March 17, 2012

Why are GOP candidates campaigning in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico doesn't have any Electoral Votes, it sends its own national team to the Olympics, it's a Spanish-speaking imperial possession that's bribed into staying a possession by huge tax breaks to big American companies like Microsoft to cheat the IRS by nominally taking profits there rather than in America, and if Puerto Rico became a state, it would substantially reduce the chances of the GOP ever regaining control of the Senate by adding two automatic Democratic Senators.

And yet, CBS News reports:
(CBS News) SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - After his main rival [Rick Santorum] ignited a firestorm over requiring Puerto Rico to adopt English as a condition of statehood, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney flew to the island territory today and said he would support no such requirement as president. 
But Romney faced a hurdle of his own in winning the hearts of voters here and their 20 delegates - his opposition to the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor, who is of Puerto Rican descent, to the federal bench. She was later chosen by President Obama for a seat on the Supreme Court. 
On the English and statehood issue, Romney said, "I will support the people of Puerto Rico if they make a decision that they would prefer to become a state; that's a decision that I will support. I don't have preconditions that I would impose."

I'm a big fan of Puerto Rican independence.

Headline of the Day

From the front page of the Washington Post:
Flavor Flav Opens Flavor Flav's House of Flavor

See, I was right

I recently noted that I'm convinced -- deep down, on an infra-rational level -- that anybody with more energy than me is obviously bipolar and is this close to snapping. 

From the NYT:
A co-founder of Invisible Children, the nonprofit organization whose video “Kony 2012” has become an Internet sensation, was detained by the San Diego police on Thursday, after they said he was found in the street in his underwear, screaming and interfering with traffic.

Kathy Shaidle has more.

March 16, 2012

Polygamy in the U.K.

From The New Statesman
The marriage business
Jemima Khan

Jemima Khan, a U.K. media figure, is the daughter of Sir James Goldsmith, a colorful character who endorsed polyamory, and Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Sir James' third wife. Jemima married Pakistani cricket hero Imran Khan, but then it turned out, surprisingly enough, that she wasn't happy living in Pakistan, so they divorced. Khan then founded a political party and is said to be "the Ron Paul of Pakistan." Jemima then took up with actor Hugh Grant for awhile. I'm not quite sure how all this is relevant to this article, but how could it, in some way, not be?

By the way, isn't the name "Jemima" raciss?
Muslim men bring 12,000 brides to Britain each year. That leaves their female peers with a dilemma — accept a “part-time husband” or turn to an agency that will check out a man’s family (and his bachelor pad) for you 
"Click? Why does everyone talk about clicking? What is this need to click? You're just too fussy," says a Pakistani auntie, reacting angrily to a twentysomething accountant's complaint that there was no chemistry between her and any of the men to whom she was introduced at a Muslim marriage event in east London. 
Marriage Asian-style is practical, contractual and, to the western mind, deeply unromantic. "The spinster crisis is an issue of modernity," preaches an energetically gesticulating man in a white prayer cap, jacket and trainers. "Success is the right attitude – no conspiracies, please. Can't blame Israel." Cue laughs from those assembled: women in hijabs seated on one side of the wood-panelled hall; men, mostly in suits, a few of them in Arab dress with beards, on the other; chaperones at the back. 
The speaker is Mizan Raja, the engaging founder of the UK-based Islamic Travels agency, who also set up the Islamic Circles community network and now presides over the east London Muslim matrimonial scene. I'm at a Practising Muslim event at Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel. According to the network's website, the event is held four times a year and is "especially geared towards those Muslims who are actually practising, ie, not a 'fasiq' – open sinner – as defined by the classical texts in sharia law". 
Arranged marriages are big business in the UK. Second- and third-generation immigrant families, with no extended family structure, limited networks and religious restrictions on acceptable ways to meet future spouses, are turning to external matchmakers for help. Mizan arranges between five and ten marriages every month through Islamic Circles, in his spare time. His day job is investment banking. By his own estimate, he has been responsible for 1,300 marriages over the past ten years. 

Isn't matchmaker a female job?
Mizan says he is meeting a need for something that is a duty in Islam. There's someone for everyone: "Even the disabled have needs" and Islamic Circles holds regular events for them. And increasingly, he says, career women are electing to become "co-wives" – in other words, to become a man's second or third wife. 
He reckons he gets between five and ten requests every week from women who are "comfortable with the notion of a part-time man". He explains: "They don't want a full-time husband. They don't have time." So couples live separately, the husband visiting his wives on a rota.

