May 21, 2011

The impact of higher education

Two of the world's most famous living writers are named Tom: Tom Wolfe and Tom Stoppard.

Although they work in different branches of literature and are from different countries, they are surprisingly similar. Both were born in the 1930s, both started their working lives as newspaper reporters, both made dazzling breakthroughs into fame in the mid-1960s (Wolfe with The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby, Stoppard with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead), both are fairly conservative politically, both were substantially influenced by Evelyn Waugh, both have kept basically the same trademark look since the 1960s (white suit v. Rolling Stones hairdo), both are dandies who spend a lot of money on their clothes and furnishings, and both have enjoyed quite long and successful careers. The personality differences between them in their writing style are subtle: Wolfe is more satirical, Stoppard more parodical.

So, they make a fun and fair comparison for this question: Judging from their published works, can you guess which one never attended a day of college and which one earned a doctorate from a world-famous university? Which one's Dr. Tom?

May 20, 2011

It's AIPAC Policy Conference time

The annual American Israel Political Action Committee policy conference starts Sunday in Washington D.C. Here's AIPAC's promotional video:

In a 2005 Washington Post column, "AIPAC's Big, Bigger, Biggest Moment," Dana Milbank wrote:
How much clout does AIPAC have? 
Well, consider that during the pro-Israel lobby's annual conference yesterday, a fleet of police cars, sirens wailing, blocked intersections and formed a motorcade to escort buses carrying its conventioneers -- to lunch. 
The annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has long produced a massive show of bipartisan pandering, as lawmakers praise the well-financed and well-connected group. But this has been a rough year for AIPAC -- it has dismissed its policy director and another employee while the FBI examines whether they passed classified U.S. information to Israel -- and the organization is eager to show how big it is.... 
Another fact sheet announced that this is the "largest ever" conference, with its 5,000 participants attending "the largest annual seated dinner in Washington" joined by "more members of Congress than almost any other event, except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address." The group added that its membership "has nearly doubled" over four years to 100,000 and that the National Journal calls it "one of the top four most effective lobbying organizations." 
"More," "most," "largest," "top": The superlatives continued, and deliberately. In his speech Sunday, the group's executive director, Howard Kohr, said the "record attendance" at the conference would dispel questions about AIPAC raised by the FBI investigation.
"This is a test, a test of our collective resolve," Kohr said of the "unique challenge" presented by the FBI probe, "and your presence here today sends a message to every adversary of Israel, AIPAC and the Jewish community that we are here, and here to stay." (The official text has two exclamation points after that sentence.) Kohr, without mentioning the fired staffers, told participants that "neither AIPAC nor any of its current employees is or ever has been the target."

Unlike the puny turnout of 5,000 delegates a half dozen years ago, AIPAC is expecting 10,000 delegates this year.

Here's a 2011 speaker's list:

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States

The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister, State of Israel

The Honorable John Boehner (R-OH)
Speaker of the House, U.S. House of Representatives

The Honorable Harry Reid (D-NV)
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate

The Honorable Robert Casey (D-PA)
U.S. Senate

The Honorable John Thune (R-SD)
U.S. Senate

The Honorable Eric Cantor (R-VA)
Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives

The Honorable Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
Democratic Whip, U.S. House of Representatives

Mr. Jim Woolsey
Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency

The Honorable Martin Indyk
Vice President for Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution; Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Mr. Dan Senor
Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Mr. Paul Begala
Democratic Political Analyst and CNN Contributor

Mr. Ralph Reed
President, Century Strategies

Wouldn't it be simpler if American Jews just had a college football team to root for, the way American Catholics had the Notre Dame Fighting Irish?

It never ends

The front-and-center featured article on the NYT today reports that "by the time the children of illegal immigrants reached age 2, they showed significantly lower levels of language and cognitive development than the children of legal immigrants and native-born parents." 
Illegal Immigrants' Children Suffer, Study Finds
Published: May 21, 2011 
... Indeed, a recently published study of the early development of children born to illegal immigrants in New York City suggests that most stories that begin like Eulogia's do not end as well. 
Even though the children have citizenship and live in an immigrant-friendly city that offers them a wide array of services, many are still hobbled by serious developmental and educational deficits resulting from their parents' lives in the shadows, according to the study, whose author says it is the most comprehensive look to date at the effects of parents' immigration status on young children. 
"The undocumented are viewed in current policy debates as lawbreakers, laborers or victims - seldom as parents raising citizen children," wrote the author, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, a Harvard education professor who has published the study as a book, "Immigrants Raising Citizens" (Russell Sage Foundation, 2011). 
Professor Yoshikawa found that by the time the children of illegal immigrants reached age 2, they showed significantly lower levels of language and cognitive development than the children of legal immigrants and native-born parents. 

Since age 2 is the first point when you can test language and it's near the lower boundary of when you can test cognitive development in general, I'd say: that's bad, really bad. Translated into Occam-speak, what the NYT is reporting is: At the earliest point at which we can test, illegal immigrants' children are less intelligent on average.
"Millions of the youngest citizens in the United States, simply by virtue of being born to a parent with a particular legal status, have less access to the learning opportunities that are the building blocks of adult productivity," he wrote. ... 

Let's reread the crucial clause: "simply by virtue of being born to a parent with a particular legal status." Uh, no.
Poor cognitive development can lead to lower school performance, which in turn can lead to higher dropout rates, an undertrained work force and lower economic productivity. 


Therefore,  the article suggests, the appropriate response to the relative stupidity of the children of illegal immigrants is granting their parents amnesty.

There's a second cognitive problem that goes unmentioned in this article, but one that might be even more threatening to America's future. A close reading of most illegal immigration-related articles in the New York Times over the last decade reveals that the topic of illegal immigration make the New York Times stupider. 

Panhandling 2

There were some very generous donations during the first day of my spring fundraising drive. I thank all the donors.  If you haven't donated yet during this drive, please consider it.

