January 27, 2007

Long Beach Nightmare convictions

From the LA Times:

8 convicted of hate attack in Long Beach

"A judge Friday found that eight black teenagers beat three white women in Long Beach [just south of LA] out of racial hatred, ending a divisive trial that was muddled by conflicting testimony and accusations of witness intimidation."

"Judge Gibson Lee upheld nearly all of the prosecution's counts in a case that roiled this diverse city with its core allegation: that nine girls and a boy visited a well-to-do part of Long Beach on Halloween night and beat three women to the ground because they were white."

he Long Beach racial attack turns out to illustrate perfectly what the prominent Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam was talking about when he admitted that his 20001 study found that the LA area is the most diverse and least trusting and cooperative place in America. (See my "Fragmented Future" article.)

The neighbors on this street in Bixby Knolls in Long Beach had a charming tradition of decorating like crazy for Halloween, which brings big crowds of trick-or-treaters. It's a wonderful thing you can't accomplish on your own -- you need to work with your neighbors to make something like this happen. Neighborliness makes life better for you and, especially, your children.

And look what happens -- a race riot, a hate crime, a pogrom breaks out. Indeed, the peculiar horror of the Long Beach incident was that girls attacked girls.

So much for trust and cooperation. Time to move to the gated community.

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

January 25, 2007

How Ethnic Stereotypes Lessen Ethnic Nepotism

Irwin Silverman, of the psychology department of York U. in Toronto, did a study of "ethnic nepotism" among English-speaking Canadian college students. He described 10 situations (e.g., buying an appliance or deciding who to let into your nuclear fallout shelter) and asked each student whether they would favor their own ethnic group or some Other ethnic group under three alternative conditions:

1. if all else was equal;
2. if favoring your ethnic group imposed a minor cost on you;
3. if favoring your ethnic group would impose a substantial cost on you.

Irwin found a surprising degree of ethnic nepotism in the cost-free situations. Roughly 90% of the responses favored helping their own ethnic group. This is strikingly high for Canada, where the Protestant majority is relentlessly lectured against discriminating in favor of themselves.

Ethnic nepotism, however, fell off rapidly as the costs mounted. On a 0 to 3 scale (where 0 is favoring the Other ethnic group in the cost free-situation, 1 is favoring your ethnic relatives when the cost is zero, two is favoring your co-ethnics when the cost is small but real, and 3 is when the cost is substantial), scores ranged from around 1.1 to 1.6 depending on the ethnicity of the subject.

The least ethnocentric group was the WASPs, while the most was the Jewish-Canadians. (French Canadians didn't show up as their own group. And there were only 15 East Asians in the study, so the finding that East Asians are the 2nd least ethnocentric group must be taken with a grain of salt.)

Since ethnic nepotism, at least by Anglo whites, is deeply unfashionable on Canadian campuses, these scores should be taken as reflecting public attitudes more than private feelings, but they're still interesting.

I tried to give Silverman's test to my neighbor Shelly, who has more real-world experience than do college students. Shelly is, more or less, Italian-American. For the "Other" ethnic group, she picked the Swiss.

"All right," I began, "Say you're buying an expensive item like a washing machine or a camera. Would you pay 15% more to buy it from an Italian-owned firm rather than a Swiss-owned firm?"

"Definitely," Shelly replied, "It would be well worth paying 15% extra for Swiss manufacturing quality."

Steve: "Well, yes, but the question here is whether you'd pay 15% extra for an Italian-made product."

Shelly: "Don't be ridiculous. Who in the world would pay 15% extra for a Fiat over a Volvo?"

Steve: "Well, Volvos are made in Sweden, not Switz --"

Shelly: "Exactly. Now if it was furniture, say, or clothes, or some other fashion item, I'd certainly pay more for Italian. And I'd pay lots more to go to an Italian restaurant. Who goes to a Swiss restaurant?"

Steve: "Yes, but it says here in the question that the Swiss-made and the Italian-made appliances are exactly equal in quality."

Shelly: "My mind refuses to deal with such an implausible assertion."

Thus, the more you know about how much ethnic groups tend to differ in economic skills, the less likely you are to believe that favoring your own ethnic group would be cost free. Therefore, to reduce the number of ethnocentric actions, instead of being told that everybody's the same, college students should be required to read books like Thomas Sowell's "Ethnic America" so they can more quickly get up to speed on ethnic stereotypes.

