June 12, 2010

Tierney on Larry's Law

John Tierney writes in "Daring to Discuss Women in Science" in the NYT:
The House of Representatives has passed what I like to think of as Larry’s Law. The official title of this legislation is “Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering,” but nothing did more to empower its advocates than the controversy over a speech by Lawrence H. Summers when he was president of Harvard.

This proposed law, if passed by the Senate, would require the White House science adviser to oversee regular “workshops to enhance gender equity.” At the workshops, to be attended by researchers who receive federal money and by the heads of science and engineering departments at universities, participants would be given before-and-after “attitudinal surveys” and would take part in “interactive discussions or other activities that increase the awareness of the existence of gender bias.”

I’m all in favor of women fulfilling their potential in science, but I feel compelled, at the risk of being shipped off to one of these workshops, to ask a couple of questions:

1) Would it be safe during the “interactive discussions” for someone to mention the new evidence supporting Dr. Summers’s controversial hypothesis about differences in the sexes’ aptitude for math and science?

2) How could these workshops reconcile the “existence of gender bias” with careful studies that show that female scientists fare as well as, if not better than, their male counterparts in receiving academic promotions and research grants?

Each of these questions is complicated enough to warrant a column, so I’ll take them one at a time, starting this week with the issue of sex differences.

Read the whole thing.

My suspicion is that the push to get women to be, say, engineers mostly just moves women who have strong quantitative skills and orientations around, out of jobs that they'd naturally prefer and into jobs that they are less likely to find fully engaging.

Currently, we have a lot of women who are first-rate medical researchers. By spending a fortune on scholarships and the like, we could no doubt persuade some young women who are planning on becoming medical researchers to become mechanical engineers instead.

Is spending a lot of money to have fewer medical researchers a great idea?

It's like how you always hear affirmative action recruiting by elite colleges justified as if it increases the supply of elite NAM students, but when you look at it closely, it just moves them around from one elite college to another. For example, UC Berkeley flew smart NAM high school students from LA to visit Berkeley in order to increase their NAM percentages. The main goal turned out to be to propagandize the LA NAMs to attend Cal instead of UCLA! Obviously, we're all a lot better off if smart NAMs attend Cal instead of UCLA. And UCLA should, in turn, fly smart NAMs from the Bay Area down to LA to keep them from attending Cal. What could be a better use of taxpayer dollars?

June 11, 2010

What you get in trouble for is saying out loud what everybody else already figures is true

In contrast, the Vice President of the United States frequently says stuff that makes no sense, but nobody cares because it's just random gibberish. Nobody is offended because it's not true.

What gets you in trouble is when you point out that the emperor has no clothes. As Fox and Tiger pointed out, Hans Christian Anderson was all wrong: the crowd wouldn't start to laugh at the naked emperor, they'd get really, really mad at the little boy who said what they all knew.

From the Daily Mail:
'Immigrants are making our country dumber': 
Anger as board member of Germany's central bank cites 'ample statistics'

By Allan Hall

A controversial board member of Bundesbank has come under fire for claiming immigrants are making Germany ‘dumber in a simple way’.

Thilo Sarrazin told a business group in Frankfurt that people arriving in the country from Turkey, the Middle East and Africa are less educated than those from other nations.

The 65-year-old added: ‘There’s a difference in the reproduction of population groups with varying intelligence.’

In his speech this week, Mr Sarrazin, a former finance minister, cited what he called ‘ample statistics’ for proof.

He said the fact that immigrants tend to have more children than Germans - who have the lowest birthrate in Europe - meant this caused ‘a different propagation of population groups with different intelligence because parents pass their intelligence on to their children’. ...

A spokesman for a Muslim group in Berlin said; ‘He is a tired old white Christian male full of prejudice and few ideas.’  

