July 30, 2011

Everything you've ever wanted to know about the plunge for distance

As I mentioned in May, I once had a dream that I had won a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics. When challenged over the unlikeliness of my memory, I explained to my dream interlocutor that it was in the plunge for distance, which isn't on TV so it doesn't get any good athletes. Now, somebody has notified me that they've just created a Wikipedia page on this long-lost sport:
In later years, the event was subject to criticism as "not an athletic event at all," but instead a competition favoring "mere mountains of fat who fall in the water more or less successfully and depend upon inertia to get their points for them."[5] John Kiernan, sports writer for the New York Times, once described the event as the "slowest thing in the way of athletic competition", and that "the stylish-stout chaps who go in for this strenuous event merely throw themselves heavily into the water and float along like icebergs in the ship lanes."[6] Similarly, an 1893 English report on the sport noted that spectators were not enamored of it, as the diver "moves after thirty or forty feet at a pace somewhat akin to a snail, and to the uninitiated the contests appear absolute wastes of time."[7]

It's well-written enough that some Wikipedia editor will probably delete all the amusing parts. (That's my main criticism of Wikipedia: not that it gets facts wrong, but that it is allergic to good writing.)

July 29, 2011

What's Rick Sanchez up to these days?

Last October, CNN blowhard Rick Sanchez got fired for giving an interview in which he talked about how he was the victim of prejudice against Hispanics. Well, he didn't get fired for that part. That's always okay. What wasn't okay was when he scoffed at the interviewer's suggestion that Jon Stewart, a frequent critic of Sanchez, is also an oppressed minority:
Yeah, very powerless people. [laughs] He's such a minority. I mean, you know, please. What—are you kidding? I'm telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart. And to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority?

To conclusively demonstrate that Jews really are an oppressed minority and don't have any power in the media business, Sanchez was immediately fired to encourage the others.

But, all's well that ends well. Less than ten months later, Sanchez has now gotten a part-time job. Well, it's not actually a job, since he isn't getting paid to do it. Mediaite reported on July 27:
According to the Miami Herald, ex-CNN anchor Rick Sanchez will be back this fall–on the radio in South Florida–calling football games for the FIU Golden Panthers. ... Sanchez says he’s taking the gig to “give something back” to a school he’s close to: "I’m extremely excited to be volunteering my time to Florida International. I’m not getting paid to do this—I just wanted to give something back to the school because FIU has a very special place in my heart: two of my sons now attend FIU and I believe in FIU football." ... 
Sanchez, who’s recently written for Mediaite, has spent his time since leaving CNN working tirelessly to clear his name, left tarnished by the comments he made last fall–calling Jon Stewart a bigot, among other things–that forced him from his high-profile network anchor gig.

Chimps ask: So, what's in it for me?

From a Nova documentary Ape Genius on why chimpanzees don't seem to learn much as a species:
MICHAEL TOMASELLO: What you'll see with the human mother and baby is that the mother is constantly trying to show the baby what to do, and the baby is trying to tune into what the mother wants. And so you have a full triangle of mother and baby and the thing in the environment that they are trying to work on. 
REBECCA SAXE: It's a special cognitive achievement. For some reason kids do this naturally, almost immediately. And curiously, apes can't get into that. 
MICHAEL TOMASELLO: At the moment we have no evidence that apes have shared goals based on shared commitments. They do things together, they coordinate their actions together, but they don't have a shared commitment to a shared goal. 
NARRATOR: The triangle is the core skill that makes teaching possible. Humans have it; apes seem to lack it. But apes are also missing one more thing. It's a key emotional driver: the passion to cheer each other on. 
TETSURO MATSUZAWA: "Good," "good job," "well done." This kind of facilitation, giving a hand, encouragement, is the base of teaching. 
REBECCA SAXE: It seems like it's not just a cognitive capacity that's necessary for teaching. There's this other thing, which is wanting to teach, that seems to be really pervasive in humans and maybe mysteriously missing in apes. 
NARRATOR: The pieces are now coming together. Apes have culture, a rare achievement in the animal world. They can learn from each other by imitation. But this process is passive, often slow and can easily backslide. 
BRIAN HARE: Probably there's a lot of slippage. There's a lot of loss of cultural innovations between generations when you're talking about a chimpanzee. 
MICHAEL TOMASELLO: If an ape invents something new and important and interesting, maybe some others will learn it, maybe they won't. 
NARRATOR: Unique among animals, humans have both the passion and mental skill to teach each other. When you're a student rather than a spectator, learning jumps to warp speed. That's because teaching locks in progress.