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

Anti-Assortative Mating

Regarding J.P. Rushton's argument that we assortatively mate with those most like us genetically, I want to suggest a distinction that might help us better understand mating patterns. While people do indeed tend to marry people who are similar to them on a number of traits, people do not want to marry people who are exactly like them.

Most obviously, they want someone of the opposite sex, with all those highly opposite physical and mental sexual secondary characteristics. Even homosexuals show this tendency: judging from Personal Ads, most gay men want a man who is more masculine than themselves, and most lesbians want a woman who is more feminine.

Thus, it's useful to distinguish between social attraction (which urges us toward mating with those like ourselves) and sexual attraction (which urges us toward mating with those not like ourselves). Social attraction is when your family owns a chain of supermarkets in Ohio and your beloved's family owns a chain of supermarkets in Pennsylvania; you both "summer" in Maine; have mutual friends, etc. What would make more sense than for you two to get marriage?

Of course, sexual attraction does not always align with social attraction. One of the most common storylines in movies is this: the blonde debutante gets engaged to the blonde fraternity president, but then she falls hard for the tall, dark, and handsome boy from the wrong side of the tracks.

Why have I seen a hundred movies with this basic plot? Why in roughly 90-95% of the sex scenes in big budget Hollywood movies is the man darker than the woman? (One reason, among many, that I so anticipated the great Ron Shelton's "White Men Can't Jump" is that I wanted to see how Hollywood handled a love scene between brown-skinned Rosie Perez and The Whitest Man in Hollywood, Woody Harrelson. Would they break the pattern and have a man who was lighter colored than his woman? Well, with enough beige lighting and body makeup, they made both come out an even butterscotch color, so the streak continued.)

Peter Frost has explained why this is so. All else being equal, women really are fairer than men. This was extremely obvious in monoethnic societies, although in modern America few people consciously notice this because of the wide racial variations in coloring. But we unconsciously notice this.

That's why Hollywood likes its women blonde and its men tall, dark and handsome. And it's not just Hollywood. Try watching Mexican TV. It's wall to wall blonde babes. The only time you see Mexican-looking girls is in commercials made by American firms like Busch and Miller.

Peter also argues that it's also likely that women from icy climes are sexually selected more for sex appeal because wives are very expensive in regions where hunting husbands have to feed them over the winter. Conversely, West African males like Michael Jordan have become icons of masculinity possibly because in climates where women can feed their families, husbands are expensive and need to earn their dinner by looking sexy.

Thus, we see patterns in interracial marriage that can't be explained by traditional assortative mating theory. Since African-American women tend to be more middle-class than African-American men (e.g., 80% more black women than black men in grad schools), assortative mating theory should predict that there should be more white husband-black wife marriages. But, of course, in 1990 there were 2.5 times more black husband-white wife marriages. Why? Because social attraction (homogeneity) and sexual attractions (heterogeneity) are frequently opposed.

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

January 24, 2007

The Army eases its IQ standards least

Glaivester points toward a Mother Jones chart showing how much the U.S. Army has relaxed its standards for new recruits due to Iraq. For example, the percentage of high school dropouts has increased from 10% to 19%. Maximum age of new enlistees has been boosted from 34 to 42, maximum body fat for a 20 year old male from 24% to 30%, maximum enlistment bonus from $20k to $40k, and you can now have tattoos visible while in uniform.

What's striking, however, is how little the Army has eased up on "Caps on GIs with substandard aptitude test scores:" (i.e., scoring below the 30th percentile on the military's very heavily g-loaded IQ admission test, the AFQT). This limit has been raised only from 2% to 4%.

In other words, the military, which has 90 years of experience evaluating the correlation between IQ and performance, is extremely reluctant to do the single easiest thing to help its recruiting woes: let in more people with IQs below the 30th percentile. And yet, we constantly hear in the press about how IQ is discredited, or is only relevant in academia, etc etc.

