September 18, 2010

National Merit Semifinalists by School and Surname

A reader sends me press releases from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation with the names of semifinalists sorted by high schools in California, Texas, Florida, Virginia, and Indiana.

The 16,000 semifinalists nationally scored in the top 0.5% of the PSAT test. However, minimum scores to be a semifinalist vary by state, with the highest cutoffs in Massachusetts and D.C., and the lowest in Wyoming.

Looking at the California semifinalists announced in 2009, well, holy moly, there are a lot of East Asians. You wouldn't think I'd be surprised after all these years, but I still am. For example, there are 36 semifinalists with the last name of Kim and 49 named Wang. Other Asian names: Nguyen, which is now one of the 100 most common in America (12), Chang (35), Chen or Cheng (56), Tang (8), Yang (15), and Zhang (20).

There are three Guptas and three Singhs. What other common Indian names are there?

My reader, who is Jewish, points out the decline in Jewish names from our day back in the 1970s. For example, in the entire state of California, only one semifinalist has a name beginning with "Gold...". Other common Jewish names also show up only rarely among the semifinalists: Cohen (1), Levy (1), and Kaplan (1). 

So, in the state of California, there was one Cohen who was a semifinalist, but 49 Wangs. Wow.

To give some perspective, if you search at Google News, there are 14,900 press pages currently mentioning "Cohen" (e.g., Sacha Baron-Cohen) and 14,500 currently mentioning "Wang" (e.g., Vera Wang), or about 1 to 1, not 49 to 1.

According to Wikipedia, the most common surnames in the U.S. in 2000 were, among white-black names, Adams (3 semifinalists in California), Johnson (3), Williams (3), Brown (6), Jones (7), Miller (2), Davis (1),  Wilson (2), Anderson (3), Taylor (3), Thomas (1),  However, this Wikipedia list of top 100 surnames is, for unexplained reasons, missing Smith (7).

Among highbrow WASP names, there are two Clark(e)s. (People named Clark or Clarke are descended in the male line from somebody who was a clerk -- i.e., literate -- seven centuries ago. I know it sounds ridiculous, but Nathanael Weyl found Clarks over-represented in intellectual fields in the late 20th Century.) No Huntingtons or Eliots.

Among celebrity names, I see a Munger in Palo Alto -- likely a relative of billionaire Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's gray eminence.

Among common Hispanic names found in the top 100 most common names of all types in the country: Garcia (1 semifinalist), Rodriguez (0), Lopez (0), Martinez (0), Hernandez (1), Gonzalez (1), Perez (0), Sanchez (0), Ramirez (0), Torres (2 -- is that a Sephardic name, as in Dana Torres, the Jewish Olympic swimmer from Beverly Hills?), Flores (1), Rivera (0), Gomez (0), Diaz (0), Reyes (0), Cruz (0), Morales (0), and Ortiz (1).

In California, high schools with the most semifinalists include Troy in Fullerton (80), University High in Irvine (60), Lynbrook in San Jose (58), Mission San Jose in Fremont (55), Monte Vista in Cupertino (53), Harker School in San Jose (50), Torrey Pines in north San Diego (48), Harvard-Westlake in North Hollywood (42), Palo Alto (46), Henry M. Gunn in Palo Alto (42), Palos Verdes Penninsula (36), and Arcadia (31). Most of these are public schools, with the exception of Harker and Harvard-Westlake.

Basically, having a lot of semifinalists is now all about having the East Asians. For example, among famous LA schools, Beverly Hills H.S. has eight, Loyola of Los Angeles six, Marlborough of Los Angeles four, Milken of Stephen Wise Temple ten, and Windward in Santa Monica (zero). Those are excellent numbers (except for Windward, which is where movie stars traditionally sent their, uh, more artistic scions), but these five prominent schools add up to 25% of Troy H.S. in Fullerton. Fullerton?

The semifinalists at Harvard-Westlake on Coldwater Canyon are a little less than half East Asian, but, still ... the school's two campuses (the other is just off Sunset Boulevard) are at the historic center of what had been the largest, richest Jewish community in the world outside of NYC

It would be interesting to calculate a sort of GINI score of inequality by high school for semifinalists. Some of these public schools have more semifinalists per year than most public schools in California could be expected to have in a century at recent rates.

For example, in contrast to Troy H.S. with 80, the city of Los Angeles (not counting the San Fernando Valley) has a total of five public school semifinalists: two at LA H.S. for the Performing Arts, one at LACES (the top academic magnet public high school in LAUSD), and one each at Venice HS (at the beach) and one at Eagle Rock HS (next to Pasadena).I'd roughly estimate there are about 50,000 sixteen year olds within these boundaries (although lots are in private schools or have dropped out), so, 5 out of 50,000 ...

The San Fernando Valley is more reasonable with about 30 semifinalists in LA public schools (although it lags well behind the public schools of the more Asian San Gabriel Valley), but the inequality of the main LA Basin is remarkable.

Another interesting thing is to compare San Francisco to San Jose -- maybe four or five times more semifinalists in San Jose than in San Francisco.

September 17, 2010

DC Election: Blacks v. Journolistas

Courtland Milloy, the Washington Post's local (i.e., black) columnist, writes in the WaPo about veteran hack Vince Gray's defeat of press favorite Adrian Fenty for mayor of DC:
But Fenty was a cruel mayor. He inflicted deep hurts, not little boo-boos that you kiss and blow to heaven and make feel okay overnight.

Air out those wounds.

Having taken office promising to cradle the most vulnerable residents, Fenty set out almost immediately shooting the wounded. Closing homeless shelters. Forgetting about job-training programs. Firing city workers with the wave of a callous hand -- black female heads of households more often than not.

Fenty boasted of being a hard-charging, can-do mayor. But he couldn't find time to meet with 98-year-old Dorothy Height and 82-year-old Maya Angelou. Respect for elders -- that's too old school for Fenty. Dis the sistas -- his supporters will understand.

Watch them at the chic new eateries, Fenty's hip newly arrived "creative class" firing up their "social media" networks whenever he's under attack: Why should the mayor have to stop his work just to meet with some old biddies, they tweet. Who cares if the mayor is arrogant as long as he gets the job done?

Myopic little twits.

And lordy don't complain about Rhee.

She's creating a "world-class school system," they text. As for you blacks: Don't you, like, even know what's good for you? So what if Fenty reneged on his promise to strengthen the city from the inside by helping the working poor move into the middle class. Nobody cares that he has opted to import a middle class, mostly young whites who can afford to pay high rent for condos that replaced affordable apartments.