You can send me an email and I'll send you my P.O. Box address.

Or, you can use Paypal to send me money directly. Use any credit card or your Paypal account. To get started, just click on the orange Paypal "Donate" button on the top of the column to the right.

When that takes you to Paypal, if you want to use your Paypal account, fill in your Paypal ID and password on the lower right of the screen.

Or, if you want to use your credit card, fill in your credit card info on the lower left part of the screen by clicking on the word "Continue" in the lower center/left.


Reconquista founding father: Jeb, Arnold, or Mel?

Consider three family names that are somewhat tarnished at present: Bush, Schwarzenegger, and Gibson. Yet, they all have a chance to return to fame and power in the next generation due to the ongoing changes in the electorate. We live in an age in which surnames serve as brand names in politics, and that will likely only increase as the voters become less sophisticated due to demographic trends.

It's widely assumed by the press that the onrushing tsunami of Latino voters that will slam home real soon now will lead to a Hispanic Obama, but that simplistic logic overlooks the widespread lack of charisma found among Mexican-Americans. Just as the first African-American President is of unusual background, so might be the first Mexican-American President.

Thus, there exists the odd but not implausible chance that a glamorous non-Hispanic will father a Latino political dynasty.

As I may have mentioned over the years, the Bush dynasty looks to Jeb Bush's handsome half-Mexican son George P. Bush as the most likely member of the next generation to return the Bush name to the White House in a demographically altered America.

As a commenter suggested, this week's confirmation that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger really likes chicas suggests a potential competitor for the Bushes in a Hispanicized America. Arnold is rich enough and will soon be single enough to remarry and produce a brood of half-Latino legitimate heirs to someday battle the Bushes.

And then there's the dark horse: Mel Gibson, whose The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto are the most aesthetically impressive responses yet to the Hispanicization of America. Granted, his personal tastes seem to run toward Slavic adventuresses, but he is also rich enough and single enough to find a nice Mexican girl and have a half dozen kids who might challenge the Bush and Schwarzenegger Latino dynasties in a Mexicanized America.

You read it here first.

The Twitter Age

I don't really get the point of Twitter. I prefer Pull to Push in media consumption, but the world cycles back and forth between those two poles. 

So, I am now in the business of pushing tweets out to whomever wants them. Be aware, I'm not going to create any original content for Twitter. Trying to limit myself to 140 characters seems extraordinarily unfeasible. The whole point of blogging, as far as I'm concerned, is that the length is indefinite. I start writing about something and then I find out where the topic leads me. 

So, I'm just going to automatically tweet out the headlines of my iSteve blog posts and you can click on them to go read my blog items.

Yeah, I know it doesn't sound terribly exciting. But, if you are in to Twitter, you can sign up to follow me at:!/steve_sailer

Conversely, you can tweet my blogposts to your followers. See the five gray "Share Buttons" below this blog post. Just put your cursor over the middle one, and watch the "t" turn Twitter aqua or whatever the corporate color is. Click on it to tweet this post (although, I assume, this would be a pretty lame post to tweet. Or maybe not -- as I may have mentioned, I don't really get Twitter, so don't ask me.)

Panhandlearama 2011

It's time to shake my tin cup again and ask you to help me stay in business as a writer.   

I believe I provide good value. 

In fact, I think I'm getting funnier as I get older. I'm not exactly sure why that is. When I look at my family budget, I can't imagine what's so funny. Perhaps, though, the world is just moving in the directions I've always figured it would, leaving me with a certain gleefulness. 

While I'm tooting my own horn, I want to call attention to my book reviewing. I believe I've emerged in this current decade as the best reviewer of serious (but not scholarly -- i.e., public intellectual) nonfiction in the country. At least, that is, in what I see as the most important element in reviewing public intellectuals' books: debugging a long argument and pointing out where the author's logic goes off track. (Here are some of the books I've reviewed in 2011, and keep an eye out for my review of Francis Fukuyama's new magnum opus in the next issue of The American Conservative.)

You can send me an email and I'll send you my P.O. Box address.

Or, you can use Paypal to send me money directly. Use any credit card or your Paypal account. To get started, just click on the orange Paypal "Donate" button on the top of the column to the right.

When that takes you to Paypal, if you want to use your Paypal account, fill in your Paypal ID and password on the lower right of the screen.

Or, if you want to use your credit card, fill in your credit card info on the lower left part of the screen by clicking on the word "Continue" in the lower center/left.

Thanks. I appreciate it, profoundly.

May 19, 2011

"Terminator 5" suspended

Arnold Schwarzenegger's publicist announced today that production of Terminator 5 would be indefinitely suspended. Instead, the ex-Governor is starring in a Broadway musical revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum as the Roman slave Pseudolus (originally played by Zero Mostel). In a casting coup, Phil Silvers' role of Hysterium is being recreated by Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Here's their showstopper together:

From Stephen Sondheim's lyrics:
Everybody ought to have a maid,
Someone who you hire when you're short of help
To offer you the sort of help
You never get from a spouse:
Fluttering up the stairway,
Shuttering up the windows,
Cluttering up the bedroom,
Buttering up the master,
Puttering all around the house!

By the way, I finally figured out how to turn on the five gray "Share Buttons" below. The first one ("M") is for email, the second ("B") for Blog This, the third ("t") for Twitter, the fourth ("f) for Facebook, and the fifth (whatever) for Google Buzz. I've tried the Twitter one and it works. These buttons should appear on all future and past posts, so if you want to tweet the old post about, say, Tim Pawlenty and the pimp's knife, be my guest.