Chimpanzees: more Randian than Ayn Rand, who couldn't stop lecturing.

(Also, this show has the usual chimpanzee guru Sue Savage-Rumbaugh in it, which always sounds like a name made up for an ape expert by Hunter S. Thompson.)

July 28, 2011

Programming, women, and H1-B

Here's the first page of a 1967 article in Cosmopolitan called The Computer Girls that points out the advantages of a career in programming for young women. Photos show a lovely young IBM systems engineer surrounded by appreciative white-shirt-and-tie-wearing IBM bachelors.

The accompanying blog post claims that:
"In 1987, 42% of the software developers in America were women ... [Is that true?] From 1984 to 2006, the number of women majoring in computer science dropped from 37% to 20% — just as the percentages of women were increasing steadily in all other fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, with the possible exception of physics. The reasons women left computer science are as complex and numerous as why they had entered in the first place. But the most common explanation is that the rise of personal computers led computing culture to be associated with the stereotype of the eccentric, antisocial, male “hacker.” Women found computer science less receptive professionally than it had been at its inception."

Maybe, although there were other things going on as well. For example, the dominant language in mainframe business software in 1987 was Admiral Grace Hopper's verbose COBOL, a language that was particularly popular with female coders (my wife was one for awhile). Since then, the software languages that are popular have evolved toward higher levels of elegance and abstraction. 

It's a little bit like classical music composers. If you pick up a book on composers, such as R.J. Stove's concise and delightful A Student's Guide to Music History, they often start with the medieval German nun Hildegard von Bingen, composer of lovely monophonic songs. But, as composing art music became more complex, the number of top female composers became vanishingly small. 

But, here's another factor that helped drive American women away from programming careers: H-1B. Bill Gates and other zillionaires have added even more billions to their fortunes by getting the government to let in lots of foreign programmers to do for less money the lower level programming that American women tended to be doing. Logically, feminists should therefore have been anti-Bill Gates and anti H-1B, but logic doesn't play a big role in modern America in determining which Diversity Card trumps which. As a general Hi-Lo v. Middle rule, rich guys playing the race card against average whites are likely to win.

Exactly why was it important for the government to pitch in at the task of ruining computer programming as a fairly ordinary career for fairly ordinary Americans? Didn't Bill Gates have enough money already? Maybe it would have happened sooner or later anyway, but why did the government have to speed it up?

July 27, 2011

Hunter S. Thompson on Apes

Seeing the animal rights documentary Project Nim about the famous ape Nim Chimpsky (my review here) reminded me of the penultimate chapter of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:
So I picked up the phone. It was my friend Bruce Innes, calling from the Circus-Circus. He had located the man who wanted to sell the ape I'd been inquiring about. The price was $750. ... 
"Maybe you should come down and argue with the guy," said Bruce. "He's here in the bar with me. I told him you really wanted the ape and that you could give it a fine home. I think he'll negotiate. He's really attached to the stinking thing. It's here in the bar with us, sitting up on a goddamn stool, slobbering into a beer schooner." 
"Okay," I said. "I'll be there in ten minutes. Don't let the bastard get drunk. I want to meet him under natural conditions." 
When I got to the Circus-Circus they were loading an old man into an ambulance outside the main door. "What happened?" I asked the car-keeper. 
"I'm not sure," he said. "Somebody said he had a stroke. But I noticed the back of his head was all cut up." ... 
I found Bruce at the bar, but there was no sign of the ape. "Where is it?" I demanded. "I'm ready to write a check. I want to take the bastard back home on the plane with me. I've already reserved two first-class seats -- R. Duke and Son." 
"Take him on the plane?" 
"Hell yes," I said. "You think they'd say anything? Call attention to my son's infirmities?" 
He shrugged. "Forget it," he said. "They just took him away. He attacked an old man right here at the bar. The creep started hassling the bartender about 'allowing barefoot rabble in the place' and just about then the ape let out a shriek -- so the old guy threw a beer at him, and the ape went crazy, came out of his seat like a jack-in-the-box and took a big bite out of the old man's head ... The bartender had to call an ambulance, then the cops came and took the ape away." 
"Goddamnit," I said. "What's the bail? I want that ape." 
"Get a grip on yourself," he said. "You better stay clear of that jail. That's all they'd need to put the cuffs on you. Forget that ape. You don't need him." 
I gave it some thought, then decided he was probably right. There was no sense blowing everything for the sake of some violent ape I'd never even met.