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

In defense of "Crash"

A common criticism of Best Picture-nominated "Babel" is: "It's the 'Crash' of 2006," which is unfair to "Crash." While last year's Best Picture wasn't a classic winner in the mold of 2003's "Return of the King," more resembling a successful experimental movie than a successor to "Gone with the Wind," "Lawrence of Arabia," and "The Godfather," it was a lot better movie than "Babel." I wrote in The American Conservative: " "Crash" is too contrived to be a great movie, but it's a contrivance of an unusually high order." The first hour, being inspired writer-director Paul Haggis's having been himself carjacked in 1991, is one of the most candid depictions of America's crime and race problems. The second hour mostly apologizes for the first hour, but that's a small price to pay (especially compared to the film it upset for Best Picture, the thoroughly phony "Brokeback Mountain." My full review of "Crash" is here.

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

January 23, 2007

In News I Don't Care About:...

State of the Union Address: Is Bush still President?

Hillary Semi-Announces Presidential Bid: I haven't thought about her for six years. Those were six good years.

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

Why America needs New York U. to become a football powerhouse

Matthew Yglesias writes:

"Retired General Wesley Clark is, like me, concerned that the Bush administration is going to launch a war with Iran. Arianna Huffington spoke to him in early January and asked why he was so worried the administration was headed in this direction. According to Huffington's January 4 recounting of Clark's thoughts, he said this: "You just have to read what's in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers."

"This, of course, is true. I'm Jewish and I don't think the United States should bomb Iran, but Thursday night I was talking to a Jewish friend and she does think the United States should bomb Iran. The Jewish community, in short, is divided on the issue. It's also true that most major American Jewish organizations cater to the views of extremely wealthy major donors whose political views are well to the right of the bulk of American Jews, one of the most liberal ethnic groups in the country. Furthermore, it's true that major Jewish organizations are trying to push the country into war. …

"Everything Clark said, in short, is true. What's more, everybody knows it's true. The worst that can truthfully be said about Clark is that he expressed himself in a slightly odd way. This, it seems clear, he did because it's a sensitive issue and he worried that if he spoke plainly he'd be accused of trafficking in anti-Semitism. So he spoke unclearly and, for his trouble, got … accused of trafficking in anti-Semitism.

"James Taranto, who writes the hack "Best of the Web" column for the online version of The Wall Street Journal's hack editorial page, likened Clark's views on this to the notorious anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. …

"And, indeed, it is interesting, for demonstrating the bizarre rules of the road in discussing America's Israel policy. If you're offering commentary that's supportive of America's soi-disant "pro-Israel" forces, as [Michael] Barone was, it's considered perfectly acceptable to note, albeit elliptically, that said forces are influential in the Democratic Party in part because they contribute large sums of money to Democratic politicians who are willing to toe the line. If, by contrast, one observes this fact by way of criticizing the influence of "pro-Israel" forces, you're denounced as an anti-Semite."

In Oklahoma, the real estate developers and other wheeler-dealers express their natural male tribal competitiveness by buying the best college football coaches and players so their beloved U. of Oklahoma Sooners can beat the U. of Texas Longhorns and U. of Nebraska Cornhuskers. In New York City, the big money boys are just as competitive, but they don't have a local college football team to obsess over. So, they instead get all worked up over their beloved Israel, and buy up the top American politicians and pundits to get America to beat up Israel's rivals.

So, what America desperately needs is for New York City to have a BCS-quality college football team. The best candidate would be New York University, which is located just north of Wall Street. NYU was kind of an afterthought for a long time, but there is so much money in Manhattan that it has come up considerably in the world, and would now be as appealing a standard-bearer for New York City's alpha males as USC is for Los Angeles's.

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

Oscar nominations

Not too exciting of a list … "Babel" got the Best Picture nod that "Dreamgirls" deserved far more. I'm not saying that "Dreamgirls" is a great picture, just that it would have made a respectable Best Picture nominee due to it being both crowd-pleasing and classy. In contrast, Babel represents all that's worst about Academy voters' desire for self-glorification of their industry through rewarding pretentious but knuckleheaded tripe.