Amorous French skunks

A reader suggests Dominique Strauss-Kahn's legal contretemps might stem from a simple error: perhaps he had ordered a call girl and mistook the maid for her. After all, it wouldn't be the first case of mistaken identity involving an amorous French skunk:

Back to the 1967 borders

All of Washington is in an uproar because the President made a speech today referencing Israel's 1967 borders. Since you come here for my fresh insights into The Crisis in the Middle East, and because there aren't any new Maid Scandals today, allow me to point out that it's often overlooked by the foreign policy community that most people have no idea what they are talking about. 

For example, why can't they come up with a less inherently ambiguous phrase than "Israel's 1967 borders?" The borders changed right in the middle of 1967. If they would use self-explanatory phrases like "pre-1967 borders" (or "1966 borders") versus "post-1967 borders" ("1968 borders"), I could tell what they were talking about without going and reading news articles that include paragraphs that could have been cut and pasted from articles written during the Bush Administration (either one).

A reader has a suggestion: If Israel is supposed to go back to its 1967 borders, can America go back to its 1965 borders? Please?


It's hard to tell about dogs that don't bark, but I get the impression that Apple Inc. is relatively immune to the diversity shakedowns that everybody else pays. Apple is considered just too cool. Thus:
A local Detroit (Mich.) business owner has been talking with Apple’s retail team, trying to convince them to locate a store inside the ground floor of a downtown office building. In an interview with WXYZ-TV, Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert said he’s marketing the ground floor of his company’s 14-story Chase Tower to Apple, a 1½–story former banking office. ... Gilbert is part of the latest public-private effort to reinvigorate the city-center by relocating suburban employees into empty downtown office space. He’s already committed to moving 4,000 of his own employees to downtown offices as part of the revitalization project. There are already four Apple stores in the region, but in the very far suburbs of Detroit.

In other words, Apple has been making a fortune off its Apple stores in snazzy locations and has seldom felt like wasting money and/or tainting the brand by getting involved in any early stage urban renewal projects. It doesn't have to shell out for white elephants in black cities. Why not? Because it's Apple! For example, lots of big firms have felt obligated over the last 15 years to put their outlets in the best black neighborhood in LA at the base of Baldwin Hills (what I call Magic Johnsonville, who redeveloped it in the 1990s) as a sporting gesture, but there are no Apple Stores in LA south of Wilshire Blvd.

Apple has more money than God (a recent business press article argued that Apple's market capitalization will grow to $2 trillion [warning: do not invest based solely on second-hand smoke blowing]). But, the general feeling among the people who matter seems to be that if Apple had to waste a penny on the usual diversity payouts, that might delay the release of the iPad III by a week or whatever, which would rob their lives of all meaning. 

Conan the Barbarian's Secret Philosophy of Life

All these years, we've been led to believe by the Hollywood publicity machine that Arnold Schwarzenegger espouses some epic philosophy of life, such as: True happiness is "to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."

It turns out, however, that Arnold's considered judgment actually is (with thanks to a commenter):
Good-looking fades, but good-cooking's forever!

By the way, you gotta say that Arnold's maid appears a lot happier than DSK's maid.

How much evidence is there against DSK?

Is there enough evidence to convict Dominique Strauss-Kahn in court? I can't tell. Maybe on Friday at the Grand Jury hearing more will be revealed. I expected there to be more by now, though.

From the outside, we have what looks like a He Said She Said case. The accuser is being kept anonymous, while the accused is the head of the International Monetary Fund. So, this being 2011, we naturally believe the accuser on the grounds that an anonymous person is likely more reliable than a famous international financial expert. 

In the case of this particular international financial expert, moreover, we have a long chain of rumors about him abusing women under his influence. DSK is an expert at misusing influence. On the other hand, a maid with a vacuum cleaner isn't somebody who thinks that maybe if she gives in to his advances, she'll get put in charge of the Portugal bailout. 

What facts have been revealed might be consistent with a variety of scenarios, none of which would reflect well on DSK. But not all of them would be consistent with outright stranger rape. For example, say he lays a few Benjamin Franklins on the table. Needing cash, the maid accepts them. A few minutes later, out in the corridor, she runs into her boss, who asks why her lipstick is a mess. Panicking about losing her job, she makes up a story about a naked presidential candidate jumping her and forcing her to make a mess of her lipstick. 

Well, maybe. And, keep in mind, that's probably the scenario that makes DSK look best (short of a gigantic movie-style conspiracy), which isn't very good. It's easy to make up scenarios more plausible than the official one where DSK is still criminally guilty of some version of rape. But, I'll skip the graphic details of those scenarios.

Yet, what strikes me as most telling against DSK is that the management of the Sofitel, a French-owned hotel, apparently spent some time thinking about what to do before deciding to call the cops. Hotel managers generally don't like having potential presidents arrested for scandalous events inside their hotels. That they eventually decided to trust their poorly paid employee over their VIP guest suggests they had good reasons (hallway video?) to believe her. 

But, despite the millions of words published on this story, I don't exactly know what those reasons were.

P.S. There's also the weirdness about the maid living in a charitable complex for AIDS sufferers. She was given "asylum" in the U.S. 7 years ago, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Can foreigners get asylum in the U.S. for having AIDS? Of course they can.
Political Asylum for People with HIV
By Rosa Bramble Weed, L.C.S.W.
From AIDS Community Research Initiative of America
Fall 2006 
There are significant numbers of immigrants living with HIV in New York, receiving medical treatment and other services important to a healthy quality of life. Some arrived as refugees seeking asylum. Others, however, are not aware that in their native countries they lived under circumstances that make them eligible for political asylum.

So, what's the story with this?

May 18, 2011

Arnold's Negative Maintenance Mistress

Rich, powerful men often acquire High Maintenance Mistresses, who are always threatening to commit suicide unless their boyfriends divorce their wives immediately and marry them, only to eventually be placated for the time being with diamond tennis bracelets. That can really chew up a lot of time. 

Others, such as Mark Zuckerberg, prefer a Low Maintenance Girlfriend or Wife who will afford them the concentration to put in 16 hour days at the office.