The 2010 Bilderberg Conference

The Bilderbergers are an invitation-only group of rich and powerful people who have been getting together secretly in expensive hotels since 1954 to discuss how to make the world a better place for rich and powerful people. Not surprisingly, the Bilderbergers are the subject of much conspiracy theorizing.

In recent years, they've been overshadowed by the Davos confab, which cleverly took the opposite tack: maximize publicity. Sure, it's fun to secretly hang out with your fellow Bilderbergers, but it can be more fun to boast about your invitation to Davos. The Davos strategy is to invite journalists to lecture rich and powerful guys. The rich and powerful guys treat the journalists like peers with fascinating insights, then the journalists go home and write articles about how today's crop of rich and powerful guys are so much more wonderful than you might think.

There is less conspiracy theorizing about Davos than Bilderberg because Davos hires platoons of PR flacks to tell everybody that, yes, the people who get invited to Davos do Run the World. So that takes all the fun out of it for the conspiracy theorists.

It appears the Bilderbergers may be slowly moving in the Davos direction. (Here's Charlie Skelton's BilderBlog at the Guardian.) This year, a website called BilderbergMeetings.org has appeared. It could be a hoax or it could be the real deal. (The Guardian says one delegate confirmed it's valid.) It's certainly sober and understated enough. 

It even features a purported list of this week's participants: Niall Ferguson, Bill Gates, Donald Graham (Washington Post publisher), Richard Holbrooke, James Johnson (ex-Fannie Mae), Henry Kissinger, Henry Kravis, John Micklethwait (editor of The Economist), Peter Orszag (OMB), Richard Perle, Charlie Rose, Robert Rubin, Erich Schmidt of Google, Larry Summers, Paul Volcker, Jose Zapatero (PM of Spain), Bob Zoellick (World Bank), and a whole bunch of CEOs. Last year's guests included Max Boot, Vernon Jordan, David Rockefeller, and Paul Wolfowitz.

Sounds kind of dull.

The two years' worth of attendees would be a useful source for a study of the characteristics of the Trans-Atlantic elite.

That the Bilderbergers feel they need the insights of Max Boot and Charlie Rose reminds me of Greg Cochran's insight: There is no Inner Party. There's no Mustapha Mond who understands how it all works. At the end of 1984 [spoiler alert!] O'Brien of the evil Inner Party gives poor Winston Smith of the Outer Party a lecture explaining how the whole system works, just as at the end of Brave New World, Mond explains to the main characters how and why he and his fellow World Controllers control the world.

On a fashion note, the Guardian's series of 19 photos of big shots arriving suggests that the Obama Look -- a suit or a sports jacket and a dress shirt, but without a necktie -- has become the Bilderberg standard, unless you are an old coot like Volcker.

June 10, 2010

Turkish-Israeli Foreign Relations Explained

Many have wondered why the Netanyahu government of Israel has chosen a course so irritating to Israel's longtime ally, Turkey. After all, it shouldn't be terribly hard to keep Middle Eastern Muslims from uniting over how much they all hate you when they already hate each other so much. (The Ottomans, for example, managed to hang on in control in that region for hundreds of years after they had declined into indolence.)

Here's a brief quote that caught my eye this week. It's over the top, but helpful in gaining perspective on the news. It's from The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, a 2007 best-selling novel set in an alternate history in which European Jews found refuge in the 1940s not in Palestine, but in Alaska. The hero, a Sitka police detective named Meyer Landsman, decides to do something he's reluctant to do:
Just to spite himself, because spiting himself, spiting others, spiting the world is the pastime and only patrimony of Landsman and his people. 

Lesbian Eugenics Questioned

David Friedman has read the study trumpeted yesterday in the press as proving that children of lesbians are better adjusted than children of heterosexual couples:
Questionnaires went, at various points in the study, to both mothers and children. But the conclusion about how well adjusted the children were was based entirely on the reports of their mothers. A more accurate, if less punchy, headline would have read: "Lesbian Mothers Think Better of Their Kids than Heterosexual Mothers Do."