Good to see Mark Wahlberg get a Best Supporting nomination. I wrote in my American Conservative review of "The Departed:"

"The secret weapon of "The Departed" is that it can afford to relegate a sizable star, Wahlberg, to a small role, but then bring him back off the bench at the key moment. While most actors these days are the offspring of artistic types who took the Sixties a little too seriously (Damon, like many current stars, spent some of his childhood in a hippie commune), Wahlberg was a juvenile delinquent from working class Dorchester, near Southie. Hollywood typically misuses him as a generic leading man (in remakes, he has filled roles created by Cary Grant, John Wayne, Charlton Heston, and Michael Caine, none of whom Wahlberg resembles in the least). Finally, he gets to play a thuggish cop he might have grown up to be, with sensational results."

The usual anti-comedy bias is evident. Meryl Streep won a Best Actress nomination for "The Devil Wears Prada," but, then, she's always nominated (and, almost always, deserving). "Thank You for Smoking" and "The Science of Sleep" were shut out completely, not even Art Direction for Michel Gondry's marvelous "Science."

"Borat" did snag a nomination, but it wasn't for Sacha Baron Cohen's lovable performance, but for Adapted Screenplay. (Hey, wasn't this supposed to be a documentary showing us the unscripted truth about the anti-Semitism of Red State America?)

In the battle of the three talented Mexican directors, the distribution of nominations seems intentionally perverse. Alejandro González Iñárritu got the Best Director nod for "Babel," a horribly directed film. As I write in my American Conservative review:

"Dreadful as the screenplay is, the trendy direction might be worse. González Iñárritu spent a fortune to make "Babel" look like it was filmed on a cellphone. The annoyingly shiny images lack saturated color and fine detail. And the jittery handheld camera work belongs in an episode of "Cops," not in this 142-minute slog, where it induces motion sickness.

"Worse, the gratuitously chaotic editing intentionally makes the story needlessly incomprehensible to the half of the population with two digit IQs. If you cut up a picture of dogs playing poker into a jigsaw puzzle, those with the ability and obsessiveness to reassemble it successfully will feel quite pleased with themselves, but it's still just dogs playing poker."

In contrast, Alfonso Cuarón was relegated to the Best Editor category, even though his "Children of Men" was most memorable for its successful lack of editing, with single shots extending for many minutes, which would seem to be the very definition of a triumph of directing, not of editing. And Cuaron was nominated, along with a cast of thousands, for Best Adapted Screenplay, even though his script made a dopey hash of P.D. James' novel. Meanwhile, Guillermo del Toro got an Original Screenplay nod for "Pan's Labyrinth," as did most of the below-the-line talent on the film.

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

January 22, 2007

Why anti-discrimination laws make quotas inevitable

A woman reader writes:

"And while we're at it, for the record as a member of a so-called protected group (hard to argue that women constitute a minority in this country), I take great offense at the notion that standards need to be watered down for me to compete against anyone. I'm perfectly capable of competing on the only criterion that counts: performance. What I do take exception to is when people erect arbitrary "standards" that have little or nothing to do with performance in order to keep us "broads in our place"."

This points out why utterly colorblind and/or sex-blind anti-discrimination laws like the famous Civil Rights Act of 1964 inevitably lead to the state imposing racial or sexual favoritism. Most people say they are in favor of colorblindness and meritocracy; what they disagree about is not the concept of hiring the best, but in how exactly to measure who is the best. Which criteria really measure performance and which are mere "arbitrary 'standards'"? A good question -- and not an easy one to answer.

In recent years, many Republicans have been going around quoting the 1964 Act's Senate floor manager Hubert Humphrey's statement that he would personally eat the pages of the law if it brought about quotas, which of course it did starting a half decade later. The Republicans often say they want to get back to the original meaning of the act before it was perverted by bureaucrats and judges: harshly punish discrimination but not use quotas.

But, they don't understand the logic that drove those bureaucrats and judges to quotas. If you really want to wipe out discrimination, you must use quotas. If races have different talents, then even the most colorblind hiring processes will produce differential results.

For example, say that your firm mandates that it will only hire high school graduates as mechanics. This could hardly be discriminatory, right? Yet, it will have a large detrimental effect on Mexican-American applicants relative to applicants of other races. So, maybe this rule was really adopted because management dislikes Mexicans? And if it wasn't adopted to keep out Mexicans, well, maybe you didn't get rid of it because you don't like Mexicans. Or maybe the problem is that you don't like Mexicans as much as you like other people, so you were insensitive to the problems caused them by the rule.

