May 19, 2012

Euphemisms guide for parents of foreign students

After the tragic murder of two Chinese USC students, their parents are suing the college on the grounds that USC's marketing materials described the campus as being in an "urban" location. In China "urban" means good things (fewer pig in street, no have to bend over all day in rice paddy), while "suburban" sounds like "below urban" to literal-minded Asians. We should create a dictionary of American euphemisms for their safety. I'll start:

Urban -- 1. Antonym of Urbane.  2. All right, try hard to picture the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank in Paris, where students have congregated for a millennium. Okay, got that? Well, it's not like that.

Vibrant -- 1. Boring.  2. Terrifying.

White bread -- 1. Where Asian parents want their children to live. 2. Incomprehensible ethnic slur.

Euphemisms don't translate well

The parents of two USC students from China who were murdered sitting in their BMW have sued:
Their parents filed a lawsuit recently accusing the university of misrepresenting safety at the campus, where nearly one-fifth of the 38,000 students are from overseas, including 2,500 from China. ...
In the lawsuit, the victims’ parents said the university made false claims about safety in a section of its online application. 
The 15-page lawsuit accuses the institution of hiding behind the word “urban” and not saying the campus is in a high-crime area. It also notes that Chinese students in particular would interpret “urban” to mean the university is in a safe area.

Which colleges are urban and in low crime areas? Kids these days like urban, with good public transportation (in part because drunk driving is punished much more harshly than a generation ago). NYU in Greenwich Village. Harvard, I imagine. Georgetown? Some of the lesser Chicago colleges in the Loop. Depaul is in the heart of Chicago's North Side yuppieville. The U. of Washington in Seattle? But it doesn't seem like that long of a list, unfortunately. Rice and UCLA, where I went, are nicely located in pleasant inner suburbs, but the areas don't really have the pre-Modernist big city feel that the new generation wants. Westwood was the place to go in 1982, but it's sedate today.

The reason why urban and low crime don't go together for most colleges is something like this: the most prestigious colleges are old, rich, and have fancy campuses. But they all had to have their own cohesive, master-planned campuses, unlike European colleges, which tend to be scattered sites within a city. So, prestigious old American colleges are seldom located right downtown in the well-policed skyscraper districts, they are typically a few miles away, where they could obtain a big chunk of acreage a century or so ago for their campus. But the neighborhood is now a moldering inner city. USC is three miles south of downtown L.A. and the U. of Chicago is five miles south of the Loop.

NYU, the exception to this rule, gave up its West Bronx campus in 1973 for a hodgepodge of buildings around Washington Square Park in lower Manhattan, which almost wrecked the college at first, but now is a boon when crime is down 75% in New York.

May 18, 2012

"The Dictator"

From my review in Taki's Magazine:
The Dictator is Sacha Baron Cohen’s fourth and—surprisingly—funniest movie, a definite improvement over his biggest hit Borat. But critics, who raved in 2006 about how Borat exposed the anti-Semitism throbbing in Red State America’s heart, are now having second thoughts about Baron Cohen. As the Great Girls Whiteness Crisis of 2012 suggested, during the serious business of Obama’s reelection campaign anybody with a sense of humor is automatically suspect. ...  
Baron Cohen, a sterling British comedian who is a sort of elongated Peter Sellers, plays Admiral General Aladeen, strongman of the North African rogue state of Wadiya, which is trying to build a nuclear missile to menace Israel. 
What’s the common denominator behind Baron Cohen’s four movies, Ali G Indahouse, Borat, Bruno, and now The Dictator? This conundrum has baffled the best minds in the film criticism business. 

Find out by reading the whole thing there.

"Creepy:" Was Martin-Zimmerman fistfight a gay bashing?

From the New York Times:
Martin Spoke of ‘Crazy and Creepy’ Man Following Him, Friend Says 
By Serge F. Kovaleski 
... In the sworn interview recorded on April 2, which runs more than 22 minutes, the unidentified 16-year-old said Mr. Martin described a man who was “crazy and creepy” and on the phone, watching him from a vehicle before he started to follow him on foot.

Keep in mind that the cops didn't get to talk to this unidentified girl until almost two weeks after attorney Benjamin Crump coached her through a talk with ABC News, and that there is no recording of this phone call (unless Echelon has it, of course). 

But, this new report, especially the word "creepy" (which might be, for all we know, attorney Crump's suggested replacement for Martin's even more explicit term for sexual deviance), fits in with my surmise back in March that Trayvon Martin might well have thought that George Zimmerman was following him for homosexual purposes. As I blogged then:
It's hardly implausible that Trayvon Martin might have worried that this strange man was following him in the dark for homoerotic purposes, and he might have mentioned that concern to his girlfriend over the phone.  
Of course, if he did, he probably wouldn't have used the term "homoerotic purposes."  
What if Trayvon used the (heavens) "3-letter F-word" to describe Zimmerman? What if he said to her, "I'm going to punch that f__ because I hate f___?"