Don't ask Fenty or Rhee whom this world-class school system will serve if low-income black residents are being evicted from his world-class city in droves.

You blacks, always playing the race card. 

There's lots more where this came from.

"Drill, Baby, Drill"

Virginia Heffernan writes in the NYT Sunday Magazine:

The word “drill” has come to define bad teaching. The piercing violence that “drilling” evokes just seems not to belong in sensitive pedagogy. Good teachers don’t fire off quiz questions and catechize kids about facts. They don’t plop students at computers to drill themselves on spelling or arithmetic. Drilling seems unimaginative and antisocial. It might even be harmful.

“In educational circles, sometimes the phrase ‘drill and kill’ is used, meaning that by drilling the student, you will kill his or her motivation to learn,” explains Daniel Willingham, a University of Virginia professor of psychology who has written extensively on learning and memory. “Drilling often conjures up images of late-19th-century schoolhouses, with students singsonging state capitals in unison without much comprehension of what they have ‘learned.’” ...

Oh, those schoolhouses — with the hickory sticks and the dunce caps. “Harrisburg! Salt Lake City! Montpelier! Tralalalala!” That does sound kind of fun — I mean, authoritarian. And drilling hardly has a better reputation outside academia. On message boards, students complain bitterly about Kumon, the extracurricular Japanese system of worksheet drills that many also admit has made them superb at math. Only unsportsmanlike parents hellbent on raising valedictorians, it seems, require their kids to do such rote work. At the same time, parents dismiss cutesy, flashy apps and Web sites that drill students using elaborate animation (like PopMath for arithmetic, iFlipr for custom flashcards, Cram for custom practice tests) as superficial edutainment, on par with children’s TV. 

Willingham also approves of drilling as a way to measure what you’ve learned. “Testing yourself is really good,” he told me. “It actually leads to better learning than studying” — e.g., reading passages over and over, sometimes with a highlighter. He explained, “You can’t be proficient at some academic tasks without having certain knowledge be automatic — ‘automatic’ meaning that you don’t have to think about it, you just know what to do with it.” For knowledge that must be automatic, like multiplication tables, “you need something like drilling,” Willingham wrote. He also warned, “You’d hope to make it a little less boring for the student.”

Here’s something I’ve found that makes drilling not boring: colorful, happy apps. 

By the way, the family of the Mr. Kumon who founded Kumon in Osaka in the 1950s now owns $400 million dollars worth of Kumon stock. The funny thing about Kumon is, last I checked, it is resolutely low-tech: it was completely paper and pencil drilling. You fill in a huge workbook of problems, then you give it to the Asian lady who owns the franchise, she grades it by flipping through the pages at amazing speed, then she gives you either a higher level workbook or one of their endless supply of additional problem sets at the same level.

Computers can make this more efficient by grading tests automatically. Moreover, they can shuffle questions on the fly so if you are doing badly, the computer can lower the difficulty until you get the hang of it.

The big question is whether math drilling programs can do what a first-rate tutor can do: figure out why you are making a recurrent mistake and explain it to you in a way you'd understand. In theory, it doesn't sound impossible, but here we are, in 2010, and I've never heard of anybody in Silicon Valley getting as rich off math tutoring as Mr. Kumon did.

No comment necessary

Valerie Jarrett, longtime consigliera to Barack Obama since she hired Michelle Obama a couple of decades ago to work for Mayor Daley, op-edizes in the WaPo:
Closing the wage gap: It's a matter of survival for working families

America first put an equal-pay law on the books in 1963, when women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by a man. While this legislation was landmark at the time, its core provisions require updating if it is to fulfill its promise.

Nearly 50 years later, the wage gap has narrowed by only 18 cents. ...
In this harsh economic environment, the consequences of the pay disparity put women and their families, as well as our economy, at a significant disadvantage. We are still emerging from the deepest recession since the Great Depression. And while we have added private-sector jobs for eight straight months, we remain short of our goal of putting every American who wants a job back to work. Today, too many struggling families are still waiting to feel the benefits of economic progress.

That's why women's wages have perhaps never been more important. Women are the sole or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families. For them and their families, equal pay is not only a matter of principle; it's a matter of survival.

It is for this reason that President Obama applauds the work of the House of Representatives and strongly supports passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act in the Senate. It is common-sense legislation that will give women the tools they need to obtain equal pay for equal work. The House passed this legislation 256 to 163 in January 2009. The bill is on the Senate calendar and should come up for a vote this month. ...

It will also eliminate a loophole that some employers use to avoid paying women equal wages. Under the act, while employees will still have to prove that discrimination has taken place, employers will be required to prove in court that any wage differences were based on factors other than sex -- such as education, training or experience -- and were consistent with business necessity. The act will provide victims of sex-based pay discrimination the same remedies under the law that victims of other forms of discrimination have. ...

The Paycheck Fairness Act will also improve federal agency access to wage-related data, while protecting confidentiality. When it becomes law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will have access to important information from employers that, with time and analysis, will strengthen our ability to ensure compliance. The Labor Department will also be able to begin education and outreach efforts that will increase both employer and employee knowledge of their respective responsibilities and rights regarding equal pay.

For these reasons and more, the Paycheck Fairness Act merits swift passage. America cannot move forward, prosperous and faithful to its ideals, if the pay gap is allowed to persist for another 50 years. This act is not only good for women, it's good for working families, for business and for the American economy. 

September 16, 2010

DC voters: Adrian Fenty: Not black enough; Michelle Rhee: Extremely not black enough

From the Washington Examiner, on the Democratic mayoral primary in D.C. between the two cafe-au-lait candidates, young Obama-like incumbent Adrian Fenty and aging hack challenger Vince Gray, which turned out much like Obama's loss to Bobby Rush in the 2000 Democratic House of Representative primary.
The Democratic primary results were clear: Mayor Adrian Fenty lost because black voters didn't like him.

Granted, Fenty's campaign was troubled from start to finish. His closest advisers say he didn't listen to their calls to apologize to the public for running a brash, and closed administration months before he dropped his first apology in early August. The apology tour that ensued was far too late.

But at the end of the day, with campaign failings aside, Fenty won't have a second term because he lost a big part of his base by running a four-year race for results with blinders on that left black voters feeling as though they were being left behind. The sagging economy only served to worsen the effect.

Fenty's "lack of communication exacerbated fears of gentrification in the black community," the mayor's campaign Chairman Bill Lightfoot told The Washington Examiner.