A reader writes:
Do you sense a double standard here? You have a study funded by gay activist groups and conducted by a lesbian activist who is married to another lesbian activist. It fails to control for some rather obvious important variables -- an omission that would be expected to skew the results in the favored direction -- and its results are trumpeted by CNN and Time, among others. Studies finding racial differences in intelligence, no matter how well respected and disinterested the investigator and no matter how well-designed the study, are routinely ignored or treated as superstition. Moreover, the mere identification of a funding source (Pioneer Fund) is enough to completely discredit the studies.

Well, yes, but lesbian pressure groups are, by definition, Good, while the Pioneer Fund is, by definition, Bad. So that's all anybody needs to know: Who? Whom? What are you, some kind of troublemaker?

More on Jewish genetics

Nicholas Wade of the NYT lucidly describes some of the results from the two new Jewish genetics study (one of which you can read here):
The shared genetic elements suggest that members of any Jewish community are related to one another as closely as are fourth or fifth cousins in a large population, which is about 10 times higher than the relationship between two people chosen at random off the streets of New York City, Dr. Atzmon said. 

Race is all about who your relatives are, and, not coincidentally, answers to the question of who you are related to turn out to be unavoidably relativistic.

Unfortunately, human beings don't deal well cognitively with things that are inherently relative. People are good at noticing that A is more likely than B, but they aren't good at formally reasoning about this relativistic comparison. Some will say that A is always true, while others will smugly attempt to disprove that "A is more likely than B" by pointing out exceptions in which B is true, as if the exception disproves the tendency.
Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews have roughly 30 percent European ancestry, with most of the rest from the Middle East, the two surveys find. The two communities seem very similar to each other genetically, which is unexpected because they have been separated for so long.

One explanation is that they come from the same Jewish source population in Europe. The Atzmon-Ostrer team found that the genomic signature of Ashkenazim and Sephardim was very similar to that of Italian Jews, suggesting that an ancient population in northern Italy of Jews intermarried with Italians could have been the common origin. The Ashkenazim first appear in Northern Europe around A.D. 800, but historians suspect that they arrived there from Italy.

June 9, 2010

U.S. World Cup soccer team demographics

Corrected: There are 23 players on the U.S. World Cup soccer team. Allocating partial shares by parent's ancestry (e.g., Jonathan Bornstein is half white and half Hispanic), by my calculations, the team is 57% non-Hispanic white (13.0 players), 33% black (7.5), and 11% Hispanic (2.5).

This is pretty similar to the demographics of the squad in 2006. I think there were about 2.5 Hispanics and 6 blacks. So, the USA team has been getting blacker but not more Hispanic. Hispanics have been underrepresented on the last two World Cup teams versus their share of the U.S. population, which is pretty interesting.

Blacks are quite heavily represented, considering how few African-Americans show much interest in soccer. Of the 7.5 blacks, two have African last names, one is of Haitian descent, two have ancestors from Trinidad, and another from Jamaica.

The foreign-born make up 9% (2), which is less than I expected. All four players who have whole or part Hispanic background are American-born. The immigrants are a Scotsman and a half-Jewish Brazilian. More than a few players appear to have foreign-born parents.


- I'm counting the son of Haitians as black, not Hispanic (I assume that Hispanic has to have something to do with Spain).

- I'm counting the guy born in Rio de Janeiro, Benny Feilhaber, who has a Jewish father from Europe and a Brazilian mother, as non-Hispanic white on the grounds that Brazil is not a Spanish-speaking culture.

- I have Clint Dempsey down as unmixed white because that's what he's implied to be in articles, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's not exactly true.

By the way, here's an excerpt from my 2006 American Conservative article on the World Cup, "One People, One World, One Sport:"
Soccer is by no means a bad sport to play. It’s fun, good exercise, cheap, and, unlike basketball or football, it doesn’t help to be 7-feet tall or 300 pounds. In fact, soccer shares many virtues with hiking, but there are no hiking hooligans and nobody calls you a nativist boor if you don’t watch Sweden v. Paraguay on TV in the World Hiking Cup.