You have to give Arnold Schwarzenegger some credit for creativity in pioneering the concept of the Negative Maintenance Mistress. Sure, she might not be much in the looks department, but she not only didn't expect to become the second Mrs. S., but she kept the living room spotless. A no drama mama, ideal for a busy superstar.

Actually, I think Stalin beat Arnold to this concept. As far as historians can tell, after his second wife committed suicide, Stalin, a busy man with a Great Terror and a World War to run, simply slept with his housekeeper.

Cornel West peeved Obama takes him less seriously than Wachowskis did

Chris Hedges writes in TruthDig about the cruel disillusionment of Cornel West, Princeton professor of African American Studies and Religion and a star in The Matrix sequels:
The moral philosopher Cornel West, if Barack Obama’s ascent to power was a morality play, would be the voice of conscience. Rahm Emanuel, a cynical product of the Chicago political machine, would be Satan. ... 
No one grasps this tragic descent better than West, who did 65 campaign events for Obama, believed in the potential for change and was encouraged by the populist rhetoric of the Obama campaign. He now nurses, like many others who placed their faith in Obama, the anguish of the deceived, manipulated and betrayed. He bitterly describes Obama as “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”... 
“I have to take some responsibility,” he admits of his support for Obama as we sit in his book-lined office. “I could have been reading into it more than was there. 
“There is the personal level,” he says. “I used to call my dear brother [Obama] every two weeks. I said a prayer on the phone for him, especially before a debate. And I never got a call back. And when I ran into him in the state Capitol in South Carolina when I was down there campaigning for him he was very kind. The first thing he told me was, ‘Brother West, I feel so bad. I haven’t called you back. You been calling me so much. You been giving me so much love, so much support and what have you.’ And I said, ‘I know you’re busy.’ But then a month and half later I would run into other people on the campaign and he’s calling them all the time. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. He doesn’t have time, even two seconds, to say thank you or I’m glad you’re pulling for me and praying for me, but he’s calling these other people. I said, this is very interesting. And then as it turns out with the inauguration I couldn’t get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration. My mom says, ‘That’s something that this dear brother can get a ticket and you can’t get one, honey, all the work you did for him from Iowa.’ Beginning in Iowa to Ohio. We had to watch the thing in the hotel."

Hopefully, the Wests got a good glimpse on their hotel TV of the newly sworn-in President exchanging a celebratory fist bump with their bellhop.

Pawlenty for President!

Many people think former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty will be elected President in 2012 because they can't remember ever hearing anything bad about him. Others think he won't be elected President because they can't remember ever hearing anything good about him. Most people, however, can't remember ever hearing anything about him. 

I therefore challenged my readers to tell me something interesting about Tim Pawlenty so I could remember who he is.

Bruce Lewis replied:
One time back in the '80s the Paw (we called him "the Paw") was sitting around in this bar in Olangapo with us, you know, having a few beers and whatnot, when suddenly we hear this ruckus from up front and we're all like "what the f--k?" We look up and there's this Flip pimp and he's got this thirteen-year-old whore by the hair and he was just, like, whaling on her. He's trying to do her some damage but he's about 98 pounds sopping wet and she's whaling him back. She was one of those strong street whores and she was giving him back, punch for punch, screaming, and so forth. It went on like this for a minute or two, when suddenly that whore draws back and nails him right in the eye with one of those scary Filipino fingernails, and, man, the blood went everywhere. That pimp like fell back and then reached down and pulled out a knife.  
Paw puts his beer down and walks over and grabs that pimp by his knife hand, and that pimp jerked back and turned around and said "Man, I cut you, I got a knife." Paw, man, he doesn't move, he just says "F--k you and f--k your knife" in that Minnesota accent. That pimp starts to jab at him, then Paw just reaches out and slaps him in the face. Right in the face, like you'd slap a bitch! Well, we all jump up and get ready to rock, but nobody moves, then, I sh--t you not, that little Flip falls on the floor of that bar and starts crying! Crying, like a girl! Paw reaches down, takes the knife, and walks back to the table, like nothing, picks up his San Miguel and finishes it. Man, we busted a gut laughing. 
About that time, though, that thirteen year old whore had gotten up and picked up a beer stein off the bar, one of those big, heavy glass steins. She comes over to where that pimp is crying on the floor and lifts that stein as high as she could and then busts that stein right over the top of that pimp's head.  
Bam! Blood and glass flying everywhere! That pimp went down like a column of wet s--t. The whore screaming in Tagalog, that pimp laying on the floor in his own blood, and here come the Shore Patrols.  
They ask us what happened. Paw just says "Nothin', man," and walks out of there with that pimp's knife, laughing his ass off. 
He still has that knife. True f--king story, no s--t.

Okay, that's interesting. 

Granted, the Paw was never in the Navy, much less on shore leave in the Philippines, but that doesn't really matter, because from now on I'll at least be able to remember who he is. He's the Presidential candidate who still has that pimp's knife.

Arnold and Sly and Maria and Brigitte

The story told me by an admirer of Arnold Schwarzenegger is that in the early-to-mid 1980s, Arnold was courting Maria Shriver, daughter of the 1972 Democratic vice-presidential candidate and niece of the late President. 

However, a contractual obligation arising from his starring role in Conan the Barbarian meant he had to go to Spain to make a crummier sword-and-sandal epic for Dino de Laurentis, Red Sonja. One consolation turned out to be the very young, very tall, very enthusiastic Danish model who was playing Red Sonja, Brigitte Nielsen. Arnold and Brigitte immediately began a passionate affair. It was so intense that he began to wonder about his plans for marrying into the Kennedy-Shriver dynasty. Would it be worth it to sacrifice everything he had planned in terms of his ascent in American life just for this extremely hot number? Maybe ...