Chaos in the courtroom!

The media originally pumped up this story under the mindset that, of course, a black child would be terrified of roving white racists like George Zimmerman. I mean, aren't we always looking for an example of an evil white male attacking unprovoked a 17-year-old black male for white racist reasons? Pulitzer! Movie adaptation! I'm sure Trayvon was just as Pulitzer-crazed as we are, so that must be what he was thinking, too, right?

But, what if it wasn't about race? It always made far more sense that if Trayvon was acting perfectly innocent and feeling perfectly innocent (i.e., not casing houses to break into and not looking to score drugs), then the youth was most likely experiencing fear and loathing of a man he suspected to be gay.

Long Live Life! (Death to Intelligence, Though)*

While Professor Jacqueline Stevens denounces laws of nationality and inheritance in the New York Times as "fantasies of immortality" intended to "alleviate anxieties about death" by reassuring doomed fools that families, nations, and racial groups "persist after one’s own life has ended," at least one American isn't discouraged by this atmosphere of nihilistic individualism that pervades our increasingly "liberaltarian" conventional wisdom. Desmond Hatchett is taking decisively proactive steps that ensure that some of his genetic patterns will help shape our nation's future long after he's gone. From Yahoo News:
Man who fathered 30 kids says he needs a break—on child support 
... a Tennessee man who has fathered 30 children is asking the courts for a break on child support. 
Desmond Hatchett, 33, of Knoxville has children with 11 different women, reports WREG-TV. 
The state already takes half his paycheck and divides it up, which doesn't amount to much when Hatchett is making only minimum wage. Some of the moms receive as little as $1.49 a month. The oldest child is 14 years old. 
Hatchett explains how he reached such a critical mass: He had four kids in the same year. Twice. 
Back in 2009 when Hatchett was in court to answer charges that many of the mothers were not receiving child support, he had 21 children. At the time, he said he was not going to father any more kids, but he ended up having nine more in the past three years.

----------
* In case you are wondering, the slogans "Long Live Death" and "Death to Intelligence" that I reference in the title of this and the next post down the page are attributed to the flamboyant Spanish soldier and intellectual Jose Mill├ín-Astray.

Philosophy of Open Borders: "Long Live Death! Death to Intelligence!"

From the New York Times, an op-ed by Jacqueline Stevens, a professor of political science at Northwestern who is the author of States Without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals. Professor Stevens argues that we should "open the borders" and "abolish inheritance" because "the entire body of laws around families and inheritance, embody societies’ collective flight from death." Okay ... My first thought, by the way, was that this op-ed was an elaborate hoax perpetrated upon the NYT by that commenter on my site who is always going on and on about how everybody he disagrees with is a death-loving Nihilist. But, a little research suggests this essay is not a parody, although my diligent Googling has also revealed that there may be more than one Jacqueline Stevens on the Internet at present. Either that, or there's only one Jacqueline Stevens and she is definitely one of the most well-rounded of contemporary intellectuals.
Citizenship to Go 
By JACQUELINE STEVENS 
CITIZENSHIP laws are in the news again. ... 
The real problem with citizenship laws is not their manipulation by lawmakers or entrepreneurs, much less by mythical “anchor babies.” The problem is more fundamental: the age-old, irrational linkage between citizenship and birthplace. 
From ancient Athens to South Sudan, birth to certain parents, or in a certain territory, has been the primary criterion for citizenship. The word “nationality” comes from the Latin nasci, or birth. America is no exception, notwithstanding the enlargement of citizenship to encompass non-Europeans and women. 
Archaic membership rules have made life miserable not only for Mexican migrants in the United States, but also for people who cannot persuade their governments to accept their claims of citizenship ... 
... The problem is not bad science, poorly trained officials or even ethnic hatred. The problem is the dubious reliance on birth for assigning citizenship. 
Why does the practice endure? ...
Citizens are created by politicians, the citizen-makers. And they are created because the nation, and hence birthright citizenship, exists to alleviate anxieties about death. 
Belonging to the nation or any other community by birth, including one’s family, sustains fantasies of immortality, as these groups persist after one’s own life has ended. Birthright citizenship, and indeed, the entire body of laws around families and inheritance, embody societies’ collective flight from death.