The American professional classes have learned that soccer is a terrific game for small children. In comparison, tee-ball generates farce, while Little League baseball inflicts humiliation on rightfielders who drop fly balls, strike out, and get picked off. (Not that I’m bitter or anything.) Via random Brownian motion, a soccer team of tykes is almost guaranteed to stumble into a few goals. (That’s why college robot-building competitions typically feature soccer matches.) When my five-year-old would trot off the field after one of his AYSO games, which he spent discussing the Power Rangers with his opponents while occasionally swiping at the ball as it rolled past, he’d brightly inquire, “Did we win? How many goals did I score?”

To us Americans, a kids’ soccer game doesn’t look all that different from the endlessly ineffectual endeavors of the scoreless 1994 Brazil-Italy World Cup final in the Rose Bowl. Similarly, because we can’t recognize quality soccer, we’re as happy to root for our women as our men. We were ecstatic over America’s victory in the 1999 Women’s World Cup of soccer. We’d beaten the world! When cynics pointed out that the world, other than China and Norway, doesn’t much care about women’s soccer, well, that just made us even prouder of how liberated our women are, compared to those poor, oppressed women of Paris, Milan, and London, whose consciousnesses haven’t been raised enough to want to trade in their Manolo Blahniks for soccer spikes.

Some things never change

Former New Republic editor Peter Beinart has gotten a lot of publicity for "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment," which claims that young American Jews are less obsessed with Israel than old American Jews, and that that marks a profound generational shift which will have far reaching consequence.


But, first, having a Republican-allied government in power in Israel has recurrently been off-putting for American Jews, most of whom are Democrats.

Seond, and more importantly: I'm older than Beinart, and in my recollection, what he's noticing now has been observable for a long time. It seems as if Jews tend to get more obsessed with Israel the older they get. 

Jack Shafer writes in Slate:
For a more rigorous critique of Beinart's views on young American Jews, see a recent piece in Tablet in which academics Theodore Sasson and Leonard Saxe accuse him of misreading the data. They write:
Moreover, as we pointed out in our published response to the original Cohen-Kelman report, younger Jews have reported lower levels of attachment to Israel in most surveys going back as far as there are data to analyze. Younger Jews were less attached to Israel in the National Jewish Population Surveys of 2000 and 1990. They were less attached in the AJC surveys going back to the mid-1980s. If, in fact, young Jews are always less attached than older Jews, then the differences in age groups are likely related to lifecycle rather than generation. As Jews age, they become more attached to Israel. In other words, the younger Jews who reported a middling level of attachment to Israel in the mid-1980s grew up to become today's over 60 group, which reports a high level of attachment.

This tendency toward increased ethnocentrism among Jews as they age is an old one. For example, Paul Johnson wrote in A History of the Jews about the great early 19th Century German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, "Like thousands of brilliant Jews before, and since, he came to associate the Hellenic spirit of intellectual adventure with health and strength, while age and pain turned him to the simplicities of faith." 

But there's something else going on, as well. When you are young and want to make your mark on the world, you want to break free from the shackles of tradition. In contrast, when you are old, ethnocentrism becomes a favored strategy for preserving your mark on the world after your death.

Lesbian Eugenics Vindicated

From CNN:
A nearly 25-year study concluded that children raised in lesbian households were psychologically well-adjusted and had fewer behavioral problems than their peers.

The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, followed 78 lesbian couples who conceived through sperm donations and assessed their children's well-being through a series of questionnaires and interviews.

Funding for the research came from several lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy groups, such as the Gill Foundation and the Lesbian Health Fund from the Gay Lesbian Medical Association.

