  

His name is Roman Gabriel.

As far as I can tell, however, Gabriel's career did not lead to a major breakthrough of part-Southeast Asians into the NFL.

By the way, I think the stereotype of Asian-Americans as violin-playing non-athletes has gotten stronger, not weaker over my lifetime, due to academic-selected immigration and increased Tiger Mothering. When I was a kid, Orientals were seen as short, but, after the Recent Unpleasantness at places like Iwo Jima, not necessarily delicate.

For example, the New York Knicks drafted a Japanese-American basketball player out of Utah in 1947 (and then cut him after three games).

Or, the Japanese-American family who moved in across the street from me in 1969 were tough athletes. The dad was a high school wrestling coach and assistant football coach and both sons became all-league high school football players. (The father, an extremely friendly fellow with a frightening tough guy face and martial arts skills, enjoyed a profitable sideline playing ninjas, Yakuza henchmen, and Shaolin assassins in movies and TV shows like "Kung-Fu.") This was seen as a little unusual at the time, but not really extraordinary.

February 19, 2012

The great factory worker shortage of 2012

The Washington Post has a long article on how factories in Michigan can't find enough workers to operate today's complicated high tech machine tools. Near the end, we read:
The shortage of skilled workers has also pushed up wages, though executives said raising them too far could push more work to overseas plants. 

So, why would you invest in getting trained (typically, on your own dime), when executives have been boasting to Wall Street for years about how they'll offshore your future job the moment you start to make real money?