Libertarians and economists have long questioned the usefulness of national boundaries. In 1984, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page proposed adding a constitutional amendment: “There shall be open borders.” 
For some on the left, the abolition of birthright citizenship evokes the nightmarish prospect of a labor glut in wealthy countries, the global lowering of wages, and capitalism run amok. But greed and corruption have challenged good governance in all ages, not just in the modern capitalist era. Moreover, too many on the left overlook how inheritance laws perpetuate inequality, as well as the disparity in wealth among countries because of restrictions on migration. 
Karl Marx predicted that the demise of feudalism would mean that wealth would be created anew in each generation. Instead, intergenerational transmission of money and property remains the main culprit for inequality in wealth. Abolishing inheritance would help end inequality within countries; abolishing birthright citizenship would help end inequality among countries, by letting people move for greater opportunity. 
Impossible? Utopian? That was the response to those who proposed the elimination of slavery, a persistent feature for most of the world’s history and, like nativism, defended by some because its abolition would benefit Northern capitalists and increase factory exploitation. 
Instead of using birth for assigning citizenship, why not keep the boundaries of current countries, open the borders, and use residence to define citizenship, as the 50 states do? ... People should be free to move across borders; they should be citizens of the states where they happen to reside—period.

Back in 2005, I pointed out that about five billion people live in countries with lower per capita GDP's than Mexico's. Since almost a quarter of all Mexicans in the world now live in the United States, the implication from that example is that Open Borders would bring hundreds of millions of poor foreigners to the U.S., as was confirmed by a subsequent Gallup Poll in over 100 countries.

But, who cares about numbers? Anyway, crunching numbers to refute Open Borders enthusiasts is like breaking a butterfly upon the wheel.

A Romney Platform

Jehu at Chariot of Reaction writes:
Providing adult supervision to government is probably the most winning narrative [Romney] can convincingly put forward---other than the default narrative that I suck a reasonable amount less than does Obama, and the press will actually criticize me when I do evil things, and the permanent bureaucracy will resist my crazier schemes more so than it would resist Obama.  That narrative has the advantage of being God's honest truth, but it's unlikely to actually inspire many people. 
Actually aggressively attacking things that people actually hate probably would.  The list of things that the population hates is pretty damned long, but the TSA [i.e., airport security] has bipartisan hatred and even substantial hatred among self-styled cultural elites.  Hang a TSA uniform on Obama and beat him like a pinata.

"Frequent fliers" -- the people who make the 7am flight to DFW a few times a month or more -- pretty much keep the country running. (I say this as somebody who flies as infrequently as possible.) They wouldn't be a bad class to cultivate.

"Providing adult supervision to government" -- I like that slogan, even if nobody else does.

May 17, 2012

The Judah P. Benjamin Whiteness Crisis

On Kevin Drum's blog, Adam Serwer recounts recent conventional wisdom about American history:
White ethnics—Irish, Italians, Jews—were long excluded from whiteness on the grounds that they were racially inferior, but they were integrated into a more inclusive redefinition of whiteness post-World War II.

I used to reply to this:
Indeed, who can forget that stunning scene in Gone With the Wind when Scarlett O'Hara's Irish last name is accidentally revealed, and thus she is immediately sold into slavery. 

But, true believers in the wisdom of Noel Ignatiev always reply to the effect: "Hey, dumbass, don't you know Gone With the Wind is fiction?!"

So, as a nonfiction example, above is a Confederate two dollar bill from 1862. The man pictured is Judah P. Benjamin, who served the Confederate government as Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State. And it wasn't just a Confederate thing either: both Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce had previously offered Benjamin a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, an honor he declined each time in order to keep his U.S. Senate seat.

(Benjamin was the second Jewish Senator. The first was his first cousin once removed, David Levy Yulee of Florida, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1845 and resigned in 1861. He served in the Congress of the Confederacy until being imprisoned by the victorious Union forces in 1865.)

According to Wikipedia's article on Benjamin:
He was a noted advocate of the interests of the South. According to the author Carl Sandburg, the abolitionist Benjamin Wade of Ohio said the Southern senator was "a Hebrew with Egyptian Principles", as he represented slaveholders.[6] Benjamin replied, "It is true that I am a Jew, and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate Deity, amidst the thundering and lightnings of Mt. Sinai, the ancestors of my opponent were herding swine in the forests of Great Britain."[7]

Similarly, in 1835, Benjamin Disraeli replied to an attack by Irish Roman Catholic leader Daniel O'Connell: 
‘Yes, I am a Jew, and while the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.’”

The popular version in which Disraeli begins, "While your ancestors were painting themselves blue..." appears to be a subsequent embroidery. But, a good one!