As Affirmative Action-Eligible as We Wish to Be

In the NYT, author Thomas Chatterton Williams opines:
As Black As We Wish to Be

MY first encounter with my own blackness occurred in the checkout line at the grocery store. I was horsing around with my older brother, as bored children sometimes do. My blond-haired, blue-eyed mother, exasperated and trying hard to count out her cash and coupons in peace, wheeled around furiously and commanded us both to be still. When she finished scolding us, an older white woman standing nearby leaned over and whispered sympathetically: “It must be so tough adopting those kids from the ghetto.”…. 
Mixed-race blacks have an ethical obligation to identify as black — and interracial couples share a similar moral imperative to inculcate certain ideas of black heritage and racial identity in their mixed-race children, regardless of how they look. 
… Maybe that’s why we live now in a culture in which many of us would prefer to break clean from what we perceive as the racist logic of previous eras — specifically the idea that the purity and value of whiteness can be tainted by even “one drop” of black blood. And yet, however offensive those one-drop policies may appear today, that offensiveness alone doesn’t strip the reasoning behind them of all descriptive truth. 
In fleeing from this familiar way of thinking about race, we sidestep the reality that a new multiracial community could flourish and evolve at black America’s expense. …. 
That shift is expected to change the way test scores are categorized, altering racial disparities and affecting funding for education programs. For this reason and others, the N.A.A.C.P. and some black members of Congress have expressed concern that African-Americans are at risk of being undercounted as blacks compete more than ever with other minorities and immigrants for limited resources and influence. 
Scholars have long maintained that race is merely a social construct, not something fixed into our nature, yet this insight hasn’t made it any less of a factor in our lives. If we no longer participate in a society in which the presence of black blood renders a person black, then racial self-identification becomes a matter of individual will. 
And where the will is involved, the question of ethics arises. At a moment when prominent, upwardly mobile African-Americans are experimenting with terms like “post-black,” and outwardly mobile ones peel off at the margins and disappear into the multiracial ether, what happens to that core of black people who cannot or do not want to do either? 
Could this new racial gerrymandering result in that historically stigmatized group’s further stigmatization? Do a million innocuous personal decisions end up having one destructive cumulative effect? 
LAST year, I married a white woman from France; the only thing that shocked people was that she is French. This stands in stark contrast to my parents’ fraught experience less than 10 years after the landmark 1967 case Loving v. Virginia overturned anti-miscegenation laws. It is no longer radical for people like my wife and me to come together. 
According to the Pew report, while 9 percent of white newlyweds in 2010 took nonwhite spouses, some 17 percent of black newlyweds, and nearly one-quarter of black males in particular, married outside the race. Numbers like these have made multiracial Americans the fastest-growing demographic in the country. Exhortations to stick with one’s own, however well intentioned, won’t be able to change that. 
When I think about what my parents endured — the stares, the comments, the little things that really do take a toll — I am grateful for a society in which I may marry whomever I please and that decision is treated as mundane. Still, as I envision rearing my own kids with my blond-haired, blue-eyed wife, I’m afraid that when my future children — who may very well look white — contemplate themselves in the mirror, this same society, for the first time in its history, will encourage them not to recognize their grandfather’s face. 
For this fear and many others, science and sociology are powerless to console me — nor can they delineate a clear line in the sand beyond which identifying as black becomes absurd. 
Whenever I ask myself what blackness means to me, I am struck by the parallels that exist between my predicament and that of many Western Jews, who struggle with questions of assimilation at a time when marrying outside the faith is common. In an essay on being Jewish, Tony Judt observed that “We acknowledge readily enough our duties to our contemporaries; but what of our obligations to those who came before us?” For Judt, it was his debt to the past alone that established his identity. ...
And so I will teach my children that they, too, are black — regardless of what anyone else may say — so long as they remember and wish to be.

This is all very eloquent, but what's left out are two highly relevant facts:

1. Of course he will encourage his children to check the black box: the bennies from affirmative action and being eligible for payoffs in disparate impact discrimination lawsuits are golden. 

2. There's no cost to the black community in terms of lower population numbers to be used in disparate impact lawsuit denominators from people checking both black and something else because the Clinton Administration decided right before the 2000 Census to count everybody who checks black and white as fully black for the purposes of making sure quotas are as big as possible.