July 26, 2011

"Project Nim"

From my movie review in Taki's Magazine:
Project Nim is a critically praised documentary about Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee who was the subject of one of those attempts to teach American Sign Language to an ape, a fad that once fascinated the popular imagination. 
Directed by James Marsh, who won an Oscar for his 2008 documentary Man on Wire about another 1970s phenomenon—the French tightrope-walker who strolled from one World Trade Center tower to the other—Project Nim turns out to be an engaging, entertaining, manipulative, and characteristically lowbrow animal-rights polemic. Project Nim’s never-quite-articulated message is that chimpanzees should have been left in Africa. Perhaps, but there’s much this movie ignores. 
Like the liberal college professor played by Ronald Reagan in Bedtime for Bonzo who raises a chimp like a child to show that nurture overrules nature, Columbia U. psychologist Herbert Terrace (Marsh’s designated villain) bought a baby male chimp in 1973 to prove Noam Chomsky wrong.

Read the whole thing there.

Let me add something about animals rights movements. Animal rights campaigners tend to be sentimental and illogical. The targets of their campaigns -- e.g., medical laboratory heads, slaughterhouse owners, and so forth -- are often their antitheses: logical and coldblooded. 

But, the syntheses that emerge from their conflicts, the compromise solutions, are often better than either side alone. So, chalk one up for Hegel. 

For example, we've learned an important lesson from the animal rights movement: don't import more chimps. Moreover, Americans shouldn't breed more chimps to use in entertainment. Young ones can be amazingly entertaining, but they live a long, long time, and the older they get, the cuter they ain't. (That line, which I use a lot, is from one of my favorite Simpsons' scripts, Lisa's First Word by Jeff Martin.)

The full cost of caring for a chimp over a typical lifespan of maybe 40 or more years is huge. Don't let private organizations privatize profits from chimps while socializing the costs they impose in the long run. (Funny how a lot of lessons learned from chimps can be applied more broadly.)

In medical research, don't make chimps your automatic first choice. They often turn out to be of less use as human stand-ins than they would appear. For example, a lot were bred for AIDS research, but then it turned out that chimps infected with HIV rarely developed AIDS.

And they are gigantic amounts of work. For example, because they are miniature King Kongs who will rip your face off, Jim, you can't, say, take blood from them without first shooting them with a tranquilizing dart gun. 

White rats are often a lot better choice outside of a few disease like hepatitis where chimps are valuable.

George Soros's Evado Tax Inc.

Last week, I pointed out how Microsoft had cut their tax rate on corporate profits from 25% in FY 2010 to 7% in 2011 by claiming to make most of its profits in places like Puerto Rico. A reader writes:
George Soros is another example of tax arbitrage. He has benefited from running his hedge fund in offshore jurisdictions while maintaining research offices in NYC.

Similar to MSFT - "we just research in NY, the money manages itself from overseas accounts." 
I'd guess there's something in dodd-frank about ending these loopholes.  
With soros, it's particularly egregious because he uses his excess wealth to argue for big government policies in the US.  
If Obama wants tax increases - how about retroactive taxes? 

I would be sympathetic to an investment firm that actually does its work on an island somewhere. I once expected that investment firms would relocate to Hawaii because it's paradise and for certain types of investing, being halfway between the Asian and American time zones might be convenient. But that really hasn't happened. 

My sneaking suspicion is that all this talk about the information superhighway and how you could be anywhere in the world and make above market returns just by looking at your computer screen is naive. To consistently make above market returns, it helps to have sources of inside information. And that depend heavily upon trust-building face to face contact and/or body language that can't be used to convict even if one party is wearing a wire. So, the high end investment business has not been spreading to many new locations. 