Zimmerman was right about Martin: "He's on drugs"

From ABC News:
Trayvon Martin Had Drugs in System, Autopsy Found 
By MATT GUTMAN (@mattgutmanABC) , SENI TIENABESO (@senijr_abc) and COLLEEN CURRY 
May 17, 2012 
Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer, had the drug THC in his system the night of this death, according to new information obtained by ABC News.

THC = weed.

This is of major importance not because marijuana makes people more aggressive (it doesn't), but because it undermines the indictment's claim that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, which appears to be the prosecution's main hope in swaying the jury: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what reason could Zimmerman possibly have had for being suspicious of a black male other than his blackness? 

Well, Zimmerman explained his reasons in his 911 call:
We’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there’s a real suspicious guy. It’s Retreat View Circle. The best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about. [Emphasis mine]

How much worse can this get for The Narrative?

By the way, Matt Gutman of ABC has been doing a lot better work ever since Gucci Little Piggy called him out for playing Peter Fallow (the poisonous English reporter who shills for attorney Al Vogel in Bonfire of the Vanities) to attorney Benjamin Crump.

My Zimmerman question to the NYT answered

From the New York Times:
Police Missteps in Trayvon Martin Case: Readers’ Questions Answered 
By SERGE F. KOVALESKI 
Thank you all for submitting such thoughtful questions and insights into the article ["Trayvon Martin Case Shadowed by a Series of Missteps"] about how the Sanford Police Department handled the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17, on the night of Feb. 26. ....
Q. Has any solid evidence emerged after all these months of media frenzy that the story George Zimmerman told the police wasn’t true?
Steve Sailor
A. Some Sanford officers were skeptical about certain details of Mr. Zimmerman’s account. For instance, he told the police that Mr. Martin had punched him numerous times, but they questioned whether his injuries were consistent with the number of blows he claimed to have received. They also suspected that some of the threatening and dramatic language that Mr. Zimmerman said Mr. Martin used during the struggle — like “You are going to die tonight” — sounded made up.

And there you have it ...
-------------------------------
* By the way, The New York Times' misspelling of my name is no big deal, but it reminds me of why I've chosen to use a variety of handles that are easier for other people to spell than "Steven Sailer." In elementary school, I noticed that people tended to spell my name "Stephen Sailer" or "Steven Sailor" or "Stephen Saylor," or other variants. And who can blame them? It's naturally confusing.

So, to simplify things for everybody, I decided to use Steve to eliminate the Steven/Stephen problem. Online, I emphasize Steve over Sailer because the former is almost impossible to misspell. I picked iSteve.com because somebody beat me to Steve.com. I use SteveSlr as an email address to get rid of those hard to remember vowels in my last name.

I'd recommend to parents that when choosing a baby name, they consider the inconvenience an unconventionally spelled name can impose on their child, and even the inconvenience their child's altered spelling can cause other children with the conventional spelling.

The Urge to Purge: Filipino prizefighter gay marriage edition

The juggernaut of Diversity-driven intolerance rolls onward. From the New York Times:
The boxing champion Manny Pacquiao and his associates on Wednesday tried to quell an uproar incited by an article on a Web site that addressed his opposition to same-sex marriage.... Pacquiao, who has won titles in seven weight classes, has endorsement contracts with several companies — Hewlett-Packard and Hennessy, among others. They conveyed concern over his comments to Top Rank Boxing, which promotes Pacquiao.

Pacquiao, who is the national hero of the Philippines, is also a serving congressman in his celebrity-crazed home country. He was portrayed in the American prestige press in 2010 as a great guy for helping ex-boxer Sen. Harry Reid (D-Pugilistic Dementiaville) win re-election over Sharron Angle by campaigning with Reid for Las Vegas's rapidly expanding Filipino vote. 

At the time, I wondered if elected officials from foreign countries were really supposed to participate in American political campaigns, but I was apparently missing the point: Pacquiao helped Harry Reid defeat Sharron Angle, so that was no time for quibbles about little things like Pacquiao being a part of a foreign government. 

But in 2012, since Obama doesn't want to talk about the economy during his re-election run, the press wants us to talk nonstop about about how hateful anybody is who has any reservations about diversity. 

So, therefore, the knives are out tonight for a foreign prizefighter who expresses opposition to gay marriage.

The problem for the brain trust trying to campaign-manage Obama's Diversity Coalition is that his coalition is diverse. 

For example, the media wanted to ride the Trayvon Martin story to help Obama win re-election, but then it turned out that George Zimmerman's White Privilege Card wasn't exactly in working order. 