In contrast, American Indian tribes get finite benefits -- e.g., one casino, mineral rights to tribal land, and so forth -- so they are constantly kicking out members who fall below the "blood quantum" in order to maximize the payout to the inner circle. But blacks and Hispanics don't do that because there are no theoretical limits on the payouts for being black or Hispanic.

March 15, 2012

I think they are trying to tell us something

You know how when you go visit somebody and after awhile your host starts mentioning how early he has to get up in the morning, and then yawning right in your face, and finally you figure it out and say, "I gotta go home now"?

Well, America doesn't seem to be getting the hint in Afghanistan. 

Headlines from the L.A. Times:
Afghan interpreter tried to kill Marines, U.S. officer saysBy David S. Cloud | 12:39 a.m.The man, who worked for Western troops, died of burns after trying to run down Marines meeting Panetta and then emerging from his vehicle in flames, the officer says.

Maybe I'm just imagining this, but I'm sensing that we've started to overstay our welcome in Afghanistan.

Ruth Barcan Marcus, RIP

The flip side of my inability not to notice patterns is that I'm impressed by individuals who don't fit the patterns. Here's part of an obituary from the NYT of the lady with four children who was a heavyweight in mid-20th Century logic, going head to head with famous philosophers like Quine and Carnap. (All this stuff is way over my head, by the way.) 
Ruth Barcan Marcus, Philosopher-Logician, Dies at 90 
Ruth Barcan Marcus, a philosopher esteemed for her advances in logic, a traditionally male-dominated subset of a traditionally male-dominated field, died on Feb. 19 at her home in New Haven. She was 90. 
Her death was announced by Yale University, from which she retired in 1992 as the Reuben Post Halleck professor of philosophy. 
Because of its affinities with mathematics and the hard sciences — disciplines historically unwelcoming to women — logic had long been one of philosophy’s most swaggering strains. For a woman of Professor Marcus’s generation to elbow her way into the field, then dominated by titans like Willard Van Orman Quine, Rudolf Carnap and Kurt Gödel, was almost unheard of. 
“The rest of philosophy became less male dominated, less macho, more quickly than logic,” Stephen Neale, distinguished professor of philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate Center, said in a telephone interview. “She was working in a field which was really run by these giants.” 
Professor Marcus was hailed by colleagues for her work in quantified modal logic. The field was born of the marriage of two existing systems, classical quantified logic and modal logic — a marriage she helped bring about.

From an email:
It took a while for the NYT to write this up. There was actually a bit of an organized effort on the part of philosophers to get them to publish this. In contrast, Richard Rorty's (who wasn't half the philosopher Marcus was) obit was written within a weekend. 

March 14, 2012

Today's Young People

For awhile, I've been kicking around the idea that youth are getting more authoritarian or militaristic or something like that. For example, last summer I wrote in my Taki's Magazine review of the pretty good Transformers 3 movie that was #2 at the American box office last year:
The Transformers movies celebrate American imperial muscle. As teenagers grow more diverse, their longings for order have grown more militaristic, more authoritarian. The attitude of today’s youth toward 1960s liberals is more or less: “Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost.” They are impressed instead by extremely well-organized institutions such as SEAL Team Six and Michael Bay movie sets.

Audacious Epigone decided to test that hypothesis by looking at whites (male and female) age 18-29 over time in the General Social Survey. Here's what he came up with:

The following table shows the percentages of whites (as previously defined) aged 18-29 who expressed "a great deal of confidence" in the US military, again by half decade: 

Late 70s35.3%
Early 80s29.1%
Late 80s37.6%
Early 90s50.8%
Late 90s42.9%
Early 00s54.6%
Late 00s57.0%

So, the low point in the post-Vietnam era was in the early 1980s, perhaps in reaction to the failure of the Iranian hostage rescue attempt in 1980. Then there was a peak following the successful Kuwait War of early 1991, then a drift downward. Not surprisingly, after 9/11, there was a boost. But, then, no drift downward in the Late 00s, but instead a new peak. So, that might be evidence for a long-term trend as I hypothesized rather than just reaction to events. 

Bryan Caplan v. Me

George Mason libertarian economist Bryan Caplan attacks something I said over on his blog.

John Derbyshire

In the first half of last year, the Derb mentioned that he'd been diagnosed with a form of lymphatic cancer. Now, he's started chemotherapy, as he writes in Taki's Magazine in Life at Half-Speed.

Best wishes, John.

March 13, 2012

Matthew Yglesias's "The Rent Is Too Damn High"

Please read my response to Mr. Yglesias' contention that he wasn't a victim of "Knockout Game" because he was only knocked down, not out, here.