The city's black majority wards on the east side of the Anacostia Rive helped push Fenty into office in 2006, but in 2010 they combined to give 82 percent of their vote to challenger D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray. Fenty picked up just 16 percent of the vote in Wards 7 and 8.

In the city's two whitest wards in Northwest, Fenty took in 76 percent of the vote to Gray's 23 percent.

Gray also dominated in predominantly black, yet rapidly gentrifying Ward 5, picking up nearly 76 percent of the vote. The race was closer in more racially and economically mixed Wards 4, 6 and 1.

The 2010 Democratic primary could go down as the last in which the city has a black majority. By 2014, population trends show, the District will likely have a white majority for the first time since the 1950s. In Tuesday's vote, the rapid demographic change pitted old residents, who are mostly black, against new residents, who are mostly white.

Also, Fenty's decision to make Korean-American Dragon Princess Michelle Rhee boss of the schools and the face of his administration struck the white guy national reporters as smart and sexy. But Korean-black relations aren't always so hot, as this video from LA's Koreatown in April 1992 recalls.

The Camp of the Sinners

As I wrote in in May 2004, when Romania and Bulgaria were added to the European Union, "A Gypsy is haunting Europe ..."
There are now as many as 12 million Gypsies in the world (their birthrate is far higher than that of other Europeans). A large proportion have until now been bottled up in Eastern Europe. They are in many ways the European Union's worst nightmare, even though the great and the good of the EU lack a socially acceptable vocabulary for even discussing in public their concerns about Gypsies (more fashionably known as Roma or Romani).

But, I expected Gypsy troubles in Western Europe to take a few years after 2004 to build up:
The Communists made this traditionally nomadic people more sedentary, so an immediate deluge of Gypsies moving west may not be likely. Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine that all the Gypsies will stay in drab, hostile Eastern Europe when there are so many more cash-heavy and unsuspecting pockets to pick in the fat lands of the West.

From today's NYT:
by Suzanne Daley

Roma like Maria Murariu, 62, who tends to her dying husband in a foul-smelling room no bigger than a jail cell. She has not found work in five years.

“There is not much for us in Romania,” she said recently, watching her husband sleep. “And now that we are in the European Union, we have the right to go to other countries. It is better there.”

Thousands of Romania’s Roma, also known as Gypsies, have come to a similar conclusion in recent years, heading for the relative wealth of Western Europe, and setting off a clash within the European Union over just how open its “open borders” are.

A summit meeting of European leaders on Thursday degenerated into open discord over how to handle the unwanted immigrants. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France vowed to keep dismantling immigrant camps and angrily rejected complaints from European Commission officials that the French authorities were illegally singling out Roma for deportation. ...

Expulsions seem unlikely to offer a long-term solution. Many of the deported Roma are already planning their return.

Privately, some Romanian officials snicker over the French action. “They are just giving the Roma a paid vacation,” one official said.

Still, advocates for the Roma hope that the latest conflict will force the European Union to get serious about helping the Roma, who are openly reviled in most Eastern and Central European countries where they have lived in large numbers for centuries, most often under appalling conditions.

“There is nothing to focus the minds of policy makers like an army of poor people heading your way,” said Bernard Rorke, the director of Roma Initiatives for the nonprofit Open Society Foundation. 

September 15, 2010

"The Roots of Obama's Rage"

You can read much of Dinesh D'Souza's upcoming book, The Roots of Obama's Rage, on Amazon. Just click on "Click to Look Inside!"

See if it reminds you -- a lot -- of any other book of recent years, but just sort of dumbed down and PCed up.

Obama the Yankee

With all the brouhaha over Dinesh D'Souza's Forbes article about President Obama's father, a reader comments on the most overlooked facet of the President's heritage. Consider his maternal grandfather:
... Stanley Armour Dunham, who was the son of Ralph Waldo Emerson Dunham, born in Sumner Country, Kansas. Sumner County is named after the Abolitionist senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner. Sumner county is so puritanical in origin that it was "dry" until 1986.

Of course, eventually, Stanley Dunham moved his family to Hawaii, which was civilized by missionaries described by Mark Twain as "pious; hard-working; hard-praying; self-sacrificing; hospitable; devoted to the well-being of this people and the interests of Protestantism; bigoted; puritanical; slow; ignorant of all white human nature and natural ways of men, except the remnant of these things that are left in their own class or profession; old fogy - fifty years behind the age..."

Up from Hawaii, Obama managed acceptance to Harvard Law School (college transcripts?), named after the puritan minister, John Harvard.

There seems to be a pattern developing. It's obvious that Obama's big secret, even though it's right there for everyone to see, is that Obama's a Yankee, through and through (though he does play basketball and listen to Jay-Z!).

His silence on his Yankee heritage and, instead, his complete focus on his African heritage is puzzling. Or maybe not, considering how George W Bush became a born again Texas good ol' boy. Were those just cynical moves by each man to appeal to his base or indicative of something deeper?

Obama reminds me of Charles Bon the mulatto, illegimate son of a Mississippi plantation owner in Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom." Obama actually quoted Faulkner during his big race speech following Pastor-gate, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." Hopefully the future will be better for Obama than it was for Charles Bon.

Meanwhile, I hope Steve will write more about Obama's family and the CIA. another organization that Obama shares in common with the Bush's, other Yankee elite, and Mormons (Yankees once removed.) I'm not going to hold my breathe in anticipation of D'Souza's follow up article on the story of Obama's Yankee inheritance.

That the Obama family engaged in favor-banking with the CIA is pure speculation on my part, but the more I've thought about it over the last 14 months, the less crazy it sounds.

Obama's mother and father, while on the left ideologically, may have been minor players on the American side in the Cold War. The CIA, among other American government and quasi-governmental agencies, liked to recruit non-Communist leftists of cosmopolitan / academic orientation. I'm not sure what the implications would be, but it makes Obama more interesting, and his life story makes a little more sense.

What about his mother's second husband, Lolo Soetoro? Obama writes: "With the help of his brother-in-law [a millionaire muckety-muck in the national oil company], he landed a new job in the government relations office of an American oil company." In other words, he got a great job because he knew people.

These people seem connected.

Think about the President's mother: a girl from Kansas (of solid Yankee family on her mother's side) who keeps marrying politically well-connected men from decolonized countries on the very frontlines of the Cold War in the Third World, Kenya and Indonesia. She keeps showing up at places like the East-West center in Honolulu, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, and in Pakistan. How incompetent would the CIA have to be not to notice her? (Granted, I may have just answered my own question: as bad as they gotta be.)