Obama endorsed gay marriage to bring in the Big Gay Money, and the press took that as a signal to End the Debate, to punish anyone who dissents on this most sacred of topics. But the first victim of the latest round of purges turns out to be the most popular man in the world to an obscure ethnic group that is important in rounding up Nevada's six electoral votes in November. Maybe the Filipinos in Nevada won't vote for Romney, but without the now-"controversial" Pacquiao campaigning for Obama in the fall, will they remember to turn out in large numbers?

The politics of Diversity sure are complicated.

May 16, 2012

Trayvon's knuckles were injured

An autopsy of Trayvon Martin, the black unarmed teenager who was fatally shot by a Florida neighborhood watch volunteer, shows that his body had injuries to the knuckles, while a medical report on the shooter, George Zimmerman, shows that he suffered a broken nose, two black eyes, and cuts on the back of his head, according to a Florida TV news channel and ABC News
What these details, like many others leaked in recent days, will ultimately mean for Zimmerman's high-profile second-degree murder case is unclear, though they could presumably be used by his defense team to bolster his argument that Martin attacked him and beat him up before he was forced to shoot the teenager in self-defense. 
What they do not seem to clarify is how the altercation between the two men started on the night of Feb. 26 at the gated subdivision in Sanford, Fla., where Zimmerman had been watching the teenager and reporting him to police as suspicious. 
Zimmerman, according to the Orlando Sentinel, has told police that Martin approached him from behind that night, punched him in the nose, and began beating him up. Martin's attorneys have played audio of a phone call to ABC News in which Martin, talking to his girlfriend, reportedly told her he was worried about a man following him, and asked the man why he was doing so.

No, no, no. Nobody has played audio of Martin talking to his girlfriend, unless they are at some secure National Security Administration site. As Gucci Little Piggy explained on March 29, when the March 20th ABC story refers to the "existence" of that phone call, "existence" is meant in roughly the sense of "the existence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire:" it once existed. The phone call that ABC listened to was between the girl, coached by attorney Crump, talking to the parents about what was supposedly discussed on that last phone call. The girl had not gone to the police and all her contacts with the press have been filtered by Crump. 

This might seem like a minor point, but it's evidence of how reluctant the national press is to get the facts straight in this local police blotter item that they chose to make a national whoop-tee-doo, and which has been slowly blowing up in their faces ever since.

Zimmerman: CYA by the NYT

The New York Times has a long article Trayvon Martin Case Shadowed by Series of Police Missteps by Serge F. Kovaleski. You can smell the CYA positioning all over the article as more evidence emerges and the media's Narrative crumbles. 

The first part of the article insinuates that police incompetence must be the explanation for why the prestige press has come up with so little strong evidence against George Zimmerman during the two months of media frenzy. But the rest of the story shows, despite the reporter's and editor's bias, that the cops did, on the whole, a decent job of investigating the case. Certainly, the local law enforcement folks, before politics kicked it upstairs to that comic special prosecutor, have done a far better job than the national media at uncovering the facts and evaluating them in a rational manner.

May 15, 2012

"Dark Shadows:" Tim Burton and Johnny Depp fey it up again

From my review of Dark Shadows in Taki's Magazine:
In Tom Stoppard’s 1982 drama The Real Thing, a middle-aged playwright and his daughter discuss Elvis Presley’s death:
Henry: I never went for him much. ‘All Shook Up’ was the last good one. However, I suppose that’s the fate of all us artists.
Debbie: Death?
Henry: People saying they preferred the early stuff.
Because film director Tim Burton works in a fairly narrow groove of style, subject, and cast, his career offers an unusually clear opportunity to consider why people do generally prefer the early stuff.

Read the whole thing there.