Gartrell started the study in 1986. She recruited subjects through announcements in bookstores, lesbian events and newspapers throughout metro Boston, Massachusetts; San Francisco, California, and Washington. ...

This data was compared with data from children of nonlesbian families.

I presume that a control group wasn't recruited from heterosexuals under the same conditions, but data was just copied from, say, somebody else's nationally representative data.

Okay, so the lesbian mothers were recruited in three of the best educated, most upscale cities in the country at, among other places, bookstores. (I spend a lot of time in bookstores, and the children who come in with their moms look exceedingly well adjusted.) The biological fathers were eugenically chosen in cold blood by the mothers to produce ideal children (i.e., the fathers were less likely to be sexy bad boys than in heterosexual unions).

I'm shocked, shocked that a study like this would come up with these findings.

June 8, 2010


You often hear that immigration just means that California is being repopulated by its rightful owners, so it's interesting to note how minimal Spanish / Mexican settlement of California actually had been. A reader points out that, as far as he can tell, 1910 marks the earliest Census Bureau estimate for "white population of Mexican origin." In California in 1910, only 48,391 people fell into that category, just 2.1 percent of the total population of California. In contrast, they comprised 7.0 percent of the population of Texas in 1910.

California's Hispanic tradition was enthusiastically amplified by romantic Anglos from Helen Hunt Jackson's 1884 novel Ramona onward. For example, Zorro, the comic book superhero Californio, was invented by Johnston McCulley in 1919. The restoration of the 21 California missions was paid for by William Randolph Hearst.


From my review in Taki's Magazine:
Micmacs is an extravagantly ambitious blend of Charlie Chaplin’s silent City Lights and Modern Times, Jacques Tati’s clever but impersonal visual comedies, and Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 caper flicks. It is Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s first movie since his two hits starring Audrey Tautou: the whimsical Amélie and the impressive romantic drama A Very Long Engagement.

Jeunet’s last three films are pervaded by an exaltation of the pleasures of Frenchness. Amélie, the story of a shy, kind-hearted waitress who contrives elaborate plots to make life happier for her neighbors, became France’s biggest global smash, in part because Jeunet conjured up an idyllic, nostalgic Montmartre neighborhood as adorable as his star.

The Communist Party newspaper L’Humanité called Amélie fascist for aesthetically cleansing Paris of its countless immigrants, but diversity sells better in rhetoric than at the box office. Audiences around the world would rather dream of the Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec or of Edith Piaf than the 21st Century megalopolis of bored suburban youths nightly setting cars on fire. Thus, Japanese tourists make pilgrimages to Amélie’s locations. (Overly susceptible Japanese visitors can come down with “Paris Syndrome” when their infatuated anticipations collide with Gallic brusqueness; the Japanese embassy repatriates them under medical supervision.)

Not all Americans, of course, like the French. Historically, Franco-American love-hate feelings have been the classic example of the Ben Franklin Effect: “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.” After Ben talked the French government into bankrupting itself fighting Britain for our independence, the French loved us. (Witness their gift, the Statue of Liberty.) After we bailed them out in WWI, our Lost Generation loved them. By the time we rescued them again in 1944, they were resenting our generosity. Eventually, we started calling them cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

Deep down, though, we envy the French their cheese-eating quality of life. 

Read the rest there and comment upon it below.

Finding fashion models in Brazil

Here's a mildly interesting video on some guy who recruits aspiring fashion models in Brazil. He only looks in the southernmost province.
Before setting out in a pink S.U.V. to comb the schoolyards and shopping malls of southern Brazil, Alisson Chornak studies books, maps and Web sites to understand how the towns were colonized and how European their residents might look today.

The goal, he and other model scouts say, is to find the right genetic cocktail of German and Italian ancestry, perhaps with some Russian or other Slavic blood thrown in. Such a mix, they say, helps produce the tall, thin girls with straight hair, fair skin and light eyes that Brazil exports to the runways of New York, Milan and Paris with stunning success.