I wrote on May 15, 2011 upon hearing of the beating:

I'm terribly sorry to hear about this crime. Yglesias should make sure to take it easy for a few days after being punched in the head in case there is some delayed reaction affecting his balance -- e.g., don't ride a bicycle in traffic.

Beyond physical injuries, well, I've never been the victim of street violence, but judging from the psychological trauma I've felt merely from being the victim of burglars -- the reminder of one's own insecurity, the insult to one's self-respect -- that aspect of crime shouldn't be overlooked. And being punched and kicked by strangers is far worse.

Like me, Yglesias greatly enjoys walking, and being mugged while out walking can ruin a wonderful hobby.

No details on the attackers, but, with no apparent monetary motive, this might have been a racial hate crime.

It will be interesting to see whether this despicable violence against perhaps the leading opinion journalist of his young generation creates much media attention, or whether it's dropped down the memory hole as too uncomfortable to think about. Yglesias, with his enthusiasm for promoting urban living and walkability, is a leading spokesman for a broad movement I feel warmly toward -- well-educated younger people who are attempting to reclaim urban areas for the urbane. But this crime against a public face of the movement -- while he was walking through an urban space, no less -- demonstrates the risks involved.

For more on whether this could be considered a racial hate crime, see my post of May 16, 2011.

May 16, 2011

Thinking about hate crimes

The apparent random racial beating over the weekend of Matthew Yglesias, perhaps the most influential political blogger of his generation, raises questions about what ought to be considered a hate crime.

There's a vast amount of confusion in our society because the megaphone is routinely seized by hate-filled pundits who denounce everybody they hate as being driven by hate. So, the concept of a "hate crime" is murky, to say the least.

But, society does have an interest in deterring through harsher penalties crimes not of passion but of premeditated malice, cold-blooded crimes that occur only because of animus toward groups. Quite possibly, "hate crimes" is the wrong term completely for these types of actions, but that seems to be what we are stuck with.

My view is that motivation for a crime should matter some in punishing the crime.

For example, by way of analogy, I particularly loathe witness-murdering.

Consider two homicides:

- A man comes home and finds another man in bed with his wife. In a jealous rage, he strikes the man with a blunt object. He immediately calls 9-11 and asks for an ambulance for his victim.

- Two men are robbing a liquor store with a confederate. One robber realizes that the lone customer in the store went to school with him and could identify him. He tells his colleague (in a conversation recorded on a hidden security camera's microphone) that because he already has two strikes against him, if that customer testifies, he'll go to jail for life. So, he then shoots the customer and the clerk to silence them. There are no other motives for the murders.

I think that in an era of long sentences, the death penalty can play a useful role in stigmatizing and deterring cold-blooded witness-murdering, but it wouldn't be right in the first case, a classic crime of passion.

Similarly, consider two crimes that might be subject to additional hate crime penalties:

- A man comes home and finds another man in bed with his wife. In a jealous rage, he calls her a "bitch" and punches her.

- Two men are sitting around bored and decide to go "polar bear hunting," planning to punch any random white man they see walking through their neighborhood in the back of the head, then kicking him.

Now, it's not uncommon for prosecutors to attempt to pile on hate crime penalties in cases where a member of a less legally privileged group uses, during a fit of rage, an epithet for a member of a more legally privileged group. But, clearly, the cuckolded man didn't sock his cheating wife because she was a woman, but because she was cheating. Punishing him extra for saying the epithet "bitch" is severely confusing cause and effect for no good purpose in deterring future violence.

In contrast, the second case is one that the law might well use additional penalties to deter because, like witness-murdering, it's rational and malign. There's no other motive for attacking a random white man other than the satisfactions of attacking a random white man.

Or consider, these two cases:

- Two men are sitting around talking angrily about their neighbor who dissed them yesterday and might be making time with one of the guys' woman. Then they see a man who kind of looks like the neighbor walking by in the dark. Enraged, and under incorrect apprehension of his identity, they punch random passerby Matthew Yglesias in the back of the head.

- Two men are sitting around bored and decide to go "polar bear hunting" and thus punch in the back of the head the first white guy they happen to see walking by, who happens to be Matthew Yglesias.

The first case seems to me like a pretty average screwed-up crime among the screwed-up classes, which should be punished in a pretty average fashion -- fairly harshly, according to my views, but there's no obvious reason for incremental penalties. It wouldn't be the kind of crime that strikes other as worth imitating.