The Urge to Purge: James Q. Wilson edition

Economist Glenn C. Loury, former conservative establishment affirmative action hire, sniffs in The Boston Review that the late James Q. Wilson held politically incorrect views.
Much to Answer For: James Q. Wilson’s Legacy
Glenn C. Loury 
The esteemed political scientist and criminologist James Q. Wilson died in March. ... 
His most significant legacy, however, lies in the impact of his scholarship and journalism on the contemporary structures of social control in the United States. His 1975 book Thinking About Crime provides academic justification for a massive increase in imprisonment in the United States that began in the late 1970s and has yet fully to run its course. (The United States incarcerates at five times the rate of Britain, the leading jailer in Europe.) It is therefore entirely fitting—indeed, imperative—that there be extensive, critical public discussion about the intellectual impact of this towering figure of the study of American government. 
While I came to disagree sharply with him on criminal justice policy, I must acknowledge that I liked Jim Wilson, the man. He was urbane, witty, and generous with his time. He was unfailingly open to hearing both sides of any argument. I knew him to be loyal to a fault, even-tempered, and often a wise observer of American politics. I admired his modesty and his prodigious work ethic. Indeed, my appreciation of “Gentleman Jim” dates back nearly three decades, to 1983, when he came to my humble Afro-American Studies office at Harvard, practically hat in hand, with a draft chapter on “race and crime” for an as-yet-unpublished book, Crime and Human Nature. He was writing it with Richard Herrnstein, who would go on to write The Bell Curve (1994) with Charles Murray. Wilson asked for my unsparing critique, which I provided. It impressed me that, when the book appeared two years later, he and Herrnstein had taken my criticisms seriously. 
... That last association ended for me in 1995, when I publicly resigned my position after AEI fellows wrote two incendiary and what seemed to me borderline racist books—The Bell Curve and The End of Racism (1995), by Dinesh D’Souza. In those years, and partly in response to those two books, I began my long march out of the right wing of American intellectual life. And, in so doing, I slowly came to the view—which I continue to hold—that some of Wilson’s labors have done enormous damage to the quality of American democracy. His rationalizing and legitimating of over-reliance on incarceration in U.S. social policy have been particularly destructive. It frustrates me that even as mounting evidence over the past decade showed that crime control had become too punitive, Wilson stubbornly reiterated the views that he had developed four decades ago. 
... Considered from today’s perspective, much of what the nascent neoconservative thinkers had to say was pretty appalling. Banfield’s classic lament of the failures of 1960s urban policy, The Unheavenly City, looks an awful lot like reactionary drivel. (His argument that persistent poverty is due to the bad values and character of the poor—first set out in his book about Italy, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society—might have made sense for Sicily, but did not travel well to the South Bronx.) And in retrospect Moynihan—whose work Wilson often extolled—hardly comes off looking like a great thinker. Calling a spade a spade turns out not to be a social policy. 
In my long march out of the right wing, I came to believe that Wilson’s labors did enormous damage to American democracy. 
Call me unforgiving, but I can still remember sitting at Jim and Roberta Wilson’s dinner table in Malibu, California in January 1993 listening to Murray explain, much to my consternation and with Jim’s silent acquiescence, that social inequality is inevitable because “dull” parents are simply less effective at child-rearing than “bright” ones. (I rejected then, and still do, Murray and Herrnstein’s claim that profound social disparities are due mainly to variation in innate individual traits that cannot be remedied via social policy.) Neither can Glenn Loury in 2012 ignore what he failed to see in 1983: that Wilson and Herrnstein’s Crime and Human Nature—a book that sets out to lay bare the underlying bio-genetic, somatic, and psychological determinants of individuals’ criminal behavior—is an enterprise of dubious scientific value. The behavioral theories of social control that Wilson spawned—see, for instance, his 1983 Atlantic Monthly piece, “Raising Kids” (not unlike training pets, as it happens)—and the pop–social psychology salesmanship of his and George Kelling’s so-called “theory” about broken windows is a long way from rocket science, or even good social science. This work looks more like narrative in the service of rationalizing and justifying hierarchy, subordination, coercion, and control. In short, it smacks of highbrow, reactionary journalism. 
But, unlike most tabloid scribblers, Wilson’s writings had a massive effect. The broken windows argument—by cracking down on minor offenses, the police can prevent the perception of disorder that leads to more serious crimes—has influenced urban law enforcement strategists throughout the nation. Even so, as scholarly critics across the ideological spectrum have noted, there is little evidence beyond the anecdotal to show that such “quality of life” policing actually leads to lower crime rates. When I consider the impact of his ideas, I can’t help but think about the millions of folks being hassled even as we speak by coercive state agents who are acting on some Wilsonian theory recommending stop-and-frisk policing.
Neither can I overlook the reinforcement of subliminal racial stigmata associated with the institutions of confinement, surveillance, and patrol that Americans have embraced over the past two generations under the watchful and approving gaze of Professor Wilson. 
I don’t think Jim Wilson had a racist bone in his body. Neither do I doubt his sincerity when he expressed regret, as he often did, that blacks are overrepresented among those being punished for having committed crimes. But intent is one thing; results are another. A politics of vengeance has abetted the unprecedented rise in U.S. incarceration rates since 1980. I am made keenly aware of the deleterious impact these policies have had on residents of urban black communities, law-abiders and law-breakers alike. This was not Wilson’s intent, but plainly it was one consequence of ideas that he championed. ... 
But is his 1997 book The Moral Sense—which cites human nature to make a case against moral relativism, and which Wilson thought his most important publication—a work for the ages? I doubt it seriously. Is Thinking About Crime up there in the pantheon of American social criticism along with Silent Spring, The Other America, The Feminine Mystique, or The Fire Next Time? Not hardly. 
James Q. Wilson was not the Thomas Hobbes of our time—though it is a good guess that he fancied himself grappling with a Leviathan. A cloistered moral sanctimony (“Tobacco shortens one’s life; cocaine debases it”) coupled with an enthusiasm for police work (“prison in America . . . helps explain why this country has a lower rate of burglary than Australia, Austria, Canada, England, Germany, and the Netherlands”): that’s another way to think about the legacy of James Q. Wilson. Unkind to be sure, but not inaccurate. 
With all due respect to the influence of his writings on bureaucracy, policing, and social policy, I’m just not buying the hagiographies that appeared in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe after his passing. For my money, he died with an awful lot to answer for.