For example, consider this excerpt from the Wikipedia account of the President's mother's life (I've added descriptions of the various organizations in brackets):
Dunham studied at the University of Hawaii [where she met Obama Sr. in Russian class] and the East-West Center [proposed by Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1959 and signed into law by President Eisenhower as part of the Mutual Security Act] and attained a bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. in anthropology. ... To address the problem of poverty in rural villages, she created microcredit programs while working as a consultant for the United States Agency for International Development [U.S. government agency, often linked to CIA]. Dunham was also employed by the Ford Foundation [flagship of WASP elite, worked closely with the U.S. government in Indonesia after the 1965 coup] in Jakarta and she consulted with the Asian Development Bank [15% owned by the U.S. government] in Pakistan. Towards the latter part of her life, she worked with Bank Rakyat Indonesia [owned by the Indonesian government, which was run by General Suharto, victor in the 1965 coup], where she helped apply her research to the largest microfinance program in the world.[4]

That's a pretty cozy career. At every stop along the way, she likely knew people who knew people who were CIA.

Obama describes in general terms some of his mother's CIA contacts in Dreams from My Father in the chapter on his years in Indonesia [1967-1971]:
She found herself a job right away teaching English to Indonesian businessmen at the American embassy, part of the U.S. foreign aid package to developing countries. ... The Americans were mostly older men, careerists in the State Department, the occasional economist or journalist who would mysteriously disappear for months at a time, their affiliation or function in the embassy never quite clear [i.e., Obama is implying that they were CIA]. ... 

In Obama's account, his mother, a future Ph.D., hadn't paid attention to the world-historical events happening in her fiance's/husband's homeland in 1965-1966 until she heard about them from American diplomats and CIA guys at the American embassy in Jakarta:
These men knew the country, though, or parts of it anyway, the closets where the skeletons were buried. Over lunch or casual conversation they would share with her things she couldn’t learn in the published news reports. They explained how Sukarno had frayed badly the nerves of a U.S. government already obsessed with the march of communism through Indochina, what with his nationalist rhetoric and his politics of nonalignment-he was as bad as Lumumba or Nasser, only worse, given Indonesia’s strategic importance. Word was that the CIA had played a part in the [1965] coup, although nobody knew for sure. More certain was the fact that after the coup the military had swept the countryside for supposed Communist sympathizers. The death toll was anybody’s guess: a few hundred thousand, maybe; half a million. Even the smart guys at the Agency had lost count.

Innuendo, half-whispered asides; that’s how she found out that we had arrived in Djakarta less than a year after one of the more brutal and swift campaigns of suppression in modern times. ... And with each new story, she would go to Lolo in private and ask him: “Is it true?”

I dunno. It sounds very 1968 to me. More likely, Mrs. Soetoro, rather than being totally clueless about her husband's country, had an Agonizing Reappraisal during the Vietnam War.

As for Barack Obama Sr., almost certainly the CIA knew his name from that American Cold War ploy, the Tom Mboya Airlift of young African elites to America, Obama Jr. being on the first one to the U. of Hawaii.

Although he attacked from the left Tom Mboya's pro-American economic policy in his 1965 article Problems of Our Socialism, Mboya, a fellow Luo, didn't seem to hold it against him. David Horowitz's new left magazine Ramparts alleged that Mboya was on the CIA payroll. I don't know about that, but Mboya was well-funded by anti-Communist Americans such as the AFL-CIO. The Kennedy family contributed to the second Tom Mboya Airlift

In anticolonialist terms, Mboya represented the Kenyan center. President Jome Kenyatta was on the side of the British ex-masters, Mboya was in bed with the the Americans, and in the mid-1960s, the other Luo leader, Kenyan vice-president Oginga Odinga, made a deal with the Soviets for aid in return for Kenya joining the Soviet side, sending his son Raila Odinga (the current prime minister) to college in East Germany. At President Jomo Kenyatta's request, Mboya maneuvered Odinga into resigning. But with the Luo Left out of the way, Kenyatta was free to turn on the Luo Center.

Mboya mentored Obama Sr., until Mboya was assassinated by a Kikuyu gunman in front of Obama Sr.'s horrified eyes in 1969, the great crime / conspiracy in Kenyan history. Obama Jr. left this out of Dreams from My Father, but his father claimed to have been the chief witness at the trial of the hitman, who was probably hired by Kenyatta's Kikuyu associates to rub out the most obvious successor to Kenyatta. He claimed to have been persecuted until Kenyatta's death for having testified to the identify of the assassin.

In Dreams from My Father, it's apparent from certain understated details that the Obama family in Kenya hates the memory of Kenyatta.  Overtly, though, Obama's retelling (through the mouth of his half-sister Auma) is bland and leaves out the more fascinating details:

“Then things began to change. When Ruth gave birth to Mark and David, her attention shifted to them. The Old Man, he left the American [oil] company to work in the government, for the Ministry of Tourism. He may have had political ambitions, and at first he was doing well in the government. But by 1966 or 1967, the divisions in Kenya had become more serious. President Kenyatta was from the largest tribe, the Kikuyus. The Luos, the second largest tribe, began to complain that Kikuyus were getting all the best jobs. The government was full of intrigue. The vice-president, Odinga, was a Luo, and he said the government was becoming corrupt. That, instead of serving those who had fought for independence, Kenyan politicians had taken the place of the white colonials, buying up businesses and land that should be redistributed to the people. Odinga tried to start his own party, but was placed under house arrest as a Communist. Another popular Luo minister, Tom M’boya, was killed by a Kikuyu gunman. Luos began to protest in the streets, and the government police cracked down. People were killed. All this created more suspicion between the tribes. “Most of the Old Man’s friends just kept quiet and learned to live with the situation. But the Old Man began to speak up. He would tell people that tribalism was going to ruin the country and that unqualified men were taking the best jobs. His friends tried to warn him about saying such things in public, but he didn’t care. He always thought he knew what was best, you see. When he was passed up for a promotion, he complained loudly. ‘How can you be my senior,’ he would say to one of the ministers, ‘and yet I am teaching you how to do your job properly?’ Word got back to Kenyatta that the Old Man was a troublemaker, and he was called in to see the president. According to the stories, Kenyatta said to the Old Man that, because he could not keep his mouth shut, he would not work again until he had no shoes on his feet."

What's the real story? I don't know. Maybe his hard-drinking father was making up the part about being the chief witness to the Mboya slaying (which would be like being the chief witness to the JFK assassination in the U.S. in terms of undying interest in Kenya, although Mboya was more like RFK in 1968, the heir apparent).