Finally, Arnold's ambition won out. He resolved to return to Maria. But what if Brigitte pursued him? Could he resist? Then Arnold got a phone call from his agent (or perhaps his lawyer, I forget). He was coming to Spain with another client, Sylvester Stallone, the biggest action movie hero in the world at the time. What about getting together for dinner on Arnold's last night in Spain? Stallone had long badmouthed Schwarzenegger, so there was no love lost between the two, but Arnold agreed.

Arnold came up with a plan. He invited Brigitte to accompany him to the dinner. She was thrilled about publicly being Arnold's date and thrilled about meeting a much bigger star than Arnie. He told her he had some things to do first, so she should get all dolled up and take a cab to the restaurant to meet him, where he'd introduce her to Sly. She went to the restaurant and met Stallone, but Arnold hopped a plane back to Maria. 

Not long afterwards, Sly and Brigitte married. He stuck her in his 1985 movie Cobra. Soon, they divorced, with Sly complaining that she had messed with his head so badly he hadn't been able to concentrate on his career. She went on to four more husbands. I can't remember if she officially married Flavor Flav. She recently starred in a reality show in which she got massive plastic surgery and then was photographed in chain mail lingerie.

Arnold married Maria Shriver, had four (legitimate) children, displaced Sly as the top action star, and was elected governor of California.

Or, at least, that's what I heard.

I know it sounds crazy, but my friend swears that really happened: "In 2003, voters elected this movie muscleman their governor! True f--king story, no s--t."

By the way, as one commenter implied, it's interesting to look at things from Maria Shriver's point of view:

-- 1984ish: The star of sleeper sensation Terminator cheats on me on another continent with 20-year-old Brigitte Nielsen, but then chooses me over her and, to make sure it's permanent, dumps that crazy Nordic Amazon on poor Sylvester Stallone so she won't come after Arnold anymore. Ooh, he really, really loves me ...

-- 2003: The Daily Mail reports just before the gubernatorial election that the candidate had a love child a decade before with that slinky blonde stewardess on his Gulfstream. Hmmmhmmm ... well, it probably wouldn't do to raise a stink now and screw-up the election.

-- 2011: The washed-up ex-gov had a love child in the late 1990s in my own home with my fat Mexican maid?!? What an insult to me! I'm out of here!

Hooray for Steven Levitt

The University of Chicago Freakonomist blogs:
It wasn’t until the U.S. government’s crackdown on internet poker last week that I came to realize that the primary determinant of where I stand with respect to government interference in activities comes down to the answer to a simple question: How would I feel if my daughter were engaged in that activity? 
If the answer is that I wouldn’t want my daughter to do it, then I don’t mind the government passing a law against it. I wouldn’t want my daughter to be a cocaine addict or a prostitute, so in spite of the fact that it would probably be more economically efficient to legalize drugs and prostitution subject to heavy regulation/taxation, I don’t mind those activities being illegal.

In other words, Levitt wants some help from his government in keeping his daughter off the pole (to cite Chris Rock's admonition to fathers).

This has led to much tut-tutting about how Levitt's sense of morality isn't sophisticated. It's just so crude for public intellectuals who happen to be fathers of daughters to think more about what's good for their daughters than what's good for random strangers. 

Levitt is being downright discriminatory. Why should the desires of fathers with daughters be privileged in America? What about illegal immigrant day laborers who can't afford long term relationships? Why don't the desire for prostitutes of the guys hanging around the Home Depot parking lot matter as much as those of the desire of American citizen fathers raising daughters to keep them off the pole? Don't the day laborers deserve a large supply of prostitutes to service their needs at low prices? Shouldn't a just, free market morality focus on eliminating friction costs caused by the prostitution market being illegal that keep day laborers from being able to afford as many encounters with prostitutes as they would like if prostitution were legal? Etc etc ...

In reality, we do have a political system in which the views of fathers wanting to keep their daughters off the pole do count more heavily. What we lack is a widely publicized, respectable intellectual system justifying such natural political views. This means that while the public gets its way on a lot of common sense first-order issues -- I don't want my daughter to become a prostitute so I want the government to penalize prostitution -- public intellectuals like Levitt (i.e., the people who are cognitively equipped to think through the impact of public policies several steps down the road) are not supposed to mention in respectable intellectual circles the second and third order effects of policies, such as immigration. 

Personally, I'm all for Levitt's first-order point of view. But, I agree it's not intellectually sophisticated enough, but for the opposite reason than most of the libertarians are up in arms about. I think he should be thinking not only about what's good for his young daughter but what kind of country he'd like his daughter's daughter and his daughter's daughter's daughter to be born into.

And his concerns shouldn't be just first order ones like keeping his daughter and daughter's daughter off the pole, but more sophisticated, second-order ones like what kind of people will there be in America in the future for his descendants to make more descendants for him with. What's really going to matter is not public policies about prostitution or drugs or gambling, but what kind of people live in the America that he's leaving to his descendants.

That's what we need intellectuals to think through, and the vast majority of intellectuals have been flagrantly negligent at that. They are smug about their stupidity on the subject.

The Framers of the Constitution said in the Preamble that the whole point of the Constitution was for the benefit of "ourselves and our posterity." You would think that would be one of those famous "propositions" like "All men are created equal" that everybody goes on and on about today, but "our posterity" seems to have been dropped down the memory hole.

May 17, 2011

Bridesmaids Revisited

From my movie review in Taki's Magazine:
The biggest laughs in Bridesmaids, the Judd Apatow-produced female buddy comedy starring Kristen Wiig, come from the odd man out among the five bridesmaids—the groom’s sister (Melissa McCarthy), a hefty force-of-nature lesbian who dresses like 1950s golfer Ben Hogan. The metajokes are that, first, lesbians are clueless about what most women like; and second, because nobody else much cares what obviously butch women think, the other bridesmaids never react (either positively or negatively) to her inordinately off-target conceptions of feminine fun.  
For example, when the girls are arguing over a motif for the wedding shower, the lesbian interjects her conception of a crowd-pleasing theme: "Fight Club! We get there early, oil up, then when the bride arrives, we beat the crap out of her!" The ladies listen politely, then immediately go back to debating whether the Parisian theme suggested by Wiig hasn’t already been done to death this season.