So, let's go back to the soft-on-crime policies of the 1960s and 1970s. Sure, a lot innocent people will be murdered and raped, but that's a small price to pay for purging racist crimethink.

May 14, 2012

Obama's Julia and Affordable Family Formation

The Obama 2012 campaign has put up a "Life of Julia" website that explains how the Obama Administration would provide cradle to grave welfare state benefits for an apparently never-married single mother named Julia, who would be financially crazy to vote Republican. 

It's hard to disagree with Obama's logic, and indeed, being a single woman appears to be an extremely strong causal driver of voting Democratic in Presidential elections. In contrast, little changes a woman's mind about how to vote more than marriage. 

Hence, it would make sense for the GOP to research the reasons for voters not getting married and propose reforms to make family formation more affordable. In other words, logically, it's in the Republican Party's self-interest to think about how to make American citizens happy and how to encourage them to grow more happy American citizens of their own.

Obviously, when phrased that way, you can understand why the GOP Brain Trust has paid no attention whatsoever to this question since I first brought it up seven years ago. It's just crazy talk!

The War Among Women

"It can't only be me that kind of initially saw Ann Romney as maybe a sympathetic or neutral figure but who is increasingly seeing her as someone who is kind of insufferable because of the way she's milking this thing," Newsweek and Daily Beast columnist Michelle Goldberg said about Ann Romney writing a column about raising her children. 
Goldberg found Ann Romney's glowing praise of motherhood in a column she wrote for USA Today to be "kind of creepy." During an appearance on MSNBC's weekend program "Up with Chris Hayes," Goldberg said the phrase "the crown of motherhood," which Ann Romney used in her column, reminded her of "authoritarian societies" that give out awards for large families.  
"In a lot ways, the column was totally anodyne, right? She's, you know, yes, motherhood is beautiful. I found that phrase, 'the crown of motherhood' really kind of creepy. Not just because of it's somewhat -- you know, it's kind of really authoritarian societies that give out like a Cross of Motherhood. They give out awards for big families," Goldberg said on the program's panel. 
"You know, Stalin did it, Hitler did it," she said. 

The Obama Administration and its adjuncts in the press are promoting the meme of a supposed GOP "war on women." 

But, as has often been said, in the war between the sexes, there will never be a final victory because there is too much fraternizing with the enemy. 

Instead, just as real wars are largely fought between men, what we see here is mostly status striving among women. Ann Romney's life course (fell in love in high school with a handsome, smart boy from a good family who turned out to a good husband and a real catch, over 40 years of marriage so far, a career of homemaking, five children, 18 grandchildren) drives a lot of women crazy with resentment. 

Women aren't all that good at tolerance toward other women, due to their relatively higher levels of conformism. A typical woman tends to want to do what other women want to do, and want other women to do what she wants to do.

Mommy, where do poor children come from?

Matthew Yglesias writes:
The problem of teen/single/unwed motherhood is one of the relatively few issues liberals and conservatives seem to be able to agree on these days. The right is more likely to pitch the issue in terms of marital status (“single moms”) and the left in terms of simple age (“teen moms”), but both sides reach the same basic conclusion. Raising a child is difficult. Raising a child without help from a partner is very difficult. Doing it at an early age is going to substantially disrupt one’s educational or economic life at a critical moment, with potentially devastating consequences for one’s lifetime. Therefore, preventing early nonmarital pregnancies (whether through liberal doses of contraception and sex education, or the conservative prescription of abstinence cheerleading) would seem universally desirable.  
But perhaps we’re approaching the problem from the wrong direction, according to Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine in a new paper “Why is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States So High and Why Does It Matter?” published in the spring issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives.  
They conclude that “being on a low economic trajectory in life leads many teenage girls to have children while they are young and unmarried and that poor outcomes seen later in life (relative to teens who do not have children) are simply the continuation of the original low economic trajectory.” In other words, it is a mistake to the leap from the observation that women who gave birth as teenagers are poor to the view that they’re poor because they gave birth. Lexus owners are much richer than the average American, but that doesn’t mean the average person can get ahead by buying a Lexus. Women with better economic opportunities tend to do a good job of avoiding childbirth.