Or maybe it really did happen, making Obama Jr. something of an heir to massacres in Indonesia and Kenya. The word "power" comes up over and over in Dreams from My Father, and Obama implies that, for him, the word has bloody connotations.

If so, that Obama then chose to devote his life to the pursuit of power frightens and impresses me.

September 14, 2010

TV Azteca or TV Conquistadora?

Well, the big news is the sexual harassment charge leveled regarding on-air reporter Inez Sainz of TV Azteca, the Mexican network, against a locker room full of naked New York Jets football players for their being verbally appreciative of how she orders her maid to run her jeans through the dryer seven times at 900 degrees centigrade. Nicholas Stix has the full story.

The TV Azteca reporter is the former Miss Spain. [Correction: She has the same name as a former Miss Spain.] Too bad. If she had been Miss Italy and she was a professor at the City University of New York, then she'd be golden.

Affirmative Action for Italian-Americans

From the New York Times, by Lisa W. Foderaro:
Of all the universities and colleges that offer protections for minorities, CUNY [City University of New York] appears to be the only one that has declared Italian-Americans an official affirmative action category in employment, promising special efforts to recruit, hire and promote them, according to national higher-education groups.

The declaration, made in 1976 and reaffirmed in later years, came after pressure from Italian-American legislators in Albany responding to complaints of bias from the faculty and staff. The lawmakers also created a research institute at the university to counsel students of Italian heritage and study “the Italian-American experience.”

Yet ever since, a group of Italian-American professors and staff members at the institute and at CUNY have been making the case that the university has failed them.

They have produced a paper mountain of manifestos, research studies and lawsuits, and exposed a deep vein of grievance in an ethnic group that has risen to prominence in fields like politics, law and medicine. Some of the dissidents have lamented that Italian-Americans are still stereotyped in popular culture as mobsters or muscle-bound buffoons; others have described an unsympathetic Italian-American administrator as an “Uncle Tony” — the equivalent of an Uncle Tom. 

What could be more surprising than to find out that giving out affirmative action preferences only generates more demands for more affirmative action preferences?

Back in 2003, I wrote:
If the government started giving out goodies to people born on Wednesdays, within a year we'd see pressure groups with names like The Children of Woe lobbying for continuation of Wednesdayians' privileges. PBS would be running Wednesday Pride documentaries during Wednesday History Month about famous Wednesdaytarians like Jimmy Carter, Bruce Lee, and Rosie O'Donnell. 

In illustration of my point, Foderaro continues:
Though CUNY vigorously denies the allegations, the critics have met with some success: Outside arbiters have largely upheld claims that Italian-Americans are underrepresented in university jobs. In a written opinion, the civil rights lawyer and federal judge Constance Baker Motley, who oversaw a settlement in 1994, called the group’s lack of progress “unconscionable given the existence of an affirmative action commitment.”

Still, for some who work in higher education, the notion of protections for Italian-Americans — at a university where 70 percent of the 262,000 full-time students are black, Latino or Asian — has prompted some head-scratching.

“In the diversity of the community that is New York City, it seems particularly unusual that Italian-Americans would be considered disadvantaged,” said Ada Meloy, general counsel of the American Council on Education. “After all, in New York we had an Italian-American governor, and we may have another one coming up.”
Having a black President, however, well, that's different! 

Joseph V. Scelsa, who was one of the institute’s first directors and led the legal fight that resulted in the settlement, said Italian-Americans had succeeded in many spheres and seemed to be well represented on the staffs of other New York-area colleges, but had long been mistreated at CUNY. 

I wonder why ... 
“There have been so many cases of discrimination that I personally know of — from not getting hired to not getting promoted to not getting tenure,” said Dr. Scelsa, who is now president of the Italian American Museum in Manhattan. “It’s so clear that there’s been no serious attempt to increase our numbers.”

The latest skirmish centers on a lawsuit filed in July in United States District Court by Vincenzo Milione, a researcher at the institute, now known as the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, in memory of the state senator who first held hearings on Italian-Americans at CUNY.

The suit says CUNY and the institute’s current director, Anthony J. Tamburri, retaliated against Dr. Milione, cutting his staff and rescinding a prestigious job title, after Dr. Milione, in 2006, made a presentation to Italian-American state lawmakers. In the presentation, Dr. Milione argued that Italian-American representation on the faculty and the staff had remained flat — between 5 percent and 6 percent — over three decades, while that of groups like blacks, Latinos and Asians had climbed.

“Did affirmative action work at CUNY?” he asked in a recent interview. “Yes. But it did not work for Italian-Americans.” The New York office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that his suit had merit.

CUNY officials said that Dr. Tamburri would not comment, but they defended the university’s record. As of last fall, they said, Italian-Americans represented about 7 percent of the full-time instructional staff of 11,000, up from 5.8 percent in 1981. While the increase was modest, it occurred while the proportion of white employees fell sharply, to 54 percent from 74 percent, as the university strove to hire blacks and Latinos.

“Were CUNY not proactively engaging in affirmative action for Italian-Americans, one would expect to see Italian-American representation in CUNY fall at the same rate as that of whites,” Jennifer S. Rubain, university dean for recruitment and diversity, said in a statement. “That has not happened.”

Like other research universities that receive federal money, CUNY must extend affirmative action hiring protections to a variety of government-designated groups, including blacks and Latinos. University officials say the Department of Labor reviews its progress periodically, but not its efforts for Italian-Americans, because those are voluntary.

The government does not allow hiring quotas for the groups it designates. But as a benchmark, employers must develop estimates of the groups’ availability in the labor pool.

Yet even agreeing on how many Italian-Americans are in that pool has proved hard for the university and its critics. Indeed, the 1994 settlement called for the appointment of an expert panel to help sort out the matter. One thorny issue was whether to include people who report Italian ancestry secondarily on the long form of the census — for example, a woman who lists herself first as Irish, then Italian.

The expert panel finally determined in 2006 that half of them should be counted.
A Solomonic decision well worth the 12 years it took to emerge.
Today, CUNY says, Italian-Americans make up 8.4 percent of the qualified candidates in the available labor pool; Dr. Milione has called that estimate low. ...

Others see the tortured history of Italian-Americans at the university as a case study in an old bit of wisdom: No good deed goes unpunished.

“The best of intentions are quickly mired in the potential for litigation and additional charges of discrimination,” said Andy Brantley, president of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. “


Obama and anticolonialism

Dinesh D'Souza has written a cover story for Forbes, "How Obama Thinks," that argues that "anticolonialism" is an important part of Obama's intellectual make-up.