"I researched the genetic makeup of the city on the Internet." He said he likes small towns because they keep the Italian/German genetic make-up "more concentrated."

June 7, 2010

Michael Chabon on Power Pop

Here's a nice bit from novelist Michael Chabon's review of a compilation album from the American early 1970s power pop band Big Star, whose singer Alex Chilton died recently. "Power pop" is a term coined by Pete Townshend of the Who in 1967 to denote their early Beatles-influenced hit singles like Can't Explain and The Kids Are Alright: big, jangly electric guitars, melodic hooks, supporting vocal harmonies, and a fast backbeat. On paper, it always sounded like a surefire winner as a genre that would appeal to both sexes. After 1970, however, that seldom worked out as planned, and power pop became largely a nerd niche:
Finally, power pop at its purest is the music of hit records that miss. Pick up any of Not Lame’s International Pop Overthrow collections, or the numerous sets that Rhino has issued over the years—Shake Some Action and Come Out and Play, or the three volumes of Poptopia—and you will find that from about 1970, when Badfinger released the first true power-pop record, “No Matter What” (which admittedly went to #8 on the U.S. chart), an astonishing amount of effort and genius and chops has been expended by the practitioners of power pop to create a large number of equally well-crafted, tightly played, buoyant-yet-wrenching surefire hit songs that went nowhere, moved no units, never made it out of the band’s hometown, or came heartbreakingly close to Hugeness before sinking, like The Records’ “Starry Eyes” or Bram Tchaikovsky’s “Girl of My Dreams,” back into the obscurity that is the characteristic fate of all great power pop.

That's largely true. Consider the song Chabon cites as the genre's most perfect representative -- Big Star's 1974 single "September Gurls." I had never heard it until today, although I would have loved it had I heard it in 1979. I saw Bram Tchaikovsky in Houston in 1979 or 1980 and I couldn't understand why they were being played only on Rice U.'s 50 watt radio station instead of on a 50,000 watt AM Top 40 powerhouse. 

On the other hand, there's also a selection effect. Popular pop bands can't be power pop. The Cars, for example, were immediate hits (here's 1979's "My Best Friend's Girl") so they don't figure in power pop's tragic mythology. In real life, unlike in his songs, Cars lead singer Ric Ocasek always got the girl, having six sons by his three wives, the last of whom, Paulina Porizkova, was the first of the Slavic supermodels.

The surest test of a selection effect is how Cheap Trick went from power pop loser legends to just another big time rock band over the course of 1978. Cheap Trick's 1977 album In Color was praised in the press as a power pop classic for about a year because it was this wonderfully commercial record that nobody bought. In the fall of 1978, I went with some Rice friends to see Cheap Trick open for Foreigner at a Houston hockey rink. We got bored with Foreigner, and as we were walking out through the parking lot, we ran into Cheap Trick's drummer Bun E. Carlos looking for his car, alone. We told him him how great he was and he was very gracious. He told us to look out for their upcoming live album on import vinyl from Japan. 

I tried to sound optimistic about its fate as I promised him I'd buy it, but I felt sad for Cheap Trick. They were this hugely entertaining band with a sound that, in theory, ought to appeal to tens of millions of people; but almost nobody cared, and they were reduced to telling Rice geeks in a parking lot to keep an eye out for their import album from Japan. It was sad. But, it was also cool, because me and my friends knew Cheap Trick were this great power pop band, and the fewer people who realized that, the cooler it was (for us, not for them.)

A few weeks later, Cheap Trick at Budokan showed up in Houston's underground record collector store. It was this insane, almost unlistenable LP of pubescent Japanese girls screaming over the top of Cheap Trick, like the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

And ... Budokan quickly became a gigantic hit all across America. Cheap Trick then returned with the studio version of their greatest song, "Surrender," and headlined hockey rinks for a number of years. 