Sure, but the bigger question is: What's in society's long-term interest? I mean, where do the next generation of poor children come from? Does the stork bring them?

Obviously, with the exception of immigration, poor children are mostly the product of poor parents.

Society is better off if the kind of young women whose lives wouldn't be ruined by having a child out of wedlock reproduce less rapidily. 

Let's take a real example: black teen illegitimate fertility spiked up during the Crack Era, peaking in 1991. Various thing happened after that that reduced it, probably including welfare reform and FDA approval of long term contraceptive shots for girls.

Black teen fertility has been significantly lower since 1991. You never, ever hear about that historically important trend, though, because A. You aren't supposed to say that having fewer poor black teens around today than if 1991 had gone on forever is a good thing (What kind of depraved Nazi eugenicist are you?); but, B. Everybody with a brain in their head thinks it is a good thing.

How to help the Third World

Bjorn Lomborg reiterates:
The expert panel’s findings reveal that, if spent smartly, $75 billion—just a 15 percent increase in current aid spending—could go a long way to solving many of the world’s challenges. 
Given the budget restraints, they found 16 investments worthy of investment (in descending order of desirability): 
1. Bundled interventions to reduce undernutrition in preschoolers (to fight hunger and improve education)

This includes iodine and iron fortification of staples to reduce cretinism and other IQ-sapping conditions. Lomborg and his panel of experts has been endorsing this since shortly after I took up the cause. The problem with advocating IQ-boosting environmental interventions in the Third World (such as Kiwanis International has been nobly doing for decades), of course, is that just mentioning the topic of IQ deficits in the Third World is a big no-no.
2. Expanding the subsidy for malaria combination treatment
3. Expanded childhood immunization coverage
4. Deworming of schoolchildren, to improve educational and health outcomes

The Rockefeller Foundation's war on hookworm in the American South in the first half of the 20th Century did a lot of good. Parasites sap energy, physical and mental.
5. Expanding tuberculosis treatment
6. R&D to increase yield enhancements, to decrease hunger, fight biodiversity destruction, and lessen the effects of climate change
7. Investing in effective early warning systems to protect populations against natural disaster
8. Strengthening surgical capacity
9. Hepatitis B immunization
10. Using low‐cost drugs in the case of acute heart attacks in poorer nations (these are already available in developed countries)
11. Salt reduction campaign to reduce chronic disease
12. Geoengineering R&D into the feasibility of solar radiation management
13. Conditional Cash Transfers for School Attendance
14. Accelerated HIV Vaccine R&D
15. Extended field trial of information campaigns on the benefits of schooling
16. Borehole and public hand-pump intervention

So, a pretty good list, but can you think of the obvious missing element?

Right, free contraception for the poor, especially long term contraception.

Last month, the New York Times published a rare article for the 21st Century, Nigeria Tested by Rapid Rise in Population, pointing out that population growth in black Africa is a big problem (especially, of course, for black Africans). Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote:
LAGOS, Nigeria — In a quarter-century, at the rate Nigeria is growing, 300 million people — a population about as big as that of the present-day United States — will live in a country roughly the size of Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. In this commercial hub, where the area’s population has by some estimates nearly doubled over 15 years to 21 million, living standards for many are falling. 
Lifelong residents like Peju Taofika and her three granddaughters inhabit a room in a typical apartment block known as a “Face Me, Face You” because whole families squeeze into 7-by-11-foot rooms along a narrow corridor. Up to 50 people share a kitchen, toilet and sink — though the pipes in the neighborhood often no longer carry water. 
At Alapere Primary School, more than 100 students cram into most classrooms, two to a desk. 
As graduates pour out of high schools and universities, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is nearly 50 percent for people in urban areas ages 15 to 24 — driving crime and discontent. 
The growing upper-middle class also feels the squeeze, as commutes from even nearby suburbs can run two to three hours. 
Last October, the United Nations announced the global population had breached seven billion and would expand rapidly for decades, taxing natural resources if countries cannot better manage the growth. 
Nearly all of the increase is in sub-Saharan Africa, where the population rise far outstrips economic expansion. Of the roughly 20 countries where women average more than five children, almost all are in the region.

This is the kind of article that writes itself once you get up the courage to do it.

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I review Sean Trende's new book on whether 2012 will be a realigning election in VDARE. Read the whole thing there.