The second case, however, seems like a classic racist hate crime. There was no motivation whatsoever for this violence to occur other than boredom and racial animus. Society has an interest in punishing more heavily in the name of deterrence otherwise pointless crimes carried out not in the heat of passion but with malice aforethought.

At minimum, society has an interest in keeping stuff like this from becoming fashionable. Say, or example, a third person videoed the attack on Yglesias, and the whole point of the attack was to have something cool to post on YouTube.

Granted, proving in court the lack of any other motive is often difficult, and so be it. Better ten guilty men go free and all that. But, it is reasonable to have the threat of additional penalties for violence carried out for rational but malign reasons, such as witness-murdering or polar bear hunting.

Of course, all this logic chopping isn't very relevant to how most people think about hate crimes, which is in Who-Whom terms. Matthew Yglesias is extremely well-plugged into the world of Washington punditry, but it doesn't occur to his peers that this attack on him could possibly be a hate crime ... because he's white.

From my review in Taki's Magazine:
On May 14, 2011, Matthew Yglesias, a prominent Washington, DC liberal blogger and proponent of urban living, was walking home alone after a dinner with fellow pundits when he became the victim of an apparent anti-white racial hate crime. In what sounds like a game of Knockout King or Polar Bear Hunting, “a couple of dudes ran up from behind, punched me in the head, then kicked me a couple of times before running off” without stealing anything. This shameful attack happened merely a mile north of the US Capitol Building. 
Four decades ago, a popular witticism was that a neoconservative was a liberal who had gotten mugged by reality. Today, the rules of crimethink have grown rigid enough that even getting mugged in reality doesn’t seem to have put much of a dent in Yglesias’s worldview, judging from his new e-book The Rent Is Too Damn High. ... Yglesias argues that if only real estate developers were freed to Build, Baby, Build, we would enjoy a low-rent golden age.

But, there's a problem with living in a low-rent neighborhood ...

Read the whole thing there.

March 12, 2012

The Dingo as the Default Dog?

I frequently post excerpts from serious articles that sound as if I wrote them as parodies. But here's a terrific section from a New York Times article Australia's Changing View of the Dingo by James Gorman and Christine Kenneally that hits on about a half dozen or more iSteve golden oldie themes in a row. This stuff is just plain interesting. You have to work hard to convince yourself you aren't interested in the human equivalents of these topics. And that just makes you boring and dull-witted.
Dingoes are generally classified as a subspecies of wolf, Canis lupus dingo, although in the past they have been classified as a subspecies of dog and as a separate species. 

As a long-time critic of both thinking of human racial groups as "subspecies" and of proclaiming that Race Does Not Exist because of the problems with the subspecies concept  I'm always on the lookout for news of scientists being befuddled about how to classify other animals, especially ones as well-known to us as canines.

Linnaeus did a tremendous job of classifying plants and animals into useful, reasonable categories, but the categories are for our convenience. I've argued that what people are most interested in about other people are not their Linnaean classification, but who their relatives are. Thus, a racial group is an extended family that has more coherence and continuity than run of the mill extended families because it is inbred to some degree.

By way of analogy, think about a very expensive type of animal for whom we know the entire genealogy going back scores of generations: the thoroughbred racehorse. The color of the coat is of little interest to buyers and bettors. They don't need to classify bays and grays separately because they know the actual genealogy of every horse: e.g., Seabiscuit was the grandson of Man o' War while his archrival War Admiral was the son of Man o' War and therefore Seabiscuit's uncle.

Now, we don't know the genealogy of individual dingos, so we study how they look, how they behave, any archaeological record, and their DNA to figure out how to classify them for important purposes of our own, such as Australia's equivalent of the Endangered Species Act. But, scientists still wind up arguing over how to classify them because classifications are something we impose for our own purposes. The only thing that inevitably exists is genealogy: father, mother, child.

Physically, they resemble a generic, medium-size dog, about 40 pounds, usually tan-colored, with pricked ears and a bushy tail. 
If you let dogs mate randomly, as in much of the Third World, that's typically about what you wind up with. The dingo is distinctive looking in some ways, but in general looks like the Indian pariah dog of the streets. A 2004 DNA study said dingos were more closely related to Chinese dogs, but both seem pretty close to the Default Dog.