But, selling 20,000,000 albums meant Cheap Trick couldn't be in the power pop pantheon of futility anymore, so Chabon leaves them out of his retrospective.

Michael Chabon on Jewish IQ

My new VDARE.com column is a response to an essay by novelist Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, on Jewish intelligence. Here are a few excerpts from Chabon's eloquent Chosen, but not Special:
“GAZA Flotilla Drives Israel Into a Sea of Stupidity” declared the Israeli daily Haaretz on Monday, as though announcing the discovery of some hitherto unknown body of water. Citizens of other nations have long since resigned themselves, of course, to sailing those crowded waters, but for Israelis — and, indeed, for Jews everywhere — this felt like headline news.

Regardless of whether we chose in the end to condemn or to defend the botched raid on the Mavi Marmara, for Jews the first reaction was shock, confusion, as we tried to get our heads around what appeared to be an unprecedented display of blockheadedness. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic cast his startled regard back along the length of Jewish history looking for a parallel example of arrant stupidity and found, instead, what Jews around the world have long been accustomed to find in contemplating ourselves and that history: an inborn, half-legendary agility of intellect, amounting almost to a magical power.

“There is a word in Yiddish, seichel, which means wisdom, but it also means more than that: It connotes ingenuity, creativity, subtlety, nuance,” Mr. Goldberg wrote. “Jews have always needed seichel to survive in this world; a person in possession of a yiddishe kop, a ‘Jewish head,’ is someone who has seichel, someone who looks for a clever way out of problems, someone who understands that the most direct way — blunt force, for instance — often represents the least elegant solution, a person who can foresee consequences of his actions.”

This is nonsense, of course — nonsense to which, I hasten to assure Mr. Goldberg, I have always avidly subscribed. In the aggregate, Jews may or may not be smarter than other groups, but the evidence in favor of granting some kind of inherent or culturally determined supernatural abilities of seichel to the yiddishe kop certainly cannot be found in our history, which is littered as thickly with the individual and collective acts of blockheads as that of any other nation or people or tribe.

... As a Jewish child I was regularly instructed, both subtly and openly, that Jews, the people of Maimonides, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk and Meyer Lansky, were on the whole smarter, cleverer, more brilliant, more astute than other people. And, duly, I would look around the Passover table, say, at the members of my family, and remark on the presence of a number of highly intelligent, quick-witted, shrewd, well-educated people filled to bursting with information, explanations and opinions on a diverse range of topics. In my tractable and vainglorious eagerness to confirm the People of Einstein theory, my gaze would skip right over — God love them — any counterexamples present at that year’s Seder.

This is why, to a Jew, it always comes as a shock to encounter stupid Jews. Philip Roth derived a major theme of “Goodbye, Columbus” from the uncanny experience. The shock comes not because we have never encountered any stupid Jews before — Jews are stupid in roughly the same proportion as all the world’s people — but simply because from an early age we have been trained, implicitly and explicitly, to ignore them. ...

It was this endlessly repeated yet never remembered shock of encountering our own stupidity as a people — stupidity now enacted by the elite military arm of a nation whose history we have long written, in our accustomed way, by pushing to the endnotes all counterexamples to the myth of seichel — that one heard filtering through so much of the initial response among Jews to the raid on the Mavi Marmara.

This sense of widespread shock at Israel’s blockheadedness in the aftermath of the raid seemed not to be confined, in fact, to Jews. Even Israel’s sternest critics will concede that the Jewish state knows how to go about the business of survival in a hostile world with intelligence, ingenuity, creativity, flexibility and preternatural control over the levers of chance and diplomacy (not to mention the global economic system and the news media).

Indeed anti-Semites and the enemies of Israel have often been found among the most devout believers in the myth of seichel, of a special — O.K., a diabolical — Jewish intelligence.