Similarly, up-and-out career paths (e.g., make partner in a law firm by a certain age or get fired) are nominally sex-blind but in reality they cause women much greater problems than men, due to the old biological clock ticking away.

So, are these rules sexually discriminatory? Who knows what goes on inside of the heads of decision-makers? A really good novelist would have a hard time figuring out exactly what were the motivations of his own fictional characters in this case. Yet, those conservatives who favor punishing discriminators think bureaucrats can figure it out, no trouble.

In reality, enforcement comes down to whether the government is more worried about Type 1 or Type 2 errors. If the government cares more about preventing false positive findings of discrimination against an employer, it will let more examples of "real" discrimination slip by unprosecuted. But if its mandate is to prevent false negative findings in cases where a minority really was discriminated against, then it will incorrectly prosecute innocent employers.

The only logical solution to this fundamental problem with anti-bias laws is the radical one U. of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein proposed in "Forbidden Grounds" a decade and a half ago. For competitive firms, repeal anti-discrimination laws. For government agencies, police departments, unions, not-for-profits and other non-competitive employers, use quotas.

But that's not going to happen. Nobody has listened to Epstein just because he is logical. This isn't a question of logic but of whether or not you are on the side of all that is good and holy, even if it's objectively harmful and requires nonstop lying.

The reader continues:

"Let me offer this which I would immediately install if someone would name me Queen of the Universe tomorrow with full dictatorial powers:

"Recruiting standards would have to deal with the job at hand....none of this "bench press 300 lbs" when what you need is someone who can carry 100 lbs of firehose up a 30 ft ladder and hold a charged line steady on a fire. If by some miracle of God, the legendary 98 lbs weakling can perform this task consistently, why shouldn't he get a shot at the fire-fighters job? Not every fire fighter, including men, could survive the fire fighters Olympics. Some of these traditional physical standards had precious little to do with the ability to fight fires."

It's often overlooked that objective-seeming hiring standards can be used to discriminate either for or against a particular group. Fire fighter's physical fitness tests provide an excellent example of the difficulties of figuring out which standards "deal with the job at hand" and merely have "precious little to do with the ability to fight fires." Set the strength demands high enough and you can keep out virtually all women. Set the strength standards low enough and you can achieve the same level of female hiring as you could have with a blatant quota. This issue has been litigated extensively in sex discrimination suits against fire departments.

The hot button question is not who can carry 100 pounds of firehose up a ladder, but who can carry an unconscious smoke victim down a ladder. Of course, there is no absolute answer to this question since smoke victims weigh different amounts. The killer question is: how heavy of an unconscious body must a recruit be able to carry? Different people will differ on this life or death issue. For example, back when Ed Koch was mayor of New York, during one of these sex discrimination lawsuits seeking to lower strength standards, he told reporters that he favored the NY Fire Department hiring anybody, man or woman, who could carry Hizzoner's own 206 pound bulk out of a burning building.

In fact, not only will different people differ on this question, but the same person might well differ with his own previous view ... depending on how his diet is going. Three years ago, Koch's 206 pound standard struck me as a perfectly reasonable standard. At the time I was 6-4 and 195. However, it turned out the reason I was thin was I was wasting away with lymphoma. Today, I am healthy and happy and 210 pounds. Now, the thought of my dying in flaming, screaming agony because some woman firefighter can't haul my, uh, big-boned carcass out the window strikes me as repulsive. On the other hand, having a few fat slobs who weigh more than 210 pounds burn to death seems to me like a perfectly reasonable price to pay for the important goal of expanding career opportunities for women ... or at least it will until I get home and check my weight. (I had a big lunch.)

I don't believe this kind of case belongs in court. There is no absolute answer that can be arrived at through legal logic. It's a political question. Let Hizzoner decide. Women vote, and so do fat people. The political marketplace doesn't work as efficiently as the economic marketplace since it has typically has to come up with a single solution, but democracy's the best system we've got for reconciling competing interests in how the government should be run.

However, democracy requires an active press. When the news media self-censors news stories about the downsides to lowering standards to accommodate women, we have less democracy and more mediacracy. The power of working women in newsrooms lead to a major coverup of news stories about, say, the problems caused by the sexual integration of the military: e.g., plane crashes, kinder-gentler boot camps, rampant pregnancies, the state of naval wives whose husbands come back from long cruises on co-ed ships the father of some seawoman's new baby, etc.