D'Souza's article has just about everybody howling with rage. It's not a terribly well-done article -- D'Souza's attempts to draw straight lines between Obama's intellectual heritage and various current Obama Administration policies are often silly. Yet, the outraged response to D'Souza's piece just shows how few people out of the millions who have bought the President's memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance have actually read the book, and how many fewer have read it with the care it deserves.

Anticolonialism, especially anti-neocolonialism, is merely a subtheme in Dreams from My Father (the main theme is, not surprisingly, "race and inheritance"), but it's a totally obvious one, although everything is filtered through Obama's self-absorption. Here, for example, are some excerpts from Chapter 15 of Dreams from My Father, the first chapter about Obama's trip to Kenya in 1988:

I FLEW OUT OF HEATHROW Airport under stormy skies. .. a pale, gangly youth, still troubled with acne-took the seat beside me. 

“Nairobi’s a beautiful place, I hear. Wouldn’t mind stopping off there one of these days. Going to Johannesburg, I am.” ... “But then the rest of Africa’s falling apart now, isn’t it? Least from what I can tell. The blacks in South Africa aren’t starving to death like they do in some of these Godforsaken countries. Don’t envy them, mind you, but compared to some poor bugger in Ethiopia-” ...

I pulled out a book from my carry-on bag and tried to read. It was a portrait of several African countries written by a Western journalist [most likely The Africans by David Lamb of the Los Angeles Times] who’d spent a decade in Africa; an old Africa hand, he would be called, someone who apparently prided himself on the balanced assessment. The book’s first few chapters discussed the history of colonialism at some length: the manipulation of tribal hatreds and the caprice of colonial boundaries, the displacements, the detentions, the indignities large and small. The early heroism of independence figures like Kenyatta and Nkrumah was duly noted, their later drift toward despotism attributed at least in part to various Cold War machinations.

But by the book’s third chapter, images from the present had begun to outstrip the past. Famine, disease, the coups and countercoups led by illiterate young men wielding AK-47s like shepherd sticks-if Africa had a history, the writer seemed to say, the scale of current suffering had rendered such history meaningless.

Poor buggers. Godforsaken countries.

I set the book down, feeling a familiar anger flush through me, an anger all the more maddening for its lack of a clear target. Beside me the young Brit was snoring softly now, his glasses askew on his fin-shaped nose. Was I angry at him? I wondered. Was it his fault that, for all my education, all the theories in my possession, I had had no ready answers to the questions he’d posed? How much could I blame him for wanting to better his lot? Maybe I was just angry because of his easy familiarity with me, his assumption that I, as an American, even a black American, might naturally share in his dim view of Africa; an assumption that in his world at least marked a progress of sorts, but that for me only underscored my own uneasy status: a Westerner not entirely at home in the West, an African on his way to a land full of strangers.

I’d been feeling this way all through my stay in Europe-edgy, defensive, hesitant with strangers. I hadn’t planned it that way. I had thought of the layover there as nothing more than a whimsical detour, an opportunity to visit places I had never been before. For three weeks I had traveled alone, down one side of the continent and up the other, by bus and by train mostly, a guidebook in hand. I took tea by the Thames and watched children chase each other through the chestnut groves of Luxembourg Garden. I crossed the Plaza Mejor at high noon, with its De Chirico shadows and sparrows swirling across cobalt skies; and watched night fall over the Palatine, waiting for the first stars to appear, listening to the wind and its whispers of mortality. And by the end of the first week or so, I realized that I’d made a mistake. It wasn’t that Europe wasn’t beautiful; everything was just as I’d imagined it. It just wasn’t mine. ...

We [Obama and his half-sister Auma] wandered into the old marketplace [in Nairobi], ...  And all of this while a steady procession of black faces passed before your eyes, the round faces of babies and the chipped, worn faces of the old; beautiful faces that made me understand the transformation that Asante and other black Americans claimed to have undergone after their first visit to Africa. For a span of weeks or months, you could experience the freedom that comes from not feeling watched, the freedom of believing that your hair grows as it’s supposed to grow and that your rump sways the way a rump is supposed to sway. ... Here the world was black, and so you were just you; you could discover all those things that were unique to your life without living a lie or committing betrayal. ...

We turned onto Kimathi Street, named after one of the leaders of the Mau-Mau rebellion. I had read a book about Kimathi before leaving Chicago and remembered a photograph of him: one in a group of dreadlocked men who lived in the forest and spread secret oaths among the native population-the prototype guerrilla fighter. It was a clever costume he had chosen for himself (Kimathi and the other Mau-Mau leaders had served in British regiments in their previous lives), an image that played on all the fears of the colonial West, the same sort of fear that Nat Turner had once evoked in the antebellum South and coke-crazed muggers now evoked in the minds of whites in Chicago.

Of course, the Mau-Mau lay in Kenya’s past. Kimathi had been captured and executed. Kenyatta had been released from prison and inaugurated Kenya’s first president. He had immediately assured whites who were busy packing their bags that businesses would not be nationalized, that landholdings would be kept intact, so long as the black man controlled the apparatus of government. Kenya became the West’s most stalwart pupil in Africa, a model of stability, a useful contrast to the chaos of Uganda, the failed socialism of Tanzania. Former freedom fighters returned to their villages or joined the civil service or ran for a seat in Parliament. Kimathi became a name on a street sign, thoroughly tamed for the tourists.
I took the opportunity to study these tourists as Auma and I sat down for lunch in the outdoor cafe of the New Stanley Hotel. They were everywhere-Germans, Japanese, British, Americans-taking pictures, hailing taxis, fending off street peddlers, many of them dressed in safari suits like extras on a movie set. In Hawaii, when we were still kids, my friends and I had laughed at tourists like these, with their sunburns and their pale, skinny legs, basking in the glow of our obvious superiority. Here in Africa, though, the tourists didn’t seem so funny. I felt them as an encroachment, somehow; I found their innocence vaguely insulting. It occurred to me that in their utter lack of self-consciousness, they were expressing a freedom that neither Auma nor I could ever experience, a bedrock confidence in their own parochialism, a confidence reserved for those born into imperial cultures.