For we Jews are not, it turns out, entirely comfortable living with the consequences of this myth, as becomes clear from the squirming and throat-clearing that take place among us whenever some non-Jew pipes up with his own observations about how clever and smart we are in our yiddishe kops. These include people like the political scientist Charles Murray, author of an influential essay titled “Jewish Genius,” or Kevin B. MacDonald, a psychology professor at California State University at Long Beach who argues that Jews essentially undertook a centuries-long program of self-breeding, selecting for traits of intelligence, guile and skill at calculation, as a kind of evolutionary adaptation to the buffetings of history and exile.

Such claims, in mouths of gentiles, are a disturbing echo of the charges of the pogrom-stokers, the genocidalists, the Father Coughlins, who come to sharpen their knives against the same grindstone of generalization on which we Jews have long polished the magnifying lenses of our self-regard. The man who praises you for your history of accomplishment may someday seek therein the grounds for your destruction.

This is, of course, the foundational ambiguity of Judaism and Jewish identity: the idea of chosenness, of exceptionalism, of the treasure that is a curse, the blessing that is a burden, of the setting apart that may presage redemption or extermination. To be chosen has been, all too often in our history, to be culled.

You can read my response here.

June 6, 2010

Texas Cities: Not Trustatopias

From the Houston Chronicle on Texas public school enrollment trends:
Perhaps the most stunning statistic when it comes to school enrollment is the number of children from low income families. That number has increased by 893,055 over the past 10 years - exceeding the overall student enrollment growth.

That's a 46% increase in low income students in just a decade. In contrast, the number of non-low income public school students fell 2%. And that's in Texas, one of the leaders in affordable family formation. Oh, dear ...

Low incomes students now make up 59% of the total public school students in Texas.

Also, Limited English Proficiency students were up 47%.

That growth of low income and LEP students is driven in large part by Hispanics being up 49%.

In Texas, we aren't seeing the Trustafarian Exception, where wealthy whites have been increasing their share of the population of elite cities like New York and D.C. In contrast, white students in Texas were down 6% in absolute numbers. As a share of all students, whites collapsed from 43% to 33% in one decade.
The number of white children attending public schools is declining all across Texas. White children now make up less than 8 percent of the total enollment in the Houston ISD and less than 5 percent of the Dallas ISD enrollment.  

The Trustafarian Exception

California's white population has declined since 2000 at an unprecedented rate, hastening the day when Hispanics will be the state's largest population group, according to newly released state figures.

There were half a million fewer whites in California in 2008 than in 2000, a period when the state's overall population grew by 4 million to 38.1 million, according to a study released Thursday by the state Department of Finance.

By 2008, whites made up 40 percent of Californians, down from 47 percent at the turn of the century. In 2000, Hispanics comprised 32 percent of the population; that number grew to 37 percent in 2008.

...Most Bay Area counties reflected the state's shifting numbers - Alameda County, for example, dropped from 41 percent white to 36 percent - while showing spikes in Hispanic, Asian and multirace categories.

Yet, San Francisco's racial mix remained consistent. Forty-four percent of the city was white in 2008, 30 percent was Asian and 14 percent was Hispanic, just as it was in 2000. Only the city's African American population showed a slight decline, from 7 percent to 6 percent.

This has become a common pattern: in elite cities like San Francisco, Manhattan, or Northwest D.C., the "trustatopias," the white share of the population is stable or growing, while the American-born black population is declining due to imprisonment, demolition of housing projects and replacement with Section 8 vouchers that go farther in dumpy towns, higher rents, and job competition from immigrants. What's not to like if you are a trust funder? For example, the white share of the D.C. population grew from 23% to 28% over seven years. Manhattan has enjoyed a white baby boom in recent years. Due to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, which had been down and out for decades, is returning to being a very nice place for rich white people to congregate. (Notice that Brad Pitt intends to settle there permanently if he can only get Angelina Jolie to calm down.)

"So," the top white people ask each other, "What are all those losers out in Nowheresville whining about? Obviously, they are just racists."