Wealth gap ratio hits new high

From a new study of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center:
Hispanics: The net worth of Hispanic households decreased from $18,359 in 2005 to $6,325 in 2009. The percentage drop--66%--was the largest among all groups. Hispanics derived nearly two-thirds of their net worth in 2005 from home equity and are more likely to reside in areas where the housing meltdown was concentrated. Thus, the housing downturn had a deep impact on them. Their net worth also diminished because of a 42% rise in median levels of debt they carried in the form of unsecured liabilities (credit card debt, education loans, etc.).  
Blacks: The net worth of black households fell from $12,124 in 2005 to $5,677 in 2009, a decline of 53%. Like Hispanics, black households drew a large share (59%) of their net worth from home equity in 2005. Thus, the housing downturn had a strong impact on their net worth. Blacks also took on more unsecured debt during the economic downturn, with the median level rising by 27%.  
Whites: The drop in the wealth of white households was modest in comparison, falling 16% from $134,992 in 2005 to $113,149 in 2009. White households were also affected by the housing crisis. But home equity accounts for relatively less of their total net worth (44% in 2005), and that served to lessen the impact of the housing bust. Median levels of unsecured debt among whites rose by 32%.  
Asians: In 2005 median Asian household wealth had been greater than the median for white households, but by 2009 Asians lost their place at the top of the wealth hierarchy. Their net worth fell from $168,103 in 2005 to $78,066 in 2009, a drop of 54%. Like Hispanics, they are geographically concentrated in places such as California that were hit hard by the housing market meltdown.  
The arrival of new Asian immigrants since 2004 also contributed significantly to the estimated decline in the overall wealth of this racial group. Absent the immigrants who arrived during this period, the median wealth of Asian households is estimated to have dropped 31% from 2005 to 2009. Asians account for about 5% of the U.S. population.  
No Assets: About a quarter of all Hispanic (24%) and black (24%) households in 2009 had no assets other than a vehicle, compared with just 6% of white households. These percentages are little changed from 2005.

July 24, 2011

Blue Labour: The Rapid Rise and Faster Fall of an Immigration Realist Leftist

My new VDARE column is about Maurice Glasman, one of the most interesting leftist thinkers in recent years to emerge (and then get rapidly submerged as he made clear the full logic of his worldview). Lord Glasman served for the last half year as the idea man for the new British Labour Party boss Ed Miliband. 

Glasman, who is almost utterly unknown in the U.S. media, articulated a new old-fashioned, pre-multiculti leftism for Labour of the kind that George Orwell might have approved of. Not surprisingly, last week he got stomped down for calling for a halt to mass immigration, but he had an interesting ride while it lasted. 
Lord Glasman has found himself on the less privileged side of the central ideological divide of the 21st Century—a gap that sprawls across the more familiar ideological chasms of the 20th Century. The crucial question is no longer capitalism vs. communism, but globalism v. localism, imperial centralization v. self-rule, cosmopolitanism v. patriotism, elitism v. populism, diversity v. particularism, homogeneity v. heterogeneity, and high-low v. middle. 
Barack Obama, for example, epitomizes the first side of these dichotomies, especially the high-low coalition. By being half-black, he enjoys the totemic aura of the low, but has all the advantages of the high. He has never, as far as anyone can tell, had a thought cross his mind that would raise an eyebrow at a Davos Conference. 
In contrast to the President, Glasman is certainly an original thinker. But anybody on his side of these new dichotomies faces a tactical disadvantage. 
Because globalists want the whole world to be all the same, they share common talking points, strategies, conferences, media, and so forth. 
In contrast, because the localists want the freedom to rule themselves, they often don’t even realize who else is on the same side of this divide. 
For example, to most Americans, "socialism" is a very foreign-sounding word. To a lot of Brits, however, socialism is what their grandfathers looked forward to while they fought WWII and then came home to create the National Health Service.

Read the whole thing there.