Just then I noticed an American family sit down a few tables away from us. Two of the African waiters immediately sprang into action, both of them smiling from one ear to the other. Since Auma and I hadn’t yet been served, I began to wave at the two waiters who remained standing by the kitchen, thinking they must have somehow failed to see us. For some time they managed to avoid my glance, but eventually an older man with sleepy eyes relented and brought us over two menus. His manner was resentful, though, and after several more minutes he showed no signs of ever coming back. Auma’s face began to pinch with anger, and again I waved to our waiter, who continued in his silence as he wrote down our orders. At this point, the Americans had already received their food and we still had no place settings. I overheard a young girl with a blond ponytail complain that there wasn’t any ketchup. Auma stood up. “Let’s go.”

She started heading for the exit, then suddenly turned and walked back to the waiter, who was watching us with an impassive stare. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” Auma said to him, her voice shaking. “You should be ashamed.”

The waiter replied brusquely in Swahili.

“I don’t care how many mouths you have to feed, you cannot treat your own people like dogs. Here…” Auma snapped open her purse and took out a crumpled hundred-shilling note. “You see!” she shouted. “I can pay for my own damn food.” She threw the note to the ground, then marched out onto the street. For several minutes we wandered without apparent direction, until I finally suggested we sit down on a bench beside the central post office.

“You okay?” I asked her.

She nodded. “That was stupid, throwing away money like that.” She set down her purse beside her and we watched the traffic pass. “You know, I can’t go to a club in any of these hotels if I’m with another African woman,” she said eventually. “The askaris will turn us away, thinking we are prostitutes. The same in any of these big office buildings. If you don’t work there, and you are African, they will stop you until you tell them your business. But if you’re with a German friend, then they’re all smiles. ‘Good evening, miss,’ they’ll say. ‘How are you tonight?’” Auma shook her head. “That’s why Kenya, no matter what its GNP, no matter how many things you can buy here, the rest of Africa laughs. It’s the whore of Africa, Barack. It opens its legs to anyone who can pay.”

I told Auma she was being too hard on the Kenyan, that the same sort of thing happened in Djakarta or Mexico City, just an unfortunate matter of economics. But as we started back toward the apartment, I knew my words had done nothing to soothe her bitterness. I suspected that she was right: not all the tourists in Nairobi had come for the wildlife. Some came because Kenya, without shame, offered to re-create an age when the lives of whites in foreign lands rested comfortably on the backs of the darker races; an age of innocence before Kimathi and other angry young men in Soweto or Detroit or the Mekong Delta started to lash out in street crime and revolution. In Kenya, a white man could still walk through Isak Dinesen’s home and imagine romance with a mysterious young baroness, or sip gin under the ceiling fans of the Lord Delamare Hotel and admire portraits of Hemingway smiling after a successful hunt, surrounded by grim-faced coolies. He could be served by a black man without fear or guilt, marvel at the exchange rate, and leave a generous tip; and if he felt a touch of indigestion at the sight of leprous beggars outside the hotel, he could always administer a ready tonic. Black rule has come, after all. This is their country. We’re only visitors.

Did our waiter know that black rule had come? Did it mean anything to him? Maybe once, I thought to myself. He would be old enough to remember independence, the shouts of “Uhuru!” and the raising of new flags. But such memories may seem almost fantastic to him now, distant and naive. He’s learned that the same people who controlled the land before independence still control the same land, that he still cannot eat in the restaurants or stay in the hotels that the white man has built. He sees the money of the city swirling above his head, and the technology that spits out goods from its robot mouth. If he’s ambitious he will do his best to learn the white man’s language and use the white man’s machines, trying to make ends meet the same way the computer repairman in Newark or the bus driver back in Chicago does, with alternating spurts of enthusiasm or frustration but mostly with resignation. And if you say to him that he’s serving the interests of neocolonialism or some other such thing, he will reply that yes, he will serve if that is what’s required. It is the lucky ones who serve; the unlucky ones drift into the murky tide of hustles and odd jobs; many will drown.

Then again, maybe that’s not all that the waiter is feeling. Maybe a part of him still clings to the stories of Mau-Mau, the same part of him that remembers the hush of a village night or the sound of his mother grinding corn under a stone pallet. Something in him still says that the white man’s ways are not his ways, that the objects he may use every day are not of his making. He remembers a time, a way of imagining himself, that he leaves only at his peril. He can’t escape the grip of his memories. And so he straddles two worlds, uncertain in each, always off balance, playing whichever game staves off the bottomless poverty, careful to let his anger vent itself only on those in the same condition. A voice says to him yes, changes have come, the old ways lie broken, and you must find a way as fast as you can to feed your belly and stop the white man from laughing at you.

A voice says no, you will sooner burn the earth to the ground.

... The travel agency was owned by Asians; most small businesses in Nairobi were owned by Asians. Right away, Auma had tensed up.

“You see how arrogant they are?” she had whispered as we watched a young Indian woman order her black clerks to and fro. “They call themselves Kenyans, but they want nothing to do with us. As soon as they make their money, they send it off to London or Bombay.”

Her attitude had touched a nerve. “How can you blame Asians for sending their money out of the country,” I had asked her, “after what happened in Uganda?” I had gone on to tell her about the close Indian and Pakistani friends I had back in the States, friends who had supported black causes, friends who had lent me money when I was tight and taken me into their homes when I’d had no place to stay. Auma had been unmoved.

“Ah, Barack,” she had said. “Sometimes you’re so naive.”

I looked at Auma now, her face turned toward the window. What had I expected my little lecture to accomplish? My simple formulas for Third World solidarity had little application in Kenya. Here, persons of Indian extraction were like the Chinese in Indonesia, the Koreans in the South Side of Chicago, outsiders who knew how to trade and kept to themselves, working the margins of a racial caste system, more visible and so more vulnerable to resentment. It was nobody’s fault necessarily. It was just a matter of history, an unfortunate fact of life.


From my new review in Taki's Magazine:
After the Euro-ennui of The American last week, Robert Rodriguez’s Machete sounded pretty entertaining: heroic illegal immigrants driving bouncing lowrider cars slaughter the evil white Americans holed up in a modern Alamo. Well, anything had to be better than waiting around for George Clooney to furrow his brow some more.

And Rodriguez, the junior varsity Quentin Tarantino, has a long list of sort-of-good movies to his name, such as Spy Kids and Sin City. Plus, Machete got even better reviews than The American did (72 percent thumbs up) and an enthusiastic 7.8 out of 10 rating from the fanboy raters at Internet Movie Database.

Because The American was, deservedly, the worst graded movie of the year (D-) in CinemaScore’s audience exit polls, there was much anticipatory schadenfreude among people who follow box office results that The American’s second weekend revenue would plummet. And, it did. Yet, Machete’s haul fell even faster, down 63 percent to only $4.2 million.