Read the whole thing there.

That reminds me of a general point: people only get extremely mad at you when you are at least pretty close to being right. If you suggest an April in Paris theme for a wedding shower, the people who favor, say, a Breakfast at Tiffany's theme might attack you pretty relentlessly because your idea is a plausible enough contender to be a threat to the acceptance of their idea. On the other hand, if you suggest a Fight Club-themed wedding shower, well, it's not really in the running enough for most people to spend too much time worrying about.

Thus, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa finds himself widely hated today for posting an item on Psychology Today asking "Why are black women rated less physically attractive than other women, but black men are rated better looking than other men?" It caused such a furor (described here) that the magazine deleted it, so only a screenshot survives. Of course, the reason the whole world got so angry with Dr. Kanazawa is because black women are rated less physically attractive than other women on average.

So, you aren't supposed to say that. If he had said "Why are Slavic supermodels rated less physically attractive than other women?" nobody would have much cared.

By the way, speaking of half-black women whom I've always liked, the bride in Bridesmaids is played by Maya Rudolph. I've always enjoyed her performances on Saturday Night Live (especially "Tennis Talk with Time Traveling Scott Joplin"), but I never looked up who her mother was before. You have to be of a certain age to recognize her mother's name, but it was a very sad event when she died of cancer in the 1970s when Maya was a little girl.

Her white father was a good friend of movie producer Bruce Paltrow, so she presumably grew up playing with Gwyneth Paltrow, then went to UC Santa Cruz. Thus, she can do this huge range of characters from black to white, which makes her invaluable in an ensemble show with a limited cast.

Also, she's a funny person who doesn't appear to be crazy, which is rarer than it seems. Jimmy Buffett argued in Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes: "If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane." But when it comes to making other people laugh, that doesn't seem to hold true all that much.

Bitter Asian Man

New York Magazine has a long article whose themes won't be unfamiliar to readers of my 1997 essay Is Love Colorblind? 
Paper Tigers 
What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends? 
By Wesley Yang

(The illustration is not from the article, but from the sadly missed Bitter Asian Men website of yore.)

Yang complains that while years of test prep help East Asian guys get prestigious credentials, then after schooling they're not getting enough blondes and CEO jobs. He recommends, reasonably, that Asian guys study Game and other self-help techniques. (The Successful White American Executive / Salesman personality that Yang envies was honed by generations of self-improvement efforts, from Ben Franklin's Autobiography and Ralph Waldo Emerson's lecture tours through Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People.)

Yang concludes:
And though the debate [Amy Chua] sparked about Asian-American life has been of questionable value, we will need more people with the same kind of defiance, willing to push themselves into the spotlight and to make some noise, to beat people up, to seduce women, to make mistakes, to become entrepreneurs, to stop doggedly pursuing official paper emblems attesting to their worthiness, to stop thinking those scraps of paper will secure anyone’s happiness, and to dare to be interesting.

Okay, there are a lot of interesting suggestions here. Yet, in an article on racial conflict in a national magazine, could we go a little easier on the "beat people up" recommendation? I realize this New York Magazine article is suggesting beating up only white people, not anybody who isn't supposed to get beaten up, so that's okay. But, still ...

The Unified Field Theory of This Week

Update: Mickey Kaus points to a 2004 Los Angeles article by Ann Louise Bardach suggesting the mother of ex-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's love child is not the family maid, as a naive reading of today's news accounts would suggest.

If you are Arnold Schwarzenegger, you employ lots of people besides a cleaning lady. This 2004 article points to a stewardess on Arnold's Gulfstream jet. (Assuming there's only one such family retainer Arnold got in a family way.) 

Okay, now the story makes more sense. Arnold has his foibles, but he isn't Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Mounting the maid while she's vacuuming might be standard operating procedure in International Monetary Fund circles, but Hollywood action heroes are expected to show more discretion and stick to the Gulfstream.

UPDATE: According the Brit Daily Mail, there are two love children and the second mother is indeed the maid.

By the way, speaking of antitrust, that 2004 article raises some interesting points about the broad political effect of the fairly recent monopolization of supermarket tabloids by AMI.

The tabs will pay for stories and hire private investigators, so they get juicier stories about important people than does the prestige press (e.g., Gennifer Flowers). However, in the 1990s, they were all consolidated under the ownership of AMI (the first victims of the anthrax mad scientist, by the way), because nobody much cares about enforcing antitrust laws anymore.

Then, in the early 2000s, AMI bought the Weider magazines for muscleheads, like Men's Fitness.

This provided a lot of synergy. For example, when AMI's National Enquirer obtained a photo a number of years ago of Tiger Woods in a parking lot with a local waitress, they spiked publication in return for Tiger flexing his new performance-enhanced bicep on the cover of AMI's Men's Fitness magazine and allowing an interview with his musclehead trainer. This 2007 story may have offered us our first clue into the ongoing physical collapse of America's most famous athlete. (Notice the lattice of coincidence?)

On the other hand, Arnold had a long relationship with the Weider interests, which apparently got transferred over to AMI. With the tabloids now financially in bed with Arnold, he was free to run for governor of California in 2003 without the tabs doing much snooping about his ever-interesting life story.

By the way, what are the chances that M. Strauss-Kahn, a 62-year-old with more energy than a frat boy on spring break, might have a prescription for some kind of chemical enhancement, like Arnold, Tiger, and Joe Weider?

Best week of news ever

I know you come here to get my insights into the looming federal debt ceiling crisis, but ... I keep getting distracted. 