For at least the first half of the 90's these kind of stories were only regularly available in the Moonie-funded Washington Times.

One other thing to keep in mind is that a stark quota or separate standards for separate groups can sometimes be less destructive to job performance than lowering standards for everybody. If we establish a quota saying that 10% of the Fire Department must be female, or that female applicants only have to be able to carry 125 pound people, that may well kill fewer citizens than applying the 125 pound standard to everybody regardless of sex. Under the two systems of blatant favoritism toward women, male firefighters will still have to meet the higher standard.

By the way, the outcome with the Fire Department of New York appears to have been that they hired some women to make the courts happy, but relegate them to the sidelines. Women firefighters in NYC are known to their male colleagues as "firewatchers." Thus, No New York firewomen died on 9/11. In contrast, here are the pictures of the 343 NY firemen who died that day.

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

Thought for the Day

"Property rights grow out of the barrel of a gun."

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

"Murray and Magnets"

My new Vdare .com column:

Murray and Magnets

Last week saw two events exemplifying the vast contradiction between how the American upper middle class speaks of IQ and schooling in public—and what it actually thinks in private.

The widely-reviled heretic Charles Murray published three essays in the Wall Street Journal on how we are kidding ourselves about schooling ("Half of all children are below average in intelligence, and teachers can do only so much for them"), college ("Too many Americans are going to college"), and the wisdom of the elite ("Those with superior intelligence need to learn to be wise"), and was … widely reviled for his heresy.

Meanwhile, the bourgeois parents of liberal Los Angeles were in a frenzy as last Friday's deadline for postmarking applications for magnet public schools bore down upon them.

Bob Sipchen wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

"Negligent Los Angeles parents take note: You have only until Friday to get a postmark on the magnet school application that your more responsible peers regard—rightly or wrongly—as their last desperate hope for getting their children a good education at taxpayer expense… It goes without saying that you're terrified of the local middle school, which you just assume has lousy test scores because of those tough-looking kids you see hanging out in front, presumably spreading graffiti, smack and STDs."[How to make it to a magnet By Bob Sipchen (Monday's Column, Jan. 15, 2007)]

For example, the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (SOCES) received 2939 applications last year for its 192 openings. That seven percent acceptance rate is lower than Harvard's.

The LA Times ran daily updates of the "Ask a Magnet Yenta" advice column by Sandra Tsing Loh on how to manipulate the magnet system to avoid having to send your kid to either a normal public school or a private school that can run up to $27,000. "Actually, now that there are so many Democrats in private school, the preferred term is 'independent" school,'" acidly notes Loh, who may be the only conservative performance artist in America, in her hilarious “Scandalously Informal Guide to Los Angeles Schools”.

Why does what Loh calls the "Prius-driving screenwriter" class find magnets so magnetically attractive? [More]

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


From my upcoming review in The American Conservative:

The director and the screenwriter of "Babel," the Golden Globe-winning "Best Drama" of 2006, have been feuding over who deserves credit for their trilogy of movies, which began with the Mexican "Amores Perros," followed by the American art-house melodrama "21 Grams." Is director Alejandro González Iñárritu the sole "auteur?" Or are he and writer Guillermo Arriaga the "auteurs?" Their spat culminated at Cannes, where the director banned the screenwriter from attending "Babel's" screening.

Although the screenplay is more fundamental, directors get the publicity because their jobs are harder. The writer resembles a staff general who draws up a battle plan on paper during the long years of peace, and the director a line general who must execute it in the fog of war. On the set, directors must make countless quick decisions because the budgetary burn rate sometimes exceeds $1,000 per minute.

"Babel," however, renders this debate academic because there is blame enough for both in this interminable Oscar-whoring ordeal. It's as contrived and implausible as last year's Best Picture, "Crash," but infinitely less entertaining. "Babel" is a compendium of all the mannerisms most irritating in contemporary prestige cinema.

In its scenario's portentous, tragic stupidity -- every single character in this glum epic that sprawls across three continents can be counted on to do whatever would be most moronic at the moment -- "Babel" resembles an Ingmar Bergman remake of "Idiocracy."

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