What happened? It’s an interesting question during a slow movie season because everybody recognizes that the gradual Mexicanization of America is a big deal statistically (there are 31 million people of Mexican origin in America). Yet few in America’s popular culture elite know much about Mexican-Americans, who may be even less common now in Hollywood than in the days of Anthony Quinn. Although there are three celebrated Mexican art house directors who moved to Hollywood after finding success in Mexico, the “Three Amigos,” the only big name filmmaker of representative Mexican-American background is Robert Rodriguez. (He’s from a San Antonio family of ten siblings.)
Rodriguez teamed up with Tarantino to make the 2007 double feature Grindhouse, an homage to bad 1970s exploitation films. Machete started out as a fake trailer in Grindhouse about a cutlass-brandishing Mexican federale who leads illegal aliens in race war against Texas whites. Neither auteur has shown much skill at directing action, but Tarantino can frame compositions and write dialogue. Rodriguez’s most notable talent is concocting ideas that build pre-release buzz among the Internet nerds who are the most vocal film fans these days.

Rodriguez put his second cousin, Danny Trejo, a 66-year-old ex-con and longtime character actor, in the title role. Trejo, who does project a certain gravitas, looks like Charles Bronson in one of his American Indian roles, if Bronson had been saddled with Edward James Olmos’s dermatologist. Why hasn’t anybody before Rodriguez been enough of a genius to dream up making an ultra-violent action movie starring a spear-carrier older than Bronson was in Death Wish IV? I mean, other than that Old Penitentiary Face Trejo can’t move around so good anymore and never could actually act much.

Read  the whole thing there and comment upon it below.

September 13, 2010

Ducks on the pond

Virginia Heffernan pointed out that the in-thing among bloggers is to "show how articles presented in earnest are actually self-parody ... setting off excerpts so they play as parody..." 

Yes, but it's getting to be like shooting fish in a barrel.

So, without further ado:
by Sam Dillon
New York Times

In many of the nation’s middle schools, black boys were nearly three times as likely to be suspended as white boys, according to a new study, which also found that black girls were suspended at four times the rate of white girls.

School authorities also suspended Hispanic and American Indian middle school students at higher rates than white students, though not at such disproportionate rates as for black children, the study found. Asian students were less likely to be suspended than whites.

The study analyzed four decades of federal Department of Education data on suspensions, with a special focus on figures from 2002 and 2006, that were drawn from 9,220 of the nation’s 16,000 public middle schools.

The study, “Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis,” was published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization.

The co-authors, Daniel J. Losen, a senior associate at the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Russell Skiba, a professor at Indiana University, said they focused on suspensions from middle schools because recent research had shown that students’ middle school experience was crucial for determining future academic success.

One recent study of 400 incarcerated high school freshmen in Baltimore found that two-thirds had been suspended at least once in middle school. 

Bill James's guilty conscience

For a few years, I've been pointing out that baseball's most sainted statistical analyst, Bill James, was completely AWOL while obvious steroid-users were piling up statistically ridiculous numbers. He'd immediately change the subject from steroids to, say, Barry Bonds using a maple bat instead of an ash one.

Now that the evidence of steroid use by most of the setters of anomalous statistics is overwhelming, he's changed tunes and is praising the cheaters in a Slate article:
Life, Liberty, and Breaking the Rules
In defense of Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, jaywalkers, and all the other scofflaws that make America great.
First of all, I have absolutely no doubt that, had steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs existed during Babe Ruth's career, Babe Ruth would not only have used them, he would have used more of them than Barry Bonds.

Let me propose a more relevant counterfactual. If Mr. James had been intellectually honest and had spoken out about steroids, as, say, Tom Boswell of the Washington Post did as early as 1988, then Mr. James would not have been hired as a senior executive of the Boston Red Sox in 2003 and capped his career by helping them win their first World Series since Babe Ruth's time in 2004. Why not? Because the Red Sox's two biggest hitters, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, were juicers.

Should intellectuals who are dishonest about the biggest issue of their time in their field because of obvious conflicts of interest be subjected to penalty of law? 


But they should be publicly shamed.

"Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?"

Here's the opening of my new column:
For decades, American economic sages, such as Larry Summers, Tom Friedman, and Alan Greenspan, have implied that manufacturing stuff was more or less obsolete—that the building blocks of the economy of the future would be cheap labor and  expensive finance. The Chinese will make everything, while Americans will get rich selling each other ever more sophisticated financial instruments.

You might ask: What about the 98 percent of Americans who aren’t cut out for working for Goldman Sachs?

Well, you see, all we have to do is fix the schools. Then everybody will work for Goldman!

The Germans, however, never got the memo. All those speeches at Davos and articles in The Economist about how expensive skilled labor is the road to ruin worried them, but didn’t convince them. Thomas Geoghegan’s entertaining new book about the triumph of the German economy, Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life, explains why the Germans have kept their files to the grindstone and how it's paid off for them. Germany exports more each year than America, despite having only 27 percent as many people. German machinery is more than competitive on the world market, even with Germany’s high wages, six-week vacations, strong unions, and workers getting half the seats on many corporate boards.

Despite having to bail out the profligate Greeks, the German economy in 2010 is expanding and unemployment dropping. Germany runs a trade surplus. And, as illustrated by the blockbuster sales in Germany of Germany Abolishes Itself [VDARE.COM note: review coming soon!], Thilo Sarrazin’s new book criticizing immigration, the self-respect of the German nation is finally coming out of the closet.

The Anglo-American mantra of low wages being “good for the economy” has provided the intellectual keystone for pro-immigration pundits in the U.S. Although Geoghegan avoids mention of immigration in America, his analysis of why the German economic dynamo keeps humming subverts by analogy the case for immigration.

Geoghegan (whose Irish Catholic surname rhymes with “Reagan”) is a political anomaly in 21st Century America: he’s a 1940s-type pro-union Democrat. Geoghegan has scratched out a career defending in court (he’s a labor union lawyer) and in print (his first book was Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flat on Its Back), the interests of the least fashionable people in America: beefy, middle-aged, working class white guys in windbreakers.

Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below.

September 12, 2010

Invite / Invade

Leon Wieseltier writes in The New Republic about America and Islam:
So: Cordoba House in New York and a Predator war in Pakistan—graciousness here and viciousness there—this should be our position.

Makes sense to me! What kind of moron would worry that anything could possibly go wrong with such a prudent, intellectually sophisticated grand strategy?