It was surprising when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver announced that they were separating after 25 years of marriage, but luckily Arnold has a back-up familia already in place. 
The LA Times, who broke the story last night, says Arnold had a relationship with a woman who worked for Arnold and Maria as a member of their household staff for 20 years. About 10 years ago they had a child, but the woman, who was also married at the time and whom the LA Times won’t name, kept working for the couple until this past January. 
[From the LA Times:]
Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, separated after she learned he had fathered a child more than a decade ago with a longtime member of their household staff. ... 
In an interview Monday before Schwarzenegger issued his statement, the former staffer said another man — her then-husband — was the child’s father. ...  
She said she voluntarily left her position with the couple earlier this year after reaching a longstanding goal of working for them for two decades. “I wanted to achieve my 20 years, then I asked to retire,” she said, adding she received a severance payment and “left on good terms with them.” 
Schwarzenegger took financial responsibility for the child from the start and continued to provide support, according to a source.

Due to my awesome level of racism, I’m gonna assume this woman is Latin because it sounds like she was a maid. So if her husband was also Latin, he had to have a few questions. Like, why is our infant 4-feet tall with veins in his biceps?

Good question. I wonder why California's First Lady didn't ask it, either. (Actually, I would guess she had guessed, but like her in-law, Jackie Kennedy, Maria Shriver kept up a dignified front. That's old-fashioned classy. In the future, we'll probably see political wives going on the Maury Povich Show with their maids to find out the results of a DNA test in front of a studio audience.)

One of these days, I'll have to tell you the Maria Shriver-related story of the trick Arnold Schwarzenegger played on Sylvester Stallone one night in the mid 1980s that went on to derail Sly's career and make Arnold's.

T-Paw should leak some dirt on himself so I can remember who he is.

In other debt ceiling-related news, old iSteve philosophy phavorite Bernard Henri-Levy defends Dominique Strauss-Kahn, which, trust me, you owe it to yourself to read. Make sure to read it using an accent that's a cross between Pepe Le Pew and Daffy Duck.

Tim Pawlenty

Back in 2009, I looked up the frontrunners for the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination on one of those betting sites. There was a three-way tie between Sarah Palin (whom I had heard of), Mitt Romney (whom I had heard of), and Tim Pawlenty (uh ...). Presumably, the smart money figured that nobody else could win, so through process of elimination, Pawlenty would be the last man standing. This theory remains popular today.

Since then, I've tried to read the long Wikipedia article on Pawlenty several times. Each time I get through the identity politics basics: he was governor of Minnesota, a nice, respectable Canadian-border state; he's half German and half Polish (which gets me musing on how that would be nice for Poles who seem like quiet people who don't make much of a fuss and it would be nice if they got part of a President to claim); so that sounds like he'd be Catholic but he's actually an evangelical Protestant, which should appeal to Southerners even though he's from the far North. 

So, I get the theory of Tim Pawlenty, but as soon as I start reading about the individual, my eyes glaze over. I've never come close to finishing anything about Pawlenty. In contrast, with potential candidate Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, maybe just because I've had dinner with him a couple of times, but I can observe themes emerging from the biographical minutiae: like, what a huge role selling drugs has played throughout his life. That's interesting. But with Pawlenty, I can't force myself to pay attention long enough to notice patterns.

So, tell me something interesting about Tim Pawlenty.

"Nich set me up!"

Okay, that reference to the Marion Barry oldie-but-goodie is a stretch, but it appears the French believe:

- Socialist party candidate for president Dominique Strauss-Kahn is assuredly guilty; and

- President Nikolas Sarkozy had to have set him up.

The more you hear about these two guys, the more you start to wonder: Why couldn't both be true?

You know, both were true for Mayor Barry ...

May 16, 2011

Omar Thornton's victims exonerated of racism

Remember last August when Omar Thornton murdered eight white men, then called them racist? At the behest of a vigilant press, government officials have been diligently investigating the late Omar's charges ever since. In a shocking revelation last Friday, police reported that the victims of the thieving mass murderer didn't deserve to be murdered.

From Reuters via WHNT:
No proof of racism at site of 2010 shooting rampage: police
Zach Howard
May 13, 2011 
CONWAY, Mass (Reuters) - There is no proof of systemic racism at a Connecticut beer distributor where a gunman shot dead eight people last year because he said African-Americans were treated badly, a police probe concluded. 
Omar Thornton, 34, a driver at Hartford Distributors, a family-owned beer wholesaler 10 miles east of the state capital in Manchester, shot eight people before killing himself in August 2010. 
Minutes before the frenzy took place, Thornton, who was black, was fired at a disciplinary meeting for having stolen beer and empty kegs from the company. 
Manchester police on Thursday released a 543-page report on its investigation into the killing ... 
Police Chief Marc Montminy told a press conference that there had been allegations that Thornton had photographic evidence of racial slurs against him on his cell phone. But Montminy said forensic analysis of the phone showed that "that is not true." 
"We also interviewed the other minorities that worked at the facility to see if there was systemic racism within the building, and not only did they not agree with Omar's position but they found quite the contrary," Montminy said. ... 
"You probably want to know why I shot this place up. This place is a racist place. They treat me bad over here," Thornton said in a recording of the 911 call. "They treat all the other black employees bad over here too. So, I took it into my own hands and handled the problem. I wish I (could have) got more of the people."

Clearly, our society needs a 543-page report on whether or not Matthew Yglesias was only getting what he deserved.

Thinking about hate crimes

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

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

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

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

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

Consider two homicides:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or consider, these two cases:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 15, 2011

Jared Taylor's "White Identity"

I have a long review up in VDARE of Jared Taylor's new book White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century.

This doesn't happen to Malcolm Gladwell

A sad pattern that goes severely underreported is the impact that low-level thuggishness has on debilitating intellectual life in America, and how this thuggishness is excused, encouraged, and exploited by elites to silence dissent.