The rest of this excerpt is equally interesting.
They do not have some of the physical signs of domestication found in many dog breeds, like barking as adults. They breed once a year, like wolves, and when undisturbed they have a stable pack structure topped by one male-female pair, the only ones in the pack that reproduce. 
Bradley Smith, a research associate in public health at Flinders University in Adelaide who has studied dingoes, said by e-mail that experimental tests put dingoes closer to wolves in the kind of intelligence they display. “Both dingoes and wolves, being highly effective predators, are great at problem solving, working well in groups, and independent problem solving,” he said. 
But they also understand humans in a way that wolves do not. They get it when a person points at something, while wolves are clueless or supremely uninterested. Dingoes are not as good as dogs, however, at following a human’s gaze. 
Dingoes, Dr. Smith wrote, “seem to be a prime example of one of the first types of ‘dogs’. Not domestic dogs as we know them now, but some form of early dog that made it easier for the human-canid relationship to develop. You could almost say dingoes are frozen in time — as they have made a very good home in Australia and have been isolated for many thousands of years.” 
Dingoes came to Australia 3,500 to 5,000 years ago, probably with Asian seafarers, and already at least partly domesticated. At the time, people had been on Australia for almost 50,000 years, without dogs. The dingo quickly became an essential part of Aboriginal life and stories. 
Deborah Rose, a professor at Macquarie University in Sydney who has done research with Aboriginal peoples and is the author of “Dingo Makes Us Human,” said the dingoes were a deep part of Aboriginal life. “The dingoes had names, they had kinship classifications, which makes them so unlike all other animals in Australia,” she said. “They had a place at the campfire.” Or even closer. The phrase “three-dog night” has been attributed to indigenous Australians as a way of describing how cold it was. However, it does not seem that Aborigines bred dingoes selectively.

Wikipedia has a less well-written but even more extensive article on dingoes and all the controversies involving their racial purity that are a big deal in Australia for legal and other reasons.

March 11, 2012

Is there such a thing as a "resource curse?"

The popular idea of a "resource curse" is that having an abundance of some natural resource, such as oil, screws up your economy. 

For example, America had the lion's share of the exploited oil resources in the world from 1859-1945, and, thus, by 1945 the United States had collapsed to the point where it more or less ruled the world. 

Okay, well, maybe that's not the most convincing example. All right, gold was discovered in Northern California in 1848, making the largely unpopulated San Francisco Bay area suddenly wealthy. And that's why the Bay Area is so poor today. 

John Tierney wrote in 2008:
A report in Science argues that the “resource curse” theory is dubious because scholars (like Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner) have been looking at the wrong data in studies showing that countries heavily dependent on exports of natural resources are exceptionally prone to slow economic growth, high rates of poverty, authoritarian rule, corruption and violent conflict. The easy money from natural resources, the curse theory went, helped finance civil wars and also weakened civil institutions by enabling repressive governments to buy off opponents and stay in power despite policies that stifled the rest of the economy. 
But the new report in Science argues that the causation goes in the opposite direction: The conflicts and bad policies created the heavy dependence on exports of natural resources. When a country’s chaos and economic policies scare off foreign investors and send local entrepreneurs abroad to look for better opportunities, the economy becomes skewed. Factories may close and businesses may flee, but petroleum and precious metals remain for the taking. Resource extraction becomes “the default sector” that still functions after other industries have come to a halt, according to the authors, C. N. Brunnschweiler of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and E.H. Bulte of the Oxford Center for the Study of Resource-Rich Economies. 
They find that the curse vanishes when they look not at the relative importance of resource exports in the economy but rather at a different measure: the relative abundance of natural resources in the ground. Using that variable to compare countries, they report that resource wealth correlates with slightly higher economic growth and slightly fewer armed conflicts. 

My guess is that having a lot of natural resources mostly means that when you screw up, you do it in a louder, more obnoxious fashion, with more attention paid to you. (Similarly, when you do succeed, like Texas did with oil, you do it more brashly.) Venezuela isn't a whole lot different from Guyana or Colombia or Ecuador, and Nigeria isn't that different from Cameroon or Benin. It's just that the countries with oil attract more publicity. People go around holding seminars to discuss why isn't Nigeria like Norway, but nobody is interested in the reasons why Togo is like Nigeria.

The reality is that there are a lot of boring poor countries with not much of either natural resources or human capital, and that normally nobody pays much attention to them. Occasionally, notice is paid to some place like Afghanistan or Yemen due to Al-Qaeda. In Yemen, the primary natural resource is that, most years, it rains. And then it turns out that Yemen, despite having practically nothing of anything, has managed to be, in its own impoverished fashion, extravagantly screwed up.