Norway

A few random observations:

- This evil bastard is one cold-blooded, rational Northern European. I'm reminded of an underlying tragic theme of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings that stems from Tolkien's combat experience on the Somme in the Great War: all of this Northern European efficiency can go terribly wrong when it turns to organized killing, at which Northern Europeans are the champs. This terrorist is the kind of rationalist who estimates the probability of failure of the various steps in his planning, like a 30% chance of getting caught while buying fertilizer to make his bomb. (It's a good thing that Finnish sniper Simho Hayha who killed, one at a time, 505 armed Russian soldiers in 1939-1940 wasn't an evil bastard or there could have been thousands of dead children.)

- For example, throughout his lengthy planning phase, he maintained a public persona online of being anti-Islamic but non-violent and, indeed, rather philosophical. Psychologically, that must be very hard to do. For the rest of us, this guy's ability to play a double game of being reasonable on the surface while homicidal underneath is of course going to be incredibly destructive of all anti-multicultural online dissent.

- The killer was, perhaps not surprisingly, a juicer. His 1500-page secret document has details of his various steroid cycles. Whether he came up with the idea of killing a bunch of children after he started on steroids, or whether he deliberately chose to use steroids to keep up his will power against attacks of angst, I can't say.
When initiating the “chemical [fertilizer for his bomb] acquirement phase”, in end November/early December, I must admit I was filled with some angst. This was after all a critical phase, perhaps the most dangerous of all phases. If I messed this phase up, by being flagged, reported to the authorities etc. I would be neutralized before I could finalize my operation. Even when taking all possible precautions; I estimate it is a 30% chance of being reported to the system protectors at the national intelligence agency during this phase. 
My concerns and angst relating to this phase impacted my motivation, to a point where I had to initiate specific counter-measures to reverse the loss of morale and motivation. I decided that the correct approach to reversing it was to initiate another DBOL steroid cycle and intensify my strength training. I also spent some time locating and downloading some new inspirational music. A lot of new vocal trance tracks and some inspirational music by Helene B√łksle. In addition; I decided I would allow myself to play the newly launched expansion: World of Warcraft – Cataclysm. The combination of these three counter measures, in addition to my 3 weekly indoctrination/meditation walks, resulted in my morale and motivation again peaking.

Or maybe the common link between his steroid use and his terrible crime is vanity.

- Ideologically, he's a neocon on steroids. From the Jerusalem Post:
'Norway attack suspect had anti-Muslim, pro-Israel views'By BEN HARTMAN
07/24/2011 18:37  
1,500 page manifesto credited to Breivik, accused of killing spree, lays out worldview including extreme screed of Islamophobia, far-right Zionism.

Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian who killed nearly 100 people in a combined terror attack Friday that included car bombings in Oslo and a shooting rampage at an island summer camp, held fiercely anti-Islamic and pro-Israel views, according to a 1,500 page manifesto he uploaded before his killing spree Friday. 
In the 1,500-page tome, which mentions Israel 359 times and “Jews” 324 times, Breivik lays out his worldview, which includes an extreme, bizarre and rambling screed of Islamophobia, far-right Zionism and venomous attacks on Marxism and multi-culturalism.

- In terms of personality, he seems somewhat less like the usual comparison, Timothy McVeigh (although they are both examples of how right wing white male terrorists, while less numerous, might be more deadly on average due to higher competence levels), and more like the highly intelligent, cold-blooded leftwing assassin of Pym Fortuyn, Volkert van der Graaf, whose story has disappeared down the memory hole after the European press put out a cover story that he was an animal rights nut. His court testimony explained that his chief cause for murdering the potential prime minister was to halt immigration restrictionism. This had been a topic of obsessive coverage in the European respectable press, climaxing the day before the murder. A two weeks hate had been conducted throughout Europe against Le Pen's candidacy in the French Presidential election the day before the murder. In general, elite reaction in Europe to Fortuyn's murder was that this political outsider more or less had it coming.

- Neither this guy nor Fortuyn's killer seemed terribly crazy, just evil.

- I was reading up awhile ago on Norway's summer camp-style prisons and maximum 21-year sentences for murder. Hopefully, Norway's also got a non-summer camp to send this guy to on, say, the north coast of Spitzbergen, and that the 21-year max is per murder, not overall.