For example, you may wonder why journalist Malcolm Gladwell is paid vast amounts of money to burble in public about the untested ideas of minor social scientists who have sent him their press releases, while a major social scientist, Charles Murray, is not.

Well, stuff like this doesn't happen to Gladwell often. From the student newspaper of Earlham College:
Murray lecture moves after fire alarm soundsMarch 24, 2011
By Al Krastev 
Raised security measures failed to prevent the abrupt interruption of Wednesday’s lecture by Charles Murray.  
Twenty minutes into Murray’s talk, “Taking Happiness Seriously,” the Carpenter Hall fire alarm forced the audience out of the building. Intially, the speaker stood at the podium by event sponsor President Doug Bennett and attempted to continue, despite the loud alarm. However, everyone in the building was soon escorted out. ... 
The fire alarm in LBC went off towards the end of the reception, interrupting Murray a second time.  
Knight said she does not believe the incident would affect Earlham’s image in any way.

The next day, the president of Earlham College, Doug Bennett, wrote on his blog:
Yesterday and today we’ve been having a thick discussion on the Faculty listserv around the interruption of Charles Murray’s lecture at Earlham on Wednesday night. A good deal of the discussion has focused on the question of whether he should have been invited at all.  

Bennett defends his inviting of Murray. But the point is that after thugs try to silence dissent, the professoriate prefers to discuss why anybody would let Charles Murray speak at all.

Sure, Malcolm Gladwell costs vastly more than Charles Murray and is kind of an idiot, but no thugs try to disrupt Gladwell's orations, and since the Great and Good are on the thugs' side, Malcolm's worth it.

Was the beating of Matthew Yglesias a hate crime?

Prominent Washington blogger Matthew Yglesias writes:
So . . . I was walking back from the home of Megan McArdle and Peter Suderman and instead of doing the normal thing and taking Q Street west to 5th and then walking south, I wanted to take a shortcut by walking south on North Capitol to then cut southwest on New York. But then lo and behold right by Catania Bakery [i.e., a little over a mile due north of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.] a couple of dudes ran up from behind, punched me in the head, then kicked me a couple of times before running off. Once, years ago, in Amsterdam a guy threatened me with a knife and took my money. These guys took nothing, and just inflicted a bit of pain. All things considered the threaten/rob model of crime seems a lot more beneficial to both parties than the punch-and-run model. But I guess it takes all kinds.

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

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

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

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

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

My old articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Whatever happened to antitrust?

One century ago today, May 15, 1911, the Supreme Court upheld the federal government's lawsuit under the heretofore unused 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act against the Standard Oil near-monopoly in refining. The company founded in 1870 by John D. Rockefeller was broken up into 34 companies, including ones that eventually became Exxon and Mobil.

Of course, today they are back together again as ExxonMobil.

One of the less expected changes in public life over the last third of a century has been the growing apathy over the subject of antitrust (known outside of America as "competition law"). For example, the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, reducing the number of national cell phone network competitors from four to three, isn't popular in the Senate, but it doesn't seem to be a big news story with the public.

The last time I can recall anybody trying to make a big deal out of antitrust was in the mid-1990s when Pearl Jam, the most popular rock band of the period, sick of the absurd fees that Ticketmaster adds to concert ticket prices, tried to run a successful national tour without venues dominated by Ticketmaster.

Pearl Jam failed. People seemed to take away the message that, well, sure, Pearl Jam might have seemed cool and their crusade public-spirited. But their economic failure just shows that, deep down, they are losers. What's really cool is having a monopoly.

It's hard to explain to today's youth what a big deal trust-busting was just a third of a century ago. Alternatively, it's hard to figure out why nobody cares much anymore about cartelization.

When I was majoring in economics at Rice in the late 1970s, monopoly was a massive topic. I took a semester-long course devoted to propounding the emerging libertarian line that there was very little to worry about. Competition would tend to rapidly eliminate monopolies. This popular idea of businessmen getting together in smoke filled rooms to agree to keep prices up was a stereotype. I got a very good grade in that course. I believed. 

The young professor making these arguments against antitrust law in the late 1970s saw himself as a rebel against orthodoxy. Today, though, his free market ideas seems to have become conventional wisdom, or at least nobody cares that much to argue against them.

The funny thing was that when I got a job with a young company, however, it turned out that competition, from the perspective of owners and employees holding stock options, was awful. It's like Adam Smith said, in a genuinely competitive market, it's hard for a business to make more than the risk-adjusted cost of capital, which is not much fun at all. Why go through the immense amount of hard work to invent a new, better way of doing business if that's all you'll end up with? To make good money, the kind of money the stock market demands you make, you need some kind of quasi-monopolistic edge. 

The founder of the company, as strong a competitive personality as you could want, looked at the high fixed cost economics of this submarket of marketing research and quickly sold the firm to our chief competitor for a lot of money. But the Reagan Justice Department shot the deal down because our clients whined so much. That began a price war that quickly drove the third firm in the industry out of business, and kept the two survivors from making decent profits all through the prosperous '90s. As I had jobs over time with both competitors, I came up with various novel ways to reduce competition, but top management, knowing the government was keeping an eye on them from their earlier merger attempt, was unenthusiastic. So, years of minimal profits rolled on.

This dreary fate did not befall most other industries, though. The Dow Jones average is about an order of magnitude higher than when I started to work in late 1982, because profits are vastly higher. It's easy to understand the high profits of, say, Apple, but why does Procter & Gamble make so much off toothpaste and detergent these days?

One difference is that in the inflationary 1970s, it was common for members of the public to suspect that rising prices were caused by monopolistic practices. With the prices of manufactured goods stable or even falling in much of the time since the 1970s, however, it's common to assume that anticompetitive activities can't be a problem because, say, cell phones or TVs keep getting awesomer. Psychologically, it's hard to worry much about whether prices should